After a terrible start to the 2014 NFL Season, leadership and team leaders came into question for the New Orleans Saints. On more than one occasion, we heard a lot about team leaders and whether or not the Saints had good, strong leadership inside their locker room. When you lose more than you win, leadership problems are even more magnified.
Now fast forward to the spring of 2015 when the Saints consistently talked about how the team was looking to bring in and add quality, high character guys to their ball club. And as training camp 2015 begins, the question of what kind of locker room the Saints will have this season is pretty much on the minds of everyone, from coaches and players to the media and the fans.
Have the Saints made the right moves to ensure that the things that hindered them last year have been addressed and corrected? On day one of training camp a few of the Saints' longest tenured players talked about leadership.
"So much of that's trust and accountability, the guys that we have on this team, having the right type of guys on this team, guys that are great leaders, guys that want to work hard, guys that will compete, and care about one another... I think that we have that on our team. Now you get to build from the foundation up. It starts with day one of training camp like we did today," Drew Brees said. "The opportunity to come out, to compete, to get better, to push one and other, to make each better - gradually you just keep swinging away at it and then by the time the season rolls around, you feel like every day was like a game day atmosphere, every day was coming out and trying to gain an edge and that carries over to the season."
I think the question many of you have is, do the Saints have the right leaders now? And if they do, does it mean that the wrong leaders are no longer here? Or could it be that the leaders in place now are helping those who weren't leaders become better locker room team mates?
To think that the Saints were just one player away from being a better leadership-led team in 2014 would not be something that I would agree with. And to think that one new face is going to make the Saints the team they want to be when it comes to having strong leadership would also fall into the same category.
When you win as a team, the little things that seemingly tend to make good teams bad don't matter as much, simply because that team is winning. But when a team loses, all of those very same little things are magnified to the tenth power.
Are the Saints closer to having the kind of leadership they want? Or are they further away? If the answer is the latter, then 2015 will be another bad season and more, much more than lack of leadership will be pointed out and rightfully so.
Leadership comes into question more often than not when a team does not reach and or meet their expectations. In the Sean Payton era the Saints have met and exceeded expectations far more times than not. And if those expectations are met this season we won't hear much about if the Saints have a strong core of leaders within in their locker room.
The New Orleans Saints began training camp with a morning practice at the Greenbrier this morning. The Black and Gold worked through some wet conditions with a light rain falling during parts of the AM session.
One of the best plays of day one took place when veteran CB Keenan Lewis picked off a pass. Lewis dove and snagged an interception off back-up QB Luke McCown.
Later in practice an unknown player in WR Willie Snead came up with a couple of nice grabs. The second year player out of Ball State got behind DB Stanley Jean Baptiste for a nice reception and then Snead beat DB P.J. Williams for a nice gain.
Bobby Hebert liked the play Lewis made in forcing a turnover for the Saints defense. "Those are the kind of plays the Saints have to make. Lewis got a chance at forcing a turnover and he came up with a big interception. You've got to catch the ball when it hits your hands," said the Cajun Cannon.
Other notable plays came when new CB Brandon Browner blocked an attempted Field Goal during special teams. Browner, who the Saints picked up through Free Agency, rushed from the left side and penetrated deep enough to make a play on the football.
"You can tell he's (Browner) is a player that is active around the football," said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. Browner not only blocked a FG the veteran also broke up a pass at the Saints first practice.
Bobby was impressed with what he called the best play of day one when Lewis intercepted QB Luke McCown. Bobby's notes also had QB Luke McCown hit WR Nick Toon for a 20 yard hook up and fellow back-up QB Ryan Griffin threw a deep ball on a corner route to TE Kevin Brock for about a 40 yard gain.
"I think that throw (Ryan Griffin) was the best of the day. Ryan has good touch on his deep balls," Hebert said. Griffin would later throw another deep pass to WR Willie Snead for a long completion.
