New Orleans Saints

Saints NFL Team Column
By Bryan Dietzler
2010 NFL Draft Review

9 September 2010

New Orleans Saints Early September Update

The 2010 NFL season is about to begin and the Saints are in prime position to make another run at the NFL Championship after what many consider to be a solid preseason.

Granted, they lost to the New England Patriots in their first game of the preseason (but clearly not by much) but they handled the Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers pretty well and have looked good during the preseason.  Especially on offense.

But the defense has had its problems and could carry these problems into the regular season.  They lack the kind of player that Darren Sharper was (Sharper is still sitting due to an injury at the time of this writing) for them last year and if Sharper doesn’t get back in time for the regular season then there could be a problem.

The defense has had trouble stopping the run (as we saw in their game against the Chargers and their new running back Ryan Matthews) and they need to concentrate on that in order to have success this season.  If opposing teams are able to control the ball thus keeping it out of the hands of quarterback Drew Brees hands then there will be problems.  The Saints have to do something to shore up that defense.

Some of the problems that they have had on defense could be attributed to the lack of a solid playmaking safety in the secondary.  Darren Sharper was resigned but he didn’t take a single snap during practices or preseason and will not sit on the physically unable to perform list (which means that he will miss the first six weeks of the season).  This will definitely cause problems in the secondary (and on the defense as a whole).  It will be interesting to see how the Saints cope without him in the lineup.

If the Saints can get their defense working well and can stop teams on a consistent basis then they won’t have to rely on their offense (in particular their passing game) so much to win games.  This would be a huge boost for the offense and would prove that this is one of the more complete football teams in the NFL.

So look for the Saints to have the same success on offense this season but quite possibly take it down a notch or two on defense at least during the first half of the season.  As mentioned, it’s going to be very important for them to try to get over the loss of Sharper as soon as possible because they have some tough games at the outset and can’t sit around waiting for him to come back.  Someone has to step up and take over for Sharper while he is out.

So as we prepare for the Saints game against the Vikings the Saints, along with their many fans and well wishers hope that they are able to defend their title successfully and get to their second Super Bowl.  If what we have seen out of this team so far (during the preseason) is any indication, defending their title should be something that they can do.

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27 June 2010

June New Orleans Saints Update

Not a lot has changed in New Orleans since the Saints won the Super Bowl.  They didn’t lose too many players during the free agency period and managed to draft fairly well.  Injuries are healed and it’s time for the Saints to start making another run at the Super Bowl this coming season.

Quite possibly the biggest change for this team happened just recently as they sent one of their better players, offensive tackle Jammal Brown, to the Washington Raiders for a draft pick.  This move, while somewhat puzzling due to the fact that the Saints need all of the offensive lineman that they can get. 

As it turns out, Brown was unhappy with his situation in New Orleans and wanted to leave.  In the end, this may end up better for the Saints as Brown, who was out for the entire 2009 season with some injuries, was a bit more of a liability than anything else.  Perhaps this was a good move by the Saints.  Time will tell.

There are many prognosticators that think that the Saints won’t repeat as NFC champions this season and a few even predict that they won’t make the playoffs next year.  While everyone in the league will be gunning for the Saints you can bet that this team isn’t going to fall as far as some say and that they will at least make the playoffs again in 2010.

It was very interesting that the Saints ended up choosing a cornerback with their first pick in the first round (selecting Patrick Robinson out of Florida State) and a lot of people are still questioning this pick.  The Saints needed help in other areas like linebacker, offensive and defensive line and running back but they choose to take Robinson.  Perhaps they feel that with Robinson, they can do some shuffling at other positions in the secondary and tighten things up?

It’s possible that Robinson could be a bust especially if the Saints force him into action too early.  Their best bet, being that they have some decent players at the cornerback position, will be to allow him to learn by putting him in games in special packages easing him along as needed.  There is no need to rush him into the lineup.

Training camp is almost here so look for special training camp previews on the Saints starting soon.  We will look at each position and find out who will start, who will sit and who may be gone at the end of training camp.

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12 May 2010

The New Orleans Saints 2010 NFL Draft Review

Despite winning the Super Bowl last season, the Saints, like any team in the NFL, had holes to fill and several picks to do it with when you compare what they did last year (just had four picks in 2009). 

Let’s take a look at the players that the Saints picked in the 2010 NFL Draft, see what these guys can do to help the Saints in the near and long term.

Round One (32) Patrick Robinson-CB-Florida State-This pick was a little bit confusing because even though Robinson has a lot of talent it’s possible that the Saints didn’t get good value out of this pick.  However, Robinson could end up surprising and could step in and start right away.  There are some issues with his technique but if he can get things put together and have a great training camp then he could have a good 2010 season and eventually a strong career in New Orleans.

Round 2 (64) Charles Brown-OT-USC-Brown, although still somewhat raw, the Saints needed the help and he could, with some learning during the offseason, earn a starting spot on the offensive line.  Brown needs to work on his technique a little bit but should be fine and could be a solid starter in a year or two as it stands right now.

Round 3 (95) Jimmy Graham-TE-Miami-Graham doesn’t have a lot experience playing football after having played basketball for most of his time at Miami but he is an athlete and with some good coaching he could easily become a solid tight end and an asset in the passing game.  Hopefully he ends up having a similar career like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates have had (both former basketball players).

Round 4 (123) Al Woods-DT-LSU-The Saints reached out and took a defensive tackle in the fourth round helping to fill a need that many considered to be one of the most critical on the team.  Woods may not have been the best option for the Saints but with some coaching and some experience he could end up being a pretty decent player for the Saints for years to come.
Round 5 (158) Matt Tennant-C-Boston College-The Saints kept on looking for some help on the offensive line in the fifth round and they added a center that has been one of the most underrated in college football.  Tennant may not be able to come in and start right away but he could be an option in the future as a starter at the position.

Round 7 (293) Sean Canfield-QB-Oregon State-This pick should not come as a surprise as the Saints really don’t have much behind Drew Brees especially with Mark Brunell’s contract running out.  Canfield may not get a chance to see the field but at the least, the Saints have someone that can back Brees up as well as develop over time.  Canfield should also like the fact that he will get to learn from one of the best quarterbacks in the game today.
The Saints went into this draft with some specific needs and while they took care of most of those needs, they still let the need for a running back go past them.  Granted, they didn’t have a full compliment of picks in this draft and didn’t get to creative with trades but in the end they got a decent group of players that should be able to help them out in the short and long term.

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21 April 2010

The New Orleans Saints Draft Possibilities

The 2010 NFL Draft is upon us and like every other team in the NFL, the Saints are preparing to do what they can to fill the needs that they have and prepare for the 2010 season.  While the Saints ended up as the best team in the NFL last season they do have some holes to fill and with the restrictions that were put on them by the Collective Bargaining Agreement they need to use the draft to fill those holes.

Looking at the Saints, there are three key need areas that they have heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.  The first one is at the outside position, in particular the outside linebacker position.  This draft has a good bit of talent at the top (rounds one and two) and there could be a couple guys that fall far enough to be drafted by the Saints in the first round or early in the second round if they choose to trade down in that round.

So in the first round, with such a low pick in the first round, the Saints will want to probably choose the best player on the board that is based on their need.  Here are three players that could fit their needs at the end of the first round.

1. Sean Weatherspoon-LB-Missouri-The Saints need some help at the linebacker position and Weatherspoon would be just the kind of guy that would fit right in their system.  He’s NFL ready and already inspired enough to become a leader on the Saint’s defense.  He’s mechanically sound and NFL ready and would be a good addition to the Saints.

2.  Brian Price-DT-ULCA-The Saints had some problems keeping their defensive line stable and therefore they want to look at adding a strong pass rushing and run stuffing defensive tackle.  Price could be just the kind of guy that they are looking for.

3.  Anthony Davis-OT-Rutgers-(JR)-Yes, surprisingly the Saints offensive line is in need of some work and if this guy is available when the Saints make their first pick in the draft then they should take a long look at taking him there.  As long as he can stay motivated, Davis could end up being one of the better tackles to come out in this draft.

In the second round, the Saints could look to fill some additional needs on defense and could even take a look at getting some help at the tight end position.  Beyond that, look for the Saints to fill some needs at the safety position, add some depth at the cornerback position and perhaps even look for a backup quarterback at some point.

This is going to be a very important draft for the Saints because they will have to work to improve on those areas that that they were weak on going into their championship run and fix those areas that were weakened during this past offseason.  If they can do this and keep healthy New Orleans could easily make the Super Bowl in 2010.

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3 April 2010

The New Orleans Saints 2010 NFL Draft Preview

The World Champion New Orleans Saints may have won the Super Bowl last season but they were far from perfect.  They had holes during their run to the world title and those holes still remain.  They had their hands tied in free agency because the top eight teams in the league weren’t allowed to sign any free agents unless they lost any and they did end up losing a few guys but haven’t ended up signing any to replace them which could end up coming back to haunt them at some point. 

Some of the players that have left the Saints so far this off season include running back Mike Bell and linebacker Scott Fujita.  While the loss of these two players may not be as big of a loss as some might think, they still need to find some guys to replace them, especially Fujita.  This is why many experts feel that New Orleans is primed to take a linebacker with their first round pick and they could very easily be looking at someone like Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon or TCU’s Jerry Hughes.

Another area of concern for the Saints is their defensive line.  Granted, they have a couple of solid players in Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis but there isn’t anyone else that really stands out in that group.  Adding another solid defensive end would really help them out.

There are some needs on the offensive line as well and the Saints could use someone to start grooming at the center position to eventually take over and this is starting to become a priority.  They will also seek to look for some additional depth at the offensive tackle position which is an injury or two away from one of the worst positions on the offensive line.  The Saints have the draft picks to get some help there and should do so early in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Knowing how often tight end Jeremy Shockey gets hurt and knowing that they don’t have solid backups behind him, it might be a good idea for New Orleans to try to draft a tight end in the third or fourth round where they could find one that could fill their needs and get good value out of the pick.  Look for them to take advantage of the talent in this tight end class and get someone who can step into the game in case of injury and be productive.

Finally, depending on what happens to safety Darren Sharper this off season (on whether or not he will end up back with the Saints) New Orleans may want to take a look at a safety in the upcoming draft.  This class will have some great depth and talent in the middle round so New Orleans should take care of that need in this draft.  Besides, how much longer will Sharper be around even if he does resign with the Saints?

New Orleans needs to take care of several needs this off season and with the restrictions placed on them by the Collective Bargaining Agreement they can’t really do that through free agency.  That makes the upcoming draft that much more important for the Saints.

Next Up: We will take a look at some of the players that the Saints might be interested in heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.

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26 January 2010

Saints Earn their First Super Bowl by Edging the Vikings

The New Orleans Saints, after 40 years in existence have finally made it to their very first Super Bowl thanks to a 31-28 overtime victory against the Minnesota Vikings at the Super Dome in New Orleans.  The Saints went into this game with a defensive plan that ended up working, that plan being that they had to get as much pass pressure on Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre as they possibly could and they ended up doing more than that and it helped them win this game.  How, for the first time ever, the Saints and the city of New Orleans will get to be part of the Super Bowl.

The Vikings scored first in the first quarter when running back Adrian Peterson ran 19 yards into the end zone to put Minnesota up seven.  The Saints would tie the score on the next series when running back Pierre Thomas caught a 38 yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees.  At this point it looked like it would be a high scoring affair.  The Vikings got the last score of the first quarter when Favre connected with wide receiver Sidney Rice for a five yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7.

In the second quarter, the Saints tied the game up 14-14 when Brees hit wide receiver Devery Henderson on a nine yard touchdown pass.  Both teams would go in at the half tied at 14.

The Saints would take a 21-14 lead after Thomas ran nine yards into the end zone in the first series of the third quarter.  Minnesota would tie the game after a one yard run by Peterson late in the third quarter.  In the fourth quarter, running back Reggie Bush helped the Saints take the lead once again after a five yard touchdown pass thrown to him by Brees to make it 28-21.  The Vikings would tie the game up when Peterson rushed two yards into the end zone for a touchdown.  The Vikings had a chance to kick a field goal late in the fourth quarter but Favre was intercepted by cornerback Tracy Porter and thus the game went into overtime.

The Saints won the coin toss in overtime and took the ball down the field on a reply filled drive and at the end of it, kicker Garrett Hartley booted a game winning 40 yard field goal to make it 31-28 and win the game for the Saints. 

Stud of the Game-Darren Sharper-Sharper had a good game against his former team and former teammate Brett Favre and was the inspiration for the solid play on defense in this game.

Dud of the Game-Some players in the Saint’s pass defense had breakdowns at critical moments in this game and are lucky that they won this game.  They have a lot of work to do before they meet the potent passing offense that the Indianapolis Colts have.

Analysis: The Saints have never been to the Super Bowl until now and are well deserving of this honor.  They had a season with a lot of close calls that ended with a three game losing streak but they put things together, especially on defense, and got to where they wanted to be.  For this game, they came in with a plan to put a lot of pressure on Favre and this worked  out very well as they hit him often and almost knocked him out of the game at one point.  The defense really stepped it up in this one.  The offense did very well also and they kept Brees on his feet for the most part and he wasn’t under too much pass pressure which meant that he could get the ball out to his receivers and make some plays.  The running game didn’t get established as much as they may have liked but it’s hard for anyone to run against the Vikings so even what they managed to get was good enough.

Next Up: The Saints will travel to Miami to take on the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in less than two weeks.  Full previews of this game will be forthcoming this week and next.

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21 January 2010

Saints Blasts Arizona to Get one Game Closer to the Super Bowl

The New Orleans Saints, coming off of a bye week and well rested, played the Arizona Cardinals, coming off of a 51-45 win at home against the Packers, at home this Saturday in an NFC Divisional game and won 45-14.  This game was billed to be a potential shootout but after a key play in which Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner was knocked out for a little while (and second string quarterback Matt Leinert went in) things seemed to fall apart for the Cardinals and they couldn’t get anything going on offense.  To give the Saints some credit, their defense played one of its best games of the season and managed to hold the Cardinals back and win a date with the Vikings this coming weekend.

The Cardinals were the first team to score as running back Tim Hightower took off on a 70 yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 early in the first quarter.  New Orleans would tie it up shortly after that when running back Lynell Hamilton ran it in from one yard out to tie it up at seven.  The Saints would make it 14-7 following a 17 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to tight end Jeremy Shockey still in the first quarter.  The Saints got the last score of the quarter when running back Reggie Bush galloped 46 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals scored first with a four yard run from running back Beanie Wells to make it 21-14.  That is as close as the Cardinals would get in this game.  The next score came when wide receiver Devery Henderson caught a 44 yard pass from Brees to make it 28-14.  The Saints would add one more score before the end of the half when wide receiver Marques Colston caught a two yard touchdown pass from Brees to make it 35-14 going in at halftime.

The Saints added a 43 yard field goal by Garrett Hartley in the third quarter to make it 38-14.  The last score of the game came when Bush returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown to put the Saints up 45-14 and that is how the game would end.

Stud of the Game-Darren Sharper-Sharper had a heck of a game and his play was representative of a defense that stepped up and played very well after not playing very good the last three games of the season.  Sharper was the clear cut leader on this defense and played very inspired football.

Dud of the Game-The defense did falter at the outset of this game allowing Hightower to run 70 yards for a touchdown but they tightened up and held the Cardinals rushing game back. 

Analysis: Many people felt that this would have been a shootout much like the game that that the Cardinals played the previous week against the Green Bay Packers but it was not meant to be.  The Saints got the advantage after the Cardinals jumped to an early lead and thanks to solid play by all three phases of the team they won this game handily.  We saw the reemergence of Bush who helped out on both offense and special teams and saw Brees throw the ball comfortably with little pass pressure.  The defense stepped up big time and took the Cardinals wide receivers out of the game and then eventually took Warner out of the game albeit not quite the way that most people think that a team would and after that the Cardinals slumped and could not win the game.

Next Up: The Saints will host the Minnesota Vikings at the Superdome in the NFC Championship game.  A full preview of this game is shown below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Minnesota Vikings

The New Orleans Saints, 45-14 winners over the Arizona Cardinals will host the Minnesota Vikings, 34-3 winners over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round in a game that promises to be one of the best NFC Conference Championship games in history.  Both of these teams are similar on offense but the Vikings come into this game with a better defense while the Saints are hot and cold on defense and didn’t finish the season that well.  They played an excellent game against the Cardinals and will need a carbon copy of that performance in order to win this game.

When the Saints have the Ball-It’s difficult to run against the Vikings defense and the ideal thing would be to establish the ground game to keep the ball out of the hands of quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson.  They should at least try to get the running game going but can’t waste a lot of time doing that.  Instead, they will probably have to turn to their potent passing attack, led by quarterback Drew Brees, to move the ball down the field and score points.  In using their passing game, they have to be sure that they are able to keep Brees well protected because when Brees is under pressure (see their game against the Cowboys) he isn’t nearly as accurate and struggles so if he is under a lot of pressure, the Saints offense could have problems.  Getting the ball deep to their wide receivers will be the key to a Saint’s victory and this needs to happen often.

When the Vikings have the Ball-Favre is one of the best in the business and he has been connecting well and often with wide receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and the Saints need to find ways to take those guys out of the game.  They also need to worry about wide receivers Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian and with that their defense will have their hands full.  When the Vikings aren’t passing the ball they have Peterson to run it and he can do a lot of damage as well.  Teams have been successful at shutting the Vikings down at times but this has happened little and the Saints defense, which had been good for most of the season, has had its moments and will have to play its best game yet in order to shut them down.  Putting pressure on Favre should help and they can double team Rice in order to take him out of the game but this leaves guys like Berrian and Harvin open.  Stopping the run will also be very important and if the Vikings get their running game going strong in this game it could be over for New Orleans.

Potential Stud of the Game-Last games stud of the game, safety Darren Sharper, had a monster game against the Cardinals and with him facing his former team this week, he could be even more inspired to play well.  Look for Sharper to be making plays all over the field in this game.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saint’s pass defense-The Vikings could end up having a big game against the Saint’s pass and run defense and if they do New Orleans will lose this game.  The defense has to play the best game of this season in order to help the Saints win.

