by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted May 22 2013 7:25AM
OK, so there was no draft lottery magic for the Pelicans this year like in 2012 when New Orleans earned the top spot in the NBA draft, but there's also no player close the caliber of Anthony Davis in this crop of young talent who is the consensus #1 overall pick.
The Pelicans won the rights to the 6th overall pick in this year's draft and can most definitely still add a kid to their roster who can come in and make an immediate impact. This year's rookie of year, Damian Lillard, was taken by the Trailblazers with...the 6th overall pick in 2012.
"I'm a little surprised, but I'm not disappointed by the sixth pick," Coach Monty Williams said. "It's still a high pick. There are a lot of quality guys that will be available, a lot of rotation guys. We feel good about the pick. It's only going to add to the young core that we have. I feel like we'll be able to find a rotation guy that will be on our team for a long time."
With the order now set, it's time for mock drafts to start on where analysts believe players will begin their pro career. What position does Coach Williams feel the Pelicans will target?
"I don't know that. Certainly, free agency will have a lot to do with that as we start to forecast what's going to happen," Williams said. "We'll have to look at the needs with our team, but I don't want to do that right now. Sometimes when you start talking about what you need, it seems disrespectful to what you have. We're looking forward to the process of looking at players and getting the sixth pick. That's a big time pick. We had one and ten last year, so we kind of split the difference. We feel good about that."
As for GM Dell Demps, he isn't revealing a thing either about the franchise's strategy and hints that maybe, just maybe, a deal with another team could be made.
"You never know. There are trades, there's other opportunities that may present themselves," says Demps. "We're going to look at every angle to give ourselves the best possible chance to make our team better."
The next step for Williams, Demps and the rest of the Pelicans staff is to host a number of pre draft workouts ahead of the NBA draft which is Thursday June 27th in Brooklyn NY.
by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted May 16 2013 11:57AM
Free agent acquisition Victor Butler has yet to play a game for the Saints but feels last year's league worst defensive unit will drastically change under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
"You get a guy like Rob, you get a guy like Keenan Lewis, and you add him to the secondary... you get a guy like me who can come in and help guys pick up this defense, and you're going to see a hell of a defense. That's what I'm expecting. A hell of a defense," Butler said. "We've already got the players to be the number one defense. You get a defensive coordinator in there, a guy who's going to be passionate and convey that passion to the players, I wouldn't be surprised if we were the number one defense in all categories next year."
Wait...did he say first in ALL defensive categories? Was Butler aware that Saints defense gave up an NFL record 7,042 yards last season?!?
"Yeah, they were the worst defense, but you look at the players, we don't have the worst defensive players," the linebacker insisted. "These are guys who are Super Bowl champions, Pro Bowls at one point. These are great teammates. These are great football players."
You have to love the energy and optimism from the 25-year-old linebacker, but is what he saying realistic?
The Saints as a whole suffered a down year in 2012. It all started with suspensions of players, coaches and their general manager stemming from bounty allegations. Steve Spagnulo came in as the new defensive coordinator after the departure of Gregg Williams, and Spag's scheme just didn't seem to fit this group of players. In the first 10 games of the year, the Saints D gave up more then 400 yards in every game - including more then 500 yards on 3 occasions.
Shortly after Sean Payton returned from his one year suspension, Spagnuolo got the boot, and former Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan got the job.
"Rob wants to have the best defense in the league," said Butler, who spent two of his four years in Dallas in Ryan's system. "He's one of those guys who's really passionate and it's rubbing off on the guys. You're seeing a change in the demeanor around the facility, and guys are buying it. You've got guys like Martez Wilson who are grasping the defense and staying afterwards, going over plays, going over formations. You got a lot of guys who are going to have a lot of fun in this defense."
Butler thrived in his backup role with the Cowboys racking up 89 tackles with 11 sacks in 4 season of limited action in Big D and is now hoping to earn more time on the field with the Saints.
"I've done four years in Dallas of fitting in. It's time for me to stand out," Butler said. "I was behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Great guys to learn from, but I'd love to take those things that they've taught me and put them to good use. I've got some great teammates; some great, athletic guys and probably some of the best guys I've been around. But here for me, it's just a chance to step out of the shadows and become a productive member of the team. That's all I really want."
