We haven't even gotten to the Super Bowl yet and mock drafts are starting to roll out. We even got some schedule news this morning as the NFL announced the Saints will play the Dolphins in London on October 1st, which will be either week 3 or week 4 of the season,
Miami will lose one of its home games for this contest, leaving New Orleans with 8 to play in the Superdome. The Black & Gold's last match-up in London came back in 2008 when the beat the Chargers. Tickets will go on sale on January 31st. #WHODAT!
In 2016, the Saints were able to get an in-depth look at Sheldon Rankins at the Reese's Senior Bowl, which helped solidify the defensive tackle as the team's 12th overall pick in the Draft. Some of college football's top prospects will be in Mobile, Alabama next week for this year's event, and here are five players I think could grab the Black & Gold's attention.
Ryan Anderson - Outside linebacker / defensive end - Alabama
This 6ft2, 255 pounder finished last season with 61 total tackles, nine sacks, three passes broken up, one interception and four forced fumbles. Be sure to add 19 big tackles for loss to that pile of stats. Anderson is both a talented pass rusher and solid against the run which makes him an attractive all around guy, similar to Cameron Jordan.
Desmond King - Cornerback - Iowa
Standing 5ft10, King might not have the prototypical size of an NFL cornerback but his production on the field during his college career stood tall. He racked up 12 interceptions, 8.5 tackle for a loss, 33 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 3 defensive touchdowns in 4 years as a Hawkeye. His footwork is impressive but dont think for a second this kid is all finesse. King is a physical force that doesn't mind coming up to make a tackle in run coverage. The only knock against him may be a lack of top notch speed.
O.J. Howard - Tight end - Alabama
The Saints invested big money in Coby Fleener, but he did not have the impact many expected his first season in New Orleans. That could improve, but why not bring in this physical specimen? Howard is 6ft5, 245 pounds and has amazing speed along with body control for a guy his size. If committed to improving his technique and blocking ability, Howard could become a dynamic TE in the pros.
Takkarist McKinley - Outside linebacker - UCLA
An article I read on NFL.com likened McKinley to the great Demarcus Ware. Boy, could the Saints use a guy like that! McKinley stands 6ft2, 265 pounds and is a pass rushing specialist who had 10 sacks last year to go with 18 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. His natural talents of power, quickness, and closing ability should have onlookers salivating.
Jarrad Davis - Linebacker - Florida
This kids ability to cover a lot a ton of ground on the field could sure be of assistance to New Orleans linebacking corps. Davis is 6ft, 238 pounds and always seems to be in pursuit of the football. His likes to dish out hard hits when he tackles and has the abilty to rush the passer in blitz packages. No real weakness in his game, but did miss some time this season with an ankle injury.
The final AP college football poll of the season is out and Clemson holds the top spot after knocking off Alabama in the National Championship. The Crimson Tide wind up in 2nd place while 4 other SEC teams round out the top 25. LSU is one of them coming in at #13. It's the Tigers' highest finish to a season since 2011.
Not a bad accomplishment for a team that started out 2-2, fired its head coach and played the majority of the season without its top offensive player. But what can we expect from the Bayou Bengals next season? Will the Tigers be able to replace the likes of Jamal Adams, Tre'Davious White, Ethan Pocic, Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, Dwayne Thomas and Davon Godchaux? Also, WR Malachi Dupre could join that mix if he decides to enter the NFL draft.
Ed Orgeron's first full go as head coach will start with the same ole question in Baton Rouge... what will LSU get out of its offense? New coordinator Matt Canada will need to develop more of a passing attack. The question will quickly turn to quarterback and if Danny Etling will be able to hang on to the starting job or will someone else step up to unseat him.
Meanwhile, the running back position in in good shape even though Leonard Fournette is gone. Derrius Guice wound up the SEC's leader in yards with 1,387 yards in only 12 games. Over on defense, we can expect the Tigers to rank in the upper tier once again in. DC Dave Aranda has a bevy of talent to mold and unleash on the purple and gold's opponents. Will 2017 be the year of the LSU Tigers making the College Football Playoff?
LSU football 2017 schedule
Sept 2 BYU (at NRG Stadium in Houston)
Sep 9 Chattanooga
Sep 16 at Mississippi St.