Analysis: It all comes down to defense for both of these teams as the Saints and the Vikings need to do all that they can to hold back the opposing offense.  The team with the best defense will win this game and unfortunately it looks like the Vikings have the strongest defense with guys like Antoine Winfield and Jared Allen leading the charge so New Orleans needs to do all that it can on offense to stop them.  New Orleans may want to try to establish the run to start this game but if they can’t they can leave a running back in to block this will help them out as well.  One thing that the Saints do have a clear advantage in is special teams.  If they can get some big returns out of running back Reggie Bush then that would help them out in the field position battle which will be vital.  The home field advantage will really play into this game as well and may be a deciding factor.

Prediction: It’s going to be an interesting game for these teams which mirror each other on offense but are different on defense.  Pass pressure will be the key for both teams as both of them need to get pass pressure on the opposing quarterback in order to force him to make mistakes.  The Vikings have a great defense but it can be stopped as can their offense but the question is do the Saint’s have enough to stop it?  It could be a close game and with a little luck and a lot of offense the Saints will end up pulling it out.  New

Orleans 35 Minnesota 32.

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13 January 2010

The New Orleans Saints vs. the Arizona Cardinals Game Preview

The New Orleans Saints, coming off of a playoff bye week will host the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional playoff round this coming after the Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers in an overtime shootout (in the wildcard round) 51-45.  Both of these teams are passing teams first and running teams second and both don’t have the best defenses in the NFL but they make do with what they have.  The Saints ended the season on three game losing streak and don’t have as much momentum heading into this game as the Cardinals do but they are well rested and playing at home.

When the Saints have the Ball-The Saints have a lot of weapons on offense that they can use to help them win but the first thing they need to do is establish the run.  With running backs like Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush the Saints should be able to get something going against the Cardinals run defense and they need to so that they can keep the ball out of the hands of Kurt Warner and company as much as possible.  When it comes down to passing the ball, the Saints have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL with Drew Brees and he can get the ball to anyone anywhere on the field.  But he doesn’t work well under pressure and if the Cardinals can pressure Brees there will be problems.  The Saint’s offensive line has to play a good game this week.

When the Cardinals have the Ball-As we saw in their game against the Packers, the Cardinals have a very potent pass offense even when all of their pieces are not in place.  Arizona figures to have wide receiver Anquan Boldin back and ready to go for this game and that just gives the Saint’s pass defense another headache to deal with.  The Saints will try to get pass pressure on Warner which is key and will force him into making mistakes.  If the Cardinals choose to try to get their ground game going, the Saints will have a lot to handle as running backs Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells are running the ball well right now.  The Saints can’t afford to have the Cardinals keep the ball on the ground and run the clock out especially if they are behind.  They have to stop Arizona’s ground game.  They must also cover the bevy of wide receivers that the Cardinals have (to include Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet and Jeremy Urban) and that is a tall order.  Pass pressure will be the key.

Potential Stud of the Game-Drew Brees-If Brees has a big game the Saints should win.  It all depends on how well their running game does and how much time the Cardinals offense is allowed to be on the field.  Brees has big game experience and can lead this team to a victory.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saint’s pass defense-The Saints pass defense has to play it’s best game of the season in this game and if they don’t the Saints will lose.  We saw last week just how bad the Cardinal’s offense can carve a pass defense up and New Orleans has to do something to keep Warner and his receivers contained.  They have to get pressure on Warner and make sure that his receivers are covered well.

Injury Update: The Saints appear ready to go while it’s still up in the air as to whether or not Boldin will play in this game.

Analysis: These two teams are almost mirror images of each other.  While the Cardinals defense seems to get hot at the right time the Saints defense has been on a bit of a decline as of late and will face one of their toughest tests of the season.  They have to play their best game of the year in order to win this game.  Home field advantage may be what gives the Saints the edge in this game particularly if they can keep the crowd in the game (by getting ahead early) but like we saw in their game with the Packers, the Cardinals can really ratchet things up and the likely outcome will be that whoever has the ball last in this game will win.  It could end up being one of the highest scoring games of the weekend.

Prediction: These teams are close to being one in the same and this game should feature a ton of passing along with some poor defensive play.  You can give the win in this game to the team that successfully establishes their running game first and holds onto the ball the longest and right now both teams have good running games that could help lead them to victory.  This one is almost too close to call but I give the Saints the edge in this game.  New

Orleans 35 Arizona 27.

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4 January 2010

Saints Rest Costs them a Win

The New Orleans Saints decided to rest a majority of their starters in their final game of the regular season (in preparation for the playoffs) and it ended up costing them a win as division rival Carolina defeated the New Orleans Saints 23-10.  The Saints had announced that they would at least sit quarterback Drew Brees for this game but they ended up sitting a lot more starters which helped to contribute to the loss.

Scoring started out in the first quarter when Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart put it into the end zone from one yard out to make it 7-0.  In the second quarter, the Saints would add a 35 yard field goal by kicker Garrett Hartley to make it 7-3.  The Panthers would go up 14-3 when quarterback Matt Moore hit wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett on a 30 yard touchdown pass. Carolina would score one more time to end the half when kicker John Kasay booted a 41 yard field goal to make it 17-3.  That is how the first half would end.

The Panthers would add another field goal (39 yards) to start the third quarter and make it 20-3.  Carolina would add yet another Kasay field goal (37 yards) to make it 23-3 (this was the Panther’s last score of the game.  The Saints would get their only touchdown of the game when running back Lynell Hamilton punched it into the end zone from one yard out to make it 20-10. That is how the game would end.

Stud of the Game-There were really not big studs in this game for the Saints but you have to give some credit to coach Sean Payton for holding Brees out to ensure that he doesn’t get hurt.  With teams playing some of their better players this past Sunday (and then watching them get hurt i.e. New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker) it was a smart choice to keep their franchise quarterback safe.

Dud of the Game-The Saints rushing defense is broken and that’s not a good sign heading into the playoffs.  Granted, some of the starters weren’t in for a better part of the game but the scheme is failing and things aren’t looking good heading into the playoffs.

Analysis: With things already locked up the Saints decided to rest most of their starters in this game and it cost them the win.  The Panthers rushing attack tore the Saint’s rushing defense up and this has been a problem for New Orleans in recent weeks and there is no relief in sight heading into the playoffs.  The Saints were wise to rest their primary starters though so that there were no unnecessary injuries prior to the playoffs.  But did they lose momentum by losing their last three games?  They did but perhaps they can gain it back in their first playoff game.  They need to play as well (and better) as they can in order to get to the Super Bowl which is still a realistic goal for this team.

Next Up: The Saints will play their next game the weekend of January 10th and 11th.  Their opponent is yet to be determined.  A full preview of that game will be coming up next week.

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29 December 2009

Saints Fail to Clinch Home Field in the Playoffs

This game should have been much easier than it ended up being for the Saints and after losing their first game of the season the week before to the Cowboys, the Saints have now lost two in a row and have to win their next game in order to get the much coveted home field throughout.  Tampa Bay, coming into the game with a record 2-12 and fresh off of a win against the Seahawks seemingly didn’t have much hope of winning this game but in the end they beat the Saints 20-17 in overtime improving their record to 3-12 while the Saints fell to 13-2.

The scoring started in the first quarter when New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas ran eight yards into the end zone to make it 7-0.  The Saints would go up 14-0 when quarterback Drew Brees connected on a 30 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robert Meachem still in the first quarter.  The Saints would add a 28 yard field goal by kicker Garrett Hartley in the second quarter to make it 17-0 (incidentally that would be their last score of the game).  The Buccaneers would finally get on the board late in the second quarter on a 34 yard field goal by kicker Connor Barth to make it 17-3.

Tampa Bay would make it 17-10 following a 23 yard touchdown run by running back Cadillac Williams in the third quarter.  The Bucs would tie the game when wide receiver Michael Spurlock returned a punt 77 yards to tie it up at 17.  The game went into overtime and the Bucs managed to steal a win following a 47 yard field goal by Barth to end it 20-17 in overtime.

Stud of the Game-The Saints continue to get good play out of Brees who has made a case for being NFL MVP this season but he didn’t do quite enough in this game (to secure the win).

Dud of the Game-The Saints special teams, in particular their coverage units, had been doing well all season up until Spurlock returned that punt for a touchdown.  Had they kept him from reaching the end zone it’s possible that the Saints could have won this game.

Analysis: The Saints, once the hottest team in the NFL, have lost two games in a row and are starting to play poorly at the wrong time.  They have had a chance to clinch home field advantage (in the playoffs) for two weeks now and just haven’t been able to seal the deal there.  They should have been able to do it against the Bucs who have played poorly for most of the season but they just couldn’t close the deal.  Now they have to win next week against a pretty good Panthers team in order to seal home field advantage for the playoffs which would really help them out.  They need to quit making some of the mistakes on defense and special teams that have cost them in their two losses this season.  After such hard work and promise it would be rough to see the Saints take an early exit from the playoffs this year.

Next Up:  The Saints will travel to Carolina to take on the 7-8 Carolina Panthers.  A full preview of this game is shown below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Carolina Panthers

The 13-2 New Orleans Saints, coming off of a 20-17 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the 7-8 Carolina Panthers who are coming off of a big 41-9 win over the New York Giants.  This is the second meeting for these teams this year as they met back in week nine and the Saints won that game at home 30-20.  The Panthers have been playing pretty good football as of late and have a solid shot at defeating the playoff bound Saints who have been struggling in the past couple of weeks.

When the Saints have the Ball-The best bet for New Orleans is establish the run early and often and use it to set up the pass.  The Panthers have been brutal against passing teams lately and if they can keep the Panthers defense off balance then that will take the pressure off quarterback Drew Brees.  They have to do this if they want to win.  If they find that they can’t pass the ball in critical situations (because of the pressure) then they will have a long and tough day.  They need that running game to get going and they can do it against the Panthers.

When the Panthers have the Ball-The Saints have struggled defending the run as was seen in their game against the Bucs and with Jonathan Stewart playing pretty well the Saints will have their work cut out of them.  If they can’t contain Stewart they will lose this game.  What they need to do is take him out and force quarterback Matt Moore to pass the ball where he does struggle and won’t have his top weapon, wide receiver Steve Smith available.  Getting them to pass more would really go a long way to help them win this game.  Pass pressure is key for the Saints in this game.

Potential Stud of the Game-The Saints run defense will make or break this game for the Saints and if they can contain the Panthers rushing attack then they will help lead this team to a much needed win.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints defense overall could be the thing that costs the game for the Saints.  They have to contain whoever is running the ball for the Panthers and not allow them to beat them through the air.  It will be the play of the defense that wins or loses this game for the Saints and they need to be playing as well as they possibly can heading into the playoffs.

Fantasy Spin: If you are still playing fantasy football in your league, starting all of the Saints you have on offense would be a good idea as they should be pretty productive.  You may want to stay away from starting the Saints defense this week.

Analysis: Getting home field advantage locked up by default may cause the Saints to sit some of their starters this week but if they want to keep some kind of momentum going in this game they may need to keep their starters in.  It will be interesting to see what they do there.  The Panthers are playing very good football right now and they have a monster pass rush so the Saint’s coaching staff may not want to get Brees hurt and thus he may get pulled early.  If that is the case the Saints may not win this game.  It could be a hard fought battle though (it is a division game) and there may be some hard hitting going on thus the possibility of injuries will increase so New Orleans may not want to expose their players to the potential of serious injury.

Prediction: The outcome of this game depends a lot on whether or not the Saints keep their starters in the game full time.  With home field advantage clinched it may be possible that they pull their starters in the second half to prevent injuries but this could be a mistake.  It would be best if they kept them in and kept the momentum going into the playoffs.  With the Panthers playing pretty well right now the Saints wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) want to end the season with a loss so they should play as hard as they can and win this game.  New Orleans 27 Carolina 17.

The New Orleans Saints In-Season Preview: Special Teams

The Saints special teams have been better than they have in recent seasons thanks to the addition of running back Reggie Bush who has been electric on returns when he is healthy.  They have one of the more reliable kickers in the NFL in John Carney and their punter, Thomas Morestead, a rookie, has been doing well when called upon.  The return teams have been shaken up a little bit this season thanks to injuries suffered to Reggie Bush but the Saints have found some value in the return game from kick return specialist Courtney Roby who has served them well.  The Saints do carry two kickers on their team using Garrett Hartley for kickoffs thanks to his stronger leg.

The following is a look at each key player on special teams for the Saints.  There is a look at how that player has done so far this season and how things could end up for them after the season is over.

Jason Kyle-Kyle is the Saint’s long snapper and he has been spot on and consistent with his play since joining the team.  He has been mistake free so far this season.  Look for Kyle to stick with the team next season and continue to be effective at the position.

Garrett Hartley-Hartley has been used primarily on kickoffs and there were a few cases where he had to come in for Carney (like in week 13) but now Carney has been cut and Hartley is their starter.  So far this season, Hartley has kicked four out of five field goals this season and is used on kickoffs for his strong leg to help add distance.  If it comes down to it, the Saints may look to have some training camp competition between Hartley and Carney next summer and let the best man stay on with the team.

Thomas Morestead-This is Morestead’s first season with the Saints and so far this season he has done pretty well.  He has 41 total punts (through 13 games this season) and is averaging 42.7 yards per punt which is decent in the NFL.  Morestead should continue to have a solid season and stick around in 2010.

Reggie Bush-Bush has been injured off and on this year and has missed some time as a punt returner for the Saints but when he is back there he is one of the best in the business.  So far this season, Bush is averaging 4.4 yards per return on 23 returns and he hasn’t had any touchdowns this season and that isn’t typical for Bush.  As a result of his having to play more on offense, Bush has been taken off punt returns at times as well.  When he is back there he is an explosive player and a threat to break a big one all the time.

Lance Moore-Moore is the backup to Bush but hasn’t been back on kickoffs or punts this year thanks to an injury that he suffered in game six that has kept him out of the lineup.  He could factor into things next season.

Courtney Roby-Roby has been returning kicks for the Saints this season and has managed to earn an average of 27 yards per return (through 13 games).  He also has one touchdown.  Roby gives the Saints a different dimension in their kick return teams and is a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball.

Pierre Thomas-Thomas is one of the backups at the kick returner position and so far this season he has only returned one kickoff because he is being used as their primary running back.  Thomas does give the Saints some speed when he is back there and is a threat every time he touches the ball.

Robert Meachem-Meachem is another backup at the kick returner position and so far this season he has returned six kicks with a long of 42 yards but he hasn’t been used that much.  Perhaps next year he will get more playing time at the kick returner position.

All told, the Saints have a decent special teams unit and this unit has helped them get prime field position in games and when you win that battle you typically win the game.  They will rely on their special teams in the playoffs much more as they will face tough teams and games could come down to the wire.  At least they can take comfort in knowing that their special teams shouldn’t fail them and that they should be able to win the close ones. 

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23 December 2009

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The New Orleans Saints, boasting a 13-1 record and coming off of a 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday Night Football will host the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this coming Sunday.  The Bucs earned their second win of the season defeating the Seattle Seahawks 24-7.  This game is a division game and the Saints are looking to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs and will be pressing to win this game.  This is their second meeting of the season and the Saints won the first one in week 11 38-7. 

When the Saints have the Ball-New Orleans had problems with pressure on quarterback Drew Brees last week when they played the Cowboys so they have to watch out for Tampa Bay trying to get a lot of pressure up front.  They didn’t stop the run that well either and in this game the Saints will probably try to play it as safe as they can and run the ball as much as possible.  If they have to pass then they will be able to do it well with Brees and their group of wide receivers.  There shouldn’t be any problems on offense for the Saints in this game.

When the Buccaneers have the Ball-Here is where the Saints may have some problems.  The Saints pass defense hasn’t been playing nearly as well as of late as they did earlier in the season and what needs to happen is they need to get pass pressure on rookie quarterback Josh Freeman and this will force him into making mistakes which the Saints can take advantage of.  The running game shouldn’t pose much of a problem for the Saints the last time out and shouldn’t be anything that they have to worry about this time.  The Saints have to play good pass defense though or they could find themselves in a shootout which they don’t want.

Potential Stud of the Game-If Brees can get back on track and make up for a poor outing last week he could have a big game this Sunday.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints passing defense has to do better than they have in recent weeks and even though the Bucs don’t have a great passing offense, they can still move the ball through the air so the Saints need to be ready for this one.

Fantasy Spin-Starting guys like Brees, running backs Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Mike Bell along with all the Saints wide receivers would be a good idea.  It’s a tossup in starting the defense but if you don’t have a better option then go ahead and start them.

Analysis: The Bucs got a win last week and looked pretty good doing it and this should make the Saints not take this team lightly.  The Saints need to win this game in order to gain home field advantage in the playoffs so they will be playing hard while the Bucs will be playing for nothing more than pride but playing for pride can sometimes turn into victories.  The Saints need to keep the Buccaneers pass rushers from getting pressure on Brees and they can do this by keeping the ball on the ground and keeping the defense honest.  Brees could also pass a lot in this game and get a big lead which would help out the Saint’s defense a lot.

Prediction: The Saints will be playing for something while Tampa Bay will be playing just to get through the game and get closer to the end of the season.  The Saints will want to wrap up home field advantage so look for them to play one of their best games of the season and get the victory. 

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21 December 2009

The Luck of the Saints Finally Runs Out

Saturday night football proved to be as exciting as we thought that it would be as the Saints failed to continue their path to perfection and lost to the Cowboys 24-17.  The Saints were down far for most of this game and started a rally later on in the second half to pull themselves within seven but in the end the constant pass pressure that the Saints were under created a key turnover at the end of the game (when Saint’s quarterback Drew Brees fumbled the ball to end the game).  You have to give credit to the Cowboys for the game plan that they came up with to defeat the Saints.

The scoring started out in the first quarter as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Austin Miles took a pass from quarterback Tony Romo 49 yards to make it 7-0.  The Cowboys would make it 14-0 following a three yard run by running back Marion Barber still in the first quarter.  The Saints would add a 34 yard field goal by kicker Garrett Hartley to make it 14-3 early in the second quarter.  Dallas would make it 17-3 after a 44 yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk.  The half would end with the Cowboys ahead 17-3.

