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Rick Leonard Has the Tools, but is Still a Project in the NFL

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He’s unlikely to start right away.

By Chris Dunnells

The New Orleans Saints made lots of noise in the 2018 NFL Draft, but other than Marcus Davenport, none was more controversial than selecting OL Rick Leonard in the 4th Round.

Rob Hodges of SB Nation’s page for Florida State University, Tomahawk Nation, took some quick time to answer a few questions for Saints to get to know one of their newest additions to the offensive line.

The Saints got a lot of flack for drafting Leonard in the 4th Round, with many pundits putting an “Undrafted” grade on him. Were you surprised to see him go off the board that early?

“Stunned” is a pretty good word here. Leonard doesn’t lack any of the tools to make for a top-flight OL, having played DE (and seen playing time) early in his career at FSU. But Rick Trickett was able to convince him to switch to OT. At 6’7 311, he has good size and excellent frame to hold perhaps 10 or so more pounds of lean mass while retaining his athleticism. But yes, as is - I was stunned to see him go in the 4th round.

Full Article -- CSC

Latest Saints News

Jeff Ireland on Saints QBs: We need to find one, but we don’t want to be throwing darts

  • News source: Josh Alper
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The Saints are one of the teams that are expected to be in the market for a quarterback this offseason and they are set to receive an asset they can put toward that effort.

Sean Payton’s imminent move to the Broncos will result in a first-round pick coming back to the Saints and that’s particularly significant because the Saints were without one after trading theirs to the Eagles last year. While speaking to reporters from the Senior Bowl this week, Ireland said he’s “excited” about the prospect of adding that pick because it gives the team more “flexibility” heading into the offseason...
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Super Bowl 57 future odds movement: Kansas City Chiefs highs and lows from 2022

  • News source: BY JIM DERRY | Sports betting writer
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With Thursday being Groundhog Day, we’re never really quite sure what is going to happen when Punxsutawney Phil climbs out of his little rodent hole.

However, in the NFL, when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs, for at least the past half-decade, their opponents always seem to get six more months of winter.

Ever since the team drafted a potential GOAT candidate, Patrick Mahomes, not only does it seems they’re in the running for a Lombardi Trophy, THEY ARE in it every year. And the odds reflect that.

If the line at kickoff remains where it is as of Thursday morning – Philadelphia being...
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Saints 2022 Position Grades: Linebacker

  • News source: Bob Rose
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On a team full of inconsistencies in 2022, the New Orleans linebackers were the team’s best playmakers as a group.

Many were skeptical about the New Orleans Saints linebackers as the team entered the 2022 season. Sure, the team still had Demario Davis, one of the NFL's best all-around defensive players. Pete Werner was also coming off a promising rookie campaign.

However, there were doubts about the position's depth after Kwon Alexander departed in free agency. The Saints brought in two accomplished veteran linebackers in training camp, but both were cut in preseason. Promising fifth-round pick D'Marco Jackson was also lost for the year with an injury in training camp.

The Saints struggled in a lot of areas in 2022. Linebacker was not among them, where one of the year's most pleasant surprises also emerged.

Saints 2022 LB Grades​


Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) is stuffed by New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis (56). Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

For his fifth straight year with the team, the catalyst of the Saints defense was LB Demario Davis. He led the team with 109 tackles, the sixth straight season he's finished with 100+ stops and 10th time of over 90 tackles in his 11-year career.

Davis again proved to be a disruptive force in every aspect of the game. He literally filled up the stat sheet with a career-high 6.5 sacks, 10 pressures, 10 tackles for loss, and an interception to go along with six passes broken up.

Davis tracks down runners with tenacious sideline-to-sideline pursuit, plugs gaps at the line, rushes the passer effectively, and covers backs or tight ends anywhere on the field. His combination of elite instincts, physicality, and athleticism takes the New Orleans defense to another level.


