Fleur-de-Links - Dec. 15th: With Courtney Roby Out, Will Special Teams Play Suffer?

NEW ORLEANS LA - DECEMBER 12: Courtney Roby #15 of the New Orleans Saints runs onto the field before playing the St. Louis Rams.

As expected after he was carted off the field Sunday, Courtney Roby will most likely not play this Sunday against the Ravens. Roby is mostly known as the Saints primary kick returner, but his ability to break through and almost single-handedly tackle returners for the opposing team after minimal gains is a skill that shouldn't be overlooked. As shaky as our special teams play has been this season, one has to wonder how his absence will affect our ability to force Joe Flacco and the Ravens to face a long field on their possessions. In this matchup in the December weather of Baltimore, field position will be very important and could be the difference in what might become a hard fought game. Will the other guys step it up on special teams with Roby out?

Make the jump for today's injury reports, more on the Ravens game, and to read how ESPN's Pat Yasinskas feels about the limited national exposure usually afforded the NFC South. The fact that the Cowboys/Redskins game is getting way more exposure than our matchup against the Ravens has him seeing red.

TWEETS:

JonVilma51 bright and early gettin it in, got alot of fball left!

jeffduncantp Numbers game. Torrence better on 'teams" right now. RT @ThaMonsta1980: why was CB patrick robinson inactive sunday vs. Rams?

HeathEvans Good 2b back @ work today! This is the time of yr u look forward 2 n our business! #fb

Official_Saints Props to @DannyClark55 who gave $100 Wal-Mart gift cards to 50 kids for his annual "Shop with a Jock" event last night.

Harp41 I want to thank everyone who participated in #Hopefortheholidays and helping us build these houses, especially the http://twitpic.com/3g729h

Official_Saints Go to the Atlanta game with the winning bid for a game day experience in the Ochsner/Saints auction. http://bit.ly/7KP4mo

jimrome The Vikings are asking their fans to shovel out their stadium?! Sure, as long the ol Gunslinger shovels my driveway. For a 5-8 team?! Pass.

Official_Saints Listen to Ravens HC John Harbaugh's conf. call with NOLA media. Coach previews Sunday, talks about Vilma & Reed http://bit.ly/JHcall

Official_Saints Brees on time in SD with Ravens OC Cam Cameron "He was always honest with me & wanted to get the best out of me. I love the man."

Official_Saints RT @NFLFilms: Hear @Official_Saints SB 44 champs @JonVilma51, Sean Payton & @drewbrees WIRED FOR SOUND 2nite @insidethenfl & #SoundFX

jeffduncantp A late #Saints transaction: DL DeMario Pressley was signed off the #Saints prax squad by the Texans. DT Swanson Miller (#95) takes his place

jeffduncantp #Saints injury report remains positive: http://bit.ly/hgVKYX

jeffduncantp Good for Pat. RT @ProFootballTalk: Patrick Ramsey agrees to terms with the Vikings http://wp.me/p14QSB-pm3

 

PRACTICE REPORTS:

Saints sit 4 players out of practice ahead of Sunday’s game | New Orleans News, Local News, Breaking News, Weather | wwltv.com | Eye on Black and Gold
Four Saints did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as the Saints got back on the field for the first time in preparation of Sunday’s game against Baltimore.

New Orleans Saints injury report: Remi Ayodele, Anthony Hargrove, David Thomas, Courtney Roby miss practice | NOLA.com
Saints expecting Roby to miss Sunday's game at Baltimore

 

SAINTS @ RAVENS:

EOSB: Saints have 3 ways to clinch playoff spot this weekend | New Orleans News, Local News, Breaking News, Weather | wwltv.com | Eye on Black and Gold
Because I see my email inbox daily, I know how much folks are interested in the playoffs and how the Saints fit into the postseason.

Week 15 Games Release

Baltimore Ravens S Ed Reed says team must make corrections before Saints arrive Sunday | NOLA.com
"We've got to get off the field come Sunday," Reed said. "Whether it's third downs, fourth downs, whatever it may be, we've got to get off the field. We've got some things we need to correct, like any team."

