Ask Mike - December 11, 2006 (1 Viewer)

Dan in Lafayette

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<b>Name: Andrew

From: Los Angeles

Comments:</b>

Hi Mike,

Thanks for all of your great work and insight. I have two questions.

The first is where do you see this team heading personnel-wise after this season? Will they keep all of their key free agents? I remember after the great 2000 season, Haslett and Mueller didn't feel the need to upgrade certain areas on the roster because they were blinded by the terrific season. I hope that doesn't happen again because I think this team still needs a fair amount of tweaking.

My second question is what happened to Aaron Brooks? I was always a fan, at least until last season when he fell apart. I'm surprised at how poorly he's playing in Oakland. Is this the real Brooks? Did the supporting cast he had in N.O. really raise his level of play to a guy who had nearly 4,000 yards passing every year (except 2005, of course)?

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Andrew, I appreciate the kind words.

It will be real tough to keep every free agent this football team has, even the ones they really want to keep. The hardest off-season signee will be DE Charles Grant. Charles has repeatedly said that he would love to stay, but that the football world is a business and he has to treat it in that manner.

I know that the Saints have talked money to Jon Stinchcomb and Hollis Thomas, but no deals have been worked out with those guys either. You would love to keep the key players in place, but this is the NFL and it is a commuter-league. The real key is to try and keep most of your core players and try to always come up with some solid middle and lower range free agents.

You can bet the bank this team will make a lot of changes in the off-season, especially to add critical depth and starters on defense at defensive tackle, cornerback and linebacker. I also believe they will try and upgrade their wide receiver and tight end positions. We have all seen that Sean Payton is not afraid to make tough choices when it comes down to personnel decisions, so this will be a lively off-season, free agent wise and draft wise.

No one can question Aaron Brooks' athletic ability and strong arm, but what led to his downfall is that he never developed good decision-making prowess. In critical spots during a game and he seemed to just come unglued at times. He doesn't have the "poise" factor, pure and simple. Brooks also never embraced the leadership role on the Saints and apparently in Oakland either. At another spot that may not be a critical factor, but a quarterback must be a leader and someone that has to be rock-solid under pressure.

He still will have his moments where he looks real good out on the field, but he has an inconsistency streak that runs wide and he also is not someone that you feel comfortable with when things go wrong. The maddening thing about Brooks is that he will put up some pretty good passing numbers, but when it counts most, he doesn't come through for you and he will make a critical error. Jim Mora, the former coach of the Saints, said it about Mike Vick, but I could also say it about Brooks and that is if you go with him as a starter for any length of time, he will be a "coach-killer."

Take care, Andrew.

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<b>Name: Dan

Handle: Dan In Lafayette

From: Lafayette, LA

Comments:</b>

Hey, Mike.

Thanks for doing the SaintsReport Radio Show last Tuesday. The Acadiana area I'm sure appreciates your efforts.

At that time, Hollis Thomas' suspension had yet to be announced. Hollis was having a very solid season so how big a blow do you think this is to the Saints in the long haul. How do they overcome the loss down the stretch?

Thanks.

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

No problem, Dan.

Losing Hollis Thomas will really hurt this football team. He was having close to, if not an All-Pro type season. Thomas was the teams' best run defender amongst the defensive linemen and while he didn't have a host of QB sacks, he always seemed to get good pressure from the inside.
This team is giving up around 130 yards rushing per game with him in the lineup and you got a strong feeling teams will really go after their inside now with him out of the lineup.

Rodney Leisle has played OK, but he is no Hollis Thomas and they will sorely miss him. It also takes away part of the defensive line rotation Gary Gibbs really wants in keeping fresh linemen in the game. You can see why this will be a high priority area in the off-season to upgrade. There is no doubt teams will not try to run the ball even more now that the Saints front-seven will be without Hollis in the lineup.

You have to hope now that Antwan Lake, Willie Whitehead and Leisle will patch the hole until playoff time, but Thomas will be tough to replace. But this offense has played very well this season and when you lose key players on defense, the offense must take up the slack. Losing Hollis Thomas will hurt, but as long as this offense plays as well as it has they will very much be in games and win many of them.

Take care, Dan.