New Orleans Saints linebacker Pete Werner (20) knocks down a pass for Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (29). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Second-year LB Pete Werner was a terrific complement to Davis early in the year. A naturally instinctive player, Werner is rarely caught out of position. He also has underrated athleticism in open space and in coverage.

Werner had six games of at least seven tackles over the first eight weeks, including three double-digit outings. He was leading the NFL in total tackles and solo stops at mid-season before an ankle injury sidelined him for five games.

The 23-year-old Werner still finished with 80 tackles and forced two fumbles on the year. One of several Ohio State products on the team, Werner looks like a major part of the Saints defense for years to come.

Zack Baun, Andrew Dowell, and Chase Hansen were around for depth but mostly contributed on special teams. However, one of the team’s most pleasant surprises of 2022 was also previously exclusive on special teams.


Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) is sacked by New Orleans Saints linebacker Kaden Elliss (55). Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY

A seventh-round pick out of Idaho in the 2019 NFL Draft, Kaden Elliss was a special teams standout but played sparingly on defense over his first three seasons. He'd break out in a big way over the last half of 2022, with the defense not missing a beat during Werner's injury absence.

Elliss finished with 7 sacks, 11 pressures, 2 passes broken up, and 7 tackles for loss among 78 total stops. Six of his sacks, along with 63 tackles, came in the last nine games. He was not only disruptive against the run and as a pass rusher, but also showed vast improvements in coverage--a previous weakness in his game.

In the last nine games with Elliss in full-time duty, the Saints gave up an average of less than 15 points and 309 yards per contest while recording 29 sacks.

An unrestricted free agent entering the offseason, re-signing Elliss should be a top priority for New Orleans. His emergence, along with Werner's development and the elite presence of Davis, gave the Saints one of the league's best trio of linebackers.


New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis (56) in coverage against the San Francisco 49ers. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that the Saints ranked a lowly 24th against the run is more of an indictment on the poor play of the defensive tackles than the linebacking corps. Opponents were able to get to the second level easily most of the year with interior runs.

Davis, Elliss, and Werner were all playmakers throughout the year. The New Orleans linebackers were the most consistent unit on the team on either side of the ball. They were the key to one of the league's better defenses.

Saints LB Grade = B+​

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Quarterbacks within the league the Saints should look at

  • News source: JalenDogan
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After a terrible season offensively, the New Orleans Saints have to figure out how to be explosive on a weekly basis again. That starts with health, the OC & QB.

New Orleans already decided to run it back with Pete Carmichael as the OC next year. I highly disagree with this decision after watching a full season of malpractice… seeing opening drives go 3 and out with AK on the field for 1/3 of those plays, predictable runs and playing “not to lose” which led to ultimately blowing leads. But the FO has spoken - let’s pray Pete will adapt to the new-age NFL and simply do his job better...
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New-look Pro Bowl Games could feature 'a level up' in competition

  • News source: - New Orleans Saints
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  • Views: 28

Fleur-de-Links, February 2: Saints coaches speak highly of Sean Payton at Senior Bowl

  • News source: Adam Dunnells
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  • Views: 65
The Saints have decided to part ways with co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kris Richard.

Saints fans have been largely caught off guard by the firing of Kris Richard.

Saints vice president and assistant general manager Jeff Ireland’s interview at the 2023 Senior Bowl.

All four Saints assistant coaches at the Senior Bowl spoke highly of Sean Payton, with Declan Doyle saying that working with Sean Payton “changed my life.”

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Where should Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers want to land? Ranking 13 QB-needy teams by best situation

  • News source: - New Orleans Saints
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Saints part ways with Co-DC/DB coach Kris Richard, per report

  • News source: BrendenErtle
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  • Views: 87
While the New Orleans Saints are in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl, they have made the decision to part ways with co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kris Richard, per report.

An unexpected move to many but the Saints plan on restructuring the defensive staff, Dennis Allen still remains the face of the defense. The Saints are now expected to hire one defensive coordinator, a defensive line coach to replace Ryan Nielsen, and a defensive back coach to replace Kris Richard.