Bobby noticed that the Saints were running two 7 on 7 drills at the same time. The former signal caller said that this is being done to maximize the QB's ability to get more snaps at practice.
"By running two 7 on 7 drills at the same time, all four QB's are getting a fair amount of reps." Bobby was impressed with the skills of new RB C.J. Spiller. "He's quick and fast and you can tell that the Saints are going to use him in a variety of ways on offense."
Hokie noted that day one started out kind of wet. "I saw a couple of small miscues and the weather might have had to do something with it," said Gajan.
Like Bobby, Hokie was impressed with the play of veteran CB Keenan Lewis and WR Willie Snead. "You expect a guy like Lewis to make plays. But with that said, his interception was a very good one. I like his start to camp. And then Snead is just one of those guys we don't know a lot about but he did a good job of getting attention on day one."
Hokie said all in all he thought that the first day of Saints Training Camp was just fine. Gajan gave a good nod to DL Akiem Hicks, who picked up a sack in the morning session while fellow defender DL #78 Bobby Richardson also had a QB take down on day one.
Top plays and Temp
A handful of notable plays happened today. CB Keenan Lewis had a nice interception off QB Luke McCown, but #21 was later victimized by QB Drew Brees when #9 hit a deep ball to WR #88 Nick Toon. Toon beat Lewis deep.
QB Ryan Griffin was in two of the best plays today. The former Green Wave signal caller hit TE #85 Kevin Brock on a deep route and then Griffin would later throw another deep ball up the near sideline connecting with WR #84 Lance Lewis.
The practice time temperature was 70 degrees with overcast skies.
The Saints will have a walk through practice this afternoon and get back to work in the morning with practice slated to begin at 8:50 EST. For the latest on the Black and Gold and all the developments at Saints Training Camp stay logged on to WWL.com and listen to our resident pro's Hokie Gajan and Bobby Hebert on Sports Talk weekdays at 4PM on 870AM/FM 105.3
They have been there and done that when it comes to getting it done on the field for the Black and Gold, and this week WWL Saints Radio resident pros Bobby Hebert and Hokie Gajan will once again team up to break down Saints Training Camp. "Man, the dog days of summer is over. Football season is here, and now I think as fans we all get excited and members of the Who Dat Nation are ready for some Saints football. And so am I," said Bobby.
I (Deke) can always tell when the Cannon is fired up, as that big vein in his neck flares up. Well Who Dats, dat neck was working in fine fashion on the eve of Saints Training Camp. Bobby is flat out ready. "This is an important camp. The Saints have a lot of new faces and several familiar faces are no longer here. I think there is a lot of opportunity for some young players to come in and make an impact right away. I think this will be a very competitive camp over the next four weeks."
Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan has his own list of things he's looking for. "Early on it's kind of an opportunity to get use to the new faces, what their names are and what jersey number they are wearing." Hokie has his eyes set on the new additions to the Saints O-Line including Center Max Unger, and Hokie wants to see how rookie OT Andrus Peat progresses. "Adding a proven, veteran leader like Unger you would have to think the entire group is better. I don't expect Andrus Peat to come in and be a starter from day one. He's going to have to pick things up and get better each day."
Both Bobby and Hokie said that the battle for the kicker spot is going to be one to keep an eye on. And both of our resident pros are expecting to see more good things from DB Delvin Breaux. "He did just about everything right during OTA's and mini-camp," said Hokie. "Delvin Breaux can be a big impact player for this team. The Saints need help in the secondary and he has been a fast learner thus far and he's been able to get his hands on the football. The Saints desperately need a defensive guy that can get his hands on the football," said Hebert.
The Saints hit the field in West Virginia Thursday morning and will continue prepping for the 2015 season while practicing at the Greenbrier. Having played in Black and Gold for many seasons our pros give the Who Dat Nation a unique breakdown each day of each Saints practice.
Be sure and follow the Black and Gold and listen to two former Saints greats analyze each play at each practice from day one to week 17. Football season is back and WWL Radio is your home for all things Saints!