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<b>Name: Kirk

From: Lafayette

Comments:</b>

Mike,

I'm pretty sure Anwar Phillips is still on the practice squad. If he is, what is his status? I remember reading some draft guides and one had him going as high as the 2nd round.

Is there potential there?

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

Kirk, I had Anwar rated as the 19th best cornerback in the draft, which is a late round pick. He didn't seem to show good ball awareness skills in training camp and in the pre-season games. He also has a bad habit of trying to peak into the backfield and he will get caught out of position. His open field tackling skills improved, but he was not a real forceful open field tackler and the coaches like their secondary people to be good, solid tacklers.

Phillips physically looks the part, but in this league you must find the football quickly in flight and adjust smoothly in coverage. He seemed shaky in these areas in practices and during the pre-season. With all that said because of his athletic ability and coverage potential he will get another shot to play in the NFL.

Take care.

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<b>Name: Leon Moore

From: Baton Rouge

Comments:</b>

Where do you think that Jonathan Zenon (LSU) will be drafted in the 2007 NFL draft?

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

Leon, Zenon will be a senior in 2007. It would not be smart for him to declare early. Both cornerbacks on the LSU club, Zenon and Chevis Jackson, will be drafted in 2008 and probably very early. I currently have Jackson as the better prospect for 2008. Jonathan is a good athlete, with pretty solid techniques and good ball awareness skills. He is aggressive with the football in flight, but he needs to physically get stronger to combat the much bigger and stronger WR's in the NFL. He is rail-thin and he has trouble at times with the much stronger wide-outs at the college level and it also hurts his ability in run support.

I like the fact that he plays the game with an edge and he doesn't seem to let one bad play affect the next play. With a strong senior season he has a chance to be a first day pick in 2008.

Take care.

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<b>Name: Brian

Location: Unknown

Comments:</b>

What's going on with Alfred Fincher? I have seen he was inactive for 3 out of the last 4 weeks. Is he injured, or is he just not cutting it in the NFL? What does the future hold for Fincher with the Saints?

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

Brian, the Saints coaching staff likes the physical play of Fincher and he has good athletic ability, but he has struggled to grasp the mental part of playing NFL football. The Saints coaching staff prefer to go with veterans like Mark Simoneau and Danny Clark, not because they are great athletes, but because they play smart football and seem to always be in an area to make a play. Right now they don't have that type of confidence in Fincher.

Alfred had a great opportunity to seize the moment in training camp and in pre-season and it was obvious he was not ready to become a starter in the NFL. The fact that they kept him around is an indication that they think they can &#8220;coach him up&#8221; and get him ready for the NFL in time, but we have all seen that these Saints' coaches don't have a lot of patience with players that make a lot of mental mistakes.

Take care.

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<b>Name: John McMartin

Handle: Mexico-SaintsFan

Location: Mexico City, Mexico

Comments:</b>

Hey Mike,

Love your work. Listen to you all the time late at night on ESPN Radio with Jason Smith. You are one of the few guys nationally that has given the Saints their just respect and due. Thanks.

Last week you talked highly of DT Brian Young and said you thought he was really playing well. Why has he been so underrated?

Also, I know you are concerned about the injuries, especially against the Cowboys. Do the Saints have adequate enough talent to offset those injuries?

You obviously feel the AFC is the stronger conference and so do I. I am very impressed with your comments that the Dallas Cowboys and the Saints (I know you said if they are healthy) are the closest to those top teams.

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

John, I appreciate your comments and you have to call it straight.

This football club is for real and I just hope they can stay relatively healthy down the stretch. I said this before, but this football team reminds me so much of the 2001 New England Patriots. Believe me if this team, as beat up as they are, wins against the Cowboys on national television, they will get a ton of national respect. It will be a real tough game though.

Brian Young has played excellent football for this team not only as a run stuffer, but also a solid inside pass rusher. To be honest he played pretty well last season and I wrote this in December that former Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said he was playing at a very high level and he was just never given any national respect. Venturi was upset over a comment on another station, other than WWL-Radio, that was critical of Young's overall play and pointed out that the Saints paid a very high financial price to acquire a middle-range talent.

He will never be a superstar performer, but this guy is tough, he gives great effort and Young has great football instincts. The reason he doesn't get great national respect is that other than games this season on national television he has not played in the spotlight since he left St. Louis. I got a feeling he will get a lot of national attention after the way he has played this season.

