Saints News: 5.08.08

Lots to get to today. Obviously what everyone wants to know is "What happened with Shaun Alexanders visit?" As expected, nothing came out of this initial meeting. The Times-Pic has the info.

The Saints completed their visit with free-agent tailback Shaun Alexander on Wednesday, but he returned home to Seattle without a contract offer.

It's unclear how serious the interest is from either side. Alexander, who was released by the Seahawks last month, has just started to test the market. He visited Cincinnati on Sunday and Monday before flying to New Orleans.

What is Shaun's plan?

Alexander's agent, Jim Steiner, said the former league MVP and three-time Pro Bowl player has not set a timetable for choosing a team.

"It all depends on how he feels about the team, the prospects of the team winning a championship, and what his role will be," Steiner said.

Can he really be that picky at this point?

Alexander could wait well into the summer to see if injuries create more of a demand for his services. Regardless, the 30-year-old running back likely will have to settle for more of a complementary role with his next team.

Sounds more like it.

Here is your usual recap of Talk Saints with Jimmy Smith from the Times-Pic. Check out the whole thing.

On Shaun Alexander...

From what we understand, Shaun Alexander is in today, or he might have arrived for his visit last night. Since the Saints did not address their running back position in free agency, it's likely they'll go after a veteran running back for training camp because of the sheer uncertainty regarding Deuce McAllister's rehab from a pair of knee surgeries. They'd probably like a veteran in camp to go along with Aaron Stecker because it was obvious last year that Reggie Bush wasn't going to be able to carry the load as the "featured" running back. Stecker is OK. but he's getting up in years and there's no guarantee he'd be the answer, either, if McAllister is slow in recovering, or doesn't fully recover. Pierre Thomas showed flashed in the one game in which he got the bulk of carries, but one game does not a season make.

On Jeremy Shockey...

For all you Jeremy Shockey fans out there, once again this week we'll address what we've been told from NFL sources: The Saints still want Shockey in a black and gold uniform on the field this season. Sean Payton loves the guy. What it takes to get him now, no one knows. There's next year's draft from which the Saints can send to the Giants; there are still players on the roster New York might covet. But, from what we're told, the deal is still a possibility. Why they couldn't get the deal done on draft day, we don't know.

On Saints safeties...

Chuck, you've got your eye in the defensive backfield. There are a couple of guys you won't see anymore, Fred Thomas and likely Jay Bellamy. Though you might not like it, you'll still see Jason David. We won't know how healthy Mike McKenzie will be until he gets on the field. Obviously Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn will get a chance to make an impact as will Tracy Porter. And dwayne, I see a bigger role for Kevin Kaesviharn this season. Whether he unseats Josh Bullocks remains to be seen. We'll know more in August.

On our defensive pass rush...

That's a good question, AL. I think much of the Saints passing scheme last year was based on the fact that there wasn't a great deal of confidence in allowing the secondary to play in man-to-man coverage that much. If the defensive coaching staff feels the secondary can handle more man coverage this year, then it's likely they'll bring a little more pressure from the defensive front and linebackers. Those tendencies won't really develop until the staff knows what kind of secondary coverages they'll be comfortable with.

On looking at Adam Archuleta...

That's an intriguing thought, Robert F. Adam Archuletta had some interesting years in the league but he does have some age under his belt as well. Surely the Saints will do their due diligence to see if there's anything left in his tank. But your assessment that the team could use some more help at the position is sound. Someone in previous chats had offered the opinion that Mike McKenzie could make a move to safety. Perhaps the Saints have some in-house moves planned in that direction if they feel there's no one on the open market who could be of assistance.

On drafting K Taylor Mehlhaff...

Obviously the Saints picked up the kicker because they liked him and figured, or heard, that another team was going to use a draft pick on him meaning he wasn't going to be available as an udrafted free agent. The kid has a strong leg and Payton hasn't been hesitant in the past to carry two kickers on the roster, one for field goals (John Carney) and one for kickoffs (Billy Cundiff). It wouldn't be a surprise, therefore, to see that happen again with Gramatica handling the routine field goals.

On Bush returning punts...

The Saints have to figure out a way, LG Esquire, to get the ball into Reggie Bush's hands. He has proven he can be  a playmaker. Having him return more punts is a viable option, depending upon how heavy a load he's carrying in the offense. If Deuce McAllister is back, or if the Saints are happy with another running back there, and feel as though Bush wouldn't be t aking too much of  a beating as a punt returner, then sure he could be put back there to return more kicks. He'd be a dangerous returner. As dangerous as Hester, we don't know. But it would be nice to find out.

On contract negotiations...

Will Smith and Marques Colston share the same agent, Buzz, Joel Segal, who has his hands full trying t get a big contract for another one of his clients, Glenn Dorsey. But now that the draft is over, and Segal is in his negotiating mode, I'm sure he'll be calling the Saints to  begin working on lucrative extensions for Smith and Colston. Haven't heard any rumblings about Evans' deal, though.