When it comes to football, it always comes down to who has the best guys in the trenches. Who better to ask about the Saints offensive line than former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte?
"The Saints have made a lot changes, and it's going to be interesting to see how these guys progress and come together during training camp," Steve said Monday on Sports Talk. Korte says that he likes the Saints obtaining former Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger. "He's one of the best linemen in the league, and his play on the field and leadership off the field will be huge for the Saints this season."
The Saints offense does return two of the team's most tenured players in RT Zach Strief and OG Jhari Evans. Both Evans and Strief were members of the Saints 2006 draft class that sees the two vets enter their 10th season in the NFL with the Black and Gold. "Both of those guys have skins on the wall. Zach and Jahri know what to do and they have been in big time games. I think their ability to help the younger players get comfortable on the field is a strength of the team."
And when it comes to Unger, Steve says let him play now! "I don't know how physically strong he is in the upper body but I'd like to see him get out there and play right away."
Steve said he likes the Saints moves this off season and he expects the Saints to be better up front in 2015. "The addition of Unger is huge. I like the new faces and I expect the Saints O-Line to be improved in 2015."
Follow WWL for up-to-the-minute updates from Saints Training Camp in West Virginia!
I know - every year is the so called "most important year" for particular teams, coaches and players. We hear it all the time. But to those who follow the Black and Gold, the 2015 Saints training camp could very well be the most important - and in several different ways.
1) Do the Saints still have it?
First of all, what is "it?" Some coach said "it" a while back and it stuck. To me, the Saints having "it" means they are an elite team. New Orleans is a team that is offensively built from one of the brightest minds in the game today, but even the brightest of minds have bad games, bad seasons and bad years. And make no bones about it, 2014 was a bad year for Sean Payton. Now Payton has made several changes to his coaching staff and brought in the kind of players that he feels like will help him get back on track. And Sean himself said that the things that were not done correctly in last seasons 7-9 year have been identified and adjustments have been made. If the Saints do still have "it," then Sean Payton will have the Saints back in the postseason and among the top 12 teams in the NFL. If he does not, then "it" may mean more changes. And anything in the form of change won't be off the table if "it" is a bad 2015 in the Big Easy!
2) Drew's decline?
Anytime Drew Brees does not throw for over 350 yards and three TD's people crawl out from the woodwork and claim good ole #9 is declining. Drew Brees is as valuable today to the Saints as he was the day he helped the team win their first Super Bowl. At this time, putting a timeframe on how much longer Drew can play is flat out dumb. Honestly, Drew can play in this league as long as he feels like it and as long as his body holds up. Ask yourself this question - are there 32 starting QB's in the NFL better than Brett Favre or Kurt Warner right now? That answer is clearly no. But can those guys' bodies hold up? The Saints have re-tooled their beef stock on the O-Line to protect their golden armed QB even more moving forward. Put it this way - as long as #9 is playing in a Saints uniform the Saints have a chance to win. And the longer that above sentence applies, the better it is for the Who Dat Nation.
3) Between the Lines
The Saints interior lines were not very good last season. Sure, the Saints ran the football at times, but the inconsistency of not being able to pound the ball at key moments is what hurt the Saints. The Saints have brought in a top flight center and gotten younger, faster and stronger in other spots. The Saints are better right now up front then they have been in a while. On the defense, it's once again a frustrating situation in this team's inability to find a good, interior D-Lineman. How awesome would it be to have a Frank Warren or Jim Wilks right now? The Saints defense will be better if the interior D-Line is better. And the Saints defense will be just as bad, if not worse, if they don't get better play from the middle of the D-Line. Look people, it's simple, you can't put a band aid over a gunshot wound. What I'm saying is that in the end your weaknesses will show up and other teams will expose those weaknesses. Bring in all the cover corners you want and sign a dozen safeties. But until you get a push up the gut and put heat on the opposing QB you're only asking for trouble!