I think we are fixing to find out this week against the Cowboys. Emotion is a tricky "X" factor in this league, but the Saints will have to play a mistake free game to beat the Cowboys. The Cowboys are a healthy club right now and that always concerns me late in the year when you face off against a team like that. It is tough to win on the road against a quality opponent, but that is what separates the good from the very good clubs. This is not a "system" type team, but they look for players that fit what they do best offensively and defensively.

All I can say is that a healthy Drew Brees gives you a shot to win each and every week, but this week will be much tougher. Right now the Saints have done a great job getting "fit" players that know their roles and they just make plays.

I am not dissing the Chicago Bears, but if they don't fix their QB problems they could well be a "one-and-done" team come playoff time. Right now, I feel as though the Saints and Cowboys are the two most complete teams in the NFC. Offensively the Saints can compete with anyone and while I am concerned about some defensive weaknesses you better be able to outscore them.

Take care.

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<b>Name: Matt Lantz

Handle: COsaintsfan

From: KY

Comments:</b>

First let me thank you for all the insight you provide to Saintsreport.com. I really appreciate the effort.

It&#8217;s fairly obvious we need help in the secondary. Who are the top ranked DB's as of now, that we could possibly see in a Saints uniform?

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

Thanks Matt, I always enjoy talking to the folks on the SaintsReport.

If you are talking about veteran free agent cornerbacks, then these would be the top-rated cornerbacks possibly available via free agency:

Nate Clements-Buffalo Bills
Asante Samuel-New England Patriots
Nick Harper- Indianapolis Colts
Torry James-Cincinnati Bengals
Travis Fisher-St. Louis Rams

I will say this that Mike McKenzie has played very well over the last few weeks. He will have a big test this week against the Cowboys, but he has played very, very well and you see a much more physical brand of football out of him. Fred Thomas has had an up-and-down year. Early on he was the Saints best cover guy, but lately he has been beaten quite a bit on the deep throws.

Watch for the Cowboys to try and pick on him with one-on-one match-ups with Terrell Owens. The one thing I give the guy is that he always seems to step up to the level of competition.

I see the Saints signing a starter-type cornerback and drafting one with one of the early picks also.
Take care.

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Name: Darrin

Handle: Chairman_LMAO

From: North Carolina

Comments: Hi Mike, love the work you do at SR.com.

1. I believe the Saints top off-season priority in 2007 is to strengthen the CB position with youth, talent and athleticism. Can they address it with immediate help through the draft, or will there be an immediate starter upgrade available in free agency, either with or without breaking the bank? Should they use a high pick but a sign a mid-range FA as well, perhaps a young-ish nickel back like Rod Hood of the Eagles? How high do you think Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton will rank this in terms of need, and what's your best guess as what they'll do?

2. Since the team is building from the premise that at 27, Drew Brees is the QB for the next five years, how does the franchise go about building value at the QB position for backup purposes and next-generation purposes? Obviously, five years is a long time for a 2007 rookie to wait, but on the other hand injuries have given many teams a chance to showcase a talented backup QB (the 49ers for years, and A.J. Feely come to mind) and then snooker some lame organization into a trade for a high draft pick. When and how should the Saints be looking QB in the draft or scouring for the next Kurt Warner or Jake Delhomme?

Thanks, Mike.

<hr color="#A29B4F"><br />

Thanks Darrin, I appreciate the kind words.

Nothing comes cheap in the NFL when it comes down to signing starting-type cornerbacks. This is just a guy feeling, but I think they will spend "capital" or big money on a cornerback and then draft another younger cornerback with an early pick. Coach Payton has said numerous times that he believes you build teams in the NFL around quality defensive ends and cornerbacks. But with the Saints picking possibly in the 20's you don't force a pick. With holes at linebacker (outside or middle), cornerback, wide receiver, and defensive tackle you can afford to pick the best player on the board in the 1st round.