Sep 23 Syracuse
Sep 30 Troy
Oct 7 at Florida
Oct 14 Auburn
Oct 21 at Ole Miss
Nov 04 at Alabama
Nov 11 Arkansas
Nov 18 at Tennessee
Nov 25 Texas A&M
Sunday, January 1st, 3:25pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
Saints +7 Under / Over: 56
This Saints season will conclude the same as the previous two; minus a spot in the playoffs. 2016 however does feel a little different since the defense has gotten better, as well as there being a stronger commitment to running the football. But in the end, the Black & Gold will either finish with a familiar 7-9 mark or get to .500 with a win over the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons on New Year’s Day.
The Dirty Birds have punched their ticket to the playoffs already and with a win Sunday can earn the #2 seed, which would give them a bye to open the NFL’s second season. Like New Orleans, Atlanta is powered by a high flying offense which is ranked 2nd overall (7th rushing / 3rd passing) and puts up the most points per game in the league, averaging 33.5. Matt Ryan has been living up to the nickname 'Matty Ice' this season and is getting strong MVP consideration. He has completed 69.5% of his passes for 4,613 yards and 34 touchdowns versus only 7 interceptions. Julio Jones remains one of the best WRs in the game and has caught 76 passes for 1,3,13 yards and 5 scores.
Mohamed Sanu is a dangerous #2 receiver with 55 catches for 621 yards and 3 trips to the endzone while Taylor Gabriel, who was claimed off waivers right before the start of the season, leads the teams in TD grabs with 6.
The dynamic duo of running backs in Atlanta are also a part of the Falcons air raid. Devonta Freeman has rushed for 983 yards and 6 touchdowns to go along with his 49 receptions for another 2 scores. Tevin Coleman meanwhile has 882 yards combined with 10 TDs.
Over on defense the Falcons are the 23rd ranked unit in the NFL (16th vs the run /26th vs the pass) and give up 25 ppg. They do have 11 interceptions along with 10 fumbles recovered, though. With the offense not coughing up the football that makes Atlanta an outstanding plus 10 in the turnover ratio!
Former LSU stud Deion Jones leads the team in tackles, interceptions and defensive scores in his rookie campaign. We witnessed a pick 6 from Debo in the Superdome back in week 3.
PREDICTION: Swami Steve’s Saints forecast for 2016 was another 7-9 finish, so I am going Atlanta here. I don’t think it will be another blowout though, even with the Falcons playing for a lot more. These two teams typically go back and forth exchanging scoring blows against one another and I don’t see why that will be any different this time around. The Dirty Birds just seem to have things going more their way this season than the Black & Gold do.
The NFL announced the rosters for the 2016 Pro Bowl last night and not a single Saints player was voted in. It’s the 2nd straight year no one from the Black & Gold made the initial cut. You could make the case for a few Saints players; but the omission of Drew Brees is flat out ridiculous.
He leads the league in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns, yet Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Dallas rookie Dak Prescott were the quarterbacks selected for the NFC. The results are the combination of votes from fans, players and coaches. New Orleans 6-8 record likely had a negative effect keeping its roster from getting recognized. 5 other teams also did not have a single player voted in. They are the 49ers, the Bears, the Jaguars, the Jets and the Lions.
Brees and other snubs still have a shot to be alternates, as injuries and Super Bowl commitments will cause a number of guys to drop out. The Pro Bowl will be played in Orlando, Florida on January 29th and has returned to the traditional NFC vs AFC format.
The Saints have placed Stephone Anthony on injured reserve due to a knee injury, ending the linebackers season with two games left to play. After leading the team in tackles his rookie year, Anthony had a hard time getting involved in games his sophomore season. He played in 10 contests in 2016 and recorded 16 tackles and no sacks. Just last week coach Sean Payton said the the former first round pick out of Clemson needed to work on a his ability to diagnose plays.
"Some of the things that are hurting this player: He's explosive, he's disruptive and yet his key in diagnosing and his instincts at times are off. You know, it's run, and he's dropping back in a pass mode, or it's pass and he's at the line of scrimmage. So, his ability to see and diagnose some very simple reads, for instance, are the keys for him to getting better.
While Payton has been on the end of recent trade buzz, I would not be surprised in the Saints tried to move the 24 year old this offseason.
Sunday, December 18th, 3:05pm on 870AM / 105.3FM
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Saints +2.5 Under / Over: 50
It seems as if most Who Dats are restless to close out the 2016 season since the Saints have found new ways to lose. We’ve been used to seeing the offense put up video game numbers only for the defense or special teams to blow it. But not of late, as we have witnessed Drew Brees throw ZERO touchdowns and 6 interceptions the past 2 contests. Maybe the end of days are upon us.