Dallas got the first score of the second half when Barber ran it in from two yards out to make it 24-3.  The game looked like it was over at that point but as we have seen so many times this season already, the Saints are a second half team and they finally got going in the second half.  The Saints got their first touchdown of the game after running back Mike Bell ran it in from one yard out to make it 24-10 in the third quarter.  New Orleans would tack on another seven points after Brees hit wide receiver Lance Moore on a seven yard pass to make it 24-17.  The Cowboys just couldn’t get anything going and the Saints wound up with the ball and moved it down the field again but Brees fumbled the ball away and the Saints lost 24-17.

Stud of the Game-Perhaps the only guy that really stuck out in this game was running back Mike Bell who not only had a touchdown but also had some good runs that night.

Dud of the Game-The Saints offensive and defensive lines for the Saints were horrible.  The offensive line couldn’t keep the pressure off of Brees and this lead to inconsistency on offense for the Saints the whole night while the defense line couldn’t get much pass pressure on quarterback Tony Romo which led to him being able to sit back and pick the Saints apart.  The Saints have to get better on both sides of the ball in order to keep winning and advance to the Super Bowl.

Analysis: The Saints needed this game to clinch home field advantage in the playoffs and they had everything going from them including hosting the Cowboys in their house where fans give opposing teams a ton of problems moving the ball.  But the Cowboys were not only fully capable of moving the ball in this game but they also kept the Saints from moving the ball as well.  If anything, the Cowboys gave everyone else a blueprint that they could use to defeat the Saints and the team that could really use this if they were to meet the Saints in the playoffs could be the Minnesota Vikings.  Did this game expose the Saints?  Yes it did.  It also allowed the Cowboys to stay in the playoff hunt and eliminate the “December” monkey off their back.

Next Up: The Saints will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday.  A full preview of this game will be coming later on in the week. 

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15 December 2009

Lucky Number 13 for New Orleans

The New Orleans Saints, undefeated in 12 games (prior to the start of their game against the Falcons) travelled to Atlanta to take on division rival Atlanta who came into the game 6-6 after having lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 34-7 and barely beat them 26-23.  The Saints managed to get a first round bye in the playoffs with the win but their weak pass defense was exposed in this game and if they plan to go far into the playoffs, they will have to figure out what’s wrong with their pass defense. 

The scoring started in this game started out in the first quarter as the Falcons went up 3-0 on a 36 yard field goal by kicker Matt Bryant.  The Saints would get on the board next after a 33 yard field goal from kicker Garrett Hartley to make it 3-3.  The Falcons would make it 6-3 after another field goal by Bryant (30 yards).  In the second quarter, New Orleans running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Drew Brees hooked up for a six yard touchdown pass to make it 10-6. 

The Saints would add another score when Brees hit wide receiver Marques Colston on a three yard touchdown pass to make it 16-6 (the kick failed).  The Falcons would score one more time before the end of the first half on another field goal by Bryant (27 yards) to make it 16-9 at the half.

The Saints score first in the second half and would add another touchdown to their lead when Bush caught a 21 yard pass from Brees to make it 23-9. 

The Falcons would suddenly get hot and catch up to the Saints at that point.  The next score of the game came when wide receiver Michael Jenkins caught a 50 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Redman to make it 23-16.  Fullback Jason Snelling would get in the end zone after a one yard run to make it 23-23 in the fourth quarter.  The Saints would ice the game following a 38 yard field goal by Hartley to make it 26-23 and that is how the game would end.

Stud of the Game-Even though it’s not a usual thing for our weekly stud of the game, the Saints kicker, Hartley, had a spot on game and was the difference in the Saints losing this game and winning it.  He is ending up as a much better kicker than John Carney is.

Dud of the Game-The Saints pass defense almost gave it away in this game and the pass rush wasn’t that effective at times.  They needed to get pass pressure on Redman who can easily fold when pressured.

Injury Update-There were no significant injuries for the Saints in this game.

Analysis: The Saints seemed to be a little stuck on both sides of the ball during this game but did enough on offense to win.  The defense has hand its problems against passing teams in previous games and will have to improve their play against the pass if the team wants to advance in the playoffs. 

One thing that has been pretty impressive about the Saints is their special teams and they have had some of the best special teams play in the NFL as of late and this has helped them remain undefeated so far this season.  The offense looked a little slow but they picked things up enough to keep the Falcons from winning this game and will now seek to stay healthy as they prepare for the playoffs.  However, this team does have to start at least ratcheting up their play a little bit for the playoffs because if they play like they did against the Falcons this past Sunday they won’t get that far.  The Saints can’t continue to make a living from coming from behind or playing close.  It’s bound to come back and bite them in the end.

NEXT UP: The Saints will host the Dallas Cowboys next Saturday night.  A full preview of this game is shown below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Dallas Cowboys

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, victors over the Atlanta Falcons this past Sunday 26-23, will host the 8-5 Dallas Cowboys who lost to the San Diego Chargers 20-17 this past Sunday.  The Saints have secured their division and a first round bye in the playoffs and now just need to earn home field advantage.  The Cowboys are fighting for their playoff lives right now and need every win that they can possibly get.

When the Saints have the Ball-This could have been a much tougher test for the Saints but they got a little bit of luck when Cowboys defensive end and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware ended up getting injured in their game against San Diego and will end up missing this game.  Without that added pressure, quarterback Drew Brees should be able to sit back in the pocket and pick Dallas’s defense apart with seeming ease.  However, the Saints should try to get their running game going in this game as it would really help them control the ball and the clock.  If they find themselves behind then they do have the weapons to catch up and regain the lead.

When the Cowboys have the Ball-Dallas has had problems on offense lately and the Saints, while not boasting the most powerful defense in the NFL, still have a decent defensive unit and could hold the Cowboys back a bit in especially in the running game.  What they really need to do is put pressure on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and get him to make mistakes.  If they can do that they will win but it’s important that they don’t let Dallas establish their running game because it could tear the Saint’s defense apart.

Potential Stud of the Game-Brees should have a big game especially since he is playing at home and won’t have Ware to worry about. 

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints pass defense has had its troubles in recent weeks and will need to step it up in order to help keep the Cowboys from passing all over them.  The pass rush will be the key and if they can keep Romo scrambling they should force him to make mistakes or throw the ball away and that would keep Dallas from winning this game.

Fantasy Spin-Start all of your Saint’s offensive players but think twice about starting their defense unless you don’t have another good option.

Analysis-The Saints need to win one more game to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs so they will be tuned up and ready to win this game.  The game is in New Orleans as well and when the Saints are at home they seem to play much better. 

The Cowboys are continuing their usual December collapse now and don’t have Ware in the lineup to rush the passer.  The Saints also have great special teams and this could hurt the Cowboys if the game is close.  Look for this to be a close game to start with the Saints eventually pulling away and winning and thus getting home field advantage in the playoffs. 

New Orleans 31 Dallas 21. 

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8 December 2009

New Orleans gets Lucky to Remain Unbeaten

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, fresh off their victory over the New England Patriots on Monday night travelled to Washington D.C. to take on the Redskins who lost a close game to the Eagles just a week before.  With the their unbeaten record, the Saints had to look out and make sure that this wasn’t a trap game and it almost ended up being that as they had to go into overtime to beat the Redskins winning the game 33-30. 

New Orleans has had a history of having problems winning games in which the weather has been cooler but they broke their cold weather losing streak and continued on a much more positive streak and that is remaining unbeaten.  With the victory, the Saints also wrapped up the NFC South title and just have to work on getting home field advantage in the playoffs.

The scoring started out in the first quarter as the Washington Redskins got on the board first when tight end Fred Davis caught an eight yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0.  The Redskins would make it 10-0 following a 32 yard field goal by kicker Shaun Suisham.  The Saints would finally get on the board in the second quarter when kicker Garrett Hartley kicked a 34 yard field goal to make it 10-3. 

New Orleans managed to tie it up after quarterback Drew Brees threw a 40 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marques Colston to make it 10-10.  The Redskins would answer that touchdown with one of their own when Campbell hit wide receiver Devin Thomas on a five yard touchdown pass to go up by seven and make it 17-10.  The Saints would tie it up before the half however when wide receiver Robert Meachem returned a fumble 44 yards for a score.  It was 17-17 at the half.

The Redskins started the scoring off in the third quarter as Suisham kicked a 28 yard field goal to break the tie and put the Redskins up by three.  Washington would go up by 10 following a 13 yard touchdown pass from Campbell to Thomas to make it 27-17.  The Saint would add a 27 yard Hartley field goal to make it 27-20 and cut the deficit down to seven.  However, the Redskins would get their ten point lead back after Suisham kicked a 21 yard field goal to make it 30-20.  The Saints would get the final two scores of the game, the first a 28 yard field goal by Hartley and the second, a 53 yard pass from Brees to Meachem to tie it up at 30 at the end of the fourth quarter.

The Saints recovered a fumble in overtime, marched down the field and won the game on an 18 yard field goal by Hartley.  That’s how the game would end.

Stud of the Game: Robert Meacham-Meacham had two scores in this game including one on a fumble return that went for a touchdown and has come a long ways since his poor rookie season.  He is starting to become one of Brees’ most reliable and favorite targets.
Dud of the Game-The Saints Pass Defense-Now they didn’t have a bad day at times but allowing the Redskins to move the ball through the air with seeming ease at times almost came back to haunt the Saints.  Perhaps they could have gotten a better pass rush but the secondary didn’t cover Washington’s receivers that well (certainly not as well as they did against the Patriots on Monday night).  They need to get better at defending the pass.

Analysis: The Saints have always had trouble playing outside in cold weather and haven’t won a game (until now) when it’s cold out.  The Saints didn’t look like the same team that faced the Patriots just a few nights before but when the going gets tough the Saints get going and they seem to be able to overcome adversity and win games.  Their passing game was stalled a little bit against the Redskins and some of it had to do with the pressure that Brees was getting and when Brees gets pressured he doesn’t play that well. 

Their running game wasn’t firing on all cylinders also and this was a problem for New Orleans as they feed off the running game and it helps keep pressure off of Brees.  The Saints did overcome a pretty sizeable deficit, once again, and remain undefeated which is impressive but what is more impressive is that they won their division and secured a playoff berth.  Now if they can secure home field advantage it could be an easy road to the Super Bowl for them.

Next Up:  The Saints will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons at home.  A full preview of this game is shown below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Atlanta Falcons

The undefeated New Orleans Saints will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in the Georgia Dome this Sunday.  The Saints are coming off of a 33-30 overtime win against the Washington Redskins while the Falcons lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 34-7.  The Saints have won their division and are searching for home field advantage throughout the playoffs and will be playing their best against the Falcons this weekend.  This is the second meeting between these two teams this season as they met back in week eight and the Saints won that game 35 to 27.

When the Saints have the Ball-New Orleans will be playing indoors and since they have been pretty hot they will be able to pass the ball at will unless the Falcons can get pressure on Brees which would help keep him off balance.  The Falcons didn’t get good pass pressure on him in the first game and if they learned their lesson they could do much better in this game. 

The Saints can get their ground game going however and if they have success at pounding the ball that way then it will be a long day for the Falcons.  The Saints will probably try to grab a big lead and this means that they will pass a lot early and then grind it out slowly on the ground.
When the Falcons have the Ball-The Saints defense struggled a little going against the Redskins short passing game this past Sunday and will have to be wary of that in this game. 

The Falcons should have quarterback Matt Ryan back for this game which means that their passing game will be a lot better than it has been in the two games that he has been out.  Running back Michael Turner has struggled since injuring his leg and isn’t the same running back that he was when these teams first met.  If the Falcons have to abandon the running game and pass the ball a lot the Saints can focus on that and do a decent job of shutting it down.  Making the Falcons one dimensional will be their goal.

Potential Stud of the Game-Pierre Thomas/Mike Bell-The Saints would be wise to get the running game going in this game not only to help control the ball and the clock but also start to establish it before getting into the playoffs.  It’s time to start the playoff tune-up now.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints Pass Defense-The Saints pass defense was shredded in their game against the Redskins and they will need to be playing well in this game especially since Ryan figures to be healthy and back into the mix for this game.  They have to play the pass better.

Fantasy Spin-Start all of your Saints on offense this week but it’s a tossup for their defense.  Start them if you don’t have any other better options.

Analysis: The Saints are on a mission and that mission is to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  That would be a huge boost for their goal of getting to the Super Bowl but of course they have to get past the Falcons first.  While we didn’t think that last week’s game against the Redskins would be that much of a trap game as it turned out it was and this game is another potential trap game that the Saints could lose.  They need to get an early lead and run the ball in order to win this game but with the game being inside and the Saints needing to keep winning, they should be able to win this game and continue rolling towards the playoffs.

Prediction: The Saints are on fire right now while the Falcons are a team in decline.  As long as their pass defense doesn’t break down and it turns into a shootout, they should easily win this game.  Having their undefeated record on the line is yet another motivating factor for this team and they shouldn’t suffer any letdown as a result. 

Prediction: New Orleans 33 Atlanta 17.

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2 December 2009

New Orleans Wins the Track Meet to Stay Undefeated

The undefeated New Orleans Saints fresh off of a 38-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the then 7-3 New England Patriots who themselves were coming off of a 31-14 win over the New York Jets and defeated them in resounding fashion 38-17. 

Many people thought that this game would be much closer than it was and it started out pretty close but thanks to a great showing by the Saint’s offense and a very opportunistic New Orleans defense, it wasn’t as close as many thought.

The Saints scored on their first drive of the game when kicker John Carney connected on a 30 yard field goal to go up 3-0.  The Patriots would march down the field on their next drive, converting two fourth downs to punch it into the end zone on a four yard run by running back Lawrence Maroney to make it 7-3.  The Saints would go up 10-7 following an 18 yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees to running back Pierre Thomas.  The Saints would tack on another touchdown when Brees launched a 75 yard bomb at wide receiver Devery Henderson to make it 17-7.  The Patriots would add a 36 yard field goal by kicker Stephen Gotskowski to make it 17-10 but the Saints would answer that score with a 38 yard touchdown pass from Brees to wide receiver Robert Meachem to make it 24-10 going into halftime.

The Patriots added a touchdown to start the second half when Maroney punched it in from two yards out to make it 24-17.  The Saints would make it 31-17 when Brees threw another touchdown pass (two yards) to tight end Darnell Dinkins still in the third quarter.  The Saints would get the final score of the game, in the fourth quarter, when wide receiver Marques Colston snagged a 20 yard touchdown pass from Brees to make it 38-10.  That is how the game would end.

Stud of the Game-You can give credit to several players in this game and for this I will give it to two players.  Brees played a great game connecting with his receivers without fail while throwing five touchdown passes.  Cornerback Mike Mackenzie, signed just a week before, stepped into his role very well and ended up making some critical plays for the Saints.

Dud of the Game-The Saints run defense gave up two touchdowns and a few yards against the Saints defense and so they will have to look to improve their run defense in the next few weeks.  Overall though, the defense did a very good job.

Analysis: The Saints came out firing and beat a team that has been a consistent winner for the past few seasons.  There were a few mistakes made on defense but overall this team played a near perfect game.  The offense played very well both passing and running the football and Brees looked like the quarterback that started off this season with a hot hand.  It’s hard to imagine this team losing a game this season (although their game against the Cowboys could be a pitfall for them) and they should easily make the playoffs and run the tables there.  This team is hot.
Next Up: The Saints will travel to Washington to take on the Redskins this Sunday.  A full preview of this game is shown below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Washington Redskins

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, fresh off of a 38-10 victory over the New England Patriots on Monday night will travel to Washington to take on the Redskins who are coming off of a 24-27 loss to the Eagles.  This game could be a little bit closer than some think that it will be as the Redskins have been playing decent defense as of late but the Saints offense has been on fire and could be too much for their defense to handle.

When the Saints have the Ball-New Orleans has been perfect passing the ball and are lighting up scoreboards by moving the ball through the air.  Quarterback Drew Brees is having a great season and isn’t seeing a lot of pass pressure which is helping him complete passes and keep the ball moving.  If the Redskins can get any kind of pass rush going the Saints may have to resort to their ground game much more to keep the ball in their possession and keep it moving down the field.  Speaking of the Saints running game, they have been having a lot of success with their ground game lately and being that this game is outdoors and the weather may be bad, they may look to run the ball more often.

When the Redskins have the Ball-The Washington running game has been hurt a lot these past few weeks and isn’t going to be much of a factor in this game.  The Saints will also be able to get some pressure on quarterback Jason Campbell who could be forced into making a lot of mistakes.  The Saints secondary, despite injuries suffered at the cornerback position, is solid and will play the Redskins receivers tough.  Also, if Campbell throws an interception, the secondary is dangerous enough to return an errant pass for a touchdown.  It could be a good day for the Saint’s defense.

Potential Stud of the Game-Pierre Thomas/Mike Bell-If the weather is bad and the passing game isn’t working quite right, the Saint’s will go to their running game and these guys need to produce.  If they do, the Saints will win.

Potential Dud of the Game-The X-Factor-This game could be a trap game and the Saints can’t play down to what the Redskins will do.  They have to keep playing well and not lose this game.
Fantasy Spin-Start any and all of your Saint players on offense and their defense.

Analysis-The Saints need to be careful so that this game doesn’t end up being a trap that takes them off course in having an undefeated season and making the playoffs.  They should be able to take care of business however and move on.  The Redskins are playing better than they have in the past but just aren’t good enough to beat the Saints.  Look for the Saints to either blow the Redskins out by scoring early and often or possibly play things close to the vest, run the ball a lot and win by a couple of touchdowns. 

Prediction: New Orleans 35 Washington 17. 

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23 November 2009

Brees breezes past the Bucs

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, fresh off of a win against the St. Louis Rams, travelled to Tampa Bay to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in what would end up being a much easier game than many thought they beat the Bucs to stay undefeated by a score of 38-7.  This game saw quarterback Drew Brees throw three touchdown passes and no interceptions for the first time in several weeks while the defense showed up big for the Saints coming up with three interceptions.  The Saints are poised to clinch a playoff spot now after having pretty much run the table in their division and are marching towards a possible Super Bowl berth.

