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Sullivan would be bonus for Saints...

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Sullivan would be bonus for Saints Team hopes to put D-line in right mix Nick Deriso nderiso@thenewsstar.com August 2, 2004 Will Smith, left, the Saints' top draft pick this year, fights off Wayne Gandy in his first full day of ...

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Old 08-02-2004, 04:34 PM   #1
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Sullivan would be bonus for Saints...

Sullivan would be bonus for Saints
Team hopes to put D-line in right mix
Nick Deriso

August 2, 2004

Will Smith, left, the Saints' top draft pick this year, fights off Wayne Gandy in his first full day of training camp Sunday.The New Orleans Saints were already talking about a rotation scheme for the defensive line.

Who knew it would be because some of the linemen wouldn't be ready to play?

Tackle Johnathan Sullivan, last season's No. 1 pick, arrived for summer training camp more than 15 pounds overweight.

The team also held two practices without this year's first-round draft pick - Ohio State's Will Smith, who finally finished a six-year deal on Saturday. Smith saw extensive action on Sunday, as the team practiced defending on third down.

"We're going to try to keep guys fresh," said Saints coach Jim Haslett. "As they get in situations where a team is going to throw the ball, we have the ability to move people around - and really utilize our speed and athleticism."

But he hadn't counted on having Smith just yet.

"I wasn't expecting him," Haslett said. "I was concentrating on other areas."

So, the only talk of rotation had involved Sullivan on the stationary bike: "He ran and did extra workouts," Haslett said. "If he can't get it down, we'll get it down for him."

Sullivan looked frustrated and confused for much of the weekend, though he didn't admit to being down about his demotion.

"They have been very patient with me. They are working with me a lot," said Sullivan, the first college defensive tackle the Saints have ever drafted in the first round. "They haven't said anything negative toward me. There's still a long time before the games start."

In fact, new defensive line coach John Pease was intent on rehabilitating a once-promising prospect who could be headed toward the bench: "He's working extra after practice to get into the shape we need him to be in," Pease said. "He knows what he needs to do and where we need him to be."

Still, Sullivan's continued struggles have created an opportunity for young players like rookie defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, who started 40 of 43 possible games for UCLA.

"That's what I'm here to do," Leisle said. "I'm here to keep improving myself, and hopefully help us get to a championship."

But, because his graduation date wasn't until July 18, Leisle missed the entire off-season program. "Everything is new to him, while for everyone else it's their third time," Haslett said.

So LSU product Howard Green, who played in three games last season for New Orleans, took Sullivan's spot at left defensive tackle with the first team.

"If he continues playing the way he's playing right now," Haslett said, "there's no reason he couldn't start for a football team. He'll continue to be there until somebody starts playing better than him."

Free agent Brian Young has locked up his spot as the right tackle.

"His enthusiasm, his energy - we needed an infusion of that. Particularly on the defensive line, where we have a lot of talent," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who attended the Saturday evening practice after signing Smith. "The more guys like that on the roster, the more successful you will be."

Smith immediately impressed.

"He's a strong guy," said right defensive end Darren Howard. "Big legs. Good technique. Good leverage. He's going to be a great player."

The ends are rounded out by Charles Grant on the left side, one of an astounding four former top picks on this line.

"But like I always say, this is the National Football League. Nobody is going to give you anything," said Grant, who finished last season with a team-high 10 sacks. "You've got to go out there and take it. We've got all these guys now, but that doesn't mean the NFL going to lay down. This year's schedule is as hard as any since I've been in the league."

Loomis added that this could be a breakout season for Grant, too.

"I thought Charles made a lot of progress last year," Loomis said. "We feel good about Charles' progress. We expect him to get better as he gets more experience in the league - and year three is usually a watershed year."

Willie Whitehead, a versatile performer who can play both end and tackle, is still suffering from a 2003 knee injury. The team is slated to decide today on whether to leave him on the physically unable to perform list.

Howard, after missing eight games last season with a dislocated wrist, knows the feeling.

"It was really tough, just sitting on the sidelines watching - not being able to do anything," said Howard, who set a club record for rookie sacks in 2000. "I've been playing football since I was 8, and that's the first time everybody else was playing and I wasn't."

Howard would explode for four tackles, a sack and a pass defensed in his return game against Atlanta on Nov. 16. "I think I showed, when I came back, how much I missed it," he said.

Howard's own stalled contract negotiations over the off-season resulted in his being designated as the team's franchise player in February. Howard said he's unconcerned about the situation.

"I've signed a one-year deal," he said. "I know I am here this year, and that's what I am focused on right now."

A relieved-sounding Smith is hoping for the same kind of singular determination.

"I love to play football. Now that this contract stuff is out of the way," Smith said, "I can focus on football."

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Old 08-03-2004, 02:46 AM   #2
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Sullivan would be bonus for Saints...

Sullivan is a joke and will be an absolute bust for this team. I know hindsight is 20/20 but for a team with numerous holes on defense at the time; we should have kept our two picks or even traded down. Now we are stuck with a young version of Grady Jackson with a huge gut and contract.
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Old 08-03-2004, 03:17 PM   #3
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Sullivan would be bonus for Saints...

Amen. I haed that move then. I hate it even more now. Even if Sullivan turns it all around and plays like a Warren or Wilks or Martin for the next 10 years I\'ll still think that was a dumb move at the time. Wasted, wasted, wasted picks. The Saints could have William Joseph AND Andre Wollfolk right now. Instead they\'ve got Grady junior.
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