Baltimore Ravens are starting to show signs of age: New Orleans Saints scouting report | NOLA.com
"We know that's the defending champs. We'll be waiting on them. It's football. When the ref blows the whistle, guess what, a new game starts. Sixty minutes. It's going to be one of those shootouts next weekend, and I think we're up for it." -- Lewis

 

AROUND THE NFC STOUT:

Seeing red about NFC South exposure - NFC South Blog - ESPN
Pat Y is seeing red: "New Orleans at Baltimore, the game I'll be covering in person, sure looks like a marquee matchup to me. When you look at the map, it's the green game. Problem is you have to squint pretty hard to find the green that shows you where the game will be shown. Kind of ironic because the dominance of red and blue on the map made me back up from the computer. We'll give the red game a little slack because it involves the Eagles and the Giants and that's not a bad matchup. But, is it that much better than the Saints and Ravens? I don't think so, but the Eagles and Giants are basically being shown from coast to coast. But what really makes me see red is the blue game. That is the Cowboys and the Redskins. I get it that Dallas and Washington are big markets and, once upon a time, the Cowboys and Redskins were actually relevant in the world. Not sure about you, but if I lived in someplace like San Antonio, I think I'd head to Louisiana for the weekend and check into a hotel just to watch the Saints and Ravens."

Panthers running away in I.R. race - NFC South Blog - ESPN
New Orleans. Things are a bit misleading here. Nine guys on injured reserve might sound like a lot. But cornerback Randall Gay and running back Lynell Hamilton might be the only two the Saints really have missed.

Strength of the (NFC) South - NFC South Blog - ESPN
One could argue that the toughest division in the NFL is the NFC South. Since realignment in 2002, the NFC South is one of two divisions in the NFC and is one of only three divisions in the NFL to have every team earn a division championship. The NFC West and the AFC West are the only other divisions to have all four teams earn a division championship since realign­ment. The NFC South has also been represented a league-best six times in a Conference Championship Game, one better than the NFC East, and tied for a league best three times in the Super Bowl along with the AFC East. They have also sent the most differ­ent teams to the Super Bowl of any division, send­ing three different teams (Tampa Bay, Carolina, New Orleans) and have the most different teams to win a Super Bowl, two (Tampa Bay, New Orleans), since 2002. The NFC South has been led by the Bucca­neers, who have won three division crowns in eight years.

How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch - NFC South Blog - ESPN
RISING: 1. Pierre Thomas, Saints running back. Thomas, who injured his ankle in late September, returned to the playing field Sunday when the Saints defeated the Rams. He wound up probably getting even more playing time than the Saints envisioned. The logical thing to do would have been to ease Thomas back into a rotation with Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush. But that plan went out the window when Ivory started experiencing hamstring issues early in the game. Thomas ended up carrying 12 times and catching four passes. His numbers weren't overhelming (39 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards), but he held up well. Thomas' long-term future in New Orleans might not be all that bright because of Ivory's emergence. But a strong finish could help Thomas get a nice contract somewhere else.

Matt Ryan already in elite company - NFC South Blog - ESPN
Since joining the league in 2008, Ryan has 31 wins as a starting quarterback. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with more wins as a starter in his first three seasons is Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who started his career in 1983.

Atlanta's success could harm coaching staff - NFC South Blog - ESPN
There is one downside to winning a lot of games in the NFL : It can rip apart a coaching staff. Success often leads to opportunities elsewhere for assistant coaches and we might be seeing the seeds of this sprouting in Atlanta.

Whatever happened to the screen pass? - NFC South Blog - ESPN
Find me another stat where Brees ranks anywhere near as low as No. 26 in the league? Well, that's precisely where Brees ranks when it comes to passer rating on screens. His rating there is 87.8 and perhaps the saddest thing about that is no other NFC South quarterback is even close to him.

NFC South playoff scenarios - NFC South Blog - ESPN
We have the complete list of every playoff-clinching scenario around the league over on our NFL Nation blog. But the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints each have multiple scenarios in which they can clinch a playoff spot this Sunday.