The scoring started out in the first quarter when the Buccaneers score first following an 18 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Freeman to wide receiver Mark Clayton to make it 7-0.  The Saints would answers that touchdown of their own when Brees hit wide receiver Robert Meacham on a four yard touchdown pass to tie it up at seven.  The Saints would add a field goal (38 yards) from John Carney to make it 10-7 in the second quarter.  The Saints would add another touchdown on the second Brees to Meacham connection before the half on a six yard pass to make it 17-7.  That is how the half would end.

New Orleans kept the scoring going in the second half and started out the third quarter with an 11 yard touchdown pass from Brees to tight end David Thomas to make it 24-7.  The Saints would get another touchdown on a three yard run by running back Mike Bell to make it 31-7.  The final score of the game came in the fourth quarter when Bell took it in from one yard out to make it 38-7. 
Stud of the Game-Mike Bell-Bell helped to keep the ball in the Saints hands for most of the game and made critical plays when needed showing that this is a team that is doing well in all facets of the game.  They will need his help desperately when they meet the Patriots next Monday night.

Dud of the Game-It’s hard to find anyone who could be considered to be the dud of the game in this one as they played well in all facets of the game.  Each player handled the ball well and the defense, which had been giving up some plays in the past few weeks, played very well.  It was a pretty solid effort all the way around for the Saints.

Analysis: The Saints had been allowing teams to stay close the last few weeks and in their game against Tampa Bay, they kept them back and won by a decent margin.  The defense had safety Darren Sharper back and that helped them out a lot especially in defending against the pass.  Sure, they went up against a rookie quarterback who was making one of his first starts but this team did very well in all phases of the game and hope to look just as good going up against the Patriots on Monday night next week.  Brees looked very good this time out and eliminated his mistakes.  If this team can play like they did in this game from here on out, not only will they make the playoffs but they could run the tables all the way to the Super Bowl. 

Next Up: The Saints will host the hot New England Patriots who are coming off of a 31-14 win over the New York Jets.  A full preview of this game is below.

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The New Orleans Saints vs. The New England Patriots

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, fresh off of a 38-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the 7-3 New England Patriots who themselves are coming off of a convincing 31-14 win over the New York Jets.  This is a huge game not only because it pits two of the best teams in the NFL together but also because it’s on Monday night and the stakes are very high for both teams.

When the Saints have the Ball-The Saints played a great game on offense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after having spent some time in the offensive doldrums the previous four weeks.  Their running game was right on and quarterback Drew Brees didn’t make a mistake in that game for the first time in a long time.  They need to play a near perfect game against the Patriots who are known for coming up with some tricky coverage schemes as well as getting pressure on the quarterback.  The Saints will use a mix of running the ball and short passes to help keep the Patriot’s defense off balance.

When the Patriots have the Ball-New England has one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Tom Brady and he makes it hard for any defense to defend against him.  New Orleans has to get pressure on Brady and force him to make mistakes which they have to take advantage of.  New Orleans should be able to slow down New England’s running game enough to make it somewhat ineffective but they have to cover both Wes Welker and Randy Moss well if they want to avoid getting burned through the air.  If this game ends up a shootout it could cost the Saint’s dearly.

Potential Stud of the Game-The entire Saints defense could, if they play well enough, win this game and help keep the Saints undefeated.  It will require the best blanket coverage on the Patriots wide receivers possible as well s good pass pressure on Tom Brady.  If they can keep Brady off balance they will win this game.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints Secondary-It’s possible that Brady could have a big game and if he does it will be the fault of the secondary.  Injuries have hurt the Saints secondary and the reserves playing in this game will have to be playing their best in order to win this game.  If they let Brady carve this defense up, they will lose.

Fantasy Spin-Starting your Saints offensive players such as Brees, wide receiver Robert Meachem, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell would be wise.  You might want to sit the defense however and it’s a tough call.  The defense could either play very well or play poorly and even lose you points this week.

Injury Impact-Reggie Bush and Sedrick Ellis missed the Buccaneers game but may be available for the game against the Patriots.  Keep an eye on their status throughout the week.

Prediction:  The Saints will want to win this game to keep their undefeated streak going as well as lock up a playoff spot.  The Patriots will also want this game bad so that they can keep ahead of other teams in their division and perhaps secure at least a little piece of home field advantage in the playoffs.  This could be a shootout depending on how well each team’s secondary does and both are playing some of the best football of any group of secondarys in the NFL. 

It will all come down to which quarterback has the best game and both of these quarterbacks are two of the best in the NFL so it could end up being a pure shootout.  The Saints play at home and this gives them some advantages and it will come down to whichever team wants it more.  Prediction: New Orleans 31 New England 28.

The New Orleans Saints In-Season Preview: The Cornerbacks

The Saints weren’t known for defense prior to the start of the 2009 campaign and there was some concern that teams would burn the Saints secondary like they have in the past.  However, this season has seen a turn around on defense for the Saints and now they boast one of the better defenses in the NFL.  Their cornerbacks have been pretty solid as starters Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter have held their own so far this season and are looking better with each game.  Depth may be a bit of a concern in this group but with veteran Randall Gay and rookie Malcolm Jenkins backing up things might be ok.

The following is a look at the Saint’s cornerbacks.  There is a quick look back at how they did in 2008, how their offseason went and how they are doing so far this season.

Randall Gay-Gay is the backup at the right cornerback position and this six year veteran helps provide some quality depth at the position. In 2008, Gay played in 14 games in 2008 starting 13 of those games but was relegated to backup duty thanks to a great performance by Tracy Porter in training camp.  Gay can come in and help when needed and provides the team with a quality backup at the position.

Tracy Porter-Porter, the starter at the right cornerback position, has had an outstanding season so far and could be a serious contender for a Pro Bowl berth this season.  Porter has the size that you would look for in a good cornerback and has the speed to shadow fast wide receivers and keep them well covered.  In 2008 Porter started in and played in five games and finally earned the full time starting job in preseason this year.  As long as he stays healthy the Saint’s pass defense should be pretty solid on his side and as stated, he could easily make the Pro Bowl.

Leigh Torrence-Torrence is the backup at the right cornerback position and is a four year player out of Stanford.  In 2008 Torrence played in seven games but didn’t start any of them playing mostly as a backup and on special teams.  Torrence can come in at times on nickel situations as needed but is being used on special teams for the most part and performs well.  If they need him in a pinch though he could be a good fill in for a short amount of time.

Malcolm Jenkins-Jenkins, a rookie out of Ohio State, didn’t earn a starting spot in training camp but that’s a good thing anyway as he needs some time to learn.  After a decent offseason, Jenkins has played in six games so far this season but hasn’t had a lot of production yet. There should be better days ahead for Jenkins.  Look for Jenkins to contribute more in 2010 as he gets more acclimated with the Saints system.

Jabari Greer-Greer, a six year player out of Tennessee, is the starter at the left cornerback position for the Saints and has had a pretty decent season so far.  Greer has had two interceptions (returning one for a touchdown) and is a very instinctive cornerback who has matched up well against receivers this season.  Greer came over to the Saints from Buffalo during the offseason and gave them a boost they desperately needed in the secondary.  He may even get Pro Bowl consideration this year but for now, he’s been a great addition for New Orleans.

Reggie Jones-Jones, a rookie out of Portland State is on injured reserve this season and will get his chance to make the active roster in 2010.  Jones has a good mix of size and coverage ability and could eventually be a solid starter in the future.

Danny Gorrer-Gorrer, a rookie out of Texas A&M is on the Saint’s practice squad this season and will get his chance to make an impact on defense in 2010.  He has decent size for the position and does have the speed to keep up with most receivers.  Gorrer has a promising future.

CB Chris McAlister-McAlister was just signed to help make up for some of the injuries that the team has had at the cornerback position during the season and he brings a lot to the table for the Saints.  Although he has gotten older and perhaps a step slower, McAlister, who used to play well in the once vaunted Baltimore Raven’s defense, should be a good fill in and as long as he can get up to speed quickly, could be an effective player in the short term.

The Saints secondary has been riddled with injuries this season but when healthy this is one of the best secondary units in the NFL.  Greer is one of the most dangerous cover cornerbacks out there and Porter is quietly having one of the better seasons of any cornerback in the NFL but injuries have taken their toll and we may not get to see everything that these guys could do this season.  If this unit can stay healthy and not lose any more players it could end up being one of the best this season. 

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16 November 2009

New Orleans Escapes Getting Bucked by the Rams

It was thought that the Saints would have an easy time with the lowly Rams whose offense had been less than stellar and whose defense was still in rebuilding mode.  However, in what has been a pattern for the Saints these last few games, New Orleans has to pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat once again to win this game.  This time, they had to hold back a late rally instead of having to come up with one of their own but they did it and won 28-23.  Now they still remain the only undefeated team in the NFC and are poised to clinch a playoff berth in the coming weeks.

After the game went scoreless in the first quarter, the Saints managed to get the first score of the game on a three yard run by running back Reggie Bush to make it 7-0.  The Rams would make it 7-7 following a 29 yard pass from quarterback Marc Bulger to wide receiver Donnie Avery.   Bush would get yet another score, still in the second quarter, when quarterback Drew Brees connected on a 15 yard pass to Bush to make it 14-7.  The Rams would add one more score before the end of the half when running back Steven Jackson scored on a two yard run to tie the game going into halftime.

The Saints would score the first points of the second half when wide receiver Courtney Roby ran the opening kickoff back 97 yards for a score to break the tie and make it 21-14.  The Rams would add a field goal by kicker Josh Brown (32 yards) to make it 21-17 still in the third quarter.  The Saints would get the first score of the fourth quarter when wide receiver Robert Meachem caught a 27 yard pass from Drew Brees to make it 28-17.  The Rams would attempt a comeback but it would fall short as Avery caught his second touchdown pass of the game from Bulger to make it 28-23 (the two point conversion failed).  That is how the game would end.

Stud of the Game-You have to give a hand to Bush who had a solid two touchdown effort while rushing for 83 yards (and catching one pass for 15 yards).  He is a playmaker and a game changer and quite possibly the Saints second most important offensive weapon (after Brees). 

Dud of the Game-The Saint’s pass defense was shredded by the Rams in this game (298 yards) and they were missing safety Darren Sharper which could have been part of the reason why they failed to do so well.  While Sharper is just one player, he is a vital piece of this defense and without him the Saints are clearly not as good as they are with him in the lineup.  He must get healthy and remain so for the rest of the season.

Analysis-The Saints didn’t have to come back like they have recently but instead they had to hold back a comeback from a team that was clearly weaker than they were at least before the game.  The Saints looked a little mediocre in this game and didn’t get good production out of their running and passing games but still did enough to win.  It is clear that they missed Sharper in this game and it showed just how important it is to have a good safety in the secondary. 

Next Up: The Saints will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers. 

A full preview of this game is below:

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The undefeated New Orleans Saints will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the 1-7 Buccaneers who are coming off of a 25-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins.  The Saints need to be aware of this game because it could turn into a trap game for them as the Bucs, who didn’t start off the season playing that well, have gotten better over the last few weeks and earned their first win just two weeks ago and came close to beating the Dolphins this past Sunday.
When the Saints have the Ball-The Buccaneers have been playing better defense lately and so the Saints will want to do what they should have done in several games this season and attempt to run the ball first.  They have three good running backs in Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas as well as Reggie Bush and with those players playing well they could run the tables on the Buccaneers defense.  When it comes to passing the ball, the Saints have one of the better quarterbacks in the league with Drew Brees and if they get into a tight spot they should be able to pass their way out of trouble.

When the Buccaneers have the Ball-The Bucs have been running the ball effectively and this could be a problem for the Saints if safety Darren Sharper misses another game.  They need him in the middle of the defense to help keep that part of the field covered and help protect against long runs.  Cornerback Jabari Greer has been hurt and they need him back as well.  Even though Tampa Bay may not be one of the most powerful offenses the NFL the Saints are making some of the worst offenses (i.e. the Rams) look much better than they actually are.  They have to watch out in this game.

Potential Stud of the Game-It’s time that Brees finally gets back to the way he was at the beginning of the season and he has a chance to do that this week.  If Brees can get this offense going and get them scoring a lot of points to start they won’t have to worry about defending against or having to come up with a comeback effort in this game.  That is a key.

Fantasy Spin-Starting the usual group of Saint’s offensive players would be a good idea in this one as they should be pretty productive.  Starting the Saint’s defense is a tossup but they are an opportunistic defense and could come up with some big plays.

Analysis-Once again, like the Rams game, this could end up being another trap game for the Saints and they will have to play their best football in order not to lose this game.  This game is a division rivalry so the Buccaneers will be pumped up for it and the Saints should be too and the team that wants this more will win this game. 

Injury Update-It is not yet known if Sharper and Greer will be available for this game.  Keep an eye on this as it will definitely be a factor if one or both can’t play.
Prediction: The Saints should roll once again but lately things haven’t been as easy for them as people would think that it would be.  They should have soundly beaten the Rams but didn’t do it and look like a team that needs their defense to win games for them.  The Bucs have gotten better but aren’t good enough to beat the Saints this weekend. 

Prediction: New Orleans 31 Tampa Bay 23.

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10 November 2009

New Orleans Escapes Disaster to go 8-0

The New Orleans Saints, coming off of a big Monday night win against the Atlanta Falcons hosted division rival Carolina, who themselves were coming off of a big win against the Arizona Cardinals and beat them 30-20.  This left the Saints as one of two undefeated teams in the NFL and gave them their best start in franchise history.  Things didn’t go well for the Saints to start but they got things together and came back to win their eighth straight game.

The scoring started out early in the first quarter when Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams burst through the line and ran 66 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0.  Williams and the Panthers would do it again when he ripped off another run, this one seven yards to make it 14-0.  In the second quarter, the Saints would add a field goal (23 yards) to make it 14-3.  Carolina would make it 17-3 when they got a field goal in the middle of the second quarter (32 yards).  The Saints would add another field goal towards the end of the second quarter (25 yards) to make it 17-6.

The third quarter saw the Saints add a touchdown to make it 17-13 when running back Pierre Thomas ran ten yards into the end zone early in the third quarter.  The Panthers would add a field goal (their last score of the game) to make it 20-13. 

After that it was all New Orleans.  The Saints made it 20-20 when quarterback Drew Brees tossed a 54 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robert Meachem to end the third quarter.  In the fourth quarter, New Orleans would break the tie with a 40 yard field goal to make it 23-20.  The Saints would get one more touchdown to end the game when Anthony Hargrove returned a fumble one yard for a touchdown to make it 30-20.  That is how the game would end.

Stud of the Game-The Saints defense might have broken early but they firmed things up in the second half and held the Panthers back while their offense did the work.  The rushing defense should be a bit of a concern for this team however and they will need to work on that in future games.

Dud of the Game-The Saint’s rushing defense-The Saints rushing defense allowed Williams to peel off two touchdowns right off the bat and got the team behind.  This team has to work on getting better at defending against the run.

Analysis-The Saints, once again, had to come back from being down by several scores to win a game showing that the defense isn’t that good right off the bat to start a game.  The offense is also a little bit sluggish to start and will have to get better at getting into games faster and scoring much faster than they have been.  Getting the running game going more would help them do that and they have to start looking at running Pierre Thomas even more than they have so far this season.

Key Stat-149-The number of yards that the Saints offense allowed Williams to get.  They have to do better against the run.

Next Up: The Saints will travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams.  A full preview of this game is shown below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The St. Louis Rams

The 8-0 New Orleans Saints will travel to St. Louis to take on the 1-7 St. Louis Rams.  The Saints are coming off of a 30-20 win over the Carolina Panthers while the Rams had a bye week last week.  This could be a trap game for the Saints despite the fact the Rams have struggled all season so they will need to be playing their usual best to win this game.

When the Saints have the Ball-The Saints have had a problem scoring enough points in the first and second quarters to keep from having to have late game rallies to win games.  They can avoid this by running the ball early and often.  When passing the ball, they should be able to attack the Ram’s secondary which has been below average all season.

When the Rams have the Ball-We have seen that the Saints have some problems with keeping the opponents running game from gashing them for a lot of yards and they face the Ram’s Steven Jackson who is one of the better running backs in the league.  They have to stop him.  If they can do that, they will leave it up to quarterback Marc Bulger and his receivers to win the game and right now that won’t happen.  Shut down Jackson and it will be an easy win for the Saints.

Potential Stud of the Game-Once again, the Saint’s defense has to shut Jackson down or it could be another day of having to play catch up but against the Rams that’s doubtful.
Potential Stud of the Game-The Saint’s rushing attack-If the Saints don’t move the ball on the ground early and often they could leave the door open for the Rams to steal one from them.  They have to control the ball and the clock and keep the ball out of Steven Jackson’s hands.

Fantasy Spin-Starting anyone on the Saint’s offense would be a good idea and you could also start their defense because they should have a good game against the Rams.

Prediction: It’s hard to imagine the Saints losing this game especially since the Rams are not a strong group of pass defenders and are still trying to figure out how to put things together.  The Saints need to get a lead early which is something that they have had a hard time doing in the past few games but it shouldn’t be too big of problem to get a lead on the Rams.  Look for a Saint’s victory in this game that takes them to 9-0. 

Prediction: New Orleans 35 St. Louis 14

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4 November 2009

New Orleans Fends off a Late Falcons Rally to Remain Perfect

The New Orleans Saints managed to stay undefeated after a close Monday night contest against the Atlanta Falcons beating them 35-37.  The Saints didn’t play their best game of the season, turning the ball over several times in critical situations but they did enough on both sides of the ball to win this game and remain quite possibly the best team in the NFL.

The Falcons started off scoring in the game in the first quarter when running back Michael Turner blew into the end zone following a 13 yard run to put the Falcons up 7-0.  The Saints would answer the Falcon’s touchdown on a 22 yard run by running back Pierre Thomas to tie the game at seven.  Atlanta would add one more touchdown in the first quarter when Falcon’s defensive tackle Kroy Bierman recovered a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.  That put the Falcons up 14-7.

It was all New Orleans in the second quarter as they tied it up following an 18 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Marques Colston.  New Orleans would go up 21-14 when running back Reggie Bush punched it from one yard out.  The Saints defense would even get into the act following a 48 yard interception return by cornerback Jabari Greer which would make it 28-14 in favor of the Saints. 

