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Steve Geller

"WWL First News" Sports Anchor
Weekdays 5am-10am

"Sports Talk" Producer
Weekdays 4pm-8pm

Twitter: @stevegellerWWL
Email: steve@wwl.com
Posts from May 2012

Steve: Hornets chances in the NBA Draft Lottery?
The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery will be held in New York on Wednesday before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Here’s a breakdown of each team’s chances of getting the first selection in the draft:

Team                            Record             Chances
Charlotte                        7-59                 25 %
Washington                   20-46                19.9 %
Cleveland                      21-45                13.8 %
New Orleans                 21-45               13.7 %
Sacramento                   22-44                7.6 %
New Jersey*                   22-44                7.5 %
Golden State**               23-43               3.6 %
Toronto                            23-43                3.5 %
Detroit                             25-41                1.7 %
New Orleans         (from Minnesota, 26-40) 1.1 %
Portland                       28-38                0.8 %
Milwaukee                   31-35                0.7 %
Phoenix                        33-33               0.6 %
Houston                       34-32                0.5 %

* This Nets’ pick goes to the Trail Blazers unless it’s in the top three.
** The Warriors’ pick goes to the Jazz unless it’s in the top seven

The NBA Draft Lottery determines the top three picks in the draft with the non-playoff teams selecting in positions four through 14 in inverse order of their standings at the end of the regular season.
The Hormets have a 14.8% chance of winning the first, second or third pick. There is a 13.7% chance of winning the top pick with their own selection (slotted fourth overall) and a 1.1% chance of winning with Minnesota’s selection (slotted 10th, acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers).
New Orleans’ pick can fall anywhere from first to seventh in the draft. The pick acquired from the Clippers can fall from first to third or from 10th to 13th.
No matter who ends up winning the lottery, you can bank on Kentucky’s Anthony Davis being selected with the top pick.
 (1) Comments

The Saints need sacks and pressure!
The biggest thing that has been lacking with the Saints the past few seasons is a legitimate pass rush.  Just looking back to last year, not getting enough pressure on quarterbacks cost New Orleans a shot at another Super Bowl ring when they couldn't get to the 49ers Alex Smith in the NFC Divisional game.

While it's easy to look at the play of the cornerbacks for the Saints being ranked 30th in pass defense last season, it's actually just more proof the defensive front four wasn't generating enough pressure. The team finished with just 33 sacks, which was in the bottom half of the league, and Roman Harper lead the way with 7.5. A defensive back with the most sacks on a team?!? That just isn't right.

Will this year's squad be more productive under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo? Coach Spags learned under Philadelphia Eagles great defensive mind Jim Johnson, and said he shares the same approach as his mentor... win up front.  That means the D-line.

While Spags was with the New York Giants he often used a smaller defensive line, with three or even four defensive ends to further pressure the quarterback.  That philosophy really worked in 2007 when the G-Men lead the NFL in sacks. The Giants would end up halting New England's bid at a perfect season in the Super Bowl that year sacking Patriots QB Tom Brady 5 times in the big game.

Besides philosophy, obviously personnel had a lot to do with Spagnuolo's success too.  So let's take a look at the Saints defensive end position heading into 2012.

*Will Smith - Big Will is entering his 9th season in New Orleans and despite missing the first two games last year, led everyone on the D-line with 6.5 sacks.  He reworked his contract this offseason to help give the Saints some cap room and has easily been the team's best defensive lineman over the last 5 years. 

Unless a miracle happens with his appeal though, Smith will be forced to miss the first four games of this season this year over the bounty scandal.

*Cameron Jordan - Jordan was the Saints top pick last year and showed his potential to be a solid run stopper, but he managed just one sack in his rookie campaign.  While shutting down the rushing game is extremely important - let's be honest - sacks are sexy.

I'm really interested to see what Coach Spagnuolo can do with this kid since folks are claiming he is not a pass rusher, which I believe to be false.  He didn't have big numbers in college due to being double teamed, plus he was moved inside at times during his 2 years at Cal.  I feel a 7 sack season is not out of the question for Jordan in 2012.

