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Sporting News looks at the Saints

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Sorry no link to this it's from the nfl preseason countdown section. If anyone would like I can post the sections on the rest of the NFC South also. Saints Support Group Vinnie Iyer and Jeff Duncan Sporting News BURNING ...

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Old 06-28-2003, 06:21 PM   #1
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

Sorry no link to this it's from the nfl preseason countdown section. If anyone would like I can post the sections on the rest of the NFC South also.

Saints Support Group
Vinnie Iyer and Jeff Duncan
Sporting News


Can this talented team avoid another late-season collapse?

The Saints have come marching out of the gate the past two seasons, only to face a blue bayou after being slammed out of the playoffs each time. It's a classic case of inconsistency -- a box of chocolates has nothing on the Saints' unpredictability.

Coach Jim Haslett has faced the heat for those disappointing results, but he can do only so much to keep the team focused and motivated. It's up for his players to remain steadfast, both on and off the field. They have to get up for every game and not play down to opponents. An even keel will help the team from tipping over.

It starts with offense. The passing game is prolific with Aaron Brooks throwing to Joe Horn, Donte' Stallworth and Jerome Pathon, but the key to long-term success is putting the ball in running back Deuce McAllister's hands more often. He had a good amount of carries (325), but he can do much more as a receiver and should improve on 47 catches for a modest 352 yards.

McAllister also will help protect the ball, work the clock and keep the defense rested. If the Saints do jump out to leads, their linebackers and secondary will struggle if they are on the field too much dealing with opponents working out of a pass-heavy catch-up mode.

The best way for the Saints to get over their late-season woes is to not think about the past or the future's big picture and adhere to the "one game at a time" cliché. --Vinnie Iyer


Meet Team Schizophrenia. Not even Dr. Phil can figure out the Saints.

They're good enough to sweep the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. They're bad enough to lose to the Bengals and Lions.

One year, they are all defense with no offense. The next year, they score at will and can't stop anyone.

It's enough to send the city's long-suffering fans to Pat O'Brien's for another round of hurricanes.

Since winning a division title in 2000, Haslett's first season, the Saints have endured two seasons of frustration, fraught with locker-room dramas and off-field incidents.

Haslett believes his young team is primed for a breakout year after another offseason housecleaning. He believes a year of maturity and an improved defense finally will spur his young team over the hump.

The offense again should be one of the league's most explosive units. Led by Pro Bowlers McAllister and Horn, the Saints' balanced attack can score points and move the ball on just about anyone.

The offense will need to be good because the defense again has question marks. The overhauled unit has seven new starters. There is more juice and athleticism, but there also is more inexperience. The starting defense could feature seven players with three years or less of experience.

Haslett somehow must solve his team's penchant for December collapses. The Saints are 3-7 in December the past two seasons. They lost their last four games in 2001 and their final three last season.


QB Aaron Brooks: Brooks has tantalized fans and the front office for two years with his precocious talent. His growing pains must diminish this season. The organization has built a solid line and put terrific perimeter options around him.

It's time for Brooks to start living up to the six-year, $42 million contract extension the Saints signed him to last season. Brooks has rare skills. He has a slingshot right arm with which he can make every throw and the mobility to buy time in the pocket and make big plays downfield.

Brooks has become less of a running threat than when he first burst on the scene, and the coaches would like to see him capitalize on that ability more often. His biggest weakness is his tendency to force the action and to try to make big plays that aren't always there.

Sometimes it works, with spectacular results. Too often it leads to incomplete passes and unfavorable down-and-distance situations. The result: a career 55.3 completion percentage, well below the club's goal of 60 percent.

Brooks must become more proficient in his reads and anticipation in his third full season as the starter. He also must become a stronger leader. The club's season rests on his wiry shoulders.

RB Deuce McAllister: McAllister showed last season why the Saints unloaded Ricky Williams to Miami. Despite suffering a nasty high ankle sprain in Week 10, he led the NFC with 1,388 rushing yards and ranked among the league leaders in total yards (1,740) and touchdowns (16).

McAllister has a solid frame and deceptive breakaway speed. A natural long strider, he eats up yards in chunks and gets to the second level before the linebackers and secondary have a chance to react and pursue. He is a home-run threat on traps and pulling plays, where he uses his natural vision and instincts to find seams and then turns on his breakaway speed for big gains.

McAllister, a solid receiver, also is an open-field threat off flares and screens. His next step is to become a more complete back. To do so, he must improve his blocking and off-the-ball skills. He was rarely called upon to block in college and his recognition skills and technique are lacking. Defenses exploited those weaknesses often a year ago.

The Saints would like to see McAllister become a more dedicated participant in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program and rely less on his natural athleticism. The goal is to keep him healthy for 16 games.

The special teams: Due to former coach Mike Ditka's ill-fated decision to trade eight draft picks in order to select Ricky Williams in 1999, the roster was bereft of live, young bodies for a few seasons. That development took its biggest toll on special teams.