The Saints’ defense was the strong side of the ball this season, but Coach Dennis Allen still wants...
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Were the Saints on the wrong end of this viral draft-day phone call with the Broncos GM?

  • News source: John Sigler
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  • Views: 103
George Paton is really popular with Denver Broncos fans these days. He’s executed blockbuster trades for franchise quarterback Russell Wilson and head coach Sean Payton in back-to-back offseasons, but that followed the strong impression he made during the 2021 NFL draft. The Broncos shared video from their war room with fans after the draft in which Paton took phone calls with other teams while negotiating trades

“Hey let me, look I’ve got someone else who’s going to give me more,” Paton said frankly to one speaker, hanging up and switching to another line with applause raining in from...
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Updated Saints future draft picks after trading Sean Payton to the Broncos

  • News source: John Sigler
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  • Views: 99
We have updated the list of New Orleans Saints future draft picks in 2023, 2024, and 2025 after the Saints traded their former head coach Sean Payton to the Denver Broncos, having completing a series of previous transactions with the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans. It’s resulted in an odd sequence of picks for New Orleans over the next couple of draft cycles, but it’s on their scouting department and decision-makers on the coaching staff and in the front office to make the most of the resources available to them. Here’s what you need to know about which picks the Saints can make...
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Source: Richard won't return as Saints' co-DC

  • News source: - New Orleans Saints
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Dennis Allen's second year as Saints head coach inspiring less confidence than the first

  • News source: John Sigler
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  • Views: 105
What did Dennis Allen learn from reviewing the New Orleans Saints’ 2022 season that made him draw the conclusion that blowing up his defensive coaching staff is what will fix this team? Allen burned through his goodwill in his first year at the helm as the Saints’ head coach. In his second offseason, he’s steering the ship right towards the rocks.

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Saints have eyes on 2 Tulane players at Senior Bowl: 'Both very good prospects'

  • News source: BY TERRIN WAACK | Staff writer
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MOBILE, Ala. — There are two Tulane players present at the Senior Bowl, and they have captured the attention of their own local NFL team members in attendance.

Linebacker Dorian Williams and running back Tyjae Spears represent the Green Wave on the National Team this week. New Orleans Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland, who attended two Tulane games in person this past season, noted his college scouting staff already spoke to both of the athletes Tuesday.

“Spears is a really good player," Ireland said Wednesday. "He had a great day today. Had two big long runs, I think a catch...
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Report: Saints Part Ways With Kris Richard

  • News source: John Hendrix
  • Replies: 0
  • Views: 62
The Saints have several openings on their defense now after parting ways with Kris Richard.

The Saints appear to be having some major shakeups with their defense. According to a
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Saints part ways with co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Kris Richard

  • News source: John Sigler
  • Replies: 0
  • Views: 67
The New Orleans Saints “parted ways” with Kris Richard on Wednesday, as first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport. It’s a puzzling decision that leaves the team without its secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator, who had shared that time with defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen last year. How did the Saints go from valuing Richard and Nielsen so strongly to name them co-coordinators to moving on from both of them in the space of a year?

Nielsen will be running the Atlanta Falcons defense in 2023; it’s unclear what Richard’s next move is, though he’s interviewed...
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Saints part ways with co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard

  • News source: CCS Staff
  • Replies: 0
  • Views: 26
The New Orleans Saints had two defensive coordinators this past season but now they have none.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero was first to report that New Orleans is parting ways with co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

With the recent departure of Ryan Nielsen, who had shared the Saints defensive coordinating duties with Richard before leaving to run Atlanta’s defense, New Orleans must fill the role while assuming head coach Dennis Allen will still call the defense on game dayd.

Richard was also the team’s secondary coach while Nielsen coached the defensive line, meaning New Orleans...
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