Scouts, Inc. breaks down the 2005 New Orleans Saints
Aaron Brooks has awesome potential. He puts god zip on his downfield passes, flashes the ability to lead receivers when throwing underneath and is a dangerous open field runner. The problem is he has yet to realize that potential, as he doesn't always make sound decisions and appears to have problems reading defenses at times. However, don't give up on Brooks yet.
New Orleans is expected to simplify his reads and give him more time to break the defense down by getting the play into the huddle quicker. If these adjustments have the desired effect, Brooks could have a big year.
Todd Bouman is tall enough to see the entire field, is athletic enough to buy time in the pocket and protects the ball fairly well, making him an adequate backup. At 32, he's on the downside of his career. He failed to throw a pass in a regular season game last year and would likely struggle if he had to start for an extended period of time, so it's important he stays healthy.
Keep an eye on 2005 fifth-round pick Adrian McPherson who is expected to move into the No. 3 role. Although he had some off-the-field problems at the collegiate level and doesn't show great mechanics, McPherson's upside is tremendous. He has excellent size, has above-average arm strength and is a dangerous open field runner. With Brooks turning 30 next year, McPherson could be the Saints' future at quarterback.
New Orleans is expected to show a greater commitment to the running game and for good reason, as Deuce McAllister is one of the best in the league. McAllister has the lower body strength to pick up the tough yards after contact, has the lateral mobility to bounce runs outside after starting inside and shows a second gear in the open field.
McAllister His biggest weakness as a runner is that he doesn't always hold onto the football and needs to practice better ball security. While he doesn't have great hands and drops some passes that should be caught, he's a homerun threat after the catch. Even more frightening for opposing defensive coordinators is the fact that McAllister is young and should only get better with more carries.
McAllister, who missed two games with an ankle injury last year, has had some problems staying healthy, but free-agent signing Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker provide excellent depth. While Smith's numbers have been declining over the past four seasons, and he's lost a step with age, he is a powerful between-the-tackles runner who can pick up the tough yards in short-yardage situations.
Stecker's versatility is his biggest strength. He is an efficient runner who reads his blocks well and a reliable possession receiver who rarely drops passes he should catch. However, he doesn't have great size or lower body strength.
Second-year Mike Karney is a physical lead blocker who does a nice job of getting into position at the second level and plays with a mean streak. Karney also has the hands to develop into a reliable safety valve in the passing game and is a powerful runner who rarely goes down with the first hit.
If he learns to drive through his blocks and keep his head up, he could have a breakout season. However, he'll have to fend off free-agent signing Jasen Isom during training camp. While Isom is undersized and coming off a season-ending injury, he plays with better technique and catches the ball well. He's also a good special teams' player who does a good job of covering kicks.
His post-touchdown celebrations are admittedly over the top at times, but Joe Horn is one of the best in the league and coming off the best season of his career. Horn is a precise route-runner who explodes out of his cuts and has the burst to consistently create separation working against man coverage. He also still shows a second gear when tracking the ball downfield, despite the fact he turned 33 during the offseason.
Donte' Stallworth is an adequate starter who has the potential to develop into an excellent No. 2 if he improves his route running. He has the leaping ability to compete for jump balls downfield and is a threat to go the distance after the catch. Second-year Devery Henderson and free-agent-signing Az-Zahir Hakim are expected to compete for the No. 3 job vacated by Jerome Pathon, who signed with Seattle during the off-season.
Henderson has added some bulk to his frame, has the quick feet to develop into a crisp route-runner and also shows a second gear when tracking the ball downfield. Hakim reaches his top speed quickly, can catch the ball in-stride and is dangerous after the catch. However, Henderson is a former running back who is still a little raw and, Hakim drops some passes he should catch.
In addition, both have had problems staying healthy, as Henderson has been slowed by hamstring injuries and Hakim hasn't played in all 16 games of a season since 2001. Although No. 5 Michael Lewis provides adequate depth, he lacks the size to play a significant role on offense, so it's important that one of them stays healthy.
There isn't a difference maker at tight end, but there is good depth. Starter Ernie Conwell has the quick first step to beat defenders to the point of attack and does a nice job of sustaining his blocks once in position. He also runs adequate routes and rarely drops passes he should catch.
