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saint5221 07-29-2003 09:05 AM

In depth KFFL Saints preview part two
Here is the end of the KFFL Saints break down



The defensive line has undergone a major change in philosophy. Pre-game introductions were reminiscent of the "Ghostbusters" movie with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Men lined up at tackle. Hand is off to Seattle, and Grady Jackson is the only player who has not attended any of the "voluntary" off-season workouts. Hand responded by weighing in for Seattle's training camp at 320 pounds. When Jackson recently waddled in, he was over 360 pounds. The Saints responded by demoting him to second string, and they are close to slapping a Wide Load sticker on his rear and releasing him.

The new line will be built on speed and strength instead of girth. The two new starting tackles are Kenny Smith and rookie Jonathan Sullivan. Sullivan is a dual threat as both a pass rusher and a run stopper. Smith is very strong and is an intense player who can get to the quarterback also. The backups at tackle will be Jackson, if he is kept and Martin Chase (the third member of the "Heavy Lunch Bunch" from 2002, but the smallest by far). There will be battles for remaining roster spots among Jovon Bush, Noah Abdul-Salam, John Schlecht, and Kendrick Allen.

At 26, Darren Howard will be the oldest starter on the defensive line at the right side, and second-year player Charles Grant will start on left side. Howard led the team with 7.5 sacks last year, but he was hampered with some injuries through the year and didn't play up to the level he was capable of. Grant made a big splash early in training camp last year by body slamming tough guy Kyle Turley. While a quiet man off the street, he is talented and intense on the field. Despite the fact that he didn't start until the second half of the season, he had 7 sacks, including five in the last four games. He could make a major move this year. Willie Whitehead is a quality backup and will be rotated in periodically to get a fresh body in the mix. Melvin Williams and Greg White will battle for roster spots.

In the end, the defensive line is young and could be prone to mistakes due to their youth. But every starter is talented and has the speed the Saints were looking to get onto the field every down. There could be flashbacks to the sack happy Saints of a couple of years ago if everything goes as planned.


The linebackers drew a lot of the ire of the coaching staff, fans, and management. Rightly so, and there was a changing of the guard as two probable starters were acquired in the off-season. The likely starting lineup will be Sedrick Hodge (58 tackles, 0 sacks) and Derrick Rodgers (45, 0) at the outside linebacker spots and Orlando Ruff (4, 0) at the middle linebacker position. This linebacker set will be fast, and like the defensive line, it is designed to attack the mobile quarterbacks that the Saints will face this season including Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Mark Brunell and David Carr. The linebacker position in this defense isn't primary in getting to the quarterback, but they will have to do better than the 4 sacks they had last year.

The depth of the group is solid with Darrin Smith returning as a backup middle linebacker after starting last year. Promising second-year player James Allen will continue to learn and could start next year. The remaining linebackers are rookie Cie Smith, Roger Knight, Travis Carroll, J.J. Jones, Curtis Holden and Kori Mossoni. Smith will win a roster spot and will likely contribute solely on special teams this year. The others will battle for any remaining roster spots.

As a whole, the Saints are pretty young at the position and will be extremely quick. There are some young guys who could start in the event of injury, and there may not be a significant drop off in production, but the Saints would prefer that did not happen.


The cornerback situation has not improved much with the sole addition being Ashley Ambrose (42 tackles, 3 interceptions). If you look at most teams, though, cornerback success is determined as much by the pass rush as it is by the quality of the cornerback. There was virtually no pass rush for most of the year last year, and that exposed the cornerbacks to much more than they could handle. Add on top the fact that Dale Carter (26, 1) was suspended again and missed the first half of the season, and that further complicated what the Saints planned to do. Carter returns as one starter, with Ambrose and Fred Thomas (69, 5) battling for the other starting spot. Regardless of who wins, the Saints have upgraded their nickel corner in the situation, and they should be better equipped to stop the third and long conversions and move up from the 28th spot in pass defense.

Keyuo Craver (9, 0) will be the fourth corner, and there will be training camp battles for the remaining positions between Fakhir Brown (15, 0), Steve Smith, Lynaris Elpheage, and Shawn Byrdsong. The group as a whole doesn't have any huge play stoppers, but they are adequate, assuming the line is able to get pressure on the quarterback. The biggest disadvantage they have is size as tall opposing receivers tend to have an easy time against them, and opponents exploit that frequently.

In 2002, the safety spots were manned by two slow, poor tackling, often out-of-place players. They demoted one and ignored the other this off-season. Tebucky Jones (38, 1) was added to increase the speed and play making ability of the secondary. The Patriots designated him as a franchise player, but the Saints traded for him, as this was a black hole in 2002. To start alongside Jones, the Saints promoted second-year safety Mel Mitchell. Mitchell brings some tools with him. He hits like a freight train and can move. There may be a lapse here or there due to inexperience, but he has looked good in camp with the opportunities that he had to play. Jay Bellamy (67, 3) will backup and will provide some experience and leadership from the bench. He could play in the event of injury, but he is a definite liability as he showed last year. Michael Hawthorne will try to make the conversion to safety from cornerback to stay on the team. Special teams guru Steve Gleason will battle with Corey Hall and Hawthorne for the other backup safety spot.

As a whole, the secondary still has some deficiencies, but once again, they are much faster than they were last year. Their success will likely depend on the amount of pressure that the line and linebackers are able to put on the quarterback. The better the pass rush, the more talented the secondary will appear.


* Has Aaron Brooks fully recovered from off-season should surgery, and is he ready to play a whole season at a high level?

* Will Deuce stay healthy the whole season and make the next jump to the top-level running backs in the NFL?

* Did Donte' Stallworth make the jump and become the second 1,000-yard receiver on the team, and will he start challenging for the No. 1 spot in the near future?

* Will there be enough balls to go around and make all of the offensive weapons healthy and productive for the entire year?

* Can the defensive line get pressure on the quarterback and stop the run unlike the 2002 team? Also, will the youth of the line be an advantage or a hindrance?

* Did the upgrades at linebacker and secondary make a difference, or are they window dressing for another major overhaul?


When the Saints underwent a major overhaul in 2000, it resulted in their first playoff win. The last two years they have tweaked here and there, but they thought they had the winning formula. The team is very young, and there are some major producers on the offensive side of the ball. It will be an explosive team that could impress if the young players are able to produce at the level that is expected of them. There are risks associated with having that much youth as mistakes are made, but this is a different team than it was last year. There should be better leadership than 2002, and there shouldn't be a meltdown AGAIN. Some of the cancerous parts have been removed and replaced with better characters. The question for every team is can they make it to the Super Bowl. Who knows, but one thing is a fact: Even in an up and down year in 2002, they beat the eventual Super Bowl champs TWICE…and the Saints are better this year.

ssmitty 07-29-2003 05:06 PM

In depth KFFL Saints preview part two could not..........agree......with.....this......more.......the only thing i disagree with in this,,,,,,,if duece goes down,,,,,,,we struggle.........we have enough offensive weapons to keep defenses frustrated for the rest of the yr.......let them bring the blitzes... screen passes, and quick shots to tight ends, not to mention long bombs, should kill em because we should have good protection......from emmitt to now, you do not need a 1300 yd rusher to win the sb......but, it would not hurt.........the key here is protection...which i feel we\'ve addressed enough to see us through the yr.....barring major injuries............let\'s watch the eagle game with their great defense and offense and see how we,,,,,,,,back to startrek..........stardate-2687.12......i.......somehow find the energy , lies...within..........t-minus 13 earth days....and,,,,counting......kirk....out.........

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