Last call for Pro Bowl voting - NFC South Blog - ESPN
According to the latest numbers, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan are among the top 10 vote-getters around the entire NFL. But they’d be third and fourth, respectively, among NFC quarterbacks if the voting ended today and was limited only to the fan portion of the vote. Coaches and players also will count for a third of the vote. At the moment, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are ahead of Brees and Ryan.

 

LAGNIAPPE:

New Orleans Saints blitzed the Rams on defense -- and offense: Film Study | NOLA.com
Jeff Duncan's weekly breakdown of the Saints game

New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins named NFC Defensive Player of the Week | NOLA.com
Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins will be named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday for his two-interception performance in a 31-13 win against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. The NFL will official announce the honor on Wednesday. Jenkins had two interceptions against St. Louis, including one that he returned 96 yards for a touchdown. His...

Power Rankings: Saints show it was matter of time - NFL - CBSSports.com Football
"We felt, coming in to this last quarter of the season, the uniqueness with these four opponents was that all four, many would argue, are going to play in the playoffs or at least are contending to play in the playoffs," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We felt that it was going to be a competitive stretch."

 

TRANSCRIPT:

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

Post-Practice Press Conference

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Opening Statement:

“We’ll hit on the injury list first: cornerback Tracy Porter (shoulder) was full; Zach Strief (knee) was full; Malcolm Jenkins (rib) was limited; Jonathan Vilma (quad) was limited; Jeremy Shockey (groin) was limited; Chris Ivory (hamstring) was limited; Jermon Bushrod (ankle) was limited; tight end David Thomas (knee) did not practice; wide receiver Courtney Roby (head) did not practice; defensive tackle Remi Ayodele (ankle) did not practice; defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (knee) did not practice. From a roster standpoint, we released practice squad cornerback Mark Parson; practice squad defensive tackle DeMario Pressley was signed by the Houston Texans to their active roster. So with those two spots, we signed tight end Tyler Lorenzen and defensive tackle Swanson Miller. We’re at 53 and eight.”

When two good teams get together that don’t play that often, does that bring anything extra to the game?

“It’s a cross-conference game and we just happen to be playing that division this season. You’re not as familiar because you don’t play them but every four years so it’s important to do the film study and pay attention to the uniquenesses of what they do defensively, offensively and in the kicking game. At this point in the year you have plenty of tape and the key is getting to the important games that you think are similar or will be similar in regards to how this game is played.”

Are you planning at this point to not have Courtney Roby and are you working toward filling that gap?

“We are. Our kick return emphasis will be in tomorrow’s practice and we’ll look at a few guys to replace him if he’s not available.”

According to the game announcers, at the end of their game against the Steelers and then again against Houston, the Ravens went away from their identity. Do you buy into the idea that teams have an identity? What would you say the Saints’ identity is?

“I think teams year to year have an identity and that would be what they do offensively and defensively. I think this is a team in Baltimore that plays very physical. It’s one of the elite teams in the AFC and their record indicates that. When you see them play, whether it’s Pittsburgh or New England, this is one of the top teams in the league and John (Harbaugh) has done a great job. They have great tradition there and they’ve won a lot of football games and they’re doing that again this year.

“In regards to the Saints, you hope that you create an identity in regards to how you play the game. You hope that it’s physical; you hope that you’re doing things the right way. A lot of it is around your own personnel and tailored towards your personnel. I would say that any team – winning or losing – will have some type of an identity and typically it starts with the personnel on the team.”

Other than physical, what would be some of the words that you would want to describe your team’s identity?

“You want to perceived number one as a winning organization, as an organization that is in contention each year to have success. Those would be the important things.”

What has pleased you most to this point about your team?

“Number one, we still have a lot of football left; three important games left, starting with this week. I think we’ve been resilient; I think our guys have handled some adversity early on in the season, be it injuries or losses and bounced back and played well. I like that aspect of it. I think we have good leadership in the locker room.”

At this stage of the season, do you educate yourself as to what your team needs to do to lock up playoff positioning?

“We don’t. We talk about the importance of this game. I think everyone understands how competitive both the NFC and the AFC are right now, when you look at the teams atop the divisions in both conferences, and we really turn the page to the opponent that we’re playing that week.”