4) Running to another title
New Orleans looks to be seemingly in very good shape when it comes to rushing the football. The Saints signed two of the leagues best RB's to contracts this off season. Ingram and Spiller are two guys that each bring a little something special and different to the Saints offense. New Orleans has to give these guys the ball more often than not. I'm no offensive guru but I'l tell you that no matter how good of a QB you've got, if rushing the football is not your main goal on offense, then you're going to come up short. This off season the Saints higher ups have shown a strong commitment to running the football. Now will that same commitment be consistent in every game this season? As long as #9 is under center then we are ok. But more #9 handing the ball off instead of throwing it downfield is going to mean more wins and more games to be played - postseason games, that is. Numbers don't lie and when the season is over, the teams that run the football the best are the ones that are still around in January and February.
During the entire off-season, and particularly right around the time of the 2015 Draft, the Saints talked about being a smarter, more disciplined team in preparation for the upcoming season. New Orleans said goodbye to many familiar faces, brought in some key veteran additions, and added a draft class that looks to be one that carries a lot of young playmakers that hopefully will turn into strong locker room leaders.
This is all just a hunch - but I get the feeling that Coach Payton knows that the early part of training camp is very important in moving forward to his team's success in 2015.
A year ago at this time, the Saints were basking in the media hype about the Black and Gold. Just about everyone (including myself) thought that the Saints were going to be the main challenger to derail the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl train.
Things quickly went from being all good to being terrible as the Saints came out looking like anything but a contender. Blowing leads in Atlanta and Cleveland to start the season was just an indication of things to come. In fact, the Saints 0-2 start was only the early onset of what may have been the most dissapointing season in Saints history.
Now, as we are two weeks away from the start of training camp, the Saints find themselves somewhat as a mystery-like team. Many of the major pre-season publications still find space on the Saints bandwagon, as the Black and Gold are the favorite - by many - to win the NFC South. But each of those publications also uses caution about the Saints simply because of what the team did a year ago; and of course, because of the Black and Gold defense.
I think that Saints Coach Sean Payton wants to hit the reset button when it comes to his team. Off-season moves like trading away TE Jimmy Graham sent messages loud and clear without the Super Bowl winning coach ever opening his mouth.
Now, Payton will use his voice and his whistle to conduct his 10th training camp as head man in the Big Easy. I personally think this year's training camp will be one that sees coach push the envelope when it comes to having as practices be as tough as possible, with more of a sense of urgency and a faster tempo. They say if you ever go to work relaxed then something is wrong. Sure, we all strive for job security but it's that hair standing up on the back of your neck feeling, the look over your shoulder to see that someone behind you is pushing you to perform at your best each day feeling - all of that was lacking at camp last year.
The Saints can't relax. The Saints need that feeling that someone is after their job. And the Saints need that sense of urgency that time is ticking and this team has to get it right this season - or else!
Players have been moved, coaches have been replaced and the Saints are now set to open camp in two weeks. A year ago the Saints were the talk of the preseason and now the Saints are a team that doesn't draw much more than a whisper around the NFL.
Maybe some of those lower media expectations are a good thing, but really, the Saints' own expectations are as high as ever. And a year from now, either I'll be telling you that 2014 was a bump in the road or 2014 was a pothole that needs a new crew to fix! Time will tell.
He has skins on the wall and he's been there and done that! Former LSU QB Herb Tyler joined Sports Talk Tuesday to talk about LSU football. "It was my true freshman year, and I knew I wanted to play quarterback," Tyler said.
Coming out of O. Perry Walker High School, Tyler was promised a shot at QB by Coach Gerry Dinardo, but things did not start out that way. "I got jersey #41 and I told Coach Dinardo - this is not a QB number!" All Tyler did was learn from week to week and later in the season he took over the starting job for the next three and half years. "We were a part of bringing LSU football back. Once Kevin Faulk committed, we all kind of wanted to be a part of something special - and we were."