Free-agent signing Shad Meier is expected to move into the backup role. Although Meier isn't a great in-line blocker and doesn't have great hands, he has adequate top-end speed and flashes the ability to work the seam. With Meier in the lineup Boo Williams will slide back into the No. 3 slot.
Williams is an inconsistent route-runner who rounds his cuts at times and is a liability as a blocker. However, he flashes the ability to make the tough catch in traffic and has the wide frame to shield defenders from the ball, so he has the potential to develop into a productive red-zone target.
The Saints' decision to revamp the right side of the offensive line should significantly improve this unit. However, a lot will depend on 2005 first-round pick Jammal Brown's ability to make an immediate impact at right tackle, where he is expected to replace Victor Riley, who signed with Houston during the offseason.
Brown doesn't always finish his blocks and needs to develop a mean streak, but there's no questioning his potential. He gets into good position, has the range to effectively pull and has the athletic ability to hold his own in pass protection. Free-agent signing Jermane Mayberry is expected to replace Montrae Holland at right guard. Mayberry is a powerful run blocker and is a sound pass blocker who uses technique to mask his lack of ideal athletic ability.
The rest of the offensive line remains the same and should be strong. OC LeCharles Bentley has the lateral mobility to get into position at the second level and he is a technician that rarely takes false steps.
LOG Kendyll Jacox is big enough to engulf defenders at the point of attack and runs well for his size. LOT Wayne Gandy can hold his own on an island in pass protection and is an efficient run blocker. In addition, Holland, OT Jon Stinchcomb and OC Jamar Nesbit provide good depth.
New Orleans tried to trade Darren Howard leading up to the draft, but it never got a deal done and it's highly unlikely he won't be on the opening day roster. The good news is Howard's return gives the Saints outstanding depth at defensive end. While he doesn't play with sound technique and lacks ideal speed, Howard plays with a good motor and always seems to be around the ball at the end of the play.
Look for him to line up opposite Charles Grant once again. Grant has quickly developed into a difference maker, recording 27.5 sacks over his first three seasons, and should only continue to get better. No. 3 Will Smith gets caught out of position at times, but that will change as he gains more experience and has the closing speed to make an impact as a situational pass rusher this year.
The strength of this unit is clearly on the edge. While RDT Brian Young plays with a non-stop motor and flashes the ability to shoot the inside gap, he's undersized and has problems holding his ground in short-yardage situations.
LDT Howard Green has excellent bulk and does a good job of clogging up the middle, but isn't going to make many big plays and lacks ideal endurance, so he shouldn't be an every-down player as a result. The problem is former first-round pick Jonathan Sullivan hasn't progressed as expected and until he becomes more consistent, Green will likely remain the starter.
The Saints finished with the worst run defense in the NFC last year, so it's somewhat surprising they didn't make any significant personnel changes. 2002 third-round pick James Allen and Derrick Rodgers return on the outside, but neither can be considered a quality starter.
Rodgers, who turns 34 this year, has lost a step with age and is coming off a season-ending back injury. Allen possesses a great blend of quickness, range and lateral mobility. However, he's a far better athlete than he is a football player and gets caught out of position too much.
Although Colby Bockwoldt and Levar Fisher, who was an unrestricted free agent signed during the offseason, should provide good depth, neither is ready to compete for a starting role. Fisher missed all of last year with a knee injury, and Bockwoldt lacks prototypical athletic ability. Undersized Cie Grant is strictly a sub-package linebacker who can contribute in passing situations at this point.
Courtney Watson is coming off a strong season and is expected to start on the inside. Watson doesn't have sideline-to-sideline range and appears to give up on plays at times, but plays with good leverage, has adequate lower body strength and flashes the ability to shed blocks quickly. 2005 third-round pick Albert Fincher is capable of providing adequate depth as a situational run stuffer and should spell Watson at times.
Keep an eye on the contract negotiations of Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown, who both want to redo their deals. If both starting corners decide to hold out this unit would be in trouble. It's also important to note that neither is close to a shutdown corner, so their demand for more money is somewhat puzzling.
McKenzie led the team in interceptions with five last year, and is fast enough to run with most receivers downfield. But he's inconsistent and misses too many open field tackles. Although Brown has good upper body strength and can muscle receivers out of their routes, he lacks the second gear to recover once caught out of position.
The good news is there is decent depth here. Nickel back Fred Thomas still has good short area man-to-man cover skills and Jason Craft is an excellent No. 4. However, they are undersized and Thomas lacks ideal speed means, so they shouldn't be every-down corners.
