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BillyC 12-06-2003 07:18 PM

The Latest "Ask Mike" 12/5/03
The Latest "Ask Mike" 12/5/03
Name: Meyer, Cedric
Handle: dome patrol
From: Metairie, LA

Mike, thanks for being a part of the family. We really appreciate your effort.

First off can you give us your opinion on what will happen with Darren Howard? He's played well since he's come back from the injury and I think the Saints are building something special on that defensive line.

What do you see the Saints doing with the DT position next year? Sullivan is an obvious lock for one of the starting spots, but after him we don't have a legitimate starting DT.

After Vince Wilfork, Tommy Harris, and Randy Starks I don't see a DT who can come in and fill that starting role. Which DT's will be available in this year's Free Agent pool?

Also, I've been hearing conflicting reports on whether or not a few of this year's juniors will declare for the draft. What have you heard on the following players:

DeAngelo Hall, CB Virginia Tech
Derrick Johnson, LB Texas
Randy Starks, DT Maryland
Chris Gamble, CB Ohio State
Michael Clayton, WR LSU

Thanks Mike, keep up the great work!


From: Mike Detillier
To: Dome Patrol
Date: 12/4/03

Dome Patrol thanks for the nice remarks, I certainly appreciate them..

GM Mickey Loomis has said he will try and do what he can to keep DE. Darren Howard on the team. He has also stated that Howard's injury will not put a damper on negotiations and I certainly expect the Saints to make every effort to keep Howard in New Orleans.

Now, with that said, it is really in Howard's court. He may want to see what is out there on the open market. I would hope Darren would want to stay in New Orleans. The negotiations-part between Howard and the Saints have been real low-key and normally that is a good sign that progress has been made. Normally when a player is unhappy you hear about it either thru him or his agent and so for, it has been quiet. It should be priority NO.1 to get Darren Howard signed for a number for years.

At DT. the Saints need to get a veteran inside player. You already have two young players in J. Sullivan and K. Allen, so another veteran DT. must be brought into the fold. I really believe that healthy that Willie Whitehead will do a solid job inside, but another veteran should be added in the off-season. I would really be surprised to see this team use another real high pick on another DT.

Top veteran DT's in the free agent pool are:
Warren Sapp- Tampa Bay Bucs (He ain't coming to New Orleans)

Rod Coleman- Oakland Raiders
Brian Young- St. Louis Rams
Cornelius Griffin- New York Giants
Kendrick Clancy- Pittsburgh Steelers
Ted Washington- New England Patriots

I would think the Saints would pay middle range money for a veteran DT. and really spend some money on a top-flight cornerback and linebacker.

So far only two players, HB. Kevin Jones- Virginia Tech and FB. Mark Pierce-Arkansas have declared to come out early. I have heard speculation that every one of those players you have named are seriously considering coming out early, but let's wait and see until they make the official announcements. Jones, from Virginia Tech should go in Round 1, while Pierce a really good blocking fullback probably will go in the 5th or 6th round due to some off the field problems and some concerns about his injured shoulder.

Just remember that this is the poorest senior class I have ever graded and that's since 1985, so expect a whole lot of juniors to declare early.
Take Care.


Name: Lester, Charles
Handle: Geauxsaint
From: Los Angeles, CA

Hey Mike,
You truly are a lighthouse in the dark mire that is the Saints season! Being in the United States Coast Guard (the forgotten branch of the military) and stuck in Los Angeles, I have depended on your words to help me through these recent dismal seasons!

I have a few of questions for you. With the inconsistent play of the team over the last couple of seasons, do you think that Coach Haslett's future is in jeopardy (whether or not we make the playoffs)? If so, who would be a good fit for the talent that we have? Is Aaron Brooks the QB that we need to get us to the next level? Also, who should we draft in the first round next year that could have an immediate impact?

Thank you in advance for you words of wisdom and God bless!



From: Mike Detillier
To: Geauxsaint
Date: 12/4/03

GeauxSaint, thanks for the kind words. Man, take care of yourself in the Guard..

I can't put myself in Tom Benson's shoes, but I have always felt he will retain Jim Haslett for another season. Changes on the staff will be made and who knows what else, but when you have underachieved as much as this team has, especially on offense, there has to be someone to take the blame. If you catch my drift..