In frightening news, Chris Henry says he wants to play for either New Orleans or Dallas. This comes from an article on ESPN's website.

"There are two teams that I would always love to play for: That's New Orleans and Dallas," Henry said. "New Orleans is home for me. That's always been a big dream of mine. Hopefully I can get in there and sit down with the coaches and maybe have an opportunity to get down there.

Oh please no! Shockey would be bad enough. Chris Henry is just unacceptable. If Payton even thinks about taking a look at this kid I am going to be angry. We are running a football program here, not a rehabilitation half-way house. You guys have to be with me on this one.

Here  is an article about UFA Iowa State WR Todd Blythe who is disappointed about the draft but remains optimistic about mini-camp.

"I know going in they're definitely willing to give guys a shot," Blythe said. "Whether you're drafted in the first round or an undrafted free agent, they really don't care once you get into camp."

Blythe, who signed a free-agent contract, will begin practicing with the other Saints rookies Friday. The Cyclones' all-time leader in receptions (176), yards (3,096) and touchdowns (31) was disappointed after not being drafted, but was told his stock slipped when someone issued a report saying he had a partially torn ACL in his right knee.

Sadly, he will miss his own graduation.

"I'm not too worried about walking across (the stage)," he said. "There's more important things in my mind ... although my mom's going to be upset."

The New Orleans Saints official website had a quick rundown about upcoming rookie mini camp in regards to roster spots. 

Competition will be fierce when the 57 players invited to the rookie camp don their uniforms for the first time on Friday morning, as the team’s six 2008 draftees join 16 undrafted free agents that have agreed to terms with the team, as well as 35 non-roster tryout invitees.

The NFL’s mandated training camp roster size of 80 players under contract means that the team will have to pare down the roster before heading to training camp. So the question that many will have is why the team currently has 86 players under contract.

The answer is that unsigned players do not count against the roster size, and since the draft picks have not yet signed their contracts, the team is able to get to a better look at the rookie free agents that have signed, as well as the tryout players.

Once the draft picks begin signing contracts, the Saints will have to make corresponding roster reductions.

The Advocate had a write-up about rookie mini-camp. Nothing new.

BlackandGold.com had an interview with N.C. State defensive line coach Keith Willis on their website, talking about DeMario Pressley. Here are the highlights.

B&G.com:  When DeMario came out of high school ( Greensboro, NC), he was one of the most heavily rated and recruited high school players in the nation.  Why did his stock fall so far from then until this year’s draft?

Coach Willis:  Well, as you know, injuries are a part of the game of football.  DeMario is a very intense player, and unfortunately, his high motor led to injuries on the practice field.  If I recall correctly, he’s had injuries to his knee, elbow, wrist, foot and ankle.  I’m not 100% sure, so I’ll have to check. But let’s say that it’s hard to perform at your best when you’re banged up.

B&G.com:  Coach, I know that you believe your guy is good, and ready for the NFL.  But if you had to point out area where he could improve the most, what would it be?

Coach Willis:  As I mentioned before, DeMario is high energy, and he leaves it all on the field each game.  I guess he may want to develop more of a MEAN streak. By that I mean he’s a little too nice.  Not that he’s a pushover or anything, because he can more than hold his own on the field.  I’m not saying that he has to talk smack or anything like that.  But it all has to do with your attitude, and based on your level of consistent play, coming across to everyone in the trenches that you’re nobody anyone wants to mess with.

B&G.com:  Where do you figure the Saints to finish in the NFC South (in ’08)?

Coach Willis:  On paper, and with the free agents and draft the Saints just received, they’re one of the best teams right now in the NFL… but that’s on paper.  You don’t win games on paper (moderate chuckle from both).  I’ll say this:  If the Saints come together as a team, you can bank on the fact that they’ll definitely be in the mix for the division championship …and beyond.

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports gave out his awards for the off-season. You can read the whole article here. It's pretty funny. One of the his winners was Jonathan Vilma.

The Elite Eight: Eight Under-the-Radar Off-Season Acquisitions I Really Liked:

  • DE Travis LaBoy to Arizona
  • LB Clark Haggans to Arizona
  • CB Leigh Bodden to Detroit
  • WR D.J. Hackett to Carolina
  • C Rex Hadnot to Cleveland
  • LB Derek Smith to San Diego
  • LB Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans
  • K Josh Brown to St. Louis
  • ESPN thinks Sedrick Ellis will have a big impact this year and really help this defense. Article here.

    New Orleans defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers will be stars from the start. Part of that will be due to their own talent. But every first-round pick has plenty of talent.

    What will separate Ellis and Rivers will be the situations they landed in. The Saints and Bengals still have talented rosters after subpar 2007 campaigns. Both teams are poised to bounce back, especially after adding their prized rookies. Ellis will be an immediate force in the middle of a defense that couldn't stop the run last year. He'll clog the middle and allow linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Dan Morgan to cover lots of ground and make a bunch of tackles.
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