Tyler talked about the Tigers current QBs and gave his take on the LSU signal callers. "I don't see sureness in Anthony Jennings. It looks like he's waiting for something to materialize instead of trying to make something happen," he said. Tyler also spoke on back-up QB Brandon Harris. "I've not seen enough of Brandon Harris to give a solid opinion. I know Brandon has a lot of talent. But I'd like to see more of him. I was never a perfect QB. I knew the playbook and trust in my ability to run and throw the football."
Herb said that LSU has a ton of talent on offense, but he would like to see more of Cam Cameron in control of the Bayou Bengals. "Coach Miles has to let his offensive coordinator (Cam Cameron) do his thing. When it gets to crunch time we've been a little too predictable," Tyler said.
Herb finished with a 26-5 record as the Tigers starting QB, which ranks among the best in Tigers history. Tyler would pass for 5,876 yards and 40 touchdowns and rushed for 778 yards and 23 touchdowns during his time at LSU. Tyler led the Tigers to bowl wins over Michigan State and Clemson. And LSU took down #1 Florida in 1997 with Herb rushing for two TD's in the Tigers 28-21 win over the #1 ranked Gators.
You can listen to my entire interview with former LSU Tiger Herb Tyler by clicking below.
In sports, teams can handle losing. If a team plays their best and still comes up short, then it's less difficult to handle that loss - but that was not the case in the LSU Tigers 10-3 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs at the 2015 College World Series!
After coasting along in the first two innings, the Tigers began to unravel in the third. With Jared Foster on second base, the Tigers had a runner in scoring position. Foster had what looked to be a clean path to home plate after a base hit. But credit TCU as they tossed out Foster at the plate and kept the Tigers off the board.
Then the Tigers fell apart. Pitcher Jared Poche was rolling right along and then made back to back terrible throws to first base and TCU would take advantage.
TCU took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning and never looked back. LSU made four costly errors in one of their worst losses in 17 trips to the CWS. Down 2-1, the Tigers would cut the Horned Frogs lead to 2-1 in the bottom half of the fourth inning. But TCU would come right back and score four more runs in the fifth to blow the game open expanding their lead to 6-1.
The first four runs TCU scored in the game were by players that were either put on base or advanced on a LSU error. TCU starting Preston Morrison allowed just four Tigers to reach base in seven innings of work and the Horned Frogs looked mighty impressive in game one at TD Ameritrade Park.
Meanwhile, Jared Poche just did not have a good day. Poche pitched a shade over four innings with just three strikeouts while surrendering six runs with three earned.
Now the LSU Tigers face elimination on Tuesday against Either Cal State or Vanderbilt. Hear that game Tuesday afternoon on the BIG 870 WWL AM. Pregame 1:30, first pitch 2:00!
With less than a week until their 2015 mini-camp, the New Orleans Saints had another organized team activity that the media was allowed to watch. WWL resident pros Bobby Hebert and Hokie Gajan both love what they are seeing in the play of new defensive back Delvin Breaux. “He’s doing everything right out there so far. He’s in the right place, he’s around the football and he’s making plays,” Hokie said. “Delvin Breaux is playing with a lot of confidence. I think Saints fans will really like what they see in Breaux,” agreed the Cajun Cannon.
Saints Coach Sean Payton gave his thoughts on the play of Breaux at today’s practice. “He is doing well. He has picked things up, (including) the mental element of it. He has handled (it) pretty well. He’s in real good shape, you can see that now. We’re just continuing to work on the fundamentals but he’s handled things, the installation, all of that really well. That is encouraging. He made some plays today,” Payton said.
Bobby intensely watched today’s OTA and took notes as only the former signal caller can. Bobby is quite impressed with the physical presence of top draft pick Andrus Peat. “Andrus Peat is a giant of a man. I don’t think he Peat would be drafted that high if the Saints did not think he was a very good player,” he told me.
Bobby liked when QB Drew Brees connected with WR Brandin Cooks on a 25 yard hook up. Bobby said that defensive back Delvin Breaux had nice coverage on Cooks, but the second year WR made a nice play on the football.
