TP declares Patrick Robinson #19 on Saints Top 25

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New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown: Patrick Robinson, No. 19

07/07/12 5:00AM

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Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, our Saints coverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

patrick_robinson1072011.jpgMichael DeMocker/The Times-PicayuneCarolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams grabs the facemask of New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson after Robinson intercepted Cam Newton’s pass in Charlotte, N.C.

Obviously that led to some tough decisions, and obviously that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

NO. 19 CB PATRICK ROBINSON

Age: 24. Year: 2. Ht., Wt. 5-11, 190.

SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE:

Robinson has the talent to soar up this list in the next year or two, especially since he plays one of the most important positions on the field in today’s pass-happy NFL. The 5-11, 190-pound speedster clearly grew more confident during his second pro season last year, and he has emerged as a bona fide starter in the NFL with the potential to be a standout at the position. The Saints obviously trusted the former first-round draft pick enough to let veteran Tracy Porter go in free agency.

Robinson is still working on his consistency, and he occasionally got beat deep last year. But his confidence clearly surged last season, and he seemed like the only member of the secondary actually able to reel in an interception with four of them. He may have more looks at INTs under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme, which features less man-to-man coverage and more zone.

 

SAINTS CB JABARI GREER’S TAKE:

“I think Patrick has great instinct. Great football intelligence. Incredible quickness. He has a great transition in and out of the break. And his first step out of the break is one of the quickest that I’ve seen in a long time. I compare him to a guy that I played with (in Buffalo), Terrence McGee, as far as his foot quickness, his low center of gravity. He’s built like a cornerback.”

What’s your take on Robinson’s ranking? Too high? Too low? Just right? Give us your take in the comment stream below.

 
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TP declares Sed Ellis as #20 on Saints Top 25

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New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown: Sedrick Ellis, No. 20

07/06/12 5:00AM

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Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, our Saints coverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

sedrick_ellis812.jpgMichael DeMocker/The Times-PicayuneThe New Orleans Saints’ Sedrick Ellis sacks the Houston Texans’ Matt Schaub during a preseason game Saturday night at the Superdome.

Obviously that led to some tough decisions, and obviously that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

NO. 20 DT SEDRICK ELLIS

Age: 27. Year: 6. Ht., wt. 6-1, 307.

SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE:

Ellis hasn’t been a “bust,” but he certainly hasn’t delivered on his lofty potential since the Saints traded up to snag him with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft. The athletic big man is a solid starter who can hold up against the run and provide some pass rush. But he hasn’t emerged as a dynamic playmaker for a defensive line that so desperately needs one.

Ellis has shown flashes of Pro Bowl potential during his career – most recently at the start of the 2010 season, which he finished with a career-high six sacks. But last year he was almost invisible, finishing with a career-low 0.5 sacks in 17 starts, including the playoffs.

To be fair, defensive tackle is one of the toughest positions to evaluate. And just because a guy isn’t getting sacks doesn’t mean he’s not doing his job. The Saints have always been high on Ellis’ potential and like what they’ve got in him. Perhaps the shift to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be a better fit for Ellis, who could use that long-awaited breakout year in the final year of his contract.

 

SAINTS G JAHRI EVANS’ TAKE:

“Man, I’ve been going against Sedrick for what, the last five years? He’s not a huge, huge guy, but he’s quick off the ball. He’s a great pass rusher. He works his hands well so you can’t get into contact with him. He’s just waiting for his breakout year, and I think it’s definitely gonna come. And he’s just a hard worker. Like I said, me and Sedrick have had plenty of battles out there on the practice field.”

What’s your take on Ellis’ ranking? Too high? Too low? Just right? Give us your take in the comment stream below.

 
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TP declares Zach Strief as #21 on Saints top 25

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New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown: Zach Strief, No. 21

07/05/12 5:33AM

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Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, The Times-Picayune’s New Orleans Saintscoverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

 

Gm13Lions01.jpgMichael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Saints tackle Zach Strief (64) during the game between the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Saturday, December 4, 2011.

Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

NO. 21 OT ZACH STRIEF

Age: 28. Year: 7. Ht., wt: 6-7, 320.

SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE

Strief was one of the most underrated players on the Saints’ roster before he took over as the starting right tackle last year. And now, after he helped the Saints break the NFL record for yards in a season, he’s still one of the most underrated players on the roster.

Strief is a standout right tackle, with some deceptive athleticism for his hulking size. That’s essential in a sophisticated Saints offense that requires a lot from its linemen. And Strief knows the offense intimately, having spent six seasons in New Orleans now after being drafted in the seventh round out of Northwestern.

Strief allowed just two sacks in 13 games last season, including the playoffs. He did miss a month with a knee injury. He has also proven quite capable as a fill-in at left tackle when needed. And before he became so busy with his full-time gig at right tackle, he was often used as a blocking tight end in certain packages – which made, “No. 64 is eligible” a beloved catchphrase inside the Superdome.

The rest of the NFL teams blew it last season when they didn’t steal Strief away when he could have been had at a bargain rate as an unrestricted free agent.

SAINTS CENTER BRIAN DE LA PUENTE’s TAKE: “Both on and off the field he’s a great example, an epitome of an NFL player. He’s a vocal leader in the locker room and leads by example. And coaches love him because he puts precise technique on film. He shows that the technique being coached works. He’s a smart player, and he knows when to use certain techniques. He knows what puts him in best position to win.

“And what makes a great o-lineman is having a little bit of a mean streak. He definitely has that.”

