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What's in Mike McKenzie's future?

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Saints mailbag: What's in Mike McKenzie's future? By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune December 05, 2009, 8:54AM Q: Do you think if Mike McKenzie continues to perform like he did Monday Night that the Saints may want to keep him long-term? ...

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Old 12-05-2009, 03:00 PM   #1
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What's in Mike McKenzie's future?

Saints mailbag: What's in Mike McKenzie's future?
By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune
December 05, 2009, 8:54AM
Q: Do you think if Mike McKenzie continues to perform like he did Monday Night that the Saints may want to keep him long-term? Jeff Savelle, Houston.
A: The Saints undoubtedly would want to keep him. McKenzie, though, might want to look elsewhere for a more lucrative offer. The Saints are committed to Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer as their starting corners. They're also very high on rookie Malcolm Jenkins. When healthy, those guys are the top three corners on the roster. I'm not sure McKenzie will want to stick around for a lesser role if he keeps playing the way he is. Some team will likely make him an offer for "starter" money in free agency and it will be difficult for McKenzie to turn down at the age of 33. McKenzie likes New Orleans and is popular with teammates. That's an important factor. But in the end, money and opportunity will outweigh chemistry and camaraderie. It always does. Also, let's not get too carried away after one game. McKenzie has suffered a pair of very serious injuries the past two years. It's one thing to come back and play one great game, especially when you have fresh legs. The real test will be if he can continue to sustain his level of play as the season progresses and the grind of the season takes its toll on his body.
Q: I was shocked at how Malcolm Jenkins and Mike McKenzie played last week. If they continue to play at this level, how do you see the rotation playing out once Porter and Greer get back and everyone's healthy? And Will Smith is quietly having a very good season. Do you see him leading the NFL in sacks if he continues on the pace he's on? Mark G., Amite, La.
A: The Saints' cornerback position could get quite crowded down the stretch when Tracy Porter and Randall Gay return to action. But that's going to take some time. Saints coach Sean Payton said Porter was ahead of schedule in his rehab but Porter told reporters he hasn't started running yet. Gay, meanwhile, could missed a few more games with that hamstring injury. Those usually are finicky injuries. If and when they all return the Saints will have to make a roster move. They can't carry six cornerbacks and five safeties on the active roster. Someone almost certainly will be cut, with Chris McAlister the likely candidate. I expect Porter and Greer to retain their starting spots when they return but it also wouldn't surprise me if Jenkins played well enough to keep a starting spot down the stretch. The coaching staff is very high on him and he's getting better every week.
And very observant of you to notice Will Smith's breakout season. He's on pace to record 14.5 sacks this season, which would be the most by a Saints since La'Roi Glover had 17 in 2000. If Smith continues to play at this level, he should expect the second Pro Bowl invitation of his career. But I don't look for him to overtake Jared Allen in the NFC sacks race. Allen has a 2.5 sack lead on him and is capable of some multi-sack games down the stretch.
Q: What's the combination required for the Saints to attain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs? Graham Da Ponte, New Orleans.
A: Graham, the easiest, most important way for the Saints to garner home-field advantage is to finish with the best record in the NFC. If they keep winning, they'll do that. If they somehow finish in a tie with Minnesota, which looks like the only team capable of catching the Saints at this stage, the tie-breaker criteria gets complicated because the teams did not play each other this season. The first tie-breaker is conference record so if both the Saints and Vikings finish the season 15-1 the Vikings will own home-field advantage by virtue of a better record against NFC opponents. The Vikings' only loss came to and AFC opponent, Pittsburgh. The Saints do not play any more AFC teams the rest of the season so any loss they suffer would knock them below the Vikings in NFC record. If the Vikings lose a game to an NFC team, then the Saints would have to lose two games the rest of the season to lose home-field advantage.
Q: It's so hard to criticize anything about the Saints at this point, but I'm still a little unsure about the team's ability to stop the run. On Monday night, I felt like I was seeing a bit of sloppy tackling. It didn't hurt us, thankfully, but it did in the weeks when we had to meet the league's top rushers. With a showdown against the Vikings and Adrian Peterson looking more and more likely, do you think this is a legitimate concern? Johanna Logan, River Ridge.
A: The run defense should be improved with Sedrick Ellis and Scott Fujita back in the lineup. The Saints are not the most physical defense, especially in the front seven, so they use numbers to slow down opposing rushing attacks. In running situations, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to align strong safety Roman Harper in "the box" and also isn't afraid of sending his cornerbacks on blitzes. The idea is to stop the run and force opponents into third-and-long situations, where Williams can uncork his plethora of pressure packages. The Saints defense is undoubtedly better suited to defend the pass but so far Williams has been able to employ scheme and strategy to overcome their deficiencies against the run. If the Saints play the Vikings, that'll certainly be a concern. Then again, every team that plays Minnesota must worry about it. It's no different than clubs trying to defend Drew Brees and the Saints' passing attack. One thing I will say about the run defense: It improves as the game progresses. Williams and staff do a great job of adjusting to opposing rushing attacks and gradually shutting them down. The Saints have allowed just one run of longer than 15 yards in the second half this season. It helps their cause that Drew Brees and the Saints offense is so explosive and usually has created a lead for New Orleans by the third quarter or so.
Q: Can you please explain the system in which season ticket holders have the opportunity to buy Super Bowl tickets? Andrew Thomas, Los Angeles.
A: I have no idea, Andrew. Your best bet would be to call the Saints' ticket office at 504.733.0255. Any of their ticket sales reps could explain the process better than I.
Q: I really miss Lance Moore in the slot. Especially against a defense like the Redskins. What is the chance he will get back this week? Andreas Hejslet, Denmark.
A: The Saints could definitely use Moore on third down. But I wouldn't look for him this weekend. Moore did not practice all week and will probably be sidelined for another week or two. Moore suffered a high ankle sprain a few weeks back then compounded matters by tweaking his hamstring last week. Moore is one of Drew Brees' favorite and most-trusted targets. When he returns, the Saints receiving corps will rank among the deepest and most talented in the league. Moore has endured a difficult year with injuries but the club expects him to return soon.



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