“Delvin Breaux is doing all the right things. He is all over the wide receivers in coverage, he flies to the football and he’s just making plays. I like what I see in Delvin Breaux,” said Hebert. Bobby’s notes also gave good marks to TE Ben Watson and WR’s Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones.
Bobby said that Watson has been a big part of the passing game in the three OTA’s that he has witnessed. “Ben is a veteran player that you can tell Drew trusts. Watson blocks well and he catches the football. Ben is having a good off season.”
Saints back-up QB Luke McCown threw a nice pass to RB C.J. Spiller on a wheel route. “Spiller got behind coverage and Luke made a nice throw with good touch on the football. Spiller would have picked up 60 plus yards.”
Bobby thinks that next week’s mini-camp will be very similar to the OTA’s that he has seen. “OTA’s and mini-camp are kind of the same. The pace may be a little faster and they may work on some situational things. But training camp is when things really heat up.”
The man’s whose eyes have seen more than most when it comes to the Black and Gold told me that new Saints DB Delvin Breaux is off to about as good of a start as a player can be having right now. “He’s the best one out there. That guy is around the football. He’s breaking up passes, he’s right in the receivers hip pocket and that young man is showing out right now.” Hokie thinks that Breaux has a great shot to be an impact player for the Saints this season.
Hokie also gave a good nod to TE Ben Watson. “You can tell that they have Ben Watson in their plans more than last season. Obviously that is somewhat due to Jimmy Graham being with Seattle now, but Ben Watson is a very good player that has made big plays at each of the three practices I’ve seen.”
Hokie said that it’s tough to give a grade or get a feel on how the offensive linemen are looking because of the lack of contact. “It won’t be until training camp until we can see how these guys do. Right now you look to see where their feet are, if they are having their hands in the right place on blocks and if they know the plays.”
Gajan says that the addition of RB C.J. Spiller will be a big plus for the Saints offense. “He’s got a skill set that we’ve not seen around here in a while. He rushes the football well and he can create things when he’s out in space. Spiller is a guy that can make plays.”
Hokie said that he will be looking to see if the players that have stood out so far can continue to be moving in the right direction. “Consistency is something that all players and coaches strive for. Can you be consistent in making plays when called upon?”
It was another Super Regional on the LSU campus and it was another lap around Alex Box Stadium Field after the Tigers took two straight games from the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns.
“Our kids showed an awful lot of poise this weekend. A very good team came in here that fought us tooth and nail, and I thought we played great defense all weekend, and our pitching was tremendous,” said LSU Coach Paul Mainieri. “I’m just so happy and proud to be taking this team to Omaha for a chance at a national championship.” Mainieri and his Tigers will open CWS play Sunday afternoon at 2pm. The Tigers will take on either the TCU Horned Frogs or the Texas A&M Aggies.
In game one of the Super Regional LSU’s Chris Sciambra hit the game winning Home Run to help left the Tigers over the Cajuns 4-3. And then on Sunday night the Tigers erupted in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings to the tune of six runs to win 6-3 and clinch a berth in the 2015 CWS.
“It’s hard to hit a baseball. A lot of times these young men are in pressure situations and it makes it even tougher to hit the baseball. We’ve been able to make the timely hits, and in games in which our bats are not as good as we would like, we’ve been getting great pitching,” Mainieri said.
For the second straight weekend LSU’s starting pitching was lights out. In game one of this past weekend’s series, freshman All-American Alex Lange tossed another gem for the Bayou Bengals. And then on Sunday Lutcher’s Jared Poche led the Tigers to a 6-3 win over ULL.
Coach Mainieri talked about the Tigers week of preparation before the team heads out to Omaha later in the week. You can listen to Bobby and Deke’s entire interview with LSU Coach Paul Mainieri just click below.
And be sure and follow the LSU Tigers at the College World Series right here on Tiger Radio WWL 870AM/FM 105.3!