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mayoj 06-19-2005 10:28 PM


Look for free safety Dwight Smith to be the wild card in the defense. The Saints are so enamored with his skills and versatility they plan to use him in a variety of positions, including linebacker and cornerback. Smith started his career at cornerback and is comfortable lining up against receivers, which gives coordinator Rick Venturi greater flexibility in coverage and pressure packages. The Saints planned to employ the same role with Smith's predecessor, Tebucky Jones, but they were forced to abandon it quickly because of Jones' poor ball skills. That won't be a problem for Smith, who has made 12 interceptions the past three seasons. Because the linebacker corps lacks great blitzers, Smith is also being utilized in that role in passing situations. His instincts and physical attitude make him a factor as a blitzer off the edge. . . .

James Allen has quietly enjoyed a strong offseason and has solidified the strongside linebacker spot. He's playing with confidence and is the unit's most physical player. The Saints have lacked a good strongside player in recent years when Sedrick Hodge and Keith Mitchell manned the spot. Neither player was as physical as coaches would like. Allen's play is another reason the staff is confident the defense will continue to improve in 2005.

SCOUTING REPORT: Cornerback Mike McKenzie solidified the Saints defense last season when he joined the roster in a mid-season trade from Green Bay. McKenzie isn't particularly strong or fast, but he's instinctive and smart. He knows how to bait receivers and quarterbacks with his eyes and body language and still has the recovery ability to make plays on the ball. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to adjust to balls in air while on the run. He also has excellent hands. He tends to get sloppy with his technique and isn't a great practice player, so there's always a fear that his performance will drop off drastically once his physical skills deteriorate.

OFFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: The Saints plan to use Donte' Stallworth as the slot man in three-receiver sets. The alignment will feature the speedy Devery Henderson and Pro Bowl receiver Joe Horn outside, testing the strategy of opposing defenses. If teams put their top cover man on Stallworth, that will leave them vulnerable for big plays deep. If they leave Stallworth in single coverage against a weaker corner, the Saints will attack that matchup both vertically and horizontally all day long. Stallworth's ability to separate from defenders with his explosive speed and strength is unrivaled on the Saints roster. The fourth-year receiver appears poised for a breakout season, and the strategic move should increase his production significantly.

INSIDE DISH: Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant director of football administration Russ Ball have a busy offseason ahead. They face long-term contract negotiations with five of the team's top players: running back Deuce McAllister, center LeCharles Bentley, defensive end Darren Howard, and cornerbacks Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown. Talks with McAllister have begun, but the sides are far enough apart that there's some concern that a deal won't get done. McAllister is seeking a deal similar to the eight-year, $50.5 million contract Clinton Portis received from Washington in 2004. The Saints are offering considerably less. If a deal isn't signed before the start of training camp, McAllister says he plans to table talks until after the season. The Saints would be wise to not let it reach that point. McAllister appears poised for a monster season behind a retooled offensive line and scheme. That will only increase his asking price. Plus, his deal is holding up negotiations on the other deals.

WIDE RECEIVERS ANALYSIS: Grade B+. Donte' Stallworth and Joe Horn are explosive front-line starters. Second-year man Devery Henderson needs to step up and become a reliable third option.

I'm at a three quarter salute over this one.

Euphoria 06-19-2005 11:48 PM

well not its official... we barely go 7-9 now. if this isn't hype I don't know what is...

Euphoria 06-20-2005 12:45 AM

...another thing that concerns me is having him play everywheres, go ahead get him hurt so we have an excuse to not make the playoffs. I want him at saftey! We don't need him at corner or LB

saintz08 06-20-2005 01:29 AM


He knows how to bait receivers and quarterbacks with his eyes and body language and still has the recovery ability to make plays on the ball.
McKenzie and Brooks should go out for a couple of beers and Brooks can teach McKenzie his personal eye ownership technique .....

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