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JOESAM2002 07-12-2003 11:25 AM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....
By Jeff Duncan/New Orleans Times-Picayune
Saints Team Report
July 11, 2003 Print it

Preseason priority

With seven new starters, the defense must quickly become a cohesive unit. Competitions at tackle (Kenny Smith and Grady Jackson), weakside linebacker (Derrick Rodgers and James Allen) and right cornerback (Fred Thomas and Ashley Ambrose) must be settled quickly so the starters can jell. The unit is expected to have six starters with four years' experience or less, so it is imperative that veterans such as S Tebucky Jones, Rodgers and LB Orlando Ruff fill the leadership roles vacated by S Sammy Knight and LB Charlie Clemons. Coordinator Rick Venturi will keep things simple until the young starters become comfortable.

Position battle

The spot opposite rookie DT Johnathan Sullivan could be a weakness. Neither Jackson nor Smith has been a model of consistency, yet the defense needs one of them to become a force. When motivated, Jackson can dominate with his natural power and quick first step. But he was overweight and a no-show at the training complex this offseason. Smith, on the other hand, has been a model participant in the conditioning program and seems eager for a starting chance. He is a big-time athlete but lacks experience at the position.

On the spot

RB Curtis Keaton will get a long look in the preseason to determine if he is ready to assume backup duties to Deuce McAllister. He disappointed last season and needs a strong camp to win the confidence of the staff and his teammates. If he doesn't produce, the team will look for a veteran after final roster cuts.

Camp confidential

McAllister enjoyed a breakout season in 2002, but the Saints don't think he has come to close to fulfilling his potential. As with most natural athletes, things come easily to McAllister. So despite being a star and one of the best-liked players on the roster, he'll be pushed by the coaching staff harder than ever this season. … After this season, Darren Howard should be mentioned among the top defensive ends in the league—if he can stay healthy. A lingering shoulder injury hounded Howard last season and robbed him of his strength, but he's 100 percent now. The Saints plan to build a number of their pressure packages around his natural pass-rush skills, so a double-digit sack season is within reach. … Second-year CB Keyuo Craver might be the biggest sleeper on the defense. He showed flashes of potential last season before injuring his knee in Week 2. He has room to make big improvement after a full offseason of work in the conditioning program and studying the playbook. … Rookie Mark Mariscal won't beat out Mitch Berger for the punter job—the veteran has a five-year contract—but he out-kicked Berger for most of the offseason. If and when Mariscal is cut, look for him to land a job with another team; there's a shortage of quality punters in the league.

Offseason grade: B+

The team achieved its goal of improving the defense's speed and athleticism by acquiring four new starters. It fortified the middle by adding rookie DT Johnathan Sullivan, MLB Orlando Ruff and S Tebucky Jones. On offense, LT Wayne Gandy and QB Todd Bouman are solid additions, and versatile TE Ernie Conwell is an upgrade.

rusta 07-13-2003 09:47 AM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....
did i miss something? i thought rodgers and thomas had already won starting jobs

ambrose was to play nickle and allen was going to replace hodge from the last i had heard

saintsfanbudman3382 07-13-2003 02:03 PM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....
yeah you are right, but \"has\" wants it to be a \"competition\" so nothing formal as far as starters yet.

WhoDat 07-14-2003 11:43 AM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....
No, it IS a competition. I guarantee somebody will surprise everyone in training camp. It always happens. My bet is Craver. I\'ve been talking about how high the coaches were on him last season until he got hurt. Assuming they were right back then, I wouldn\'t be surprised if he started this year at some point.

BillyCarpenter1 07-14-2003 12:30 PM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....

No, it IS a competition. I guarantee somebody will surprise everyone in training camp. It always happens. My bet is Craver. I\'ve been talking about how high the coaches were on him last season until he got hurt. Assuming they were right back then, I wouldn\'t be surprised if he started this year at some point.
The world must be coming to an end, because I\'m going to have to agree with WhoDat. I think Craver will be the starting cornerback at some point this season. He looked really good before he got hurt.

BillyCarpenter1 07-14-2003 03:36 PM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....
Just a follow-up on the Keyou Craver thing. Here is what the scoop was on him when he was drafted...........

More Information:
Keyou Craver Bio

In the fourth round the Saints may have gotten the steal of this year’s draft. Keyou Craver, a 5’10� corner out of Nebraska with 4.5 speed, was taken with the 27th pick in the fourth round. He is a physically aggressive CB, who can play run as well as pass. The only knock against him is he is sometimes prone to a lapse in concentration that can lead to some blown coverages. However, Craver, who was projected as high as mid first round by some draft experts, is said to be the best pure cover corner out of Nebraska in the last decade.

Craver had 60 tackles, three INT’s, and 13 defensed passes for the Huskers in 2001.

ssmitty 07-14-2003 05:20 PM

Sporting news 7-11-03.....
here,here......i\'ll go with wd\'s bet also.......craver absolutely flies to the ball.....i watched him\'s actually how he substained his injury if i\'m not mistaken......he is fearless, and a trooper.....remember tommy meyers? how about a fast tommy meyers? i use to love to watch him kill recievers when we were scraping bottom.....oh the bright spots, if you just look for em........injuries hurt us in our quest to become a better defense also last yr......along with drugs, women, and other things....if you think about it, the super bowl is just like a lottery, every # has to fall in place... 20 days til we feast on eagle meat...........smitty

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