That’s how the half would end.
The Falcons opened up the second half scoring in the third quarter when Roddy White caught a 68 yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to make it 28-21.  There were no other scores in the quarter.  In the fourth, Atlanta kicker Jason Elam booted a 25 yard field goal to bring the Falcons to within four of the Saints.  New Orleans would put another score on the board when running back Pierre Thomas caught a one yard pass from Brees to make it 35-24.  The Falcons would get one more score, the last one of the game for either team when they got a 40 yard field goal from Elam to make it 35-27. 

Stud of the Game-You have to give this to the Saint’s defense.  Despite allowing Turner to run all over them and despite allowing Ryan to complete some pretty critical passes, the Saints defense kept the Falcons far enough away to allow their offense to score points and keep them ahead.  This defense has come a very long way since 2008.

Dud of the Game-Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas-Both running backs fumbled at critical times in this game and almost gave it away.  They have to hold onto the ball better.

Key Stat-48 yards-This is how many yards the interception return that Greer had towards the end of the half covered.  He ran the pick back for a touchdown and swung momentum towards the Saints going into halftime.

Analysis-The Saints show us week in and week out that they have the best offense in the NFL.  They also show us that their defense has come a very long way in a year and that it helps keep opposing teams at bay much better now.  New Orleans has way too many weapons for most teams to handle and with the play calling that they get from the coaching staff, this team is virtually unstoppable.  The biggest question now is, when will they lose.

Next Up-The Saints will host the Carolina Panthers this coming Sunday.  A full preview of this game is shown below.
The New Orleans Saint vs. The Carolina Panther

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, coming off of a win against the Atlanta Falcons this past Monday night will host the 3-4 Carolina Panthers this Sunday.  The Panthers are coming off of a 34-21 win against the Arizona Cardinals.  This is a rivalry game between two division rivals which should make it an even better game than it would appear to be.

When the Saints have the Ball-The Panther’s defense played Arizona Cardinal’s quarterback Kurt Warner tough so they will focus on getting pressure on Drew Brees in this game.  This is why the Saints need to establish the run and they will do that with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell.  If it has to come down to throwing the ball a lot, Brees is one of the best in the NFL and has a great group of wide receivers.  With this kind of offense, the Panther’s defense may be overmatched.

When the Panthers have the Ball-The Saints defense is a very opportunistic defense and will take advantage of any mistakes that the Panther’s offense makes.  Carolina will try to run the ball a lot to help keep the ball out of the hands of the Saint’s offense and so New Orleans will try to control this.  The Panther’s passing game is not that good thanks to ineffective play at the quarterback position so if the Panther’s have to throw the ball a lot they will most likely lose this game.

Potential Stud of the Game-The Saints rushing defense-If the Saints can keep DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart from gaining a ton of yards then they will have done their job and the Saints will have easily won this game.

Potential Dud of the Game-Players who turn the ball over-Turnovers plagued the Saints in their last game and turnovers at key points in this game could kill them.  They have to hold onto the ball better.
Fantasy Spin-In what should be a weekly ritual, you should start Saint’s players like Brees, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Marques Colston. 

They continue to produce week in and week out.
Prediction: The Saints are on a roll and it’s hard to imagine the Panther’s defense being able to stop them on offense.  If the Saints defense can take away the Panther’s rushing attack and force Carolina to throw the ball a lot they can take advantage of the mistakes that quarterback Jake Delhomme is sure to make and almost easily win this game.  The Saints should roll here. 

Prediction: New Orleans 35 Carolina 13.

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27 October 2009

Saints Rally to Beat the Dolphins

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, fresh off of a big victory against the New York Giants, took on the Miami Dolphins in Miami and after falling behind by three scores, rallied back to win the game 46-34.  The Saints used a combination of solid defense along with an opportunistic offense to overcome the mistakes made by that powerful offense.  Now the Saints remain undefeated and one of the best teams in the NFL.

The scoring started out when Miami’s Ricky Williams ran the ball in four yards for a touchdown.  The Saints would make it 7-3 on a field goal by kicker John Carney, still in the first quarter.  Williams would help make it 14-3 following a 68 yard run.  In the second quarter, the Dolphins would go up 17-3 following a field goal.  Running back Ronnie Brown would make it 24-3 after an eight yard run.  The Saints would get their second score of the game in the second quarter on a one yard touchdown run from quarterback Drew Brees to make it 24-10.  That is how the first half would end.

The Saint’s great comeback really got going in the second half when safety Darren Sharper returned a Chad Henne interception back 42 yards for touchdown to make it 24-17.  The Dolphins would add another field goal to make it 27-17 to help keep the Saints back by ten points.  However, New Orleans would pull to within three following a ten yard touchdown pass from Brees to Marques Colston.  The score was 27-24 after that.  The Dolphins would get one more touchdown following a four yard touchdown run by Williams to make it 34-24. 

The Saints scored the final four scores in the game all in the fourth quarter.  The rally started out when running back Reggie Bush burst into the end zone from ten yards out to make it 34-31.  The Saints would make it 37-34 following another one yard run by Brees.  (The kick failed) The Saints would add a field goal to make it 40-34.  New Orleans would get one more score after Tracy Porter returned an interception 54 yards for a score.  The two point conversion failed and that ended the game 46-34.

Stud of the Game-The Saints defense.  When the game was on the line and the Saints had to come back and win this one the defense stepped up and help pave the way for a comeback.  Granted, they didn’t do so hot to start out with but they stepped it up in the second half and helped this team win.  They are one hundred times better than they were in 2008.

Dud of the Game-Pierre Thomas-Granted, the Dolphins run defense was doing well against the Saints and New Orleans had to get away from the run in order to keep up with the Dolphins but if Thomas had gotten a better start, the Saints might not have needed such a furious rally at the end of the game.

Fantasy Spin-Brees didn’t have one of his “classic” outings as he was intercepted three times but he ran for a couple of scores and ended up doing well.  Bush had a good game as did the Saint’s defense.

Analysis-This game showed us that the Saints are also able to overcome adversity and come back from a serious deficit and this is what makes great teams great.  Their defense has also come a long ways and can help keep them in games (and help them win them).  This team is clearly the class of the NFL.

Next up-The Saints will host the Atlanta Falcons at the Superdome in New Orleans.  A full preview of the game is shown below.
The New Orleans Saints vs. The Atlanta Falcons Game Preview
The undefeated New Orleans Saints will take on the 4-2 Atlanta Falcons this Monday night at home.  The Saints are coming off of a 46-34 win over the Miami Dolphins while the Falcons lost to the Cowboys 37-21 in Dallas.  This is a key division game for both teams.  If the Saints win they will get a three game lead on the Falcons while if the Falcons win, they will gain one game on the Saints and be just two games back.

When the Saints have the Ball-The Falcon’s pass defense has been fairly weak lately as was seen against the Cowboys where they were ripped by Miles Austin for 170 plus yards.  New Orleans has one of the best passing games in the NFL and will cause the Falcons problems. 

The Saints offensive line will have to hold back what should be increased pressure from the Falcon’s defensive front and the line is capable of giving quarterback Drew Brees enough time to throw the ball.  New Orleans may want to get their running game established as well because that will help to keep the Falcon’s defense honest and off balance.  Both Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell need to have big games Monday night.

When the Falcons have the Ball-The Saints defense has been very good against passing teams and are one of the most opportunistic defenses out there.  They are not as tough against the run though so the Falcons may look to get their running game established and they should be able to get Michael Turner in there and keep pounding him between the tackles.  The Saints will have to keep an eye on tight end Tony Gonzalez who is becoming quarterback Matt Ryan’s go to guy.  If the Saints can shut down the run and keep good coverage on the Falcon’s weapons in the passing game they will win this one.

Potential Stud of the Game-The Saints defense-If they can shut down the Falcon’s offense this game will be a breeze for them.
Potential Dud of the Game-The Saint’s rushing defense-If the Saints allow Turner to run all over them thus keeping the ball out of the hands of the offense, the Saints could realistically lose this game.  They have to keep him off the field.

Fantasy Spin-Starting Brees, Thomas, Bush and all of the Saints receivers would be a good idea for this game.  The Saints defense should also see a start too as they have been impressive over the past few weeks.

Prediction: New Orleans is playing at home so having the crowd on their side will give them an advantage.  The Saints are on a roll while the Falcons have struggled for a couple of games and now their defense isn’t looking as good as it did when the season started.  As long as the Saints can keep the ball in the hands of their offense they will be able to win this game. 

Prediction: New Orleans 31 Atlanta 21.

The New Orleans Saints 2009 In Season Preview: The Safeties

In order for the Saints to be successful and make the playoffs in 2009, their defense has to step it up and hopes are high that they will be able to do that and keep the Saints in games.  The safety position was much maligned in 2008 but things have gotten better for the Saints there and they will field some of the best players that they have including former Minnesota Viking Darren Sharper, Usama Young and Roman Harper to name a few.  This is a good group but not the most solid in the NFL.

The following is a look at each player at the safety position for the Saints.  There is a quick look back at how they played in 2008, how their offseason went and how the rest of the 2009 season should shape up for them.

Usama Young-Young, a four year veteran out of Kent State, is the backup to newly acquired free safety Darren Sharper.  Young has played well in the past and in 2008 he started in two games while playing in 15 but was replaced this season by Sharper.  Young will continue to be a solid backup at the free safety position and will contribute on special teams as well this season.

Pierson Prioleau-Prioleau is yet another long tenured veteran having been in the NFL for 11 years and he brings a lot of experience to the table with this group.  In 2008 Prioleau played in just four games starting none and didn’t rack the stats of a starter but still contributed.  He will do the same this season sitting behind Roman Harper at the strong safety position.  Look for Prioleau to contribute at points this season.

Chris Reis-Reis, a third year backup at the strong safety position, provides some decent depth at the position and some good help on special teams.  In 2008, Reis was active for 15 games but failed to start in any single game contributing mainly on special teams.  That’s what he will do again this season with the Saints and he should be a valuable part of this team.

Roman Harper-Harper is the starter at the strong safety position and has become quite a valuable asset at the position.  In 2008 Harper played in and started in 15 games for the Saints and was very productive but not as productive as he was in 2007.  Harper remains the starter this season and should be able to perform admirably in the strong safety spot as long as he stays healthy.

Darren Sharper-Sharper, a free agent acquisition from the Minnesota Vikings, has started his career with the Saints very well and was a key factor in their win against the New York Jets.  Sharper may be getting older (this is his 13th season) but he still has a lot to offer.  In 2008, Sharper started all 16 games for the Vikings and was pretty productive in their defense.  He brings that productivity to the Saints as well as a lot of experience and can really help out their defense and as we have seen, he has become an asset to this team.

Chip Vaughn-Vaughn, a rookie out of Wake Forest, will have to wait until next year to contribute as he is on injured reserve this season.  Vaughn has good size for the position and good range but didn’t have the all out spectacular speed but would have been a good fit as a backup at either safety position.  He will get his chance to prove himself once again in training camp next summer and should have the tools to stick with the team in 2010.

Overall, the Saints have a pretty strong group at the safety position and already in 2009, this group has helped the Saints keep teams at bay and has also helped them win games.  There is no sign of Sharper being slowed down by age and he has had a good season so far.  As long as this group stays healthy it should continue to be a key part of the success of the Saints defense.  It could even see Sharper getting elected to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season.  This could be one of the better safety groups in the NFL this season. 

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22 October 2009

New Orleans Saints Destroy the Giants

The New Orleans Saints, fresh off of a bye week, hosted the New York Giants at the Superdome in a battle of undefeated teams and the Saints virtually blew out the Giants 48-27.  The Saints showed us just why they are the number team in the NFL now after putting forth a great effort on both offense and defense.  The Giants had one of the best offenses in the NFL as well as what may have been the best defense in the NFL before this game and the Saints picked them apart with seeming ease.

The first score of the game came when Saints running back Mike Bell went into the end zone on a two yard run to put the Saints up 7-0.  New Orleans went up 14-0 when quarterback Drew Brees hit tight end Jeremy Shockey on a one yard pass to make it 14-0.  The Giants would get on the board at the end of the third quarter with a field goal from kicker Lawrence Tynes to make it 14-3.

The Saints would go up 21-3 following a 36 yard touchdown pass from Brees to wide receiver Robert Meachem early in the second quarter.  The Giant’s Ahmad Bradshaw got the Giants on the board again following a ten yard touchdown run to make it 21-10.  New Orleans would go up 28-10 following a 12 yard touchdown pass from Brees to Lance Moore still in the second quarter.  New York would get seven more when quarterback Eli Manning connected with Mario Manningham on a 15 yard touchdown pass.  The Saints would close out the scoring the first half following a seven yard run by Reggie Bush. 

The half would end with the Saints up 35-17.
The Saints would get the only score of the third quarter on a 12 yard pass from Brees to Marques Colston to make it 42-17.  In the fourth quarter, the Giants would inch closer on a field goal by Tynes to make it 42-20.  The Saints would get their final score of the game on a two yard run by Heath Evans to go up 48-20.  The Giants would get the last score of the game on a 37 yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Carr to WR Hakeem Nicks.  The game would end with the Saints winning 48-27.

Stud of the Game-The whole Saints team can be considered to be studs in this one.  Both the offense and the defense performed very well against what many considered to be the strongest team in the NFC and there were very few mistakes made by this team.

Dud of the Game-It’s hard to find one for the Saints in this one but if I have to choose one I would say that the failure of the Saint’s secondary to keep the Giants from completing some of their longer passes should be of some concern.  This could be attributed to a lack of pass rush by their defensive line but overall this group got good pressure on the Giant’s quarterbacks.

Fantasy Spin-It looks like Brees has resumed his record pace and made many fantasy owners happy last week.  The Saint’s running backs didn’t do too bad either and the Saints remain one of the best teams for fantasy production in the NFL so far.

Next Up: New Orleans will travel to Miami to take on the 2-3 Miami Dolphins. 

The preview of this game is below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. the Miami Dolphins
The undefeated New Orleans Saints will travel to Miami to take on the 2-3 Miami Dolphins.  The Dolphins had a bye week last week and their last game was against the New York Jets, a 31-27 victory on Monday night.  The Saints beat the then undefeated New York
Giants 48-27 this past Sunday.

When the Saints have the Ball-By now, everyone is aware of the kind of powerful offense that the Saints have and are well aware of their ability to strike quickly from anywhere.  New Orleans may want to use their ground game a little bit more to keep the ball out of the hands of the Dolphins potent offense and they are fully capable of doing that with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell available.  Of course, this team has a talented group of wide receivers and their quarterback, Drew Brees, is capable of taking games over without much effort.

When the Dolphins have the Ball-The Dolphins have had a lot of success running the wildcat offense in the past and this could pose some problems for the Saint’s offense.  In order to counteract this they have to be ready for anything and this defense will be hard to trick with defensive coordinator Greg Williams at the helm.  Look for the Saints to keep their linebackers close to counteract the wildcat while taking special care to ensure that they get plenty of pressure on quarterback Chad Henne.

Potential Stud of the Game-Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell-These two have the ability to keep the ball in the hands of the Saints offense and do some great things with it.  Look for both of these guys to have big games along with Brees. 

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints front seven-If the Dolphins try to get the wildcat offense going the front seven of the Saints will have to be on the ball to stop it.  If they fail to do so, New Orleans could see its first loss of the season.
Fantasy Spin-Starting any and every New Orleans player eligible would be a good idea.  All of them are highly productive especially Brees and Thomas.

Prediction:  The Saints are on a roll and it’s hard to imagine a team like the Dolphins stopping them right now.  The Saints will work to get a big lead to start and then use their defense to make sure that the Dolphins don’t come back on them.  It should be an easy win for the Saints but they have to keep an eye out for the tricks that Miami likes to use.  Just two or three successes could put this game in jeopardy for the Saints.  Prediction: New Orleans 34 Miami 21.

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13 October 2009

New Orleans Saints vs. The New York Giants Game Preview

The undefeated New Orleans Saints, coming off a bye week, will host the undefeated New York Giants in a game that promises to be one of the best of this season.  The Giants are coming off of a huge 44-7 win over the Oakland Raiders while the Saints earned a 24-10 victory over the New York Jets two weeks ago.  With both teams coming in undefeated and both sporting high powered offenses and tough defenses, this promises to be a great game.

When the Saints have the Ball: The past two games have seen quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints passing game go into some kind of funk and they will have to break out of it in order to win this game.  The Giants are deadly against the run and so the Saints will have to rely on Brees to win this game.  They should be able to pick on the Giant’s secondary pretty well provided they aren’t under a lot of pressure by what has become a solid pass rush.  If Brees can connect with his receivers and help get an early lead, the Saints could win this game.  However, they most likely won’t be able to fall back on their running game as the Giants, as mentioned, are very tough against the run.

When the Giants have the Ball: This will be the toughest test this year for a Saints defense that has really improved upon its 2008 campaign.  They have been solid against the pass this season and haven’t been too bad against the run either but they will face what may be the best offense that they have seen all season this coming Sunday.  Getting pressure on Eli Manning would be a good idea in this game.  With Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw leading a powerful running game it may be difficult for the Saints to keep containment on both.  The Giants may be able to expose weaknesses in the Saints defense and take advantage of them.

Potential Stud: Brees-Brees has to have a big game in order for this team to win this game.  If the Saint’s passing game fails to get going the Saints will almost certainly lose this game.  Brees has to find that magic that he had when he first started the season.

Potential Dud: Both offense and defense-If there is any large failure on either side of the ball for the Saints, they will lose this game.  The Giants are just that good and right now they are playing nearly flawless football so this is going to be a tough one for the Saints.

Fantasy Spin: While it may be difficult for some, you may want to start Brees in this game because the Saints will be passing the ball a lot in this one.  Starting Brees and his group of wide receivers could pay off big.

Prediction: This game will either be close or be a blowout by one of these teams.  Whoever jumps to an early lead will probably win this game.  With two great offenses and two solid defenses this could also be a shootout and whoever gets the ball in the last two minutes will win this game.  It’s almost too close to call.  However, with their superior offensive power and a strong defense the Giants should prevail and the Saints will suffer their first loss of the season. 

Prediction: New York Giants 33 New Orleans Saints 27.

