Ask Mike - January 8, 2007 (1 Viewer)

Dan in Lafayette

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<b>Name: Doug Walley

From: Jackson, MS

Comments:</b>

Mike, I'm a big fan of your work. Thanks for all of your insight into the Saints and also the draft.

I have an observation and I wanted to see if you agreed. I believe this year's coaching performance is the most superior demonstration I've ever seen. I watched the Saints here in Jackson every practice they opened to the public. I have to tell you, the Saints were nowhere near the finished product we have seen develop over the course of the season. I think coach Peyton has exposed some of the deficiencies of prior administrations who always seemed to break camp with the team at it's best just to proceed into a non-competitive status throughout the year. I think Coach Payton and his staff deserve much praise for keeping this team on the up and up all the way until now, and hopefully to the ultimate big finish in the Super Bowl.

I also would like to get your take on where will be the first area the staff and administration will look to improve in the off-season. The linebackers and O-line were the biggest question marks coming into this season, but I would believe we could feel confident in running these guys out on the field for our first team units again at least one more year. I would believe our defensive secondary is the next place we need a definite upgrade in the off-season, after that maybe special teams should become a big matter of concern for Mr. Loomis along with coach P.

Thanks for taking time for these few thought's Mike, and I'll look forward to following your site in the weeks to come.

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Doug, thanks for the kind words and I couldn't agree with you more on the comments about Coach Payton. His ability to recognize the weaknesses in this organization and have this team fully prepared each and every week has been the big story. Many coaches that have been here really never wanted to admit to mistakes or they always thought they could lay their hands on players and cure them of their ills. Payton ran a tough camp, weeded out the dead wood and had players on this team he could coach, he could rely on and that would come to play hard each and every week.

He really did a superb job recognizing the obvious player personnel problems and bringing in players, some which maybe were not as physically gifted, but were coachable and put them in a scheme that brought out the best in them. I know it is early in his pro career, but he has some of the most imaginative game plans and the ability to change game plans to fit personnel as well as any coach I have seen in New Orleans and in many aspects he reminds me of a young Mike Shanahan.

Doug, in talking to Mickey Loomis, he has said many times that the Saints off-season plans in the past few years and now is to address obvious needs via free agency and then have the opportunity to select the best player in the draft, regardless of position. Now, that always has some ease-out in it, but last year you saw them quickly go after and sign Drew Brees, Scott Fujita, add veteran help at safety and at tight end.

This off-season I see the Saints trying to upgrade the linebacking corps, probably trying to land veteran Donnie Edwards from San Diego and trying to sign a veteran starting-type cornerback. If this happens I see them probably targeting a defensive tackle or wide receiver in the 1st round. A tight end has to be looked at also on Day 1, if they don't sign a veteran tight end.

There are still questions to be answered on if they can re-sign Charles Grant, Hollis Thomas, Jon Stinchcomb, and if they want to keep WR Joe Horn for another season. Look for them to continue on addressing obvious needs via free agency and then look to draft the best players available, especially in the early rounds. The drafting of Johnathan Sullivan and the high amount it cost to move up to get him because they desperately needed a DT changed their draft philosophy. It also helps that we now have a coach that can translate the type of players he wants to the scouting department and they have responded well.

Take care.

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<b>Name: Charles Ogden

From: Houston, TX

Comments:</b>

Hey, Mike. You will never believe this but my wife and I are spending the Christmas holidays in Hawaii and I go into a sports bar and guess who I hear on the radio... Mike D. It was surreal to hear you on a Hawaii radio station and congratulations on the Sports Illustrated / CNN "Best Unknown Voice in America" award. It's really sad that guys like you, Michael Smith and Stan Verrett are given more national recognition than local. It's been over 10 days since you received the award and I have still yet to read about it in the Times Picayune and I couldn't find it on the WWL-870 Radio web site either. What a shocker. Again, congrats from myself and everyone else on the SaintsReport.

Quick questions. All year long you have really trumpeted the talents of LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. I know you have said he could be one of the top three or four players selected in the draft. Do you think the Raiders would select him with the first overall pick?

Do you think like I do that the "role" player spots will be the ones to watch for in the off-season? I know everyone talks about cornerback, linebacker and tight end, but Sean Payton uses all 53 players on the roster and I see that as the key element to this off-season.

Thanks for the responses and congratulations on the award.

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Charles, I appreciate the nice comments. What is even more interesting is that the talk-show host in Hawaii lived in Louisiana for quite some time. I enjoyed doing the show with him.

Yes, I believe JaMarcus is coming out and yes, I believe he will vie for the top overall spot in the 2007 draft. He certainly fits the type quarterback the Raiders covet and what I really like about him is that while he has obvious talents as a football player, he still has a huge upside. I see JaMarcus, Brady Quinn, Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson (if he declares and I expect him to come out early) and Wisconsin OT. Joe Thomas going in the top four picks.

Charles I really agree with you on the "role" players. Yes, there are certain needs to be filled, but injuries are not just a maybe thing, but it will occur sometimes during the season. I agree with you 100% that Payton and his staff's assessment of the role-type players that will be available and that will fit in his scheme will be a real key in 2007. You are correct that Sean Payton does use all 53 players and you can tell he has that "New England Patriots" mentality of using the entire roster and keep them focused and ready to perform, when called upon.

Excellent question and I see that as just as big a key as any in the off-season of 2007. Keep a close eye on the free agents in the NFC Eastern Division, Dallas, Philly, N.Y. Giants and Washington. This team seems to gravitate to those players...

Thanks again for the nice comments, I do appreciate them.

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<b>Name: Brian Washington

From: New Orleans

Comments:</b>

Hey Mike, love all of your articles and the Ask Mike segments.
Please keep it up.