The remedy from the angry Black & Gold mob is to fire everyone, from the front office to the head coach and even the man they once called Breesus. If you are in that number I ask… what were you expecting coming into this season? Playoffs were never in the forecast for 2016. My advice is take a deep breath and try to enjoy the final three contests because all you are going to do is whine that you miss Saints football when it’s over!
A trip to 5-7-1 Arizona is on the schedule for week 15... just think how Cardinals fans are feeling. They had Super Bowl hopes coming into this season after they made it to the NFC Championship game a year ago when the offense was soaring as the best unit in the NFL. This year that unit has slipped to 10th overall (11th rushing / 13th passing) and puts up 23 points a game.
QB Carson Palmer is a 14 year vet with a strong arm but has faced a lot more pressure this year. He has been sacked 37 times, second most in the NFL, which has caused his stats to suffer. If the pass rush isn’t getting to him, though, and he can step up and sling it… beware the long ball, because he can drop one in the bucket!
The Cards' primary weapons on offense are WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. Fitz is in his 13th season in the NFL, all with Arizona, and he can still make DBs look silly as he has 91 catches for 892 yards and 5 scores.
The young buck is Johnson, who looks like a steal after being selected in the 3rd round a year ago. He managed to score 12 touchdowns his rookie campaign and there has been no sophomore slump for the kid out of Northern Iowa. Johnson has found the endzone 12 times already this season and is not just a threat on the ground. To go along with his 1,085 rushing yards, he is the team's 2nd leading receiver with 69 grabs for 745 yards. A truly telling stat, though, is that he leads the league in missed tackles forced with 64!
On defense, AZ is king of the hill as the top overall unit (2nd vs the pass / 10th vs the run) and are allowing on average 21 ppg. The have 32 sacks, 12 interceptions and have recovered 11 fumbles. They did just lose their top tackler Deone Bucannon, but could have safety Tyrann Mathieu back this week as he’s been dealing with a shoulder issue.
The Honey Badger isn’t the only former LSU Tiger now residing in the desert. Patrick Peterson is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Kevin Minter is a thumper at middle linebacker and the team picked up Tharold Simon in September after the Seahawks released the CB.
With playoffs hopes kaput for both ballclubs, it is tough to gauge who is really going to show up to play this week. Players have said all the right things, but you have to think some guys won’t be going 100% since nothing is on the line. With the Cardinals playing their home finale and the fact that they seem to run the football more effectively, I am leaning in their direction even though Arizona’s O-line is awful. I’ve heard David Johnson being compared to Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell and I just don’t think the Fleur Di Lis D, even though they are much improved, is ready for that. Cardinals 30 Saints 24
Lane Kiffin being named Florida Atlantic head coach means Ed Orgeron and his LSU staff must move swiftly to their next top option, because guess what? You are competing in the offensive coordinator market with good ole St. Nick now. Saban will let Kiffin stay on with Alabama through the College Football Playoffs, but after that the Lane train is headed to lead the Owls. Must be that view in Boca Raton…
The Tigers are said to be talking with the Pittsburgh Panthers OC Matt Canada today. The 44 year old year old has been there one season and Pitt averaged 447.5 yards with 42.3 points per game. The Panthers stunned Clemson in their own house giving the #2 team in all the land their only loss of the season:
Before Pittsburg, there were 3 seasons at North Carolina State. Fox Sports college football columnist Bruce Feldman had a write up on Canada and will be a guest on Sports Talk tonight at 535pm
Some other names out there who could be possible targets for the Bayou Bengals are said to include former Orgeron head coach Mark Helfrich. Also, Bama’s Steve Sarkisian has been mentioned, but could end up being Kiffin’s replacement at Alabama.
Everyone jumped on the Lane train to Houston yesterday, but the Cougars have named Major Applewhite their new head coach. He was promoted after serving as offensive coordinator under Tom Herman who left for the Texas Longhorns gig.
That means Lane Kiffin is kinda back on the market for Coach O to continue to court him to Baton Rouge. South Florida might be interested in him as a head coach, though. As that drama builds, Alabama's Nick Saban will surely get asked more questions about his OC. Saban fielded a number of Kiffin quandaries at the College Football Playoff press conference and was, let’s say less than thrilled...
Alabama head coach Nick Saban comments on reports that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will be named head coach at Houston pic.twitter.com/WPqI7c41a3
Meanwhile Les Miles could be headed to ...ESPN! Footballscoop.com says that they've heard the network is very interested in having Les join their team if no coaching openings are right for him. I think that would be a big win for everybody.