It’s over my friends, Saints football is here and it won’t stop until next year. Hallelujah! can I get a high five? What a wild ride it has been this off-season and to be honest I don’t have a clue how these moves will shake out but I will say this, the Saints had to do something or a repeat of past mistakes would always be there to rear its ugly head.
I’m not going to sit here and give you a definitive answer as to why this player or that player will rise or fall, its all speculation at this point. What I want to do is give my view on what I will be looking for when training camp starts this week. By now I’m sure everybody has had their fill of the Junior Galette meltdown, whether it was his comments about past Saints players last year or his arrest earlier this year all the way to the belt beating episode down to his twitter rant. So with that lets get started.
The Linebacker Position: Notice I didn’t single out the outside linebacker spot vacated by Junior Galette, that’s because I believe every single linebacker position is up for grabs.
Here are the current linebackers on the Saints roster:
Now can anybody tell me who is a lock to start in this group? I don’t mean that in a bad way by any means, I actually love that we are seeing a makeover in the linebacker corps, Lord knows it needed to be done after a few years of below average play.
My thinking here is that Danell Ellerbe and David Hawthorne will be your inside linebackers to start the season with Stephone Anthony making more and more of a push for playing time as the season wears on. Of course like with Davis Tull and Anthony Spencer a lot of this depends on how healthy Ellerbe is, if he’s a complete 100% then he has the upper hand on this camp battle.
Now it gets interesting, it seems as if the Galette debacle has handed Hau’oli Kikaha an opportunity on a silver platter. While this is true, its anything but a sure bet that Kikaha will become completely rounded and capable of being an every down player instead of a situational pass rusher. By all accounts this off-season the reports that surfaced is that he is making big strides in other parts of his game, most notably working on his technique in drop back coverages.
The wild card here is Anthony Spencer, can the former Cowboy catch lightning in a bottle and return to form turning back the clock to the 2011 and 2012 seasons when he had 17 sacks and forced 6 fumbles? I know those aren’t great numbers by any means but they are solid. Spencer suffered a severe left knee injury at the beginning of the 2013 season that required micro-fracture surgery, this is one of the hardest injuries in football to come back from. I would be surprised if he made it through the season, time will tell but I’m not counting on it.
Another player who should see more playing time is Kasim Edebali who spelled Galette last year. Even though it was only spot duty he managed two sacks and a forced fumble appearing in all 16 games, that experience can’t be underestimated for a young player learning the ropes. Which brings us to a player that I hope doesn’t miss much training camp time – Davis Tull.
Tull will be behind missing all of the OTA’s and Mini camp while rehabbing a torn labrum. The Saints place Tull on the non-football injury list meaning he’s not on IR or the PUP list and is active on the 90 man roster, he can be activated at any time. When camp starts and with each practice in the books, Tull will miss valuable installs and the more he misses the likelihood of him getting any rotational play go down – lets hope he’s not out for long.
The 3rd cornerback position: If everything pans out this year, what once was a weak point of this team my turn into a strength.
Here are the current cornerbacks on the Saints roster:
We are almost certainly assured that Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner will man the two outside starting corner positions, the question is who will win the nickel slot spot. You might as well name that a starting gig because he will be on the field almost as much as the starters.
If all the reports are true about Delvin Breaux really picking things up and standing out this off-season then he’s probably the favorite for the nickel position. It may come to a point where he is breathing down Browner’s neck for that outside spot. I’ve said this from the onset that I believe Browner is a stop gap measure and at his age he probably on the down slope of his career. It’s hard to measure how effective he was last year playing in only nine games (a combination of a four game suspension and an ankle injury)
What I’m hoping is that he’s healthy this year and has a couple years left in the tank all the while keeping rookie PJ Williams in his back pocket soaking up all the knowledge that the Vet can offer. I wish I could say the same for Stanley Jean-Baptiste, I’m going to be honest, I really don’t know where he fits in. I just don’t like the mindset that you draft someone in the 2nd round to be a project, that’s a bad draft strategy and probably helped lead to the abrupt firing of college scouting director Rick Reiprish back in January.
My guess is that Breaux starts at nickel with PJ Williams or Brian Dixon coming in on dime sets. As I stated earlier, this group if it can stay healthy really has a shot to be an above average secondary and that’s light years away from last year when it was a major liability.