*Junior Galette - He is really the complete opposite of Cameron Jordan.  Galette is undersized, but uses his speed to get to the quarterback - as he showed last season, in a limited roll mind you - tallying 4.5 sacks.  

The negative part of Galette's game right now is that he does not do very well against the run.  He has difficulty shedding blockers and making tackles. As a smaller defensive end, it is also tough for Galette to keep containment and push the runners back inside.

His role could increase this season though, especially with Will Smith out for four games.

*Martez Wilson - the linebacker actually saw plenty of time during Thursday's organized team activities at defensive end. Wilson had success late last season rushing the passer.

"It is something we are going to look at here", Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitts said.  "As you follow Spags' defense, we have a lot of zone pressures now. It is going to call for a defensive end to drop into coverage. Martez has a pretty good foundation from being here a year ago with coverage and coverage aspects. We have been very encouraged the first week with what he has done. He will be a right end. He does a pretty good job with pattern recognition and we will take a look at that. This is the time to experiment and see what people can do. So far, it has been pretty good."

*Greg Romeus - I am really intrigued to see what this kid can bring to the team.  Romeus was the Saints 7th round pick last season. He wasn't selected that late because of talent though.  His stock slipped so much because of a torn ligament in his knee that landed him on injured reserve, costing him his entire rookie season.

Before the injury, many gave him a 1st to 2nd round draft grade because he is long, lean, tall, fast and explosive. Some even went as far as to compare him to Jevon Kearse in terms of stature, build, and potential.

We'll have to see if his body can hold up, but Romeus is someone that could end up being a blockbuster steal for the Saints.

There are also two undrafted rookies, Tyrunn Walker and Braylon Broughton currently in camp.  Walker played for Tulsa and looks to have a great burst and high motor, while Broughton is out of TCU and is a very raw talent that could be a potential practice squad project.
 (4) Comments

Vitt: Brees deal ''is going to get done''
Drew Brees' contract remains unsettled with talks reportedly at a standstill.  It looks as if any chance for a resolution before the team's organized team activities begin on May 22nd is slim to none.

"Obviously at this point, we haven't missed anything with him," Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said.  "The guys are in the weight room. Obviously we're going to miss the leadership he brings, but this is going to be an opportunity for Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield to get more reps, and for us to get a good look at those guys."

Brees' desire for a long-term deal is just another cloud hanging over the Saints this offseason.  The fact that the savior of football in New Orleans hasn't been taken care of though is more disturbing than any coach, GM or player suspension.   

The Saints do have until midnight on July 15th to sign Brees to a long term deal, but it would make a heck of a lot more sense to not have this be a distraction in training camp and throughout the offseason.  July 16 is the deadline for players designated with franchise tags to be signed, and if Brees is forced to accept it he'll be paid $16.3 million next season.

How far apart are the two sides?  No one outside the talks is really sure, but according to some reports Brees is seeking $21 million dollars a season.  The Saints reportedly want to pay him in the neighborhood of $18 million to $19 million dollars a year.

Assistant coach Joe Vitt has assumed the role of head coach during Sean Payton's one year absence.  A reporter asked him if he needs to talk with General Manager Mickey Loomis in regards to getting a deal done with Brees.

"I've never been a math major, and I'm not an accounting major... so there's nothing I could advise Mickey to do than what he already knows how to do," Vitt responded. "Those guys are both on the same page and have the same aspirations and same goals. This is going to get done. I don't think anybody ever thought it was going to be easy. I think they're both working to the same goal."

I dunno...I for one thought that it was going to be easy.  Everyone knows how much Brees means to the team and to the city, so why can't they "dot the i's and cross the t's" on a long term deal that will keep the best QB in the NFL in black and gold for the rest of his career?

It's hard to imagine the franchise wanting to nickel and dime the guy who helped do something NOBODY thought would ever happen here...hoist the Lombardi trophy.

After talking to the coaching staff you get the sense that no one is panicking. Either these guys are the best poker players in the world, or they know that in the end #9 will get his deal.

"Obviously we want him in the building. We just have to go forward with what's here right now," Carmicheal said. "Obviously Drew and Mickey Loomis are going to get this worked out. We can't spend time worrying about it. We have to move forward. We're going to keep the same volume of what we're going to install and just go from there."

