Sporting News Report
Oct. 27, 2003 5:18 a.m.
The 1-4 start forced the Saints to make several changes on defense that already have paid dividends. But when RE Darren Howard (wrist) and OLB Dedrick Hodge (knee) return, more moves will be made. Look for Hodge to eventually replace Darrin Smith at strongside linebacker. Smith, a 10-year veteran, is playing out of position and at this stage of his career is better suited to be a backup. Howard will step into a starting spot as soon as he is healthy. The question is where. Charles Grant has played so well at Howard's right end spot that the staff might want to keep him there.
If WR Donte' Stallworth ever can stay healthy, he might supplant Jerome Pathon in the lineup. The Saints want to get the explosive Stallworth on the field more so defenses can't concentrate their coverages on Joe Horn. But Stallworth has struggled with injuries and dropped passes in a disappointing second season.
At some point, the staff must light a fire under rookie NT Johnathan Sullivan. Sullivan shows flashes of potential but needs to play with more passion on a consistent basis.
SECOND HALF BREAKOUT PLAYER
Grant had six sacks in the first half and should get more opportunities to work against single blocking when Howard returns. Grant's natural power and explosiveness make him a terror off the edge. He rushes better from the right side, so he might stay there, or he and Howard could flip-flop during games so that both get time at right end.
If the Saints plan to rise from their 3-5 hole, they must make fewer mistakes. The schedule is easier down the stretch, but they have little margin for error. The defensive reinforcements won't show up in time to make a run to the playoffs. Look for the Saints to play .500 ball in the second half and finish 7-9.
Sporting News Report
At least we are consistent in our measurement of interior defensive linemen. At least Sully didn\'t cost us two first round picks... oh, wait...
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