We will hopefully get our first glimpse of Victor Butler and the revamped Saints defense next week. The media is scheduled to view part of the organized team activities (OTAs) on Thursday.
by Steve Geller @stevegellerwwl,posted May 2 2013 9:14PM
Johnny Manziel was in New Orleans today to accept the 2012-13 Manning Award, an honor given to a college QB judged to be the best in the nation by the Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee. (The award is named in honor of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.) In its first unanimous vote, the Committee agreed that Texas A&M's "Johnny Football" deserves to bring the hardware home to College Station.
"On behalf of my family, I would like to congratulate Johnny Manziel on his outstanding season," Archie Manning said at the award presentation. "It is very difficult for a young player to make the transition to college football, and Johnny not only made the transition seamlessly, he turned in the best year of any quarterback in the country."
In addition to becoming the first freshman to win the Manning Award, Manziel was also the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the Davey O'Brien Award. His electrifying athleticism helped produce some crazy numbers in his freshman year - 3,706 passing yards, 1,410 rushing yards and 47 touchdowns (26 passing, 21 rushing.)
"This is big time," said Manziel. "You look at what the Mannings have done for football and what they're continuing to do year after year. To win this award is really big."
Johnny Football's greatness was stifled by defensive coordinator John Chavis and the LSU defense this year, though. He threw 3 interceptions and rushed for just 27 yards as the Tigers were victorious 24-19 at Kyle Field.
"LSU was the best defense we played last year," Manziel said. "We just struggled a little bit there and they did a good job getting a lot of pressure with ends. They're really fast, getting up the field with those ends. And you have speed all over the field. That's a big key to why they were so good.''
This year the Aggies and Johnny Football come to Death Valley on Nov. 23rd looking for a little revenge.
by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Apr 30 2013 12:49PM
As soon as it was announced that "with the 183rd pick in the 6th round of the NFL draft the New Orleans Saints select...Rufus Johnson, defensive end, Tarleton State," I was sent scrambling to not only find any info on a player I had never heard of, but also to find out just exactly where Tarleton State is located.
Well, the University is near the Dallas / Fort Worth area and competes at the Division II level in the Lone Star Conference. The TSU Texans football team went 6-4 last year and ended the season on a 3 game winning streak.
Leading the team in sacks, with 10, was Johnson... despite playing in just 9 games. He also had 50 total tackles on the year, 17.5 of which were for a loss along with 7 hits on the quarterback and a forced fumble. Those impressive numbers earned Johnson the conference's Defensive Player of the Year honors.
"I'm a very aggressive player, I'm a good pass rusher, and I read the ball well," Johnson said when asked about his strengths. "I'm just an aggressive player and a wonderful pass rusher; my pass rushing skills are top notch."
Johnson says he models his play after NFL greats like Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware.
The 6 ft 6", 270 pounder says he ran a 4.69 in the 40 yard dash on his pro day, but really turned heads with a solid performance at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game.
"One of the things we try to do in the later rounds is look at size, speed and some measurables," Saints head coach Sean Payton said when asked what he saw in Johnson. "We feel like he is a guy that can rush the passer really well, so he can line up one of those outside positions, and we will see how he develops. You are looking for some traits that stand out, and with him clearly that was the case."
We will have to wait and see if Jonson's success at a small school will translate to the pros, but you can't really second guess the Saints since they've had so much success with drafting these types of players in the past. Zach Strief, Marcus Colston, Jahari Evans are just a few.
Rufus Johnson now joins former Tarleton teammate Saalim Hakim in New Orleans. If you don't remember (which I did not) Haakim was on the Black and Golds' active roster for the final two games last season. Bectha TSU has more Who Dats now than Cowboys fans... Haha.
My 2nd go at predicting the draft was a lot easier this time around now that the dust has settled from free agency. However, I am still wary because I do believe there will be 2 or 3 deals on day one that will shuffle things in the first round.
If Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is in fact around at #15 when the Saints pick, they ‘aint trading down! Richardson is a 6-3, 295 pound force that would provide a much needed pass rushing presence up front. I know new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would love a shot at molding this kid.
by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Mar 12 2013 11:38AM
I still expect a lot of things to change since the free agency gates are just about to open, but wanted to put together my initial mock of the season. Funny thing is as I was typing this; the Percy Harvin trade went down and threw me a curve already. LET THE FUN BEGIN!
by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Feb 15 2013 10:18AM
Cam Cameron is LSU's new offensive coordinator. He and head coach Les Miles have been friends since the '80s when both where assistant coaches at the University of Michigan. In fact, the two are so close that they've been groomsmen in each others weddings.
Cameron left the Wolverines to go on to the NFL to be the quarterbacks coach for the Washington Redskins from '94-'96 before becoming the head coach at the Indiana University from '97-'01.
Then in 2002 he jumped back to the pros where he had great success with the San Diego Chargers. That's where he met a young Drew Brees who was just entering his 2nd season in the NFL.
"He was huge. Cam was huge in my career," Brees says in his book. "I was with him for four years. He was the offensive coordinator while I was in San Diego for those last four years. That was a time in my career where during that stretch I got benched three or four times, and they ended up drafting Philip Rivers. Cam was pretty much the one who broke the news to me. My postseason exit meeting with him after the '03 season I went in his office, shut the door and he said, 'I'm just telling you they're either going to go out and get a free agent veteran quarterback to come in here or they're going to draft a rookie high to compete with you. Just get ready for that.' I feel like he was always very honest with me. He always did things to try to get the best out of me. There was a time or two where we would butt heads, but I think that was all part of the process of him trying to mold me into the type of quarterback he knew I could be, the type of person he knew I could be, leader and I appreciate him for that. I love the man. I think he's a great coach and obviously I had a lot of great years with him."
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger would benefit greatly from that kind of tutelage. Mett is a kid, that if properly mentor, could emerge as one of the nation's best. So far his career has been marred by a boring and stale offense that was ranked 85th nationally last year with the passing attack coming in at 92nd. UGGGHHHHH!
Now with Cameron on the Bayou Bengals sideline, those snooze-fests could soon become a thing of the past. Mettenberger just might be able to show off his prototypical NFL skills in a prototypical NFL offense.
Wait, wait, wait a minute! The Saints hired Rob Ryan as the new defensive coordinator? The man who learned from his daddy, Buddy, who just so happens to be the same person who mentored former DC Gregg Williams? Rob Ryan, the same coach whose defense has NEVER EVER made an appearance in the postseason?
As a matter of fact, let’s pause a second to take a look at Ryan’s track record as a defensive coordinator:
2012: 19th (Dallas)
2011: 14th (Dallas)
2010: 22rd (Cleveland)
2009: 31st (Cleveland)
2008: 27th (Oakland)
2007: 22nd (Oakland)
2006: 3rd (Oakland)
2005: 27th (Oakland)
2004: 30th (Oakland)
Not the most glowing resume'. Like his brother Rex and his dad, Rob has been more talk than results.
Ryan now faces the task of turning around the NFL's 32nd ranked defense in 2012. (Nowhere to go but up!)
I guess the good news is the Fleur Di Lis D really only needs to be average for this team to be among the NFL’s elite again. The unit was ranked dead last this past season and the team still managed to win 7 games! Oh yeah, they also had no head coach for the entire year, and even the interim was suspended for part of it.
I know the hiring of Rob Ryan is not a popular one, but all I can say to the Who Dat Nation is …in Sean Payton we trust, right?
All I have to say...it's about time, Commissioner Goodell. I still haven't seen a shred of evidence to suggest any "Bounty Program" was in place with this team and wonder if we'll ever get to see some. The one question I have for Payton though...why didn't you fight the suspension like Vilma? Hmmmm......
But, I am very happy for the franchise because Payton is now free to attend the Senior Bowl, hire assistants and resume the duties of being Head Coach. One season was destroyed, no sense in letting its hazardous path interfere with another one.
Now I'm curious to see if the Saints will try and persuade the league to reinstate the forfeited 2nd round pick in this year's draft.