Vitt added with conviction, "The only thing that Drew has missed to this point right now is the conditioning program. When Drew reports, he's going to be the best conditioned athlete on our football team, so there has been no time lost."

(Photo by Chris Bennett)
 (31) Comments

Geller: Vilma appeal no surprise
Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has officially appealed the suspension which Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL handed him a week ago.

Obviously nobody wants to sit out of their profession for an entire year and not get paid. Several players around the league voiced their displeasure about the suspension, saying it's unfair to remove a veteran player like Vilma from the game for an entire year.

It's clear that he doesn't have much football left in him and missing an entire season is obviously a huge blow to his earning potential.

Defensive end Will Smith has until the end of business today to submit his appeal, as do Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and Packers defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove - both former Saints.

How much luck will any of them have when Emperor... I mean Commissioner Goodell is the judge, jury and executioner?  Not likely... just ask Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis.  That is why the players' union is asking for arbitration for the players to ensure the commissioner doesn't have the final say.
 (0) Comments

Steve: Akiem Hicks "Coming (BACK) to America"
When Willie Roaf stepped up to the podium and called the name Akiem Hicks as the Saints 3rd round draft pick, many Who Dats were left scratching their heads.   Who is this kid and where is Regina University?

Well, you'll have to go north of the border to find this college.  It's in the Saskatchewan providence of Canada.

The Regina Rams are coached by Frank McCrystal, who tells us that the Saints are getting a player who fights for what he desires.

"He really wanted this, and I think it really speaks well to his character that... the kind of commitment that he made, that he could have given up.  You know after the things he ran into with the recruiting at LSU, but he didn't.  He came up here and it's a different game."

Wait, did he say LSU? Ok, here's an abbreviated version of the story.

Hicks began his college career at Sacramento City College.  After the '08 season, he was rated as a top junior college player and signed to play at LSU.   Recruiting violations by the LSU program made him ineligible for the 2009 season and unable to transfer to another American football program.  An NCAA probe said that the then Tigers wide receivers coach, D.J. McCarthy, gave Hicks unauthorized transportation as well as free and discounted lodging.  There were also violations regarding impermissible phone calls.

So what was Hick's next move?  Well, he began working at a DirecTV call center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But, he never gave up on his dream of playing football.   The Toronto Argonauts helped keep the fire burning by offering him a contract.  He considered it, but really wanted the experience of playing college ball...and that's where Frank McCrystal comes in.

McCrystal has been the head football coach at the University of Regina since 1999, when it joined the CIS  (Canadian Interuniversity Sport).  He first heard about Hicks while at the 2010 East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, Fla.    He then flew to Denver, drove to Colorado Springs and had lunch with Hicks and his mother.

They would continue talking, and finally Hicks decided that he would head to Canada to play college ball in hopes of one day making it to the NFL.

In his first season at Regina, Hicks had 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.  Then in year two he made 42 tackles with 6.5 sacks and was named the Canada West Universities Athletic Association's top lineman.   A strong performance in the 2012 East-West Shrine Game really increased his profile with NFL scouts including the Saints.

"He dominated (in the Shrine Game)," New Orleans assistant coach Joe Vitt said.  "He played really well.  He threw some bodies around in there, and I think that's where people really started to notice this guy.  He has the pass rush ability, the feet and the hands.  When you're getting ready for the third round, you want to get a guy that has some redeeming qualities of greatness that you can work with.  You can't coach size and quickness and what this guy is on the hoof.  We're excited about it."

At 6 foot 5, 318 pounds Akiem Hicks is a mountain of a man.   Will he be able to transition his skills to the NFL game now?  That's the big question.   You have to believe in what the Saints see in this kid.   Tight end Jimmy Graham was a raw talent coming out of college having only played football for one year, and look how he's turned out.

The thing that really strikes me about Hicks is that he isn't going to take this 2nd chance for granted.   After getting selected by the Saints, he was extremely happy to full his dream especially after the detour it took on his path.   "It's been a long one and a rough one at times.  It's been a journey, and I have learned a lot the whole way.  I just appreciate everything that has been given to me and been taken from me because it has made me who I am today."
 (2) Comments

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