||07-27-2005 09:40 AM
Jeff Duncan: Offensive analysis
OFFENSIVE ANALYSIS OF THE SAINTS By staff writer Jeff Duncan
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The skinny: This arguably is the deepest and most talented unit on the roster. Coach Jim Haslett has kept as many as10 linemen and as few as eight during his tenure. Improved depth at wide receiver and at several defensive positions probably will limit the number to eight this season. All eyes will be on the competition at left guard between Kendyl Jacox and Montrae Holland. Both are quality players with starting experience. The staff also will closely monitor Jon Stinchcomb's development at left tackle. He'll need to show that he has the athletic ability to play the position and eventually replace starter Wayne Gandy. It's also critical for rookie right tackle Jammal Brown to sign a contract and report to camp as early as possible, so he can begin to synchronize with new right guard Jermane Mayberry.
Likely roster spots: Eight or nine
Sure things: Wayne Gandy, LeCharles Bentley, Jermane Mayberry, Jammal Brown, Kendyl Jacox, Montrae Holland, Jon Stinchcomb. On the bubble: Spencer Folau, Jamar Nesbit
Long shots: Augie Hoffman, Ben Archibald, Chad Setterstrom, Dwayne Ledford, Nick Stietz, Ikechuku Ndukewe
Offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard says: "We're hoping that the offensive line is the strength of our offense. We feel like we made some good changes in the offseason and created some good competition inside, and that's always healthy. The competition between Kendyl Jacox and Montrae Holland is probably the biggest battle. It's key that Jammal and Jermane get as many snaps as possible together during the preseason. The linemen have a great relationship, and they've got a great coach (Jack Henry) coaching them. How they go, we go."
The skinny: Haslett has kept four tight ends the past two seasons, but he might not have that luxury this season. The situations should ratchet up the competition behind starter Ernie Conwell. Boo Williams struggled as a starter last season but could benefit from a simplified playbook. He has outstanding physical skills but needs a strong camp to keep his roster spot. Free agent Shad Meier, towering Zachary Hilton and blocking specialist Lamont Hall also are in the mix. Hilton might have the inside track.
Likely roster spots: Three or four
Sure thing: Ernie Conwell
On the bubble: Shad Meier, Boo Williams, Zachary Hilton
Long shot: Mike Banks
Sheppard says: "There's not too many guys that play as well in both the run and pass as Ernie. I'd say he's underrated. We tried to spend a little more time getting him the football in the coaching sessions. I thought Zach had a nice offseason. You've got a real battle going there with he and Shad Meier and Boo Williams. We feel we will improve in that spot either by Zach or Boo improving or Shad, once he's comfortable, becoming more effective."
The skinny: Joe Horn and DontÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â© Stallworth are entrenched as starters. Horn is coming off a career season and was rewarded with a lucrative six-year contract extension. Coaches are quietly optimistic that Stallworth is poised for a Javon Walker-like breakout season. The competition behind those two should be heated. Free agent Az-Zahir Hakim, second-year speedster Devery Henderson and Talman Gardner will battle for reserve spots, with Michael Lewis providing insurance. Henderson has the most potential of the bunch but has struggled to stay healthy. He needs to respond to the challenge.
Likely roster spots: Five or six
Sure things: Joe Horn, DontÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â© Stallworth, Devery Henderson
On the bubble: Az-Zahir Hakim, Michael Lewis, Talman Gardner, *Chase Lyman, Nate Poole
Long shots: Brian Poli-Dixon, Thyron Anderson, Tramission Davis, Keron Henry, Chris Vance
Sheppard says: "I couldn't be happier with Joe's productivity and leadership. He has matured into a nice leader for us on offense. I think DontÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â© could have a breakout year if he just stays healthy. There's competition after that. Devery's situation is similar to what DontÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â© went though. About the time that he's ready to show what he can do, he gets dinged up. But I like his ability and attitude. Still, we felt that we just had enough uncertainty at the position, that even though we have confidence in the young in Devery and Talman Gardner and Michael Lewis, that adding a veteran like Az was the wisest thing to do. We feel real fortunate to have Az come in and jump in to the competition there."
The skinny: The pecking order is pretty well set. Starter Deuce McAllister is in the midst of negotiations on a long-term contract. If no deal is reached by Thursday, he could be a no-show. Regardless, he's on the brink of a big season. Back-ups Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker have proven they can carry the load if McAllister is absent. Powerful second-year lead blocker Mike Karney has a lock on the starting fullback spot. He and Stecker could enjoy slightly expanded roles in the new attack. Newcomers Keith Joseph and Jasen Isom have a shot to earn spots on the practice squad.
Likely roster spots: Four or five
Sure things: Deuce McAllister, Mike Karney, Aaron Stecker, Antowain Smith
On the bubble: Fred McAfee
Long shots: Nate Schurman, Jasen Isom, Keith Joseph
Sheppard says: "I thought Deuce really did a nice job in the coaching sessions. He was healthy, ran hard and decisive and was powerful. I know Antowain and what a tough guy and competitor he is, and I like Aaron Stecker. I'm not convinced Aaron Stecker can't be an every-down player. Now, if Deuce gets dinged up, you could still run the same and keep the same game plan. And Mike Karney is a tough guy with football on his mind all the time, a lot like the guy (Terrelle Smith) he replaced. The thing he brings to you is he's an underrated pass receiver. Here's a big guy that can knock you off your feet who might just bluff you and catch a pass for 10 yards."
The skinny: Aaron Brooks and Todd Bouman are solid Nos. 1 and 2. The battle for the No. 3 spot will be fun to watch. Heralded rookie Adrian McPherson has tremendous skills but is raw. The fifth-round pick from Florida State could be the Saints' quarterback of the future. Current No. 3 Kliff Kingsbury is smart and efficient, but he needs to show coaches that he can make plays downfield and move the offense. Both will receive long looks during camp and in preseason games.
Likely roster spots: Three
Sure things: Aaron Brooks, Todd Bouman
On the bubble: Adrian McPherson, Kliff Kingsbury
Long shots: None
Sheppard says: "Aaron embraced the offseason program and led by example. When he got to the coaching sessions, he worked harder than I've ever seen him work. He attacked it. He did what he's supposed to do and then some, which is what you want your quarterback to do in the National Football League. I think Todd is an underrated player. He got better in the offseason. He came on and showed our football team that, if Aaron is out, he can jump in there and lead the team. I think the players have to know that, and I think they do. The competition really goes to the third guy. I like Kliff. I like his work ethic. I like his accuracy. I like his confidence. He has to prove that he can throw the football down the field and move the team. Adrian has tremendous ability. There's quality competition there."
*Injured; expected to start season on physically unable to perform list.