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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; 2003 Saints Training Camp Preview Well, Training Camp 2003 has just started and optimism is reigning supreme, but we have our first “issueââ ‚¬?. Though DT Grady Jackson has shown up with his physical condition better than expected, our prize ...

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Old 07-27-2003, 04:47 PM   #1
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My Training Camp Preview

2003 Saints Training Camp Preview

Well, Training Camp 2003 has just started and optimism is reigning supreme, but we have our first “issueââ ‚¬?. Though DT Grady Jackson has shown up with his physical condition better than expected, our prize draft pick, DT Johnathan Sullivan is officially a contract holdout. It is believed that he is seeking an $11 million signing bonus while GM Mickey Loomis has offered $10 million. We will further discuss the defensive tackle situation later on in the preview. Right now, we will focus on the strongest part of the team.

Undoubtedly, the biggest question of the Saints offseason has been the health of QB Aaron Brooks. After surgery and extensive rehab, it appears that Brooks is as good as new and possibly better. Coach Haslett has even stated that he can hear the “whistleâ⠂¬? in Aaron’s throws. If there happens to be an unforeseen setback in Brooks’ recovery, it appears that New Orleans have a safeguard in backup QB Todd Bouman. The former Minnesota caddie to Daunte Culpepper has been steady throughout the offseason and may have the strongest arm on the team. The coaching staff appears confident that should “ABâ₠¬? falter, Bouman is capable of leading the Saints to the playoffs. Barring New Orleans signing a veteran backup, J.T. O’Sullivan should start the season as the no. 3 quarterback.

Deuce McAllister is primed for a huge 2003 season. Without a severe high ankle sprain and a few questionable holding calls, Deuce may have accumulated 1600 yards and 20 touchdowns. There is no reason to believe that those numbers won’t be within reach this season. While there are no questions about McAllister, should he go down, there are tons of questions as to who would fill his void. There have been mixed reports as to how the coaches feel about RB Curtis Keaton. He has the speed and explosion to be an adequate replacement but lacks the vision necessary to be a long-term remedy. Tavian Banks is coming back from a devastating knee injury. While he seems sharp in his movements, two plus years of rust may prove too much to shake before the start of the season. My favorite to win the backup job is former Mililani High and University of Hawaii RB James Fenderson. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that we went to High school together!) Fenderson has been a solid contributor on special teams and when given the opportunity, he has produced as the ball carrier. He is a north-south guy who simply keeps the chains moving and is now in his second year of recovery after also injuring his knee. It wouldn’t surprise me if another RB were brought in to join the competition.

I don’t ever recall the Saints having too many receivers but that appears to be the case. WR’s Joe Horn, Donte Stallworth, Jerome Pathon, and Michael Lewis are locks to make the opening day roster but there will be strong competition from the rest of the group for the two remaining receiver spots. Second year Saint, Derrick Lewis, and draft picks, Kareem Kelly and Talman Gardner are the prime candidates for the final two positions but Arena Leaguers Will Pettis and Terrill Shaw will also give them a fight.

Through constant change, the Saints have managed to maintain a solid offensive line and it seems that nothing has changed this season. LT Wayne Gandy was brought in to replace the disgruntled and departed Kyle Turley. The only other change may be on the right tackle spot where a dedicated Victor Riley is pushing last year’s starter, Spencer Folau for his job. LeCharles Bentley, Kendyl Jacox, and Jerry Fontenot remain intact and should excel in their second year together. Solid depth was added through the draft in tackle Jon Stinchcomb and OG Montrae Holland. P.J. Alexander and Scott Sanderson will have to battle to keep their spots.

With the surprise showing of Grady Jackson and the recent signing of former Titan Henry Ford, the Saints are prepared for an extended holdout by rookie Johnathan Sullivan. While they would prefer to have Sullivan in now, Ford gives them leverage in contract negotiations, even if only a little. DT Kenny Smith has been a demon in the offseason conditioning programs and may have earned himself a starting spot on the D-line. A healthy Darren Howard and a hungry Charles Grant provide New Orleans with two bookend DE’s. Willie Whitehead and rookie Melvin Williams will back them up and help in providing a steady pass rush.

Expect two newcomers to see the field extensively when it’s all said and done. Former Dolphin and New Orleans native, LB Derrick Rodgers, should lock up the starting WLB job by the second preseason game and rookie Buckeye Cie Grant may bee the starter at MLB by midseason. Grant simply has too much talent to ride the pine. Grant will start the season as a Chris Oldham rover-type but once he adjusts to the speed of the game, he will be a terror. This is a make or break year for Sedric Hodge. He has all the talent necessary and appears to be coming on in workouts but for some reason, it all hasn’t added up. He should prove the critics wrong, including myself, after this season. Darrin Smith will provide leadership and the rest of the pack will provide depth.

Regardless of what Mel Kiper may think, the Saints have upgraded their secondary with FS Tebucky Jones and CB Ashley Ambrose. These acquisitions along with a steady Dale Carter and an emerging Fred Thomas should solidify the secondary and prove to be strength. Mel Mitchell is a speed upgrade over the departed Sammy Knight and Keyuo Craver will surprise. All in all, the defense should be solid and has the potential to be top-10.

Our strongest unit may be the special teams with Michael Lewis, Freddie McAfee, and Steve Gleason leading the way. John Carney was re-signed and P Mitch Berger was brought in to maintain stability to the kicking game. Al Everest may have his best squad yet and they should continue to be force in the league.

This concludes our Training Camp preview. Check back with Saints Revolution.com throughout the season for news articles and commentary.
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Old 07-27-2003, 05:14 PM   #2
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Regardless of what Mel Kiper may think, the Saints have upgraded their secondary with FS Tebucky Jones and CB Ashley Ambrose. These acquisitions along with a steady Dale Carter and an emerging Fred Thomas should solidify the secondary and prove to be strength. Mel Mitchell is a speed upgrade over the departed Sammy Knight and Keyuo Craver will surprise. All in all, the defense should be solid and has the potential to be top-10.
I agree with you on the potential of the defense to finish in the top 10. The Saints actually have a nice mixture of youth and experience on the defensive side of the ball.

With the offense and special teams requiring very little attention in the off-season, the coahing staff has had plenty of time to work on the defense.

It\'s no way to tell where they will finish this year, but I like the potential

[Edited on 27/7/2003 by BillyCarpenter1]
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Old 07-27-2003, 06:03 PM   #3
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Great report SF, thanks. Keep us informed.
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Old 07-27-2003, 06:04 PM   #4
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I also share your enthusiam for the upcoming season. I think every weakness on defense was addressed with an excellent or above average player. Some question marks still remain, but there are now several answers for each one of those questions. I\'m sure one of the answers will work. I no longer see a major weakness anywhere on defense, and only at back-up RB on offense.

However, I\'m sure someone will try to point one out very shorly...
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Old 07-27-2003, 06:09 PM   #5
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I just read that Dale Carter was shutting everyone down in practice today. Including Stallworth and Horn.
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Old 07-27-2003, 06:52 PM   #6
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where did you read that BC?
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Old 07-27-2003, 07:04 PM   #7
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On another saints board. Someone\'s brother called him on his cell phone giving live updates. Also said Bouman looked good and Brooks missed on some long bombs but was accurate on the under 20 stuff.
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