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5 October 2009

New Orleans Saints vs. The New York Jets Game Review

The undefeated New Orleans Saints played host to the undefeated New York Jets and in the end, it was the Saints that remained undefeated following a 24-10 victory.  This game featured a lot of great defensive plays by the Saints and yet another solid running effort.  Quarterback Drew Brees was down once again throwing for just 190 yards with no touchdowns.  Pierre Thomas rushed for 86 yards and one touchdown but as stated, it was the defense that won this one for the Saints.

The scoring started out in the first quarter as the Saints went up by three following a field goal.  The Saints would also score the first touchdown of the game in the second quarter as safety Darren Sharper returned an interception back 99 yards for a score to make it 7-3.  The Saints defense would score once again after Jet’s quarterback Mark Sanchez fumbled the ball in the end zone and Remi Ayodele recovered to make it 17-0.  The Jets would get on the board though, before the end of the half, following a field goal by kicker Jay Feely to put it at 17-3 at halftime.

The Jets would close to within four following a Thomas Jones touchdown run.  The Saints would ice the game on a one yard touchdown run to make it 24-10. 

Stud of the Game-Darren Sharper-Sharper ended the game with five tackles and two interceptions one of which he would return 99 yards for a touchdown and showed the NFL that the Saints defense isn’t one to be thought of lightly now.  They are one of the best in the NFL.

Dud of the Game-The Saint’s Passing Game-For the second straight game, the Saints failed to overpower their opponent through the air.  This should raise some concern with the coaching staff but keep in mind, the Saints have faced two tough pass defenses these past two weeks.  They need to get back on track if they hope to win tougher games in the future.

Fantasy Spin-Brees continues to disappoint owners with his low yardage and touchdown totals.  On the other hand, Pierre Thomas has been very productive for those lucky enough to pick him up.

Next Up: The Saints will have their bye week in week five and then host the New York Giants in a battle of two undefeated teams.

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30 September 2009

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Buffalo Bills Game Review

The undefeated and red hot New Orleans Saints, boasting one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL, travelled to Buffalo to take the 1-1 Buffalo Bills.  In a game that wasn’t a typical high powered game for the Saints, they still managed to beat the Bills 27-7 and remained undefeated so far this season. 

Quarterback Drew Brees was less than spectacular during this game but managed to keep the offense going despite the fact that Brees didn’t have a good outing.  On the day, Brees threw for just 172 yards and no touchdowns but they didn’t need Brees that much as their running game took off and helped earn them the win.  Running back Pierre Thomas rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns to help propel to the Saints to their third straight victory.

The Saints did much better on defense than many had though they would allowing just seven points as well as shutting down the Bills top wide receiver Terrell Owns.  It appears as if the Saints have finally found a defense to start matching their offense.  Now they just need to keep it up.

Stud of the Game: Thomas-Thomas’ play allowed the Saints to win this game since their passing game wasn’t quite the same that it has been during the previous two games.  His 126 yards and two touchdowns showed that he is a viable option in the running game and should remain so this season.

Dud of the Game: It’s hard to blame Brees for all of the Saints problems in the passing game but his play in combination with that of the Bills defense did leave a little something to be desired.  Look for Brees to pick things up and play much better in their next game.

Stat of the Game: 222.  That is the number of rushing yards the Saints got.  When compared to 176 passing yards (they got from Brees) this shows that the Saints are now one of the more multi faceted teams in the NFL and one that will be hard to defend.

Next Up:

The Saints will host the New York Jets this coming Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome.  A full preview of this game is below.

The New Orleans Saints vs. The New York Jets Game Preview
It will be a battle of undefeated teams as the New Orleans Saints will host the New York Jets in a game that promises to be one the better games this season.  The Jets have been doing things with defense for the most part but you can’t count out the fantastic play of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.  He is playing like a seasoned veteran and this could be a difficult game for the Saints defense.  On offense, Brees needs to get back on track after having thrown for no touchdowns in their last game but they may not need Brees so much now that their running game looks much better than many thought that it would.

When the Saints have the Ball:  We all know what Brees and his receiving corps are capable of and when they are hot, they are almost unstoppable but when you put pressure on Brees, he doesn’t seem to connect with those same receivers.  So the Jets will be bringing a lot of pressure.  However, the Saints have gotten their running game going lately making them multi dimensional and this should help keep the Jets defense off balance.

When the Jets have the Ball-Sanchez is having a good go of it passing the ball and their running game is doing very well so far this season but the key for the Saints will be to pressure Sanchez and force him to make mistakes.  Granted, the Saints don’t have the best defense in the NFL but they are much more improved than they were in 2008.  Pressuring Sanchez and shutting down running backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington successfully should lead to a win for the Saints.

Potential Stud of the Game-The Saints defensive line.  The Saints need to pass rush successfully and keep the Jet’s running game at bay and the unit that will need to step up in this game is the defensive line.  If they have a good day, the Saints will win.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints offensive line.  The Saints have to hold off what is one of the best defenses in the NFL and this means protecting Brees as well as opening up holes in the running game for their running backs.  If they can do that they will help this team win but if not then the Saints may see their first loss of the season.

Fantasy Note: While some feel that starting Brees against this tough defense may be a mistake, he is poised to have a bounce back game here and could have a big day if his offensive line can keep him protected.

Prediction: The Saints haven’t faced a defense quite like the Jets and will have their work cut out for them.  The key players will be on both the offensive and defensive lines and if the Saints can win the battle there they will win this game.  Prediction: New Orleans

24 New York Jets 17

The New Orleans Saints Season Preview: The Linebackers

After a few years of ineffective play at the linebacker position, the Saints added former New York Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma and despite the fact that he has been injured off and on he still brings something to this defense and should help keep it stable for several seasons to come.  They also went out and drafted a linebacker in Stanley Arnoux but he is on the shelf for the season thanks to a season ending injury suffered in OTA’s. 

The following is a look at each player at the linebacker position for the New Orleans Saints heading into the 2009 season.  There is a look at how each player performed in 2008 and how their offseason has gone so far.  There is also a look at how they should perform in 2009.

Jonathan Vilma-Vilma will probably take a bigger leadership role this season and if he can stay healthy, he could end up being the biggest star on the Saint’s defense.  Vilma played in all 16 games in 2009 and figures to be a dominating force on defense.  Look for Vilma to become a key player on defense for the Saints and be their leader on that unit in 2009.

Jonathan Casillas-Casillas, a rookie out of the University of Wisconsin, will make the active roster and contribute as a backup and a special teamer.  Casillas had a good training camp and showed the coaching staff that he has some ability and can fill in for a while if needed.  Look for him to shine on special teams and in relief as needed.

Troy Evans-Evans will back up Scott Fujita at the strong side linebacker spot and has eight years of experience to add to this defense.  Evans has a lot of talent and plays the position well but isn’t quite as strong or fast as Fujita is.  Evans will see some time in relief of Evans and could be a good short term solution if Fujita was ever to get hurt.

Scott Fujita-Fujita is truly one of better players on defense for the Saints and has performed very well for them during his time there.  Fujita, playing the strong side linebacker position, still has the strength and quickness to play the run but doesn’t quite have the agility to drop back into coverage and keep up with some tight ends.  Fujita is one of the leaders on this team and should have a great season with the team.

Marvin Mitchell-Mitchell will back up Vilma at the middle linebacker and if Vilma goes down for any reason this season, Mitchell, a veteran who has some experience, could step in and play if necessary.  While he isn’t the ideal fill in for an injured Vilma, he does have some decent ability and can contribute on special teams as well.

Jo-Lonn Dunbar-Dunbar is slated to back up Scott Shanle at the weak side linebacker position in 2009 and Dunbar is ready for the challenge.  Dunbar, a two year player out of Boston College has shown himself fully capable of backing up and playing special teams as needed.  He should have a good season and can fill in at times as needed.

Scott Shanle-Shanle is the starter at the weak side linebacker position and is a pretty solid player for that position within the Saint’s defense.  Shanle has some speed and can also move well laterally making plays all over the field.  Shanle is in his seventh year in the NFL and has some experience in playing defense and can help the others along.  Look for Shanle to have a solid year and help lead this defense to a much better season than they had in 2008.

Mark Simoneau-Simoneau is on injured reserve right now but may see action a little bit later on in the season (after week six) if he gets healed up in time.  Simoneau, a ten year vet has been a starter for the Saints in the past but has succumbed to injury.  Look for Simoneau to be back on the team and playing again after week six of this season contributing where he can.

Stanley Arnoux-Arnoux, a rookie out of Wake Forest began his career with the Saints on a low note and suffered a season ending injury in offseason workouts thus ending his chance to contribute in 2009.  Arnoux is known to be a solid athlete and great in coverage and can be used as a blitzing linebacker at times.  We will see him in 2010.

The Saints need to get better on defense and they need to ensure that their linebackers are not only strong in run support but can cover tight ends and running backs as needed and also blitz the quarterback.  If there has been any time where they need their linebackers to stand up and perform, it is this season.  The defense needs to help ensure that they will win games thanks to the powerful offense that they are putting forth this season. 

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26 September 2009

The New Orleans Saints vs. The Buffalo Bills Game Preview

The undefeated New Orleans Saints will travel to Buffalo to take on the 1-1 Buffalo Bills this Sunday.  The Saints are coming off 48-22 win over the Eagles while the Bills won their first game of the season by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-20.  Buffalo will be missing several key starters on defense for this one which means that they won’t be able to put up as strong of a front against the Saints powerful offense.  For the Saints (on offense) things should go pretty well since they have one of the best offenses in the NFL but on defense, there are always question marks.

When the Saints have the Ball: Drew Brees can be considered to be the best quarterback in the NFL right now and has thrown more touchdown passes than any other quarterback this season.  The Saints offense is very powerful and hard for any team to stop and the Bills will have the same problems that the Lions and the Eagles have had with that offense this season.  Look for the Saints to start the game throwing the ball a lot to get a big lead and then sit on the ball by running it to keep it out of the Bills hands.

When the Bills have the Ball: The Saints have been doing decent on defense but not spectacular and will have to get better.  They will get some pressure at the cornerback position in having to cover Lee Evans and Terrell Owens so that will be a challenge.  Also, in order to keep up with the Saint’s high flying offense, Buffalo is most likely to pass the ball a lot.  This could spell trouble for the Saints offense.  If the Saints allow the Bills to run the ball then Buffalo running back Fred Jackson, who is seeing his last game as a starter in place of Marshawn Lynch, could have a decent game.

Potential Stud of the Game: Brees, hands down he is poised to have another big game.

Potential Dud of the Game: The Saint’s pass defense.  The Saints have been giving up a lot of yards through the air but teams have been forced to pass on them a lot thanks to their offense jumping out to big leads.  Still, the lack of a solid pass defense could be damaging.

Prediction: The Saints have a hot offense and the Bills defense is hurting.  This team is too good to be held back and should be able to score a lot of points against the Bills. 

Prediction: New Orleans 31 Buffalo 20.

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22 September 2009

New Orleans Saints vs. The Philadelphia Eagles Game Review

Benefitting from the Eagles change at quarterback thanks to an injury suffered by starter Donavan McNabb, the Saints travelled to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and came away with a 48-22 victory.  Drew Brees was hot once again throwing for three touchdowns and just one interception and the running game got going as well helping to keep the ball out of the Eagles hands and keep the Saints in the win column. 

New Orleans is now 2-0 and tied for the lead in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints got a fast start to this one and it was over before the Eagles could mount much of a comeback. 

Brees had his usual hot hand in this game throwing for three touchdowns and one interception.  The running game got going as well as both Mike Bell and Reggie Bush had a touchdown.  It appears as if the Saint’s offense is hitting on all cylinders early in the season.  They may have some concern on defense however but as was seen in this game they didn’t need to worry too much about the Eagles scoring because they jumped out to an insurmountable lead to begin with.  Brees spread the ball around a lot in this one as no receiver had over 100 yards receiving.

The Saints defense did allow 22 points but the game became a shootout towards the end and there wasn’t much of a chance for a big comeback by the Eagles.  They did allow Philadelphia to gain a lot of yards through the air which isn’t a good sign because if the NFL puts forth a defense that can stop the Saints tough offense, the Saint’s defense will be in trouble. 

Stud of the Game: This has to go to Brees once again for his herculean efforts at the quarterback position.  He appears unstoppable and so does the Saints offense.

Dud of the Game: You have to think that the defense is going to let them down at some point this season.  By allowing Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson to gain 101 yards through the air, as well as allow tight end Brent Celek to gain 104 yards through the air.  Their pass defense has to get better if they plan to keep on winning more games.

Key Stat: 3-This is the number of touchdown passes that Brees has thrown so far this season bringing his season total to nine.
Next Up: The Saints will travel to Buffalo to take on the 1-1 Buffalo Bills.  Stay tuned for a preview of that game coming up later in the week.

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18 September 2009

New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles Game Preview

The New Orleans Saints, fresh off of their 45-27 victory over the Detroit Lions, will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles who are coming off of a big 38-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers but could be without their quarterback Donavan McNabb thanks to injury.  If he doesn’t start, they could use former Eagle Jeff Garcia in his place.  It could make for an interesting contest.

When the Saints have the Ball-Everyone is now well versed in just how well the Saints offense works and what makes it work is the pass protection that the offensive line gives to quarterback Drew Brees.  If Brees has time to throw, things could get ugly for the Eagles but if they can keep pressure on him, they should have a chance against this powerful New Orleans offense.  The Eagles are traditionally good against the running game and if they can shut down the Saints running game they may force a shootout which, for all intents and purposes, the Saints will probably win.

When the Eagles have the Ball-The Eagles seemed to cruise on offense pretty easily against the Panthers in week one and will face a somewhat weaker defense when they take on the Saints.  At this time, there is no word on whether or not McNabb will play and if the Eagles have to start someone else, there could be a problem and the Saints could take advantage of it.

Potential Stud of the Game: Mike Bell/Pierre Thomas-If Thomas is healthy, he will get the start but if he isn’t ready to go then Bell is a satisfactory replacement.  It will be hard to run on the Eagles but if the Saints can get something going on the ground, it will make it much easier on the Saints.

Potential Dud of the Game-The Saints Defense-The Saints defense is still a little bit suspect as was seen in their game against the Lions which is a team in transition.  The defense isn’t as strong as they would like yet but they are bound to get better.
Fantasy Fact-Brees could still have a big day against the Eagles depending on how this game starts out.  If the Saints can pick apart the Eagles pass defense, it may be another big day for Brees.  Starting him this week may not be a bad idea.

Prediction: If the Saints offense is hitting on all cylinders, it may be tough for the Eagles to stop them.  Brees is on fire but if New Orleans can’t get the running game going, they might be in trouble.  It’s still a mystery who is going to start at quarterback for the Eagles, but right now it looks like it's going to be young, unproven Kevin Kolb, and if it’s anyone but McNabb, the Saints shoulf win.

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15 September 2009

New Orleans Saints vs. The Detroit Lions Game Review

In the first game of the 2009 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints hosted last year’s 0-16 Detroit Lions and beat them soundly 45-27.  It was a record breaking game for Saint’s quarterback Drew Brees who became the only quarterback in NFL history to throw six touchdown passes in a season opener. 

The Saints may have scored a ton of points and beat the worst team in the NFL in 2008 but they didn’t do it cleanly.  The defense gave up 27 points which, if New Orleans didn’t have the powerful offense that they had, may have put them on the losing end of this one.

Stud of the Game-Drew Brees-Brees threw six touchdown passes in this game breaking the record previously mentioned and proving that the Saints offense remains as it always has as one of the best in the NFL.  If they can keep this up they may end up being division champions and be playoff bound before it’s all said and done but we have to remember, this was done against one the weakest defenses in the NFL so it’s still too early to get hopes up.

Dud of the Game-Reggie Bush-There weren’t too many players on the Saints that didn’t do their job in this game but Bush did fumble twice (losing one) and needs to hold onto the ball better.
Highs-Brees spread the ball around quite a bit in this game and even got it to his tight end, Jeremy Shockey, who had his first touchdown in two seasons.  The receivers did well in catching the ball and the running game, with Mike Bell subbing for an injured Pierre Thomas, helped the Saints pile on the points.

Lows-Aside from Bush’s two fumbles, the defense was a little bit scary in allowing the Lions to put up 27 points.  New Orleans needs to work on its rushing defense a little bit more or else teams that run the ball a lot (and there will be a lot of teams that choose to run the ball in the future so that they can keep it out of the hands of the Saint’s offense) will control games in the future.
Impressive Stat-6-The number of touchdown passes that Drew Brees threw during this first game of the season.

Next Up-The Saints will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles who are coming off of a 38-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.  A game preview for this game will be forthcoming.

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29 August 2009

Training Camp Preview: The Defensive Tackles

The Saints have had a run of mediocrity at the defensive tackle position for quite some time but there are hopes that they will be able to help anchor and strengthen what has been a weak defense and get the Saints back to the playoffs.  With such players as Sedrick Ellis and Kendrick Clancy available, the Saints should be able to get a good pass rush this season and with an improved secondary, be much better on defense.

The following is a look at all of the players that the Saints will take into training camp at the defensive tackle position.  There is a quick look back at how they performed in 2008, how their offseason has gone and where they should end up at the end of training camp this summer.

Sedrick Ellis-Ellis, the starter at left tackle, had a decent season in 2008 playing in 13 games but has had some injury problems that have made it difficult for the Saints.  If he has a healthy 2009 season, he could end up being one of the better defensive tackles in the league.  He has to get better because the Saints need their defense to step up and play well or else they could be right back where they were at in 2008, missing the playoffs.  Look for Ellis to have a good season as long as he can stay healthy and thus help make the Saint’s defense much better.

DeMario Pressley-Pressley, Ellis’s backup at the left tackle position, will surely have to battle for his backup position this season now that the Saints have brought in a few additional players to add some depth at the defensive tackle.  Pressley didn’t see any action in 2008 and could end up seeing some in relief this season if called upon and should be able to play well enough when asked.
Rod Coleman-Coleman, a ten year veteran, may be seeing the end of his career coming soon and if the younger talent that the Saints bring in performs as well as they would hope, he could find himself looking for work at the end of the season.  In 2008, Coleman didn’t play for the Saints but hopes are that he has at least a good year or two left in him and can help out the Saints on defense.  If anything, he should be able to fill the gaps and help them stop the run.  As long as he can hold off some of the younger talent on the team, he should be able to contribute in 2009.