New Orleans cut Tebucky Jones and signed Dwight Smith to take over as the starting free safety. Smith doesn't have ideal size or cover skills, but should still be an upgrade. He shows great awareness in pass protection, is a playmaker and fills hard when he reads run. Jay Bellamy is expected to start opposite him.
Bellamy times hits well and excels in run support. However, he is on the downside of his career and 2005 second-round pick Josh Bullocks could start to push him for playing time, as soon as this year. Bullocks is a reliable open field tackler with the ball skills and agility to quickly develop into a starter.
PK John Carney uncharacteristically missed three field goal attempts inside 40 yards last year, and his leg isn't as strong as it was earlier in his career, so he doesn't always get great distance on his kickoffs. However, he is fundamentally sound and the fact that New Orleans kicks in a dome helps him. Carney still flashes the ability to connect on long-range field goal attempts and all three of his misses inside 40 yards were on the road.
The Saints signed former Giant P Rodney Williams to give Mitch Berger some competition during training camp, but look for Berger to fend him off. Berger is consistent, gets the ball away quickly and has extensive experience kicking in pressure situations. He's also accurate enough to kick away from dangerous return men and pin opposing teams deep.
RS Michael Lewis accelerates well, has the elusiveness to make defenders miss in the open field and is almost impossible to catch from behind. He is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball and has returned three kickoffs, as well as one punt, for touchdowns during his career. There's also good depth here, as RB Aaron Stecker retuned a kickoff for a touchdown last year and WR Stallworth is a dangerous open field runner who can return punts.
Jim Haslett is a former defensive coordinator entering his sixth season as New Orleans' head coach. While the Saints usually have struggled late in seasons under Haslett, they won their last four games last year, giving them some confidence heading into this year.
Haslett is a fierce competitor who can motivate his players, does an excellent job of preparing for each game and doesn't tolerate mistakes. However, New Orleans hasn't made it to the playoffs since the 2000 season and Haslett could find himself on the hot seat again if the team gets of to a slow start. His no-nonsense approach has also caused some friction between him and his players.
The Saints promoted Mike Sheppard from quarterback coach to offensive coordinator, which is the same position he held in Buffalo for one season, and San Diego for two seasons, during the offseason. He replaces Mike McCarthy, who joined San Francisco's coaching staff after his contract expired.
Sheppard is expected to simplify the offense by streamlining the playbook and cutting down the verbiage of play calls. Although he's expected to continue to run a version of the West Coast offense, look for him to put a greater emphasis on the running game.
Defensive coordinator Rick Venturi is entering his 10th season with New Orleans and has 22 years of experience in the NFL. Although he coaches with great intensity and is capable of motivating his players, he takes the time to work on the basics and preaches fundamentals. He too will simplify his scheme in an effort to cut down on the mistakes that plagued this unit a year ago. That means the Saints should continue to rely on the front four, rather than the blitz, to get to opposing quarterbacks.
In a vote by his peers Al Everest was named the special teams' coach of the year in 2002 and is entering his sixth season with New Orleans. Everest has a knack for putting players in a position to block kicks and both of the return units finished in the top 10 last year, but needs to get more out of the kickoff cover unit.
.. someone like Williams is probably going to be used to kick to 2nd and 3rd stringers in training camp.. I don't think Mitch is in any danger.. although.... :)
Everything I read about the upcoming season has something complimentary to say about Josh Bullocks. The pick startled me on draft day, especially with so many good LB left on the board, but if this kid is as good as he is being advertised I may have to reevaluate my stance.
Camp is 9 days away and I am officially stoked.
This team can be summed up in the very first line.
"______ has awesome potential."
Potential couldn't get you a can of beans at Wal-Mart. I want to win.
<--- High on him since draft day!!! :wink:
Nobody makes me bleed my own blood!
I think the same article (with minor revisions to discuss draft picks, FA's and injuries) has been recycled for the last 3 years -- AB has a rocket arm, potential -- needs to be more consistent --- Deuce -- looking for a breakout year -- all the skills
Blah Blah Blah --- :roll:
I have a novel idea -- lets take all of that skill and potential every magazine on earth writes about and put it on the field
By the way -- what happened to all of the emoticons we used to have -- all we have left are boring ones
hahahaha. You said emoticons. It's smilies for us laypeople. :lol:
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