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BillyCarpenter1 10-24-2003 09:27 AM

Sporting News Saints Team Report
Sporting News Saints Team Report
Saints Team Report
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Oct. 20, 2003 7:10 a.m.

Follow the leader

RG LeCharles Bentley has turned into a leader on the line in his second season. He is the unit's most physical blocker and sets the tone in the running game with his tenacity and passion. Bentley is prone to mental lapseshe has committed a number of pre-snap penaltiesand he still needs to improve as a pass blocker. But he will merit Pro Bowl consideration if he continues to play at his current level.

RB Deuce McAllister has rushed for 100-plus yards in four consecutive games. Most of his production has come behind the blocking on the right side of the line. Bentley and RT Victor Riley are the team's most physical run blockers and they have established themselves early in recent games.

DTs Grady Jackson and Johnathan Sullivan are alternating between the nose and "3 technique" position after Jackson played strictly the nose and Sullivan the "3" in the first five games. They made the switch, in part, because Jackson struggled when the offensive alignment required him to play with his left hand down. In those cases he would still keep his right hand down and wound up getting hooked too often by offensive linemen. The Saints chose to alleviate the problem by alternating positions, thereby allowing Jackson to play with his right hand down.

Problem spot

Kick coverage, a strength a year ago, has been a weakness. The team ranks among the NFL's worst in average starting field position allowed after kickoffs. Defenders aren't fighting off blocks well, and Steve Gleason and Fred McAfee haven't made as many plays because return units are concentrating on them. The loss of wedge buster Mel Mitchell in preseason to a season-ending knee injury didn't help.

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