It’s not uncommon for professional coaches to not have foundations. What motivated you to establish yours?

“Ours was an easy decision in that it came at a time where there was such a need and a demand post-Katrina. I think from our players and our organization there was just so much in demand – whether it was businesses, people, different groups needing help. With the position that we were in and the timing, it made a lot of sense and shortly after that first season is when we established Payton’s Play it Forward. I think a lot led to that. Would we have had a foundation had we been somewhere else, maybe where there wasn’t as much of a need? I don’t know. The answer is probably yes, but the timing here made the decision to that very simple. You’re also wanting to instill those lessons in your children and it gives us a chance to do that. Personally you get something from that. With the money raised, we’re close to a million-and-a-half dollars back to this community in the last three years so it just made a lot of sense.”

Is there anything in the past year that stands out and lets you know it’s really worthwhile the work that you do with the foundation?

“You get a chance to see hands on – whether it’s someone having a Christmas they wouldn’t normally have, whether it’s the fire and police departments here in the city… We just a month ago had the post-gala party for those people that helped contribute time and energy to the Black & Gold Gala and then we hand out the checks at that time of the money that has been raised and that’s always good because there are a lot of people that put a lot of time into this and volunteer their time and resources to help with this foundation. It doesn’t seem like you have time enough to thank them all but when you’re able to disperse the checks to the different groups, it makes it all worthwhile.”

How does that sense of fulfillment differ from when you have success on the field?

“You’re just trying to be complete. It’s a different feeling and it’s one that you just feel right about.”

As one of the more well-known people in this city, do you feel a sense of obligation to do things for those who may have less?

“I think so. I think all of us felt that a little more post-Katrina. When you’re in a position such as the head coach or when you’re in the position that I’m in, I think that you do feel that obligation and then with everything that had gone on it was clear that it was the right thing to do. It was an avenue for us and a way for us to also instill some of those things in our children.”

What were your thoughts after being able to watch the Ravens game on Monday night?

“I wouldn’t say it was a tale of two halves but certainly momentum swung back into Houston’s favor in the middle of the second half. It was back-and-forth; both teams played extremely hard and all of a sudden it was into overtime and Baltimore made the plays when they needed to to finish. Early in that game, they played very well and very efficiently and then Houston offensively got some momentum and made some plays in the passing game. You credit Baltimore for coming up with the plays down the stretch when they needed them. It was a big interception that ended the game.”

The Ravens defense was on the field for a long time in the second half of that game. Did that play a part in the comeback Houston had?

“No question. Compared to the first half, they were two different types of games and that can put a lot of stress on your defense when you’re playing that many snaps, just in regards to rushing the passer and defending the run. That’s a lot in a half.”

Does that take a lot out of the defense as they head towards the next game or would an experienced defense like they have make that a moot point?

“They are experienced and knowing John, they’ll be plenty rested. I’m sure they’ll adjust the schedule – like we have – on a short week playing after a Monday night. You just have to be mindful of your snaps and how long you’re on the field. We’re at a stage in the season where we’re cutting snaps back and spending more time in the meetings.”

What impresses you about Joe Flacco?

“He has poise; he has a very strong arm; he can make all the throws. I think most importantly, he’s a winner. Since he’s been a starting quarterback for that team, he’s won an awful lot of games. That combination of the athleticism, his accuracy, he has a great grasp of what they’re doing offensively…he’s one of those young, talented quarterbacks that our league is seeing. When you look at Flacco and Matt Ryan and (Aaron) Rodgers up in Green Bay, there are a lot of young, talented quarterbacks that have come into their own, and he transitioned into that role very quickly and has had success and taken his team to the playoffs. You see that poise; you see the arm strength and the stature and the size. He’s very impressive when you watch him on tape because he’s not an easy sack; he’s a guy that can keep a play alive and get the ball down the field.”

You had whittled your injury list down to a small number last week and today there were again a bunch of names on it. Was that an unpleasant surprise?

