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baronm 03-08-2005 09:34 AM

not a complimentary article

New Orleans Saints head coach, Jim Haslett, has committed himself to decreasing offensive mistakes for the 2005 season. How will he do this? Chris Kidder breaks it down like only he can do.


By Chris Kidder
SportsOutlaw columnis

After two years of disappointing seasons overall, but strong finishes, one might discern a pattern in the way that Jim Haslett’s teams perform. One might even think that Haslett apparently thinks that the preseason continues all the way to week 8 or so. It takes a while for him to get his players to do what they’re supposed to do all year. So, one might wonder why he’s still around. And I don’t have a good answer for that. Somehow Coach Haslett is back for another year, but he’s shaken up his staff in order to try to fix what’s not working.

The most recent fix is the promotion of Mike Sheppard, the former QB Coach, to Offensive Coordinator. This is good news for the passing game, and especially for Aaron Brooks, who has had some statistically good years under Sheppard’s watch. It should also mean good things for the receiving corps, assuming that they stop their under-achieving ways. To that end, the Saints only offensive concern this year during the off-season needs to be looking at their WRs. Joe Horn is the only non-question-mark. It hurts me to say this, because I’ve been a big supporter of Jerome Pathon (especially back in his Indy days), but he needs to go. Perhaps a change of scenery would do him best, and right now he’s certainly not doing the Saints any good as a #3. Donte Stallworth has never lived up to the expectations placed on him since his rookie draft. The question is, can he ever live up to them? The Saints need an answer to that question sooner rather than later. No matter the answer, look for the Saints to draft at least one WR to take care of the issue.

Wide out isn’t nearly the concern that the defense is, however. If you play defense for the Saints, and you’re not a member of the line, I’d recommend preparing for a huge position battle this summer, or just pack your bags and go, because your replacements will be selected shortly. Top priority in the draft has to be in the secondary. Corner Back is top need, because coverage was sorely lacking last year, and corners that can hit will be at a premium. I’d look for the Saints to go CB in round one, unless the top safety prospect happens to still be on the board. If that’s the case, then waiting for one round wouldn’t hurt too badly. Why? Well, here’s the thing…Jay Bellamy isn’t getting any younger (he’s 33), and he’s not performing to the level that was expected of him. Tebucky Jones is a disappointment as well, but when it comes down to it, he’s younger. If both could be upgraded, that would be a huge difference in shutting down the run, as well as backing up the corners. One of the main problems wasn’t only that the receivers caught the ball, but that they could keep running against New Orleans’s corners. That means better tackling is needed in the secondary, all the way around.

The Line backing corps was starting to look like a functional unit by the end of the season, but four games do not a season make. Adding some veteran leadership to this young crew through Free Agency would be a good idea. We’ll see who becomes available in the very near future.

I’m not looking for this to be a great season from the Saints. Actually, I’m expecting Jim Haslett to demonstrate once again why he should be pulled from the ranks of NFL Head Coaches. But if the moves that the team makes this off-season are wise, whoever inherits the squad from him will be set with some great young talent to build on.


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