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saintz08 09-02-2004 09:09 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
New Orleans Saints

3rd in NFC South, Dr. Z's Rank: 22nd overall

Schedule Strength
NFL rank: 20
Opponents' 2003 winning percentage: .504
Games against playoff teams: 8
Player on the Rise
Blessed with soft hands and 4.2 speed, DONTE' STALLWORTH averaged 19.4 yards a reception last season. Trouble was, he had only 25 catches, missing parts of seven games with hamstring injuries. He worked with a flexibility coach in the off-season and stretched for 20 minutes after each practice this summer. He looked dominant in camp, not at all hamstrung.


After three seasons of underachieving, the players say they've buckled down and eliminated the distractions that kept them out of the playoffs

The prevailing silence in the Saints' locker room at their Metairie, La., training camp was unsettling because it was so different from the cacophony of New Orleans locker rooms in the past, in which screaming voices and booming bass lines and wideout Joe Horn's every thought -- volubly expressed -- merged into a wicked din. Gone is the row of card and domino tables that made the room seem a low-rent casino, where one high-stakes game last year ended in a postpractice brawl between center LeCharles Bentley and tackle Victor Riley. And gone, too, coach Jim Haslett hopes, are most of the distractions he believes contributed to the team's missing the playoffs for the third straight season.

If Haslett's decision to take strict control of his locker room seems a tad harsh, good luck finding a Saints player who agrees with that assessment. Despite a roster with highlight-reel potential on both sides of the ball, the Saints have wandered in a .500 wasteland since the heady days of 2000, when new quarterback Aaron Brooks emerged to lead the team to a playoff victory over the Rams. Since then, however, Haslett has faced criticism from the media and the fans that his talented players lack discipline and fundamentals; last year, in a hailstorm of lost fumbles and missed tackles, New Orleans limped to a 1-4 start and was finished. So Haslett clamped down on the players and replaced two assistants (receivers coach Hubbard Alexander and defensive line coach Sam Clancy were fired), and essentially dared anyone to cross him.

"It gets a little tiring hearing about how loaded we are every year," Haslett says. "Last year we just weren't good enough on defense. We just couldn't tackle. So we decided in the off-season to go back to the fundamentals. There'll be a different focus, a different effort out there this year. There had better be."

Nowhere is there more urgency than on the defensive line, a big-ticket unit that includes three first-round picks, a group that was gashed for 140.1 yards a game and 4.7 yards a carry last year. Right end Darren Howard, the team's most complete defender, says the coaches didn't spare any feelings when they addressed the line's many shortcomings in the team's minicamps. "They let us know how bad we were, and they were right," Howard says. "Our technique got sloppy. We stopped doing the elementary things. So we've worked on lining up tighter, closing down gaps and tackling the way we know how."

Among the new drills instituted at training camp was a tackling exercise in which each defensive player hit an unmanned solo blocking sled, drove it back and then wrenched the apparatus over on its side. It's an ideal drill for defensive tackle Brian Young, a free-agent signee whose hyperaggressive style should mesh with the solid play of Howard and left end Charles Grant. But the key to the unit is the development of the sixth pick in last year's draft, defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, who was terrible in '03 then reported to camp out of shape and was dropped from the starting lineup by an irate Haslett. Sullivan is needed to occupy blockers, which helps the Saints' anemic pass rush (32 sacks, of which Grant had 10). To that end New Orleans also used its first pick this year on end Will Smith from Ohio State, a speedy rush specialist who'll be used on passing downs.

The line will need more help than it's been getting from an average linebacking corps and a creaky secondary that relies on underrated cornerback Fred Thomas and hopes for one more good season from 13-year veteran corner Ashley Ambrose.

Offensively, Brooks is coming off a year that was a microcosm of the Saints' up-and-down fortunes. Despite throwing for 3,546 yards, 24 touchdowns and a league-low eight interceptions (for 16 games), he also lost a league-high 11 fumbles, several of which he simply dropped. Theories abounded -- hands too wet, hands too dry, poor ball holding technique -- but Brooks and Haslett chalk it up to bad luck. "Aaron is the guy here," Haslett says. "When he's going well, he's one of the best quarterbacks in football. I see him taking us where we need to go this year."