“I think later in the week we’ll get a better grasp but we’re listing all the nicks from the game we just played. Sometimes that list is bigger and sometimes it’s smaller. I think that as the week progresses we’ll get a better understanding as to where these four guys sit that weren’t able to practice today. Hopefully we get them up to speed as soon as we can.”

Those guys all got hurt during the game?

“Hargrove’s knee, Ayodele’s ankle, Roby’s head, David Thomas’ knee; those were all game-related. A lot of these are a result of the game we just played.”

Are any of them significant enough to where you would rule them out for the week?

“No. Courtney we’re paying attention to.”

Chris Ivory talked to us about his hamstring injury and gave us the impression it might be an electrolyte imbalance and he didn’t hydrate properly on Saturday night. Is that a common thing?

“The one common cause to pulls is dehydration so you’re always trying to make sure that these guys do a good job hydrating during the week leading up to the game, not just in the 24-hour period prior to the game. With him, we’re trying to make sure that we’re paying attention to all those specifics. This is a long season; it’s longer than any of these young players are used to so getting the rest and getting the nutrition, being properly hydrated, training – all those things that go into being available each week as opposed to just some weeks and then off some weeks.”

So it’s a good sign that Ivory was able to get some work today?

“Yes. I was encouraged and yet we’ll see how it feels tomorrow and monitor where he’s at, just like some of these other guys.”

So Roby got out of the hospital Monday?

“Yes. He’s been out and has been here. Now it’s the testing they do post-concussion. There’s a process that we’ve gone through before and we’re going through again with him before he’s cleared. An outside expert will make that determination.”

So it was just a head injury, no neck?

“He has a sore neck, but the injury really was the head.”

And you’re optimistic that it’s not something that could be season-ending?

“Yes. Definitely.”

Going back to Chris Ivory, is his case a muscle issue or just the fact that he didn’t hydrate properly?

“It’s probably a combination without knowing for certain. It’s probably a combination of a number of things. Number one, he’s wound pretty tight. When you see his stature, he’s put together. He’s extremely strong. So from a stretching aspect, from a hydration aspect – I’m not as familiar with the electrolytes as it pertains to muscle pulls – but you would say his body type is such that he’s going to have to manage something like this throughout his career, of making sure that he takes all the precautionary steps.”

How much confidence do you have going forward that Pierre Thomas can get back to his old role?

“I feel pretty good. Coming off the game and looking at the tape and having a chance to visit with him afterwards, fortunately there weren’t any setbacks. He has that type of injury that could potentially have a setback, so that was good news. It was encouraging that he handled the snaps that he did; I thought he functioned within that role and that role expanded a little bit with Ivory going down. As we get into his second week, we just keep looking at that and looking at the combination as to this week’s game and what his role is.”

Then general identity of these teams to most fans would be Baltimore’s defense and yours being the offense, although you’re ranked ahead of Baltimore defensively in a lot of categories. What sort of pride does that give you in having built a complete team?

“I think it’s important to play good defense to win championships. A year ago we were able to do that; we were very opportunistic. I think that whether it’s the New Orleans Saints defense and clearly we’re playing at a higher level than even a year ago, but when you look at the Ravens’ offense, those are two aspects that are much improved. Just because the attention shifts towards the Ravens defense or our offense, I think the importance of how Baltimore plays offensively is critical to them winning and losing football games, just as our defense is vital to that. To play in the postseason and have success, you’re going to have to play well in all of those areas. It’s hard to have that success if you’re not.”

What are your thoughts on Malcolm Jenkins winning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week?

“I’m biased but clearly it was a big game that he had. The game-changer happened late in the second quarter and then later on in the game he had another big play and then when you grade him out and watch the film, he did a fantastic job. He just keeps getting better each week and that’s a credit to him and the dedication he has to being a real good player.”

Do you still see him as both a safety and a cornerback?

“If you ask right now, the role he’s playing is safety and playing the nickel. But that versatility exists. More of his snaps are coming at safety. You don’t want to say that’s his primary role but that positional flexibility is a good thing. When you have that, you can do a lot of things. When you can bring a safety down and cover a slot – and he can do that effectively – that’s a valuable asset. That’s like the tight end that can play in space and can also be efficient in run-blocking. Malcolm has that flexibility.”