It took Everest a couple of seasons to rebuild the speed and athleticism of the units. Fully stocked for the first time last season, the Saints' special teams ranked among the league leaders in several categories and contributed directly to four of the team's nine wins.

Michael Lewis, a speed merchant, has emerged as one of the league's most dangerous return threats. He has rare acceleration and consistently gives the offense excellent field position with his breathtaking returns. Lewis has vastly improved his ball security, but he still tends to bobble or fumble the ball because of his small hands and frame.

The coverage units are outstanding. Ace Fred McAfee earned a long overdue trip to the Pro Bowl last season and continues to rank among the league's best as a punt blocker and tackler in coverage. Safety Steve Gleason has emerged as a headhunter in the Steve Tasker-mold.

Kicker John Carney is steady and reliable. He has lost some range over the years, but he is almost automatic from 45 yards and in.

The Saints think punter Mitch Berger is a nice replacement for Toby Gowin. Berger has a stronger leg and gets better hang time than Gowin, even though he lacks Gowin's versatility and athleticism. Long snapper Kevin Houser ranks among the league's best.


Haslett's teams are known for their physical line play and cocksure attitude. When the Saints are at their best, they beat up teams in the trenches and make big plays on both sides of the ball. Haslett's Saints don't play to win by a field goal.

The team's West Coast offense strives for balance and is based on a strong running game. The Saints like to impose their will on teams with the ground game and then strike for big plays on play-action passes downfield.

The defense's calling card is a complex pressure package that sends players from all angles and positions. Eleven defenders recorded sacks last season, including defensive backs Sammy Knight, Jay Bellamy and Fred Thomas. The 4-3 scheme is built around promising young ends Darren Howard and Charles Grant.

Because of their inexperience, the Saints will be more basic in concept on defense this season. That won't come at the expense of aggressiveness.

Above all, Haslett's teams are aggressive and attack on both sides of the ball. That aggressiveness too often leads to mistakes, however. The Saints annually rank among the league leaders in penalties.

Haslett coaches the game the way he played it -- with passion, aggressiveness and a willingness to take risks. He is unconventional on both sides of the ball. He has used faked punts and field-goal attempts and opened games with onside kicks.

Sometimes Haslett is fearless to a fault. He frustrates fans with his stubborn penchant for going for two-point conversions in the first halves of games. His strategy always has the potential to come back to haunt his team. His go-for-broke philosophy sells well with his players, however. Haslett likes his team to play with a swagger and, more often than not, it does.

However, that confident nature might also be one of Haslett's biggest weaknesses. His teams tend to play to the level of their competition. They often struggle against inferior opponents and have been inconsistent, not only from game to game but sometimes from half to half.

One of Haslett's most underrated strengths is his acumen for hiring good assistants. The Saints have one of the league's best staffs and Haslett lets them coach, and it all starts with the coordinators.

Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi is a respected teacher and technician. His staff is loaded with good young assistants, including line coach Sam Clancy, linebackers coach Winston Moss and secondary coach Joe Baker. All are good motivators who relate well to their players.

Mike McCarthy is one of the league's brightest offensive minds. Offensive line coach Jack Henry and special teams coach Al Everest also are regarded as among the best by their peers.


Their defense remains suspect, and that's the biggest problem. They also have to show they can avoid a late-season collapse.


The Saints will contend with the Buccaneers and Falcons for the title in the competitive NFC South. The roster is bursting with young talent, but the team needs leaders to emerge on both sides of the ball.

The Saints have enough firepower on offense and special teams to compensate for an inexperienced defense. The defense doesn't need to be dominant -- just better than last season.

Much depends on Brooks' progress. The Saints will finish behind Atlanta in their quest for the division crown, but they will appease their long-suffering fans with their second playoff appearance of Haslett's tenure.

Jeff Duncan covers the Saints for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

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Old 06-28-2003, 10:44 PM   #2
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

Wow. Good article 5221.
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Old 06-29-2003, 08:00 AM   #3
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

excellant article!

i think that\'s the first time i have seen something from the media that was unbiased and looked as though the writer actually did some research instead of looking at some old pics of fans with bags and writing us off completely
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Old 06-29-2003, 11:39 AM   #4
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

I really like the article, but I just cant see how they figure that the Falcons will be in the drivers seat. Warrick Dunn had great numbers last season, but he has never been consistent. If our defense can play just a little better, we will go very deep this year.
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Old 06-29-2003, 12:08 PM   #5
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

Terrific article, saint5221. My blood is rising just thinking about the fact that the NFL begins the pre-season in about a month and a half.

About Duece\'s receiving. We\'ve discussed in here before that Brooks doesn\'t sell the screen pass very well. I know that is being worked on and will be improved. Duece\'s receiving yards will go up. The kid is good and with one year of experience behind him he should be even better. Other than Duece, though, the running back position is the most suspect on offense.