Aaron Brooks is a streaky quarterback, but what disturbs me the most is that you see little upgrade in his overall game over the past two seasons and I blame that on coaching. When you see the dramatic upgrade in skills in a Quincy Carter, Jon Kitna , Jake Delhomme, Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck, you have to give credit to the coaching staff of those teams for maximizing the talent on hand. I don't see that with this offensive staff at all. Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi takes a lot of heat, but for the talent level he is playing with he has almost gone to the limit to get the most out of it and Mike McCarthy's squad seems to spin in wet-grass most of the game, with the exception of the play of Deuce McAllister.
Pre-snap penalties, late play-calling, dropped passes, fumbles, etc. etc., aren't Brooks' fault. For Brooks to bring his game to the next level he has to be able to use his legs more ( on the run) and play a smarter brand of football. I know he has the athletic ability to be a more mobile quarterback, but maybe a change of minds is needed, offensive coordinator and QB's coach, to max out Brooks' overall skills. Just look at what has happened to the others, who don't even have his overall athletic skills.

I would go after either a linebacker or a top cover cornerback in the 1st round. It's still really early to give out a name, but it's obvious that Ashley Ambrose has lost a step and probably two steps and you just might have to cut your losses with Dale Carter. Carter is still a good player, but at his age you can see he just can't stay healthy and normally that is the first sign that a player is descending skills-wise.

I would love to see this team make a big -play for SF. 49er unrestricted free agent OLB. Julian Peterson. He is one of the most complete LB's in the game. Just have to wonder how the 49ers will handle this money situation with Peterson, WR. Terrell Owens and CB. Ahmed Plummer, all unrestricted free agents. They would be crazy to let Peterson walk, but he would be a great pick-up.

Either Auburn OLB. Karlos Dansby or South Carolina CB. Dunta Robinson would be great pick-ups in the 1st round.

God Bless and stay safe..


Name: Sgt. Martbright
From: Saudi Arabi

Mike, I am in the military in the Middle East, but I can still get all the info on the Saints thru the SaintsReport and you. Thanks so much for answering these questions and giving us military folks a little taste of home. Believe me the guys here appreciate what you are doing for all of us.

Couple of questions: How can the locals and national media not see just how good Deuce McAllister is? Do you think he is getting the credit he deserves?

2nd question: Do you think it was a good idea to re-sign Todd Bouman?

3rd question: Sedrick Hodge is a promising athlete, but he just never seems to come up with game-changing plays. What is the missing element in his game?
4th question: How do you see the development of TE. Boo Williams?



From: Mike Detillier
To: Sgt. Martbright
Date: 12/4/03

Sgt., I appreciate the real kind remarks and I appreciate the job you guys are doing under some real tough circumstances. Stay safe and get back home real soon.

I am really surprised that many locals really don't' understand just how good Deuce McAllister really is.

I have said for weeks that in my opinion he is the MVP in the NFC and I really believe that. He is starting to get some real good coverage nationally and that should help promote his cause. Deuce is a terrific football player and if he were on a winning team, it would be a sure-shot bet he would be the MVP in the conference. If gets the publicity or not the people who know and understand football the most know just how good and productive he really is.

2.) Yes, I really believe it was a good decision to sign Todd Bouman. Todd's a good back-up quarterback and in this league you would want a #2 QB. with experience and moxy and Bouman has that. If Brooks would go down to an injury Todd Bouman would come in and do a really good job. I like his toughness, his arm strength and accuracy and his ability to always want to make something big happen on the field.

3.) Sedrick is a good athlete and he has excellent athletic skills, but he lacks top instincts to the ball. He has some hesitation in his play, but once he gets himself headed in the right direction, he makes plays. It may be just a matter of experience and getting into a football groove, but the one thing that Sedrick lacks right now is that real quick initial step to make a play. In many ways his play patterns that of Mark Fields, when he was in New Orleans. Now, Hodge is a smarter football player than Fields was early in his career, but the slight hesitation in play has kept him from being the player I really think he can be. This defensive scheme seems too structured for him.

When Fields went to Carolina last season and they turned him loose he was a totally different player.
I still have high hopes that Hodge will turn out to be an impact player, but the one element of this game that is missing right now is top instincts to the ball and making that real sharp, quick decision to get to a play.

4.) Sgt., I will be totally honest on this one, I really didn't think that Boo Williams would make the roster when the training camp period started. With Conwell here, along with David Sloan and Walter Rasby, I really thought this team would try and develop Zach Hilton and cast Williams aside, but he has really played pretty well.

Boo still makes some dumb mistakes, but he has really started to become a more consistent player out on the field and he catches the ball much better now than earlier. While he always had the athletic skills, speed and big-play skills, he was a very inconsistent receiver and a below average blocker. While he is still not a real strong in-line blocker, he is better and he gives solid effort in this department. He now has developed a good feel for working himself open in the middle of the field and he catches the ball much cleaner and he shows much better concentration skills. Boo has a bit of a goof-off type personality and if he can mature more and become more consistent, he has a chance to be a good player in this league.