Welcome to New Orleans Commish, betcha I can tell ya where ya got dem shoes.
by Steve Geller, Steve@wwl.com,posted Dec 31 2012 8:45AM
A pair of 10 win teams square off in the 45th annual Chick-fil-A Bowl. The LSU Tigers take on the Clemson Tigers in the Georgia Dome.
LSU came into the season with national championship aspirations, but those dreams came to an end after heartbreaking losses to SEC rivals Florida and Alabama.
Despite those two setbacks, the Bayou Bengals had an impressive year against nationally ranked opponents, defeating Texas A&M in College Station, as well as South Carolina and Mississippi State in Baton Rouge. LSU is 22-20-1 all-time in bowl games, including 5-2 under Les Miles.
Clemson also began the year with high expectations and was able to live up to the hype, with its only two losses coming at Florida State and at home versus South Carolina in the regular season finale.
LSU has won both previous meetings against Clemson, including a 10-7 victory in the 1996 Peach Bowl.
The LSU offense has had its share of ups and down in the treacherous SEC, but it finished the regular season averaging an impressive 30.2 points per game and 387.2 yards per contest.
In his first season as a starter, QB Zach Mettenberger completed less than 59 percent of his passes for 2,489 yards, with just 11 touchdowns. It was obvious he went through some growing pains as a signal caller, but for the most part, took care of the football with just six interceptions. As a matter of fact, Mettenberger’s completion to interception ratio is the best in school history.
Leading a stable of talented running backs is Jeremy Hill, who owns team-highs in attempts, yards and touchdowns. The freshman totaled 130 carries for 631 yards and 10 scores. Kenny Hilliard racked up 456 yards rushing with 6 TDs. Michael Ford gained 393 yards and 3 TDs. Spencer Ware earned 358 yards on the ground with 1 score.
In addition to catching 40 passes for 673 yards and two touchdowns, Odell Beckham Jr. is also a threat on special teams with a pair of scores on punt returns. Jarvis Landry is the squad's leading receiver with 52 catches for 536 yards and 4 touchdowns.
All those offensive numbers are nice, but we all know that the biggest reason for LSU's success has been its outstanding defense. The D ranks 11th in the nation - allowing just 16.9 points per contest and ranking eighth in yards given up per outing, with 296.2.
The unit is anchored by a trio of AP All-Americans in safety Eric Reid (81 tackles, 2 INTS), linebacker Kevin Minter (111 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss) and defensive end Sam Montgomery (12 tackles for loss, 7 sacks). Tharold Simon and Craig Loston are active in the turnover battle with a combined 7 interceptions, and the team has forced 31 takeaways on the year, tied for eighth most in the FBS.
Clemson has managed to put together one of the nation's most potent offenses, as it leads the league in scoring with 42.3 points per game… while gaining 518.3 yards per contest.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has been fantastic this season. He has completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. Boyd is more than just an elite passer however; he has rushed for 492 yards and 9 scores.
Andre Ellington is a great complement in the backfield, as he has racked up 1,053 yards on 201 carries. He has also added 197 receiving yards and scored 9 total touchdowns.
DeAndre Hopkins has emerged as Boyd's favorite target, and he has logged 69 receptions for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns, with nearly a third of his catches going for 20 yards or longer. Sammy Watkins is also strong in the receiving game with 57 receptions, 708 yards and 3 TDs.
The Clemson defensive unit has been nowhere near as strong as LSU's, but it has played well enough to win in the ACC. It allows opponents to score fewer than 24.9 points per game.
Jonathan Willard and Spencer Shuey lead the way with 88 tackles apiece, while Rashard Hall has picked off 4 passes. Although Vic Beasley has just 18 total tackles, he is one of the conference's strongest pass-rushers with 8 tackles for loss and 8 sacks.
The head-to-head battle between Clemson's high-powered offense and LSU's stout defense is bound to be one of bowl season's most intriguing matchups. Boyd and company will certainly put some points on the board, possibly more than LSU is used to giving up, but in the end, LSU will find a way to win the turnover battle and come away with the victory.