They made good points about Brooks. Every bit of physical talent that a team would want in a quaterback is right there in one package: Aaron Brooks. Big, strong armed, and quick. If he gets his mechanics down and understands defenses better this could be a pro bowl year for him. And I have no problem with him making a mistake on the field and being a goof on the sideline. It\'s his way to deal with it. He did it in the Bears game last year when they were behind 20-0 and look what happened.

I also liked the comments made about Haslett. I really like this cat. I\'d much rather have him than Ditka. Ditka was a ring leader. I hated to see him on tv because I knew that he would say something embarrassing and I\'d have to stick up for him around my friends the next day. You can see the determination on Haslett\'s face when the camera focuses on him during a game. He has made some poor decisions at times but you\'ve got to expect that from a guy that was never a head coach in the NFL until the Saints picked him up. I guarantee that if Brooks gets injured too badly this year, Bouman will play.

This years defense has two things that last years defense didn\'t have. Speed and leadership. With Derrick Rodgers getting defensive leadership awards twice with Miami on that defense and superbowl veteran Tebucky Jones saying that he\'ll step in as a leader, this defense will be better. And I can\'t wait to see the improvements.

I disagree that the Saints will be behind the Falcons this year. The Saints will be division leaders this year. I see the Falcons in third place in the division. And the trend of superbowl teams that don\'t make the play-offs the following year will continue with the Bucs.

"...it's good to have friends, no matter where they are."--JOESAM2002
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Old 06-29-2003, 09:59 PM   #6
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

again i don\'t understand why you guys claim AB to be a question mark, on defense yeah we got some question marks, but on offense?

we were the second best offense behind kansas city last year, we are returning with an improved offense, we are better at TE and stallworth will be coming into the year healthy, our line is stronger too

most of you guys claim that AB wasn\'t all that great last year and didn\'t live up to potential, that\'s crazy! if he has a year exaclty like he had last year and our defense plays slightly better then we are in the playoffs

do you consider him a question mark because you are worried that he won\'t come back from surgery the same? or are you afraid he will play much worse than last year?
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Old 06-30-2003, 01:19 PM   #7
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AB will remain a question mark until he proves himself a leader...in all aspects of the game.
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Old 06-30-2003, 03:50 PM   #8
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

Everyone keeps saying Brooks needs to show he\'s a leader and prove himself this year. Then on the other hand ,we have some of the same people that says he needs to be a leader, say the QB isn\'t the most important position on the field. It\'s hard to find logic in that. Everyone needs to show that they are a leader at their positon.

As far as skill postion players on offense. The only proven player I see is Joe Horn.

How about Duece. He put up big numbers like Brooks in certain categories, but he has hardly proven he is a complete back. Pass blocking is something he never really did in college and did a poor job of last year. Some backs shy away from blocking. Is he one of them? Can he be a real receiving threat out of the back field?

One thing for sure , it\'s easier to come into the league and have sucess at running back than it is at QB.

Brooks has things to prove, that\'s for sure. It takes more time to develop a consistant QB than any other position.

Is Brooks a question mark? Yes!! Is he the only question mark on the offense? I don\'t think so.

The QB postion it the most analyzed, scrutinized, talked about postion in football. If you broke down every positon like that, for example running back, you would notice a lot more of the flaws and inabilities.

I understand what everyone is saying about Brooks, but he shown no reason fans shouldn\'t have faith that he can put it all together. As least no one on here has explained to me, why he will not be better this year.

Another thing about his completion percentage. Is this all Brooks fault or could some of it be that we had no tight end threat? How about poor play calling at times?

If Aaron Brooks would have completed 2.1 more pass attempts per game last year, he would have a completion percentage of 60%. Does that seem like such an impossible thing for him to do this year?

[Edited on 30/6/2003 by BillyCarpenter1]
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Old 06-30-2003, 03:54 PM   #9
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

With the completion percentage he had last year, his TD total should have been lower, and his INT should have been higher. This is a tribute to just how good the receivers are around him.
Two hardest positions to make the move to from college to pro is 1) QB 2) CB
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Old 07-02-2003, 05:38 AM   #10
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Sporting News looks at the Saints

brooks has to show frustration or disgust and wipe that silly smile off his face.......it\'s as almost as if he knows he\'ll come back and win in the last seconds and it has\'nt happened nearly enough......hell, i\'d smile too if i had a 42 mil contract........if haslett lets brooks bring this high powered offense down, shame on him.........hopefully, he learns from his mistakes also.....i think the trickery will continue and more than rabbits will be pulled from the hat when the season begins. as i said before, if bouman shines in the pre-season, don\'t be surprised to see him come in on certain downs when you\'d least expect it. and the time to do that is in the beginning of the season when there is still time to evaluate what you have, not the end of it.......i believe brooks always knew he was the starter when jake was here, now, he\'s not too sure....just as the rookies will press the vets, bouman will have his opportunity also and he has proven he can take advantage of it. i don\'t see the saints wasting talent to get to the next level this year. i say go for it, at least they\'ll have my respect..........smitty
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