His production has really risen up the charts the past few weeks, with Conwell down with an injury.
Also, Aaron Brooks seems to have confidence in him and he gets him the ball. Joe Horn always had confidence that Boo could be a good player, if he got better concentration skills and he buckled down to business more. Looks like with some maturity Boo Williams has turned into a pretty good football player.


Name: Kevin
Handle: Infoman
From: Westwego


I would like to first thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and giving us the "inside scoop" on the Saints. I look forward to your thoughts and analysis every week, and enjoy your straight forward insights on Saints football.

1.) With Joe Horn getting up there in age, and Stallworth constantly fighting the injury bug... do you think the Saints will try to go after a "big ticket" WR in the off-season as a free agent... or draft one... or stand pat with what they have? If they do go after one... who do you think are the most likely targets in both free agency and the draft?

2.) In my opinion, the biggest area of need on this Saints team is at the LB spot. Thus far, the only LB's the Saints front office seem to go after are "project" free agent LB's that other teams don't want... and they draft LB's in the middle rounds for depth. Do you see any "impact" free agent LB's out there this off-season that the Saints may go after... or are there any "impact" LBs that may be had in the draft this year?

3.) In my opinion, Deuce McAllister is quickly becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL. Do you think the Saints front office will take some steps soon to make him a Saint for life, and rework his rookie contract. To me, it's obvious that he IS the Saints... will the Saints pay him like it, or will they let him play on his rookie contract until it's up?

4) How is Mel Mitchell progressing?

Again, thanks for taking the time Mike. We really appreciate the information and opinions, keep it up.

PS. What LSU players do you see going in the 1st round this year, if any?


From: Mike Detillier
To: Infoman
Date: 12/4/03

Infoman, I appreciate the nice remarks..Thanks

1.) No, I really don't see this team putting a lot of money or a high draft choice in another wide receiver. They really do like the progress of young WR's Derrick Lewis and Talman Gardner.

Joe Horn is still a top-flight NFL receiver, but the biggest concern is Stallworth. Somehow, someway you have to be able to push the right buttons with him to play thru pain. Right now he doesn't know the difference between NFL pain and injury. You couldn't get full value for him in a trade, so you have to work with him to get through this stretch of his NFL career in which he really can't put himself out on the field, unless he's 100% healthy. In the NFL he has to understand everyone plays thru these pains in November and December.

What's really hurt this team is that not only is Stallworth down and Michael Lewis hurting, but that for whatever reason Jerome Pathon, who was really a solid performer last season, has been lost in the shuffle.

I don't understand why Pathon has just not been thrown to more, especially with DB's rolling up their coverage's on Joe Horn more and more. This team has to get him more involved with the gameplan. That's a coaching problem.

2.) I agree on the LB. part completely and I have said that to me just like Takeo Spikes was last season, 49ers OLB. Julian Peterson is to the crop of 2004, if the 49ers don't protect him.

It's a huge talent drop-off after Peterson, believe me, in the available pool.

Potential impact LB's to be picked in the opening round of the 2004 draft would be seniors: D.J. Williams- Miami (Fla.), Karlos Dansby (Auburn), and MLB. Jonathan Vilma- Miami (Fla.)

Texas' junior OLB. Derrick Johnson looks like a real impact performer also, if he declares early and likely a very early first round pick.

3.) You know I have said for the past few weeks that it would be a crying shame if Deuce McAllister is not named the NFC Player of the Year. You really can't make a good argument that he doesn't deserve the award. To say that he is not on a winning team and doesn't deserve the award is B.S., pure and simple.

Carolina's Stephen Davis and WR. Torry Holt of the St. Louis Rams are having great years also, but even though Deuce is not playing on a better than.500 club, he is the best player, right now, in the NFC. He has been absolutely the best player I have seen in this conference all season long. He does have some real nice incentives built into his contract so, he's not going to go unrewarded for his efforts. It's a shame this team has not played with the same passion and heart McAllister has all season long.

It's a question to pose to Mickey Loomis, if they will rework his deal, but I doubt it will happen next season.

4.) Mel Mitchell is doing OK and he is fully expected to make a complete comeback. Coaches say he is ahead of the expected recovery schedule. The injury happening in late August gives him plenty of time to rehab for the 2004 season, but reports are that he is doing well.

5.) I have written this for the past few months and I understand now others are following along, but DT. Chad Lavalais has played himself into the 1st round. This guy has been great all season long for the Tigers and I expect him to go in the latter part of Round One. If WR. Michael Clayton announces he is coming out, expect to see him picked in the teens (13-19) part of Round One in 2004.