The made over offensive line: For Drew Brees to be effective and deadly accurate he needs a pocket to step up in, that was few and far between last year. Like most other quarterbacks when the pressure is coming from the interior, errors and questionable decision making are sure to follow.
The Saints made it an off-season priority to repair the problem trading Jimmy Graham for Seattle’s all pro center Max Unger and also trading away under performing Ben Grubbs while handing the reigns over to Tim Lelito.
The Saints also locked up Zach Stief’s eventual replacement using the 13th overall pick in this years draft to pick tackle Andrus Peat out of Stanford. Lets take a closer look at this unit going into the 2015 season.
Here are the current offensive linemen on the Saints roster:
The Saints targeted Max Unger as a priority this off-season, there was only a couple of players the Saints were not willing to part ways with to bring him on board and Jimmy Graham was not one of them.
There’s really not much to say about Unger except he just needs to keep doing what he’s done since entering the league and it becomes an instant upgrade at center.
Tim Lelito on the other hand is more of a question mark having only started four games in his short NFL career. Last month just out of curiosity on what the Saints had in Lelito I looked at every snap that he took in those four games (you can see a detailed look HERE)
What I found was after a 1st rough outing against Arizona where Darnell Dockett overwhelmed Lelito, he rebounded and improved in every game afterwards and out played Ben Grubbs in my opinion. I think that weighed into their thinking when they traded Grubbs and in the process eased my mind heading into this season.
When the Saints caught the fan base off guard drafting Andrus Peat in the 1st round my initial reaction was why? After all the two starting tackle spots were solid last year and this team had other more pressing holes to fill.
After watching film of the guy, it’s apparent why they did it – he’s really good. That and Zach Strief getting long in the tooth (he’s 31) it seems he is Strief’s eventual replacement. But even that can change, you don’t draft someone with the 13th pick to sit on the bench. I fully expect Peat to push BOTH Armstead and Strief for playing time, this is one of the most intriguing battles that will take place in camp.
Who emerges as the team’s 3rd and 4th receivers?
This will probably be the most sought out camp battle among fans if for anything, it’s one of the highest profile positions on the team. These spots are truly up for grabs and with the influx of good young talent this quad has a chance to take that next step but with many more question than answers we can only hope that Payton doesn’t roll snake eyes in how he handled the position this off-season.
Here are the current wide receivers on the Saints roster:
You can pencil in Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks as your two base starters, it get tricky after that. It seems that every year we are saying the same thing – this is a make or break year for Nick Toon. Okay I mean it this time! kidding aside he’s been a disappointment since he was taken in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
What really disappoints though is that he has great size and speed for the position and has failed to live up to his potential. Last year at this time he was the star of camp catching everything in sight only to disappear once the season started. He did start to come on until late in the year last year and we can only hope that it carries over or his time in the black and gold may be over.
Sean Payton late last year seeing enough of their potential activated Seantavious Jones and a little later, Brandon Coleman to the 53 man roster. And all through the OTA’s and mini camp Payton has heaped praise on the two un-drafted players. I don’t think Payton is blowing smoke because he isn’t the only saying good things about these two (especially Coleman)
From what I seen at mini camp they both looked sharp and weren’t dropping many balls, we’ll see if that continues when the pads go on and it gets a little more physical out there. I’m hoping that one of these two grabs the opportunity that is being handed to them because if that light turns on it sure will nice to have a 3rd wide out with speed that is 6-6 or 6-3.
One player who we haven’t heard much from this off-season (a good thing?) is Joe Morgan. When I think of players getting a second chance he comes to mind, there is no doubt that Payton likes Morgan or he wouldn’t have brought him back.
Morgan has speed that kills and has shown (when he is running the correct route) that he has big play abilities and can stretch a field, Payton covets this as seen in the way he used Devery Henderson and like Henderson, Morgan doesn’t get enough credit for his down field blocking, he excels at it.
I’m going to wrap this up because this has been way to long and if you got this far reading, hats off to you! Anyways today is officially the 1st day of training camp 2015 and even though there is no practice (just the conditioning test) – Football is back! and with that I say, as always…WHO DAT!!!