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200.../08/31/saints/





saintz08 09-02-2004 09:12 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
My personal favorite part :

Quote:

he also lost a league-high 11 fumbles, several of which he simply dropped. Theories abounded -- hands too wet, hands too dry, poor ball holding technique -- but Brooks and Haslett chalk it up to bad luck.
Great .... No need to find the reason ......just bad luck ...... :casstet:

Brooks led the league in bad luck ..... ;)

[Edited on 3/9/2004 by saintz08]

saintz08 09-02-2004 11:10 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Full division ranking

NFC SOUTH

PANTHERS


The thing that makes me nervous about the Cats is that Vegas has given them 8 1/2 as their over-under number for regular-season wins. Shocking way to treat a returning Super Bowler, you say. Well, I was even more shocked two years ago when the same number was assigned to the defending Supe champ New England, and damned if the Patriots didn\'t crash and finish at 9-7 (just barely over the Vegas line) and out of the playoffs. Well, we know that those boys out there don\'t like to donate funds, so what is there about Carolina that they don\'t like? O-line? Yeah, I guess. Missing a tackle big time. Defense lost RCB Bobby Howard. Jake Delhomme can only get better, right? Ah, the hell with it and Vegas, too. I\'ve got the Panthers facing Seattle in the NFC championship. Whoops, I just gave it away.

FALCONS


I\'m mad at them because they fired a friend of mine and one of the really good PR men in the league, Aaron Salkin. They said he had gotten too close to writers. Jim Mora Jr. seems like an energetic young coach, and we\'ll see how much one high profile CB, DeAngelo Hall, can do for a secondary that was one of the league\'s worst last year, working behind a 3-4 line that had the wrong personnel for it. But we\'ll have to wait until November for all that, because the news this week is that Hall has a fractured hip and will miss six to 10 weeks. What\'s all this got to do with the PR man you ask. I want to know who asked that question. He just doesn\'t understand things.

SAINTS


I\'ve heard people call them a Super Bowl dark horse this year. Why? What\'s really changed? Of course when I heard the people call them that, I could hear juke box music in the background.

BUCCANEERS


My instincts tell me a crash is coming. All that frantic thrashing about in the free-agent jungles, and now they\'ve got what? A team without a keynote runner, receiver or QB. You say you like Charlie Garner? Me, too, but he\'s 32 and seems to be on the wane. Carried the ball only 35 times in the last eight games of 2003. Joey Galloway? Sure, a long-ball threat, but he\'ll be 33 in November and he\'s coming off a year in which he caught 17 passes, with one TD, during the last 10 games of the regular season. And so forth.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...ngs/index.html


Danno 09-03-2004 07:39 AM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

SAINTS


I\'ve heard people call them a Super Bowl dark horse this year. Why? What\'s really changed? Of course when I heard the people call them that, I could hear juke box music in the background.
Pehaps it was just a banjo played by the typical fat barefoot toothless coonass who don\'t know no better than to jis raise hell, crawfish and get drunk!

Yea Z thats a good one.

WhoDat 09-03-2004 10:17 AM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

Brooks and Haslett chalk it up to bad luck.
LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey Saintfan, you\'ve been vindicated! You should be all over this. Haslett really is the unluckiest coach in the league - you argument is rightI guess. LMAO.


saintfan 09-03-2004 12:47 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

Hey Saintfan, you\'ve been vindicated! You should be all over this. Haslett really is the unluckiest coach in the league - you argument is rightI guess. LMAO.
Oh, I thought it was Delhomme who was the unluckiest. Go figure.

Laugh it up fur ball. Keep harpin\' on the \"bad luck\" thing as if you didn\'t know what I meant. That\'s fine. It\'s not my ignorance that\'s showin\'. ;)

BlackandBlue 09-03-2004 12:56 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

Oh, I thought it was Delhomme who was the unluckiest.
Uhhhhhh, no. Managed to do in one season what the Saints haven\'t in their existence.

Dr. Z can go hopping, hand in hand with Peter King, into moron-ville. Not sure which is the bigger boob.

whowatches 09-03-2004 01:14 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

SAINTS


I\'ve heard people call them a Super Bowl dark horse this year. Why? What\'s really changed? Of course when I heard the people call them that, I could hear juke box music in the background.
Thanks, Dr. Z, for gracing our fledgling football minds with your amazing, analytical insight. Here little ole me was, worrying about how the Saints would do this year, and you answered it for me in a few cliched, rambling, shallow sentences of journalistic spooge.

Why would anyone doubt that SI is the center of the Sports Universe?

:casstet:

saintz08 09-03-2004 01:15 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

Laugh it up fur ball. Keep harpin\' on the \"bad luck\" thing as if you didn\'t know what I meant. That\'s fine. It\'s not my ignorance that\'s showin\'.
:P

Here I was thinking Brooks needed to tighten his grip or put a towel on the center to stop dropping the ball .

Turns out they just need to stick a voodoo charm in his jock .......


whowatches 09-03-2004 01:19 PM

Dr. Z's Rank
 
Quote:

Turns out they just need to stick a voodoo charm in his jock .......
I\'d give him mine, but it\'\'s kinda sweaty. :(


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