Earl Heyman-Heyman, an undrafted free agent out Louisville will backup at the left tackle position and could supplant Coleman as the number two person behind Ellis and Pressley.  Heyman has good size but isn’t as big as the other defensive tackles so he may be used on passing situations to use his speed to rush the passer.  He has a good chance at making the roster thanks to his ability to get up the field quickly and could become a fixture on defense if he can prove himself in the preseason.

Kendirck Clancy-Clancy, an aged veteran, has the opportunity to contribute once again at the right tackle position in 2009 and should keep his starting job despite the fact that he has lost a step or two.  Clancy is a big body tackle who is able to fill the gaps and at least help control the running game but isn’t that productive against the pass.  He should be able to keep his starting spot and help out a defense that should see some steady improvement this season.

Remi Ayodele-Ayodele, a three year player out of Oklahoma, will back up Clancy at the right tackle position and should vie for additional playing time thanks to his ability to move up the field quickly and get pressure on the quarterback.  Look for Ayodele to continue to backup Clancy in 2009 and see some addition spot duty as they work to help keep their starters fresh and get a pass rush going.

The Saints have quietly had one of the more solid defensive lines in the NFL but not as well as some of the other teams in the NFC (like the Panthers and the Giants).  It is critical that this unit perform as well as they can because it will have a direct bearing on what happens on defense.  If they can get a good pass rush going as well as good run support from their tackles they should have a solid defensive line in 2009. 

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29 August 2009

New Orleans Saints Training Camp Preview: Defensive Ends

The Saints are a team that lacks balance on both sides of the ball.  While they have a tough and potent offense, the Saints defense has let them down several times during the past few seasons and they need it to get stronger if they hope to get into the playoffs.  Defensive end has been a bit of a strong point on a weak defense as players like Will Smith have played very well for the Saints.  More is needed however and while the Saints did improve their defense, they didn’t do much to improve their pass rush. 

The following is a look at the players at the defensive end position that the Saints will take into training camp this summer.  There is a quick look back at how they did in 2008, how their offseason has gone so far and where they may end up at the end of training camp this summer.

Will Smith-The Saints best defensive end had a decent season in 2008 but not as good as his previous seasons.  Smith suffered from a sports hernia injury in 2008 which slowed him down but he is healthy and has had a solid offseason.  There is still some question as to his availability however as Smith is involved in the infamous Starcaps case with the NFL and could miss the first four games of the season if the government rules in the NFL’s favor.  At this time, he is the starter and if he can stay healthy, he should be very productive on defense in 2009.

Anthony Hargrove-Hargrove, a five year veteran, comes over from the Buffalo Bills to the Saints and will enhance their ability to rush the passer thanks to his experience.  Hargrove should be able to fit in as a backup and come into the game at specific times and help rush the passer.  Look for Hargrove to compete for and win a backup spot this summer and contribute a lot in rushing the passer. 
Jeremy Parnell-Parnell, a rookie out of Mississippi, will get his shot to make the team as either a defensive end or a defensive tackle and with the kind of skill that he has, he might be better suited at the tackle position.  He is most likely going to have to fight hard to earn a spot on the active roster but if he doesn’t, he would be a good candidate for the practice squad where the Saints may want to keep him and give him a try sometime a little further down the road.

Bobby McCray-McCray, Smith’s backup at right defensive end, had a decent season starting eight games due to Smith’s injury and should remain the backup at the right defensive end position.  With Smith facing suspension, it’s likely that McCray will end up being the starter at the beginning of the season and will fill in as needed.  His offseason has been a good one and he should have a great training camp.

Charles Grant-Grant, last year’s starter at left defensive end, comes into the 2009 season ready to play following a pretty solid 2008 season.  Grant has had a good offseason which should springboard him into this next season where he should be able to perform at a high level.  If Smith ends up missing the first four games of the season, Grant may have to step it up a little bit to help take up some of the slack that will surely be left with Smith being out.  Look for Grant to remain the starter and perform well for the Saints in 2009.

Paul Spicer-In 2008, Spicer was Grant’s backup in 2008 and saw some action playing pretty well when he was on the field.  Spicer will get some competition for the primary backup spot at left defensive end this offseason but he should be able to beat back the competition and remain the primary backup behind Grant in 2009.

Jeff Charleston-Charleston comes in as the third string backup at the left defensive end position and will face some competition as he will have to go up against some of the rookie talent they have decided to bring in at the position.  However, this third year vet, who played in ten games last season and go three sacks, should be able to stay on as a backup easily.  Look for Charleston to have a good camp and remain with the team after final cuts.

The possible loss of Smith will really hurt the Saints at the start of the season and hopes are high that he won’t have to serve the four game suspension that has been handed down to him.  There are capable backups but their speed and pass rushing moves are clearly not as good as Smith’s.  The Saints defense should be better overall next season however and if they can get good production out of their defensive ends, they could end up complementing the offense and getting into the playoffs in 2009. 

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23 July 2009

Saints 2009 Draft Preview:  The Offensive Tackles

As mentioned in the previous New Orleans Saints preview on their offensive guards, the offensive line of the Saints is one of the best in the NFL and they have two of the better offensive tackles in the NFL at this time.  Jammal Brown, still young yet, has a lot to offer this team and Jon Stinchcomb bring a lot of stability to the right tackle position and should be fixtures there for several seasons to come.  There is also adequate depth at both positions although the backups at the left tackle position do leave a little something to be desired.

The following is a look at each player at the offensive tackle position on the New Orleans Saint’s roster as they head into training camp.  There is a brief look back at their 2008 season, a look at how their offseason has gone and a look ahead to where they may end up at the end of training camp this summer.

Jammal Brown-Brown, the Saint’s starting left tackle, has had a great go of it since joining the team just a few short seasons ago.  Brown made the Pro Bowl in 2009 thanks to his efforts in 2008 and has had a solid offseason so far.  Look for him to remain the starting left tackle and play very well again in 2009.

Zach Strief-Streif is Brown’s backup at the left tackle position and while he didn’t get to see much action in 2008 (he did start one game), he still represents the best backup possibility for the Saints at the left tackle position.  Streif will be challenged a little bit by some newcomers but should be able to remain the primary backup at the left tackle position in 2009.

Jon Stinchcomb-Stinchcomb is the Saint’s starting right tackle, will follow up a solid 2008 season with a strong 2009 season and shouldn’t have to worry about anyone threatening his starting spot in 2009.  He is a solid player and does very well for the Saints as a pass blocker contributing to New Orleans having one of the best passing games in the NFL.  Look for Stinchcomb to have another great season as the starting right tackle and contribute to another big season on offense for the Saints.

Jermon Bushrod-Bushrod, the Saints primary backup at the right tackle position in 2008 and he didn’t see much action last season.  Bushrod will get some competition from a couple of other tackles behind him but should be able bet them out and remain the backup to Stinchcomb.  Look for Bushrod to remain the primary backup at right tackle and contribute in 2009.

Michael Brown-Brown, a rookie, comes in as a rookie out of Mississippi State and will contend for a backup spot on the team.  Brown is a good run blocker and an adequate pass blocker but may not have enough of what it takes to stick with the team past training camp.  Depending on how many players the Saints decide to keep at the tackle position, Brown may end being a good candidate for the practice squad at the end of training camp this season.

Anthony Davis-Davis, a six year veteran, didn’t see much action last year and figures to be the number three backup at the tackle position going into training camp this summer.  While he will have to fend off some younger talent, he should be able to overcome any challenges and remain a third backup on the roster at the tackle position.

The New Orleans Saints have one of the best offensive lines in football and it’s thanks to guys like Brown and Stinchcomb that they are able to have the kind of offense that they have.  With these guys healthy and ready to go in 2009, the Saints offense should be even better than it was in 2008 which is a scary proposition for most teams in the NFL.  As long as the offensive line stays healthy, the Saints should excel in 2009. 

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13 July 2009

Saints Training Camp Preview: Offensive Guards and Centers

As every football fan knows, you can’t have a stable high powered offense without a good offensive line and the Saints have been fortunate enough to have a good offensive line.  This year will see little change at the guard position on the line as they return the same starters as they had in 2009.  The depth at the guard position is solid as is the depth at the center position as the Saints have several centers to use for competition in training camp this summer and so they should be very stable there.  At any rate, this offensive line, with its experience and depth, could be one of the better offensive lines in the NFL in 2009.

The following is a player by player look at all of the players the
Saints are taking into training camp at the guard and the center position.  There is a look back at how they performed in 2008, how their offseason has gone so far and where they may stand going into the regular season this year.
Guards

Shawn Flannigan-Flannigan is an undrafted free agent out of Sioux Falls and will contend for one of the backup spots at the guard position and has the skill to play effectively but some question whether or not he has the experience to play effectively (after having playing at a small college).  He will get his chance though and could contend for a backup roster spot.

Jamar Nesbit-Nesbit, an 11 year veteran brings a lot of experience to the Saints but will probably remain a backup at the guard position in 2009.  While he is the senior at the guard position, he has lost a step or two and most likely won’t be able to beat out any of the starters at the guard position.  If he can have a good training camp, he should be able to remain as a backup and a capable one at that.

Anthony Davis-Davis can play either guard or tackle making him very valuable to the team.  This six year veteran has a lot of experience and could contend for one of the two guard spots but his versatility may keep him on the bench just in case there is an injury.  Look for Davis to have a solid training camp and end up making the final roster at the end of training camp. 

Jahri Evans-Evans, last year’s starter at one of the two guard spots, Evans should be able to retain his job as a starter and continue playing very well as one of the two starting guards on the team.  Evans plays with a lot of power and intensity and does well enough in both the running game and the passing game and gives the Saints some stability on the line.  Bill Parcells once commented that he thought Evans was one of the best young guards in the NFL. Look for Evans to make the final roster and remain one of two starters at the guard position.

Carl Nicks-Nicks is yet another player that can play both guard and tackle and therefore has a lot of value on the team.  He is only a two year player but shows a lot of promise possessing great size and good power and his ability to move defenders off the ball in the running game is decent.  The starter in 2008, look for Nicks to battle it out with some of the other backups at the guard position but he should be able to win out and be the starter again in 2009.

Tim Duckworth-Duckworth, a first year player out of Auburn will battle it out for a backup spot behind Evans at the guard position and brings youth and skill to the position.  He is a much better run blocker than a pass blocker but fits in nicely and should easily make it in as a backup in 2009.
Centers

Nick Leckey-Leckey, a six year player, will battle it out with starter Jonathan Goodwin for the starting center spot and does bring a lot to the table in terms of ability.  However, he just doesn’t have what Goodwin has to play the center position and he will most likely be a backup at the end of training camp this summer.

Digger Bujnoch-A first year player out Cincinnati, Bujnoch will make an attempt to earn a backup spot at the center position but if the Saints only keep two, he could be the odd man out.  While he is the ideal size for the position and has some ability, he doesn’t have enough to overtake Goodwin as the starter and will probably not even beat out Leckey as the backup.  Look for Bujnoch to be on the practice squad at the end of training or looking for work on another team.

Jonathan Goodwin-Goodwin, the Saint’s starting center in 2008, doesn’t look to be going anywhere in 2009 and should remain the Saints starting center.  He is a fine player and both a good run and pass blocker and has remained solid standout for them since joining the team.  No one will unseat him as the starter and he will continue his excellent play well beyond 2009.

The Saints have quietly put together one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and the guard and center positions have been positions of strength for them.  Having one of the NFL’s best passing attacks starts up front and this team has a lot of talent there to help them get the job done.  Look for the line to remain on of the best in 2009 and help pave the way for what should be a playoff berth in New Orleans.

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7 July 2009

2009 Training Camp Preview: The Wide Receivers

One thing is for sure, if you are a wide receiver on the New Orleans Saints, you have a great chance at catching a lot of passes.  Not much is going to change in their wide receiver corps this year as a majority of the guys are returning and it looks to be a promising season once again catching passes in New Orleans.  Hopefully, along with quarterback Drew Brees, this unit will excel and end up getting the Saints into the playoffs in 2009.

The following is a look at each player that the Saints will take into training camp at the wide receiver position.  There is some insight into how they performed in 2008, how their offseason has been and where they could end up at the end of training camp this summer.

Skyler Green- Originaly drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and then released. Green is a third year player out LSU with a chance to make the roster as a fifth or sixth receiver if he can perform well enough in training camp.  He doesn’t have the size that you would like in a receiver but he does have speed and a lot of determination.  He is one of those fringe players that just might make it onto the active roster at the end of training camp this summer.

Marques Colston-Colston is coming off of an injury plagued season in which he caught just 47 passes for 760 yards and five touchdowns.  Colston is fully recovered and ready to go and should be the number one receiver in the Saint’s offense in 2009.  He will easily make the roster and should have a pretty decent season.
Rod Harper-Harper, a second year player out of Murray State is a longshot to make the team at best.  While has some skill and some size he doesn’t have the experience that some of the other players in the offense do and therefore might not make it onto the roster at least this season.  Look for him to miss making the active roster in 2009 but quite possibly stick with the team on their practice squad.

Courtney Roby-Roby is a four year journeyman of sorts who lands with the Saints in attempt to finally stick with an NFL team.  Roby has some decent skill and wouldn’t be a bad possession receiver for the Saints if they can find a spot for him.  Looking at his ability and what the Saints have, it’s not out of the question to think that he just might make it as a fifth or sixth receiver and be used on special teams as well as some third down situations.  Look for Roby to make the roster and be a good third down specialist for the Saints.

Lance Moore-Moore has been somewhat of a surprise for the Saints ever since he arrived in New Orleans and could end up being the number three wide receiver behind Colston and Robert Meachem.  Moore stepped it up a lot in 2009 and had a better season than some primary wide receivers on other teams did giving the Saints a group of receivers that could easily be some of the best in the NFL.  Look for Moore to be that third option in the passing game and catch a lot of passes in 2009.

Robert Meachem-Now in his third season with the Saints Meachem has been somewhat of a disappointment for the Saints since coming there as their first round pick just a few seasons ago and didn’t play a full season (again).  The Saints will be hoping that he finally stays healthy this season and is able to contribute to the offense because he is a solid receiver and a guy that brings good size and speed to the position.  If he cannot prove that he will remain healthy, there is a chance that he may not make it onto the team’s final roster at the end of training camp this summer.  The Saints may instead decide to keep a proven wide receiver who can stay healthy but it will be hard to dump Meachem, a former first round pick.  This training camp could be a make or break one for Meachem.

Devery Henderson-Henderson has been hot and cold for the Saints since coming to New Orleans six seasons ago but he still represents one of the better talents at wide receiver for the Saints.  Henderson has turned into a fairly good possession receiver and has some speed, perhaps enough, to make some defensive backs sweat.  With the current crop of talent available at the wide receiver position, Henderson might find himself in a bit of a race for a role on the team but his familiarity with the offense will help him get ahead and keep him on the roster at the end of training camp.

Matt Simon-Simon, a rookie out of Northern Illinois, will take a shot at making the active roster but will most likely fall behind thanks to the amount of talent that is already ahead of him.  An undrafted free agent, Simon comes in with some good size and speed but looks more like a candidate for the practice squad thanks to the depth ahead of him.  Look for him to end up there at the end of training camp.

Paris Warren-Warren, a four year receiver out of Utah, will try to stick with the Saints in hopes of breaking through the log jam at wide receiver and earning a spot on the squad.  He does have the experience but hasn’t had any “great” experience that would separate him from a lot of the other guys vying for a spot on the active roster so look for him to contend for a backup spot and quite possibly just miss the cut.

D’Juan Woods-Woods, a first year player out of Oklahoma State is still another player coming in to try to make the active roster and join a group of very productive wide receivers.  Woods is actually a pretty decent receiver displaying some good size and speed and he has some talent so there isn’t a need to write him off just yet.  With a good training camp he could end up sticking with the team.

Adrian Arrington-Arrington has been a guy with a lot of talent that just hasn’t quite caught on but very well could this season with a strong showing in training camp.  He is just two years removed from college and was a decent performer there and might end up having some value for the Saints in New Orleans.  With a good camp, look for Arrington to make the team and help out not only in the passing game but on special teams as well.

Tight Ends:

Billy Miller-While Shockey was shelved with an injury last season, ten year  veteran Billy Miller stepped up and helped fill in the void that was left at the tight end position and he did pretty well.  Miller caught a lot of passes for the Saints and is a great option to have in there especially if Shockey goes down with an injury again or if the Saints wish to add a couple of pass catching tight ends in on the same formation.  Look for Miller to come in and be the second tight end on the roster during the 2009 season and be a solid contributor for them again this season.

Buck Ortega-Ortega, in his second season, will most likely compete with veteran Dan Campbell for the third tight end spot and depending on how many tight ends the Saints decide to keep, he might just be able to make the roster.  Ortega’s value, for the most part, is as a blocking tight end and therefore, if the Saints end up only keeping three tight ends, Ortega will battle Campbell for a spot and it just might be a close race.  The Saints may choose to go with youth over experience in this case.  If he doesn’t make it onto the active roster, he should land on the practice squad.

Jeremy Shockey-After spending some time on the shelf in 2008 thanks to an injury, the Saints tight end will come into camp injury free and ready to contribute.  An off the field incident (dehydration as a result of drinking in the hot Nevada Sun) won’t hold him back from competing this summer but he may not be guaranteed a starting job right off the bat. Miller played very well while he was out last season and Dan Campbell has a lot experience at the position so Shockey may be in for a little bit of a battle this offseason.  Unless he gets hurt though, he should be able to maintain the starting tight end position and if everything goes the way he thinks it will go and he will end up the starter in2009.

Dan Campbell-Campbell comes to the Saints hoping to earn a spot and does have a lot of talent to bring to the team.  He is a seasoned veteran with good pass catching ability and decent blocking skills and will give Miller a little bit of a run for the second tight end spot but in the end, Campbell will most likely stay as the third tight end on the roster and contribute at times as needed.  If there is an injury to either Shockey or Miller, Campbell is very capable of stepping in and being an effective part of their offense.
As usual, the Saints are pretty well stacked at the wide receiver position and should be able to come up with a strong group out of what they have going into training camp and if someone gets hurt, they should have plenty of talent in reserve.  The tight end position may end up being one of the strongest in the NFL if they (in particular Shockey) stay healthy.