Thanks for the nice words and take care.


Name: Scott
From: Toronto,Canada


First, kudos on a great column, you always speak with an articulate and intelligent voice.

What is your take on Dale Carter and Fred Thomas, the Saints two starting corners? From what I've seen Thomas is as feisty as ever and Carter seems to be taking WR's out of games,yet no one gives these two or Ambrose any credit...

I know that he has been hindered by injuries, but I think Carter can shut down a Wideout better than anyone in the NFL when he's focused, and Thomas is always playing in WR's hip pocket...but these two never get any credit. What gives?


From: Mike Detillier
To: Scott
Date: 12/4/03


Fred Thomas has played pretty well this season and he has steadily developed into a good cover cornerback in the league. He has been a bit inconsistent from time to time, but he has played very well this season. He's not real big and he's not a very physical player, but he plays hard and he has excellent closing speed to the ball. I just wish he had better hands. He does drop a host of would-be interceptions. He is in the final year of his contract and I would certainly like to see him back with this club.

I agree with you that when healthy Dale Carter is still a very good cover-man, but he has missed quite a bit of time due to injuries. With a lot of very talented players, it's not that they don't have the skills anymore, but it's the fact that injuries keep them on the shelf quite a bit.

Dale is still a quality performer, but you can tell that father-time is starting to take it's toll on him. I really don't know if this team can afford to bring him back with his current salary, knowing he will probably miss considerable time again next season. He is 34 years old right now. If he's healthy, Yes, he is still a shut-down cornerback, but we just don't get to see enough of if because of all the injuries he has had this season.

God Bless him, Ashley Ambrose is still a real sharp player, but he just is not a starting player at this point in his career. As a #3 cornerback, he's OK, but because of the injuries to Carter, he's now back as a starter. Ashley has lost a step or two and while he is still a ballhawk, he is taking a whole lot more chances with the ball in the air and getting beat. His openfield tackling has been real shaky also. As a #3 cornerback he still has some life, but not as a starter.

The secondary has really been helped the past few weeks due to the return of DE. Darren Howard and the upgrade in play consistency with DE. Charles Grant. Both Carter and Thomas have played pretty well this season, when they have been healthy and with the exception of the Tennessee and Indy game, the cornerback play has been better than I thought it would be this season. Good point Scott. Thanks for the nice remarks, I appreciate them.


Name: Talley, Ben
From: DeRidder, La.

Hey Mike, have you ever considered being a General Manager for a NFL team (New Orleans Saints)?

Anyway, in your opinion, why can't Haslett seem to light a fire under these guys and get them to play like the 2000 team. Something seems to be missing from this team but no one seems to be able to put a finger on it. I mean Brooks looks like he doesn't care most of the time, the receivers are dropping balls and the defense has no talent except along the D-line. What changes do you see coming in the off-season? Thanks again for your valuable insight and time.


From: Mike Detillier
To: Ben Talley
Date: 12/4/03

No Ben, I haven't considered getting into the NFL, but I probably would fit into Tom Benson's price range.

Just kidding..

Ben, I really don't' know how to answer that question and it is the most asked question about the Saints. For whatever reason Haslett has just not been able to reach out and figure out the best way to maximize the talent on hand. To be honest the disappointment this season has just been the lack of consistency and the inability for this team to score points offensively.

Despite not having great talent on defense they are playing well enough that if the offense could score points like they did last season, this team would have a legitimate chance to reach the playoffs, but honestly I have no confidence in what is happening offensively.

In the 4th year of a regime, the talent is yours, along with the coaching and to be honest, I don't see the ability of this staff to jump-start this squad in December. Now, I really do feel strongly that the Saints will beat the Bucs this coming Sunday, but I could also see this team come back and drop the remaining games to the N.Y. Giants, Jacksonville and Dallas.

As this point in time, I see Jim Haslett returning to the team as head coach, but I certainly believe he would have to make changes on the staff.

This team needs to upgrade the talent level, especially on defense by acquiring starting players at cornerback, outside LB., middle linebacker and an experienced veteran DT., who could be alternated. On offense this team will have to reconfigure their offensive line, especially at the center/guard spot, but mostly with players already on the roster. A quality young left tackle must be looked at closely.

Ben, this team has no real identity.

To be honest most teams take on the personality of their coach and that is not a good sing for Haslett. With all the penalties, mental assignment misses, lackadaisical 1st half play, questionable play-calling, all this reflects on Haslett. In the NFL today, the face of the team is the head coach in most cases. You have to figure that Tom Benson is not real happy about shelling out the type money he has spent and gotten middle of the road results.
Take Care.

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