The Saints will select a quarterback somewhere in this draft. It is something Sean Payton talked about in the summer quite a bit. He wants a situation like what happened in Green Bay in the late 1990's and early 2000's. He believes that the QB position must be addressed almost each and every year via the draft. Payton loves the developmental aspect of chipping away at the rough edges of a young QB prospect and putting him in a position to be a "player" in this league. If you have the chance to trade him away for higher picks, so be it, but QB's are really banged around in this league quite a bit and you always want to have that insurance policy. Expect the Saints to pick a QB somewhere in-between the 5th and 7th rounds. With Jamie Martin not getting any younger this football team will draft a quarterback in the middle to latter rounds of the draft.

Take care.
 

shrike3000

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I hope we resign Charles Grant. Payton is right when he says that the D is built around good CB's and DE's. We have a need at CB and cannot afford to have a need at DE as well.
 

PanicFootball

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That's a great "Ask Mike". Lots of great questions, and the answers are money.

Thanks Mike and the Question makers.
 

David Robbins

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I wish Nincovich (sp?) hadn't gotten hurt. It would have been nice to see him for a full season to see if he can be a starter.
 

byudrew

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I like what was asked and what was said about the qb position. It is pretty obvious that the Saints need to go with a qb as Martin is older, and (not so say he is bad) we could do better. I was always fond of Ron Wolf and how he would "invest" in a qb in the mid to late rounds , coach them up and trade them off such as with brunell, hasslback, detmer, etc. I always wanted some coach here in new orleans to do that but I was just dreaming. With Payton and Loomis at the helm I think I can trust the coaching staff again, and see them "investing" in a qb for years to come.
 

morals99

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resign Charles Grant, sign Nick Harper and Tony Gonzalez, trade up to draft Pozlowski, then start buying SB tickets
 

DownWithDisease

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It will be real tough to keep every free agent this football team has, even the ones they really want to keep. The hardest off-season signee will be DE Charles Grant....
I know that the Saints have talked money to Jon Stinchcomb and Hollis Thomas, but no deals have been worked out with those guys either. ...
You can bet the bank this team will make a lot of changes in the off-season, especially to add critical depth and starters on defense at defensive tackle, cornerback and linebacker. I also believe they will try and upgrade their wide receiver and tight end positions...
Charles Grant should be priority #1 this offseason. He is most definitely a "core" player, and we need to keep him around. I really think deals will get done with Stinch and Hollis, but if we HAVE to lose one of them, I'd say let Hollis go. I know he's been great for us, but he's getting older and before this year, his play was really on the decline. Plus, Stinch is young, and our O-line is playing as a unit.

I thought it was interesting that Mike D. mentioned that he thinks the Saints will try to upgrade the WR position this offseason.?. Could this mean that he thinks the Saints could possibly let Joe Horn go? Horn's contract has got to be getting into the "fat" years, and he's started to show his age a little the past 2 seasons, as well as being slowed by nagging injuries. I'd hate to see it happen, because Joe's the best WR the Saints have EVER had, but I think it could happen.
 

DownWithDisease

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I wish Nincovich (sp?) hadn't gotten hurt. It would have been nice to see him for a full season to see if he can be a starter.
I really liked what I saw out of Ninko in the preseason... He seems like a real "high motor" guy, that plays with great heart and intensity... He's going to make a great situational pass-rusher.

I just don't think he has the size to be an every down DE at this level. At 6'2 252lbs, he just wouldn't have the size to hold up against the run ect.. (IMO) At the same time, I don't think it would be a good idead to have him add weight, because that could take away from his quickness and speed as a pass-rusher. I hope that they just see him for what he is, and allow him to excel at that, rather than try to transform him into something he's not.
 

diehard

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I think Horn's days here are numbered. He's getting up in years and can't be counted on to be healthy. We've got Colston and Henderson, but after that are Jones and Copper really 3rd WR's?

I think we need to get another one either through the draft or free agency. Not a high pick/price guy but a mid-range/2nd day pick who could be a gem.
 

byudrew

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I think Horn's days here are numbered. He's getting up in years and can't be counted on to be healthy. We've got Colston and Henderson, but after that are Jones and Copper really 3rd WR's?

I think we need to get another one either through the draft or free agency. Not a high pick/price guy but a mid-range/2nd day pick who could be a gem.
I think you could throw me in and I would be a solid 3rd wr, not because I am great or anything, but because Brees can make the sorriest of players look like they know what they are doing.
 

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