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saintfan 10-17-2003 11:13 AM

Saints Coming to Grips with Problem
From the Times-Picayune

Saints coming to grips with problem

Receivers working to eliminate drops

Friday October 17, 2003

By Brian Allee-Walsh
Staff writer

Some fans are quick to point an accusatory finger at Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks for the team's offensive struggles.

But the receiving corps has exacerbated the problem recently with untimely drops that short-circuited potential scoring drives.

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While Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy said he has addressed the issue with his receivers, he must be careful not to create a monster.

One drop can lead to another, and pretty soon a case of the drops becomes contagious.

"It's not an inordinate number of drops, but they seem to be coming at inopportune times," McCarthy said. "The bottom line in our business is, when you're 2-4, everything becomes magnified.

"Frankly, we need to take a more positive approach. Frankly, I think guys are thinking about dropping a ball instead of thinking about catching it. So we need to move on. We don't have guys who have bad hands. I would not classify any one of our perimeter people as having bad hands. We need to focus more on catching the football and quit worrying about dropping it."

Saints tight end Ernie Conwell and wide receiver Donté Stallworth freely admit they have dropped more passes than at any other time during their college and professional careers.

"It can become a mental thing if you allow it to be," said Stallworth, who has 15 catches for 220 yards and one touchdown. "All through college, I think I only dropped like maybe two balls. I don't think it's a problem with me. It's a matter of me getting back into a groove. I haven't found it yet. Hopefully, I can find it sometime soon before the season gets too far along."

Conwell, who has 21 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns, met privately with Saints coach Jim Haslett on Monday to discuss his situation.

"I'm playing fairly well, but I'm not playing up to my standards that I have set for myself," said Conwell, who's spending extra time catching passes after practice. "This is totally foreign to me. I'm definitely doing more thinking. I had a couple of drops in that Indianapolis game and that's never really happened to me before.

"Then what happens is I get frustrated and then I start over evaluating things that have come natural and basic to me my whole life. I'm trying to solve a problem that really is not there."

Conwell said he has dropped four passes in the past three games.

"I had a drop in the Chicago game and it probably lingered with me longer than it should have mentally," Conwell said. "When I saw it on film, I didn't see the ball until the last second. All of a sudden, by the time I picked up the ball, it was a foot away from me. That's just part of the game. Those things happen. But it got magnified because of the drops I had in the Indianapolis game."

Against Chicago, Saints wide receiver Joe Horn dropped a potential 60-yard pass, and Stallworth dropped a third-down pass inside the Bears' 35.

"I'm a psychology major, so you try not to think about it," Stallworth said. "Once you keep thinking about it, it's in your mind on the next play. And, if you drop that one, it'll be on your mind for the next one. So you got to put it behind you. I know you can't catch every pass, but, at the same time, you don't want to drop every damn pass either."

Brooks said dropped passes leave him frustrated but "you never want to give up on your receivers."

"We got great receivers," Brooks said. "I know our receivers will bounce back from this. There's nothing I can do. That's something they have to fix. I can only keep my confidence in them, keep throwing the ball as much as I can, play my game and make sure I don't come out of my game."

Drops aside, McCarthy said the offense is doing some things better now than last season when it set a franchise scoring record. But touchdowns are coming grudgingly this season.

After six games, the Saints have scored 10 offensive touchdowns. By comparison, they had 19 touchdowns at the same juncture a year ago.

"The bottom line is we're 2-4 and not scoring points," McCarthy said. "The first thing you got to do is talk about it and then you simply got to do it. You got to talk and do it. It's that process where you got to take it from the classroom, take it to the practice field and take it into the games. That's where we're at right now. We got a problem with drops that we've addressed over and over again, but we got to get it fixed on game day."

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