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TP declares Chris Ivory #22 on Saints Top 25

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New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown: Chris Ivory, No. 22

07/04/12 5:31AM

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Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, The Times-Picayune’s New Orleans Saintscoverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

 

02saints+panthers+dg3295.jpgDavid Grunfeld / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory (29) is tackled by his dread locks by Carolina Panthers linebacker James Anderson (50) in a NFL game at the Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday January 1, 2012.

Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

NO. 22 RB CHRIS IVORY

Age: 24. Year: 3. Ht., wt: 6-0, 224.

SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE

Ivory ranks one spot ahead of former college star Mark Ingram on this list based on how spectacular he has been in small doses over the past two seasons. However, injuries have been a constant problem for Ivory dating to college. He’s played in just 18 games in two seasons, and he was dinged once again with a hamstring injury during this summer’s offseason program. It’s impossible to project a full season from him.

However, when Ivory has been healthy, he’s made a huge impact – far outperforming his status as an undrafted free agent from Tiffin. Ivory has run for 1,090 yards and six touchdowns in those 18 games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He has four games with 99 or more rushing yards.

Ivory is by far the Saints’ most physical and powerful tailback. And he’s the most one-dimensional because he’s less developed as a pass catcher and pass protector. But he does have deceptive speed, quickness and elusiveness for his size. He has broken several tackles by plowing through guys and nearly as many by making guys miss.

SAINTS RB PIERRE THOMAS’ TAKE

“Hard runner. Never gives up. Aspires to keep learning. And he’s out there doing his best. He has some flaws, just like any of us have our flaws. And he told me what can he work on. And he told me he’s been working on his little flaws through the offseason and everything. And I can see some improvement out of him. I just see him keep getting better. But he’s a hard-nosed runner. He’s going to fight for those extra yards, and he will give them to you. If you’re a defender and you’re in his way, he’s going to do everything he can to run through you or he might shake you. I mean, he’s an athlete.”

 
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TP declares Mark Ingram #23 on Saints Top #25

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New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown: Mark Ingram, No. 23

07/03/12 5:29AM

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Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, The Times-Picayune’s New Orleans Saintscoverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

 

SaintsLionsTJ693.jpgTed Jackson / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (28) runs for yardage during game between the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions at the Louisiana Superdome, Sunday, December 4, 2011.

Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

No. 23 RB MARK INGRAM

Age 22. Year 2. Ht., wt: 5-9, 215.

SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE:

Like 24th-ranked teammate Cameron Jordan, Ingram was difficult to rank because we haven’t seen enough from him on the field yet. Ingram showed some great potential last season, though, flashing that “total package” combination of power, elusiveness, vision and speed that made him a Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama and a first-round draft choice.

Ingram started to find a groove around midseason before his rookie year was derailed by heel and toe injuries. He finished with 474 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games. And it’s easy to imagine him getting that “Year 2 boost” assuming he is fully healed from offseason toe and knee surgeries.

Ingram has the skill set to be an every-down back in the NFL, including the ability to pass protect. But the Saints don’t need him in that role for now, because they’re so deep at the position with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Ingram and Chris Ivory. Last season, Ingram led the Saints in carries before the injuries, serving as a first- and second-down back and a short-yardage specialist. But that was partly because Thomas and Ivory were coming off injuries. Now, the roles may be reversed.

SAINTS RB PIERRE THOMAS’ TAKE:

“All-around smart guy. All-around good player. Pass pro(tection), running the ball, catching the ball. He’s a smart kid. And with his talent and his ability to pick up things very fast, he’s going to go far in this league. Just like all of us, we have to try to stay healthy. And he’s going get back on his feet, I have no doubt. But I see him as being one of the great running backs in this league as time goes on. He’s a very smart kid. He picked up our offense very fast, very quick. And he’s doing a great job. And I just see nothing but improvement in his future.”

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TP declares Cam Jordan as #24 on Saints Top 25

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New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown: Cameron Jordan, No. 24

07/02/12 5:27AM

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Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, The Times-Picayune’s New Orleans Saintscoverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

 

02mdSaints26.jpgMichael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneCarolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is tackled by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers at the Superdome on Jan. 1.

Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

NO. 24 DE CAMERON JORDAN

Age 22. Year 2. 6-4, 287.

SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE:

Jordan might have been the hardest player to rank on this list, because he is still young and unproven and because he isn’t a “sack-master,” which is how most defensive ends are judged. But Jordan has great potential to play an important position for the Saints, and chances are strong that he will move himself into the top 20 on this list by the end of the season.

New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown

No. 25: Devery Henderson

The Saints drafted Jordan because of his size and his versatility. He’s solid against the run and the pass, and he fits at left end or inside at defensive tackle during passing downs. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has embraced that versatility in early practices and plans to move him around in the rotation.

Jordan played in every game last season with 16 starts in 18 games, including the playoffs. He finally got his first career sack in Week 17, chasing down none other than Carolina Panthers rookie sensation Cam Newton. He had 59 tackles in the regular season, six pass defenses and one fumble recovery. He had nine more tackles in the playoffs, including eight against San Francisco.

SAINTS OT ZACH STRIEF’S TAKE

“I think the biggest thing that stands out when you play Cam is that he’s 6-4, 300 pounds and he moves and runs like a defensive end, which is unusual to see. He really is exceptionally athletic for his size. And the biggest thing I’ve seen this year is his pass rush is developing. He’s becoming a more polished pass rusher.

“A guy like him, I imagine in college ran through and past a lot of people. A lot of of us realize that has to develop when you get into the NFL. But he got thrown into the fire last year. That’s something I’ve seen him develop this offseason. He’s getting better at getting his hands down, getting off his hands, a burst off ball. I expect a lot of improvement in him from year 1 to year 2. …

“As a run player, he’s kind of a nightmare. It’s hard to block a guy like that in space with long arms. He’s a strong guy, smart, explosive.”

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