Is this a far more violent game than when you played?

“I don’t know if it’s far more, but the speed of the collisions seem to have increased and the speed of the game certainly has increased. Over a period of time, the players gradually get bigger, they gradually get a little stronger and you see the speed, which was different 10 years going back and it will be different 10 years going forward. I think that’s a natural progression. Because the speed of the game has changed and the size of players that are in the game, some of the collisions can be more violent. Yet I think there’s a balance; I think the league is doing a good job of paying attention to that and really putting a point of emphasis on areas where they thing they can help properly protect the players.”

Do you have an opinion on two extra games being added to the schedule?

“Not really. I haven’t really given it much thought. The discussion really is not just those two games, but really the schedule and the calendar. Do those games come at the end of the season? Do those games come in lieu of preseason three and four? In other words, when they fall is a big discussion and then how that affects the offseason calendar. All of those things are things that the league and the players’ union will iron out. It seems forever down the road right now with where we’re at. I think more than anything else, those are the questions.”

Do you feel that with the offense’s recent success that you’re in a good rhythm as a play-caller or is the team coming together?

“I don’t think it’s because the play-caller’s in a good rhythm. I think we’re doing things more efficiently on third down. I think we’re running the ball better with more efficiency and staying ahead of the chains. When a game is over, the one box that you don’t want to have looked at a lot are the third-and-10 or plus calls; you always have three or four passes and maybe a draw. If you’re not looking down at that box a lot, then you’re probably staying on schedule and chances are that if you’re not playing well offensively in a particular game that you find yourself staring down at that third-and-long section of your call sheet. I think it’s back to the players and our ability to be efficient in those early downs.”

You’re 13-2 away from home in the last two seasons. Does this team seem to focus more and get mentally tougher on the road?

“If you’re playing well on the road, you’re probably playing well. In other words, if you go back and chart the teams that have played well on the road in the last five years you’re probably looking at teams that have been playing good football, period. There are some pluses when you go on the road. There are less distractions, believe it or not. You have less ticket requests; typically you don’t have the family traveling in to see the game like you would for home games. Yet the challenges on the road are the noise, getting accustomed to someone else’s stadium and handling those distractions. I think with the leadership that we have and the veteran presence on this team, I think it still comes down to being able to doing those things that help you win football games and that transcends whether you’re away or at home. We’ve had a lot of experience – whether it’s being relocated during Gustav for a week to Indianapolis or a week in London, England, certainly the week down in Miami prior to the Super Bowl – we don’t look at those as negatives because it puts you in environments where you’re in meetings, you’re eating together and then you’re getting ready to play a game. That’s what happens when you travel and that logistic is something that we’ve been able to handle well and handle better of late.”

Is Patrick Robinson healthy?

“He is healthy.”

Has he just not been in your packages recently?

“Last week he was inactive and we got Leigh Torrence up to help us on special teams. We made some special teams decisions last week; (Matt) Giordano came up and played in place of Usama Young. It was the first time in a while that we’ve had that many healthy inactives but a lot of that was just trying to help our core special teams as well.”

It seems that Baltimore’s defense is being questioned about getting older and slower. You’ve mentioned their experience. What is your perspective on it?

“We watch the tape and whether it’s their defense versus the Steelers, versus the Patriots – this will be a big test for us. This will be one of the top defenses – if not the top defense – we’ve seen all season. So I don’t see that. I know how the game finished the other night and that can happen to any team. But this is a team that has won nine games. They’re very physical; they have talent in the front when you look at their pass-rush ability with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata is a guy that is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Ray Lewis of course is a guy that is going to be a Hall of Fame middle linebacker with the career that he’s had. On the back end, you see Ed Reed and their takeaways have almost doubled since he’s been back in the lineup. It’s a very opportunistic defense that has a ton of tradition and pride behind it. But they also have a lot of production behind it and that’s what we look at. We really try to pay attention to the film study as to what they do and what they do very well, and they do a lot of things very well.”

 

VIDEO:

Saints Vlog: December 13 - Roby update plus looking ahead to Ravens




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