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22 June 2009

Training Camp Preview:  The Running Backs

When the Saints drafted Reggie Bush the hopes were that he would end up being the final piece of the puzzle in helping to get the Saints offense on track and moving.  In just his first year with the team, the Saints, behind the strong arm of Drew Brees and the running of Bush, made it to the NFC Championship only to lose to the Bears.  Following that solid season, Bush struggled to stay healthy, and subsequently, so did the Saint's offense.  The Saint's offense centers a lot on the passing game and what Bush can do.  Now, as the Saints prepare for their training camp this July, they head into it with a lot of questions and a full stable of wannabe running backs. 

Deuce McAllister is gone so who will be their ball carrier between the tackles?  Time and a strong training camp will tell.
The following is a player by player look at all of the players that the Saints will take into this summer’s training camp, at the running back position.  There is some insight into where they stood in 2008, how their offseason has been thus far and how their training camp may turn out.

Reggie Bush- Is coming off of serious surgery, surgery that ended his 2008 season prematurely but appears to be ready to go for 2009.  Bush means a lot more to this offense than a lot of people either give him credit for or want to admit and he will be an important part of this team.  The issue with Bush is that he is not an in between the tackles running back which is generally set up for a guy who can take the type of heavy pounding that you get running into defensive tackles and linebackers.  He won’t hold up if he is forced to run the ball 20 or 30 times a game.  If he can be used as a slot receiver or catch passes out of the backfield, the Saints will get a lot more mileage out of him.

Pierre Thomas- Came on strong at the end of last season and has a chance for a real promising future with the Saints.  Thomas is a between the tackles type runner unlike Bush so it’s possible that he could come in and be the guy that they need to run in between the tackles in 2009.  There isn’t going to be much competition for Thomas to have to worry about and so he just might end up being the featured running back in the Saint’s offense in 2009.

Mike Bell-Bell, the former Denver Broncos running back, comes to the Saints with an opportunity to supplant Thomas if he can, of course, play better than Thomas.  Most football fans will remember what Bell did while he was in Denver and he could have similar success in New Orleans if he can get back to form and stay healthy.  It should be an interesting training camp battle.

Herb Donaldson- Is an undrafted rookie out of Western Illinois and is trying to make the roster as a backup at the running back position.  He does have some decent talent but being a smaller school prospect he will have an uphill battle during training camp and might find himself to be the odd man out.  Look for Donaldson to work well enough to get through the initial round of cuts but not last the final round before the season starts.  He could end up being a practice squad player.

Lynell Hamilton- Is only in his second year in the league and with the Saints.  He was used sparingly last season (in just one game where he didn’t record any stats).  Like Donaldson, Hamilton will try to compete for a backup spot on the roster and has as good of a shot as any of the younger guys at making the roster.  However, of this group of younger players, someone is going to have to really stick out before they make the roster.  Hamilton may be that guy (thinking that Bush, Thomas and Bell will make the squad).

P.J. Hill- Came out a year early (from the University of Wisconsin) only to go undrafted and land as a free agent with the Saints.  Hill does have some decent skill but has had some off the field issues that might hold him back so he will have to make sure that he has that stuff in the past and that he is ready to play football.  Of all the young players at the running back position, Hill may have the best shot at making the roster thanks to his experience in college and his talent.

Olaniyi Sobomehin- Returns for his second year with the Saints after having played in just two games in 2008.  His only productive play came last year and it wasn’t even that productive as he fumbled once and lost it.  While Sobomehin could be the odd man out in the race for a fourth running back spot, what might get him on the team to stay is his special teams play.  He is a pretty decent special teams player.
Fullbacks

The Saints will take two fullbacks into training camp this summer.  Here is a look at each player at that position.

Darian Barnes- Has been in the league since 2002 with a variety of teams and has some good veteran experience.  However, he is going to compete against one of the most underrated fullbacks in the NFL at this time and that’s Heath Evans.  It will be an interesting race but in the end, Evans versatility may make Barnes a long shot to make the team.

Heath Evans- A former New England Patriot, had a lot of success in the Patriots system and should be able to bring some of that to the Saints and become an offensive weapon that that they could really use.  Evans has to compete with Barnes but he should almost easily win that battle.  Look for him to be the Saints starting fullback in 2009. 

The health of Bush will determine a lot with this team and its offense in 2009.  If he can remain healthy, the Saints should go much farther than they would without him in the lineup.  If Thomas can perform like he did at the end of the 2009 season, this team could be set at the running back position, but again, Bush needs to remain healthy.  Having Evans will be big and he should contribute as a blocker and a pass catcher this season.

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20 June 2009

Saints Pre-Camp Roster Grades

The New Orleans Saints have been media darlings and preseason favorites to win their division and make a run for a conference championship for the last couple years. In all honesty they have been severely over-rated as they have struggled to find consistency in their running game and have failed to stop the big plays against opposing passing games. Most importantly, some of the players brought on to make a difference have not performed all that well.

Last year the team finished at the bottom of the NFC South division. The Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons were all competing for the playoffs in December while the Saints season was already over. The other three teams simply showed more balance and overall reliability from their rosters than New Orleans and unless some key players step up that trend may continue.

Quarterbacks: A- Drew Brees has endeared himself to the city of New Orleans and led the league in passing last year. He is a good leader with the ability to find the open receivers and push the ball downfield. Backups Mark Brunell and Joey Harrington both have a lot of experience and should be able to fill in as starters occasionally but neither would be a good long-term answer.

Wide Receivers: B Marques Colston is not a burner but he is big, tough, and athletic enough to be Brees’ most dependable target. Devery Henderson is capable of breaking off some big plays for the offense with his speed. Lance Moore has emerged as a threat and should keep improving.

Tight Ends: C+ Jeremy Shockey may have found a home in New Orleans. He caught 50 passes last year from Drew Brees but he didn’t get a single TD. He will definitely be looking to improve on those numbers. He works hard and has done a good job blocking as well so if he can stay healthy he will have a good career here. It would be nice to see him become more of a red zone threat. Dan Campbell can get the job done in workman-like fashion but he doesn’t really scare anybody as a receiving threat.

Defensive Line: C+ Sedrick Ellis was a nice pickup in the first round of last year’s draft as he quickly earned a starting spot and played well. He should get better and will look to be a keystone of this defense’s future. Will Smith is an athletic player on the right side but he only had three sacks last season. He can demand double teams at times although he is not a consistently dominant performer. New left end Paul Spicer brings his run-stuffing abilities over from Jacksonville. He and defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy will be asked to do a lot of dirty work in order to allow some of the other players to make plays. This group has a lot of potential but they need to get to the quarterback more often and force some turnovers.

Offensive Line: C This is a solid unit which allowed time for Drew Brees to be somewhat patient. Jon Stinchcomb and Jammal Brown form a nice pair of tackles and right guard Jahri Evans, center Jonathan Goodwin, and left guard Carl Nicks are slated to start between them. The offensive line does need to step it up a notch in their run blocking as the offense struggled mightily trying to find consistency in their running game.

Linebackers: C+ Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma resigned with the team and will again be the team’s top tackler. Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle are not anything too special but they are both hard workers who bring a blue-collar mentality to the field.

Safeties: C Darren Sharper is the new free safety. He is a seasoned veteran who has made some big plays in the past. Roman Harper can hit pretty hard from his strong safety spot but he may be a liability in coverage at times. The two might make a nice duo for the Saints which is something they have needed for years.

Running Backs: C- Reggie Bush so far has not been the game-breaker the team envisioned him when they drafted him second overall in the 2005 Draft. He has been great returning kicks but he will need to step up at running back and deliver with a bang to not get labeled a bust on offense. Pierre Thomas led the team in rushing TD’s and should continue to provide some occasional highlights but this team is in need of some muscle to be a threat in the red zone and on third and short.

Cornerbacks: C- The group got burned a bit last year. Part of the problem is an anemic pass rush upfront. Tracy Porter and Randall Gay are currently tabbed as the starters at the moment but that is definitely expected to change at some point. Top pick Malcolm Jenkins was selected to nail down one of these spots for the next 10 years. He has the size, toughness, and the right sort of attitude to be successful in the NFL despite a relatively slow forty time. Jason David had five interceptions last year but can get picked on with his smaller stature (5’8” 180 lbs). He seems like a good fit as a nickelback. Jabari Greer will also compete for playing time. Overall, the competition should be tough in camp and that’s exactly what the coaches will be looking for.

Kicking: C- Inexperience abounds as Kicker Garret Hartley and Punter Glenn Pakulak are both in their second years. However, they both have ability and will get plenty of opportunity to prove themselves.

As a whole I view this team as being slightly above average despite having some elite athletes and a top-notch passer in Brees. If the running game takes some heat off Drew Brees and the defense creates some turnovers this team will again be in the playoffs. The NFC South has seen their worst teams step up and at least compete for the division crown the following year ever since the realignment. Let’s see if the Saints are up to the challenge of playing up to their abilities and keeping that tradition alive.

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12 June 2009

The 2009 Position Review: The Quarterbacks

There is no question that the Saints have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees.  Brees is able to light it up through the air almost all the time and had the team had a better defense the past three seasons, they might have wound up getting into the Super Bowl. 

Brees has had a big of career resurgence since coming to the Saints and is poised to have another big year.  The quarterbacks sitting behind Drew Brees include aged veteran Mark Brunell and journeyman Joey Harrington.

The following is a look at all of the players at the quarterback position for the Saints.  There is some insight into how they performed in 2008 and what their status is for 2009.

Drew Brees-Brees is the number two quarterback in the NFL (behind Peyton Manning) in terms of production but he still has yet to take his team to the Super Bowl and the window for Brees and the Saints to get there could be closing fast.  Brees, despite his size, sees the field very well and has a strong arm allowing him to throw the ball down the field and connect with receivers on those long passes.  Brees also has great football intelligence and doesn’t make the mistakes that some other quarterbacks make.  He is a premier player and one of the best at the position.  Brees will go into training camp as the clear cut starter at their quarterback position and no one should challenge him.

Mark Brunell-Brunell still manages to stay in the NFL despite being around for several seasons.  He is a proven starter which makes it nice for the Saints knowing that if Brees goes down with an injury, they at least have someone like Brunell to take over.  Brunell is an experience quarterback who, despite his age, has something left in the tank and could be a good fill in if it ever comes to that.  But in the interim, he will remain as a backup at the quarterback position and should survive training camp and go on as the backup in the regular season.

Joey Harrington-Harrington, the ex-Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons quarterback comes back to the Saints for another stint as a backup and will battle Brunell for the second spot behind Brunell which he might end up winning.  Harrington has had a much maligned career while in the NFL but he could serve the Saints well as a backup or fill in if Brees gets hurt.  While he may not beat out Brunell for the second string quarterback position, he could see some time in mop up duty but will most likely ride the bench unless there is an injury.

Barring any sort of injury to Brees, the Saints shouldn’t have to worry about anything at the quarterback position in 2009.  As long as the receivers stay healthy Brees should flourish once again and with a better defense (supposedly) in 2009 and quite possibly get the Saints to the playoffs.

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20 May 2009

The New Orleans Saints On the Move

The draft is over and even though the Saints didn’t have too many picks in the draft, they have done other things to help improve their team during the season.  Signing such free agent players as former Minnesota Vikings safety Darren Sharper, defensive tackle Rod Coleman, linebacker Anthony Waters,  safety Pierson Prioleau, tight end Darnell Dinkins, defensive end Paul Spicer, center Nick Lecky, wide receiver Courtney Roby, fullback Heath Evans, cornerback Jabari Greer, and tight end Dan Campbell.

The Saints released defensive tackles Hollis Thomas and Brian Young, fullback Mike Karney, running back Deuce McAllister, and wide receiver David Patten.  The also terminated the contracts of safety Kevin Kaesviharn and cornerback Mike McKenzie.  They resigned wide receiver Lance Moore, guard Jahari Evans, cornerback Leigh Torrence, tackle Zach Strief, quarterback Joey Harrington, wide receiver Devery Henderson, tackle Jon Stichcomb and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

The Saints didn’t have that many draft picks but with those picks they did have, they tried to make the most of them.  Their first pick in the draft, Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, should give them a big shot in the arm in the secondary and help shore up a pass defense that cost the Saints some games in 2008. 

The other guy that they got to help them in the secondary, safety Chip Vaughan and he could start right away depending on how he works out during training camp.  At any rate, the Saints are clearly on the right path to getting their issues in the secondary, and on defense taken, care of which should equate to more wins for them in 2009.

On offense, the Saints signed several of their key players from last season so the Saints offense should be just as good (or better) than it was last season.  The only thing stopping them from having a lot of success on offense will be the lack of a true in between the tackles running back.  With the release of running back Deuce McAllister, the Saints don’t have a true bruising running back who can take a pounding on a regular basis and Reggie Bush is not an every down type of back. 

The Saints did nothing in free agency to cure this problem and didn’t get a running back in the draft so hopes are high that they will find someone in the off season to fill this role.  Right now, Pierre Thomas, a running back who filled in quite nicely last season, doesn’t look like a long term solution.

The Saints are looking more and more like a playoff team once again thanks to some of the changes that they have made in the offseason.  As long as the defense comes around and the running back situation doesn’t hurt them as much as it appears that it might, they could easily make the playoffs but just miss a shot at getting into the Super Bowl.

NEXT UP: In our next New Orleans Saints article, we will take a look at the quarterbacks currently part of their roster.

By Bryan Dietzler

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29 April 2009

Slowing Down the Opposition

The New Orleans Saints offense is among the best in the league. In fact, they were the best passing offense in football last season.

Regardless of their offensive prowess they failed to reach the playoffs and landed themselves in the bottom of the NFC South Division. The two things that were holding them back were consistency in the running game and ability to stop big passing plays on defense. Going into the 2009 NFL Draft the Saints were looking to address those concerns even though they only had on pick in the first three rounds.

The big questions on most people’s minds were whether or not the team would take a running back or a cornerback with the #14 pick. Surprising to some, the Saints opted to go defense and passed on running back Chris Wells, whom many scouts thought could add some power to their already potent offensive attack.

#14: Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State – Jenkins was the top-rated defensive back on most team’s draft boards and should help the Saints at least slow down opposing passing attacks. He has the size (6’ 204 lbs) and innate skills to make a difference, but his ability to play cornerback has been in question due to his unimpressive forty time (4.54). Although he may be destined to play nickelback early on in his career and free safety later on, he may turn out to be a pro-bowl caliber player who could be a leader on the Saints defense as he was in college. Don’t count him out of the running for a starting cornerback spot either as he has all the intangibles to overcome his lack of measurables.

#116: Safety Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest – Vaughn will most likely be expected to contribute on special teams for the majority of his career while being a backup at safety. He does not seem to have an ability to make big plays while defending the pass but he could help against the run with his size (6’ 1” 220 lbs) and hard-hitting ability.

#118: Linebacker Stanley Arnoux, Wake Forest – Arnoux started 42 games in college and leaves with over 250 tackles to his credit. He may never be a great starter but should be a quality special teams guy who adds quality depth to the roster. What more can you really ask for in a fourth round pick?

#164: Punter Thomas Morestead, Southern Methodist – This is another pick with the defense in mind as Morestead is a quality punter with a 43.4 yard career average and a solid handle on ball placement. If he pans out he could help the defense get into position to stop opposing offenses in their own red zone. New Orleans is one of those teams that is on the cusp of greatness. Even though they did not get the running back of their dreams in the draft, they have some options for that position available on their roster and in free agency.

The plan for the offseason was to improve the defense and they have made moves to do just that. Whether or not it pans out remains to be seen, but if the trend of the worst team in their division becoming the best the following year continues then the Saints should be right in position to make a playoff run. Nobody will be surprised if they are in the NFC Championship game come January.

By Scot Acocks

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28 April 2009

The New Orleans Saints 2009 NFL Draft Review

The New Orleans Saints, a team with a good offense and a less than stellar defense, went into this draft with very few picks and ended up with even fewer picks and few players.  However, those players they did choose will help them out in some of their weakest areas on the team.  The following is a look at the players that the Saints drafted and a final grade on their draft.

Malcolm Jenkins-CB-Ohio State 1st (14th)
The Saints needed help at the cornerback position and they got good help by drafting Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins.  While some feel that Jenkins may project to safety in the NFL (which wouldn’t be all that bad for the Saints) there is going to be a use for him on this team and now their pass defense has gotten better thanks to his arrival.  Jenkins should be a starter right out the gate and help improve a Saint’s pass defense that was terrible last season.

Chip Vaughan-S-Wake Forest-4 (116)
Another hole that the Saints had, at least in terms of depth, came when the Saints selected Chip Vaughan in the fourth round.  Vaughan could quite possibly be a starter in his first year but will need to sit a bit and pick up the defense.  He was very productive in college but didn’t make as many big plays as some might have liked to see but he will help out in the secondary and on special teams.

Stanley Arnoux-ILB-Wake Forest 4 (118)
Staying with defense, the Saints decided to get some help at inside linebacker and chose Arnoux, who incidentally partnered with first round pick Aaron Curry at Wake Forest.  The Saints not only needed help at the inside linebacker but they also need help on special teams and Arnoux could be just the guy they were looking for.  He will most likely end up providing some backup help and contribute on special teams right away and could quite possibly move into a starting role at inside linebacker in the future.  For the Saints, this may be their steal of this year’s draft.

Thomas Morstead-P-Southern Methodist 5th (164)
After some wheeling and dealing with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints landed a much needed punter to help them out on special teams.  He will surely compete for a roster spot and the possibility of him kicking off could very easily earn him a roster spot.
Overall Grade: C+

The reason why the Saints get a C here is that they didn’t manage to fill some of their bigger needs such as a true in between the tackles running back and some help on the offensive line.  They did get a boost on defense however so they should be better there but it may be at the sacrifice of their running game.  It’s a good thing that they have a strong passing attack.

By Bryan Dietzler

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