1. What do you think of the play of Josh Bullocks this year? He seems to be caught out of position often in coverage. Is it all his fault or is it the system, teammates, etc.? Do you think he needs to/will be replaced next year?

2. We all know the Saints need help on defense, but what positions would you like to see them address on offense. I think they should go after a tight end. Do you see them trying to get Tony Gonzalez if he is available?

Thank you,

Brian Washington

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Thanks, Brian. I appreciate the nice comments.

1. Josh has played well against the run and he is a sure-tackler, but he has surprisingly not played well in pass coverage. Many times we have seen him not react quickly enough to what is breaking down deep downfield and not be in position to make a play. He is a smart player and he really was a good cover safety in college, but he has not responded well in deep pass coverage this season.

The Saints still really like his athletic ability and physical ways and I would be shocked to see them use a high pick or big money on a safety, but to be honest, his play has been disappointing this season. His instincts to play the deep pass are questionable right now.

That certainly was not the case when he came out of Nebraska and maybe he has struggled to grasp the overall concepts and schemes of Gary Gibbs. His play also regressed once they lost Roman Harper. That safety combo really looked good early in the season. I can't explain why but his ability to make big plays against the pass has been lost this season.

2. I agree that most of the work in the off-season will be on defense, but I would love to see this team bring in another quality wide receiver and a solid pass catching tight end. Brees has always looked to hook up with his tight ends and a quality pass catching tight end would really juice-up this already high-powered attack.

One thing Payton brought up in training camp is that he wants to add a young quarterback and offensive linemen each year. Don't be surprised to see them add players at these spots in the later rounds. I have a strong feeling that Kansas City will do everything possible to keep Tony Gonzalez and to be honest I don't see the Saints being major players for his services, especially since he is almost 31 years old. The high cost to bring him in and his age would probably have the Saints pass on him. I still believe that the Chiefs will find a way to keep him in KC.

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<b>Name: Don Blum

From: Metairie, LA

Comments:</b>

Two questions popped into my head after seeing all of the dropped passes in the Giants game:

1. Did anyone pick up WR Mike Hass after the Saints cut him? He wasn't big or fast, but he ran routes well enough to get open underneath and didn't seem to drop anything.

2. Is Marques Colston big enough to be converted to an H-back/TE a la Shannon Sharpe? If so, could that create even more passing game opportunities, given the Saints' current bad hands and injury woes at TE?

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Don, Mike Hass was picked up by the Chicago Bears and placed on their developmental squad. The Saints loved his hands and his route-running skills, but they questioned his separation ability in tight coverage. Believe me they haven't made many personnel mistakes under Payton when it came down to evaluating talent.

I don't see Marques Colston swinging over to TE. He brings such a huge presence due to his size against small cornerbacks and what has surprised me is his attitude and his ability to quickly digest the NFL. It is not that easy for any rookie and this guy played like a seasoned pro.

He reminds me a lot of a bigger version of Rod Smith, who played so well for many seasons with the Denver Broncos. His size, and his ability to square up downfield is critical in any West-Coast type scheme. I would love to see this team add a quality pass catching TE, but remember that Sean Payton also likes his tight ends to be strong in-line blockers. Colston is more built for the WR spot than the tight end position and he has been very good this season. He is a solid downfield blocking WR, but I don't see him having the bulk and strength to develop into the type TE. Sean Payton wants at that spot.

Colston has the looks of a quality WR and I would be shocked to see him moved inside to tight end. You know what you have in Colston at wide receiver and with Joe Horn not getting any younger, he is this teams' NO.1 option in the passing game.

Take care.

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<b>Name: Eric Randall

Handle: Vega$$aint

From: Las Vegas, NV

Comments:</b>

Hey, Mike, I was just wondering about some defensive help for our saints in the draft. What do you think of Amobi Okoye out of Louisville? It seems he might be positioning himself to move up into the first round. Do you think he will still be around in the late first and do you think he fits into what the saints need at DT?

Also can you give us the best cornerback and linebacker that fits the Saints defense that can probably be had in the late first.

Thanks,

Eric

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Eric, Amobi Okoye would be a perfect fit for the Saints, and I expect he may well be available late in the 1st round. He is a young guy, just 20 years old, he has good football instincts and he is real strong against the run. Now he isn't a great pass rusher at this stage, but he is a heavy-duty disruptive factor in the middle and the Louisville coaches gush about his work ethic and character. Let's see what happens in the next few days on LSU's Glenn Dorsey and Michigan's Alan Branch. If both come out early, they will be selected ahead of Okoye and Notre Dame's DE./DT. Victor Abiamiri, who could play either inside or out will be selected ahead of him. I really think he could be around when the Saints pick late in Round 1.

CB Marcus McCauley (Fresno State) and Mississippi MLB Patrick Willis are also players that could be around late in Round 1 and would be great fit players for the Saints. Florida State junior OLB Lawrence Timmons is also a player of great interest.

Take care.

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<b>Name: Mike Schleifstein

From: New Orleans

Comments:</b>

I just read that you were named Sports Illustrated's Best Unknown Voice for 2006. Care to comment?

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Mike, I was surprised and very grateful for the award. Because of the great success of the Saints and LSU I knew I had been on a tremendous amount of shows in the Northeast and Midwest and that really hadn't happened in the past, to this degree. It is gratifying to know your work is really appreciated to this extent and I am honored by the award.

Who would have thought I would have gotten this award because of the success of the Saints in 2006? I really have to thank everyone that has called and sent e-mails to congratulate me on this honor. To see the many top names in this business on that list and I be included is certainly a great honor.

Now the guys at ESPN Radio are teasing me about being the only guy south of the Mason Dixon line to be on that list. WWL-870 is a huge station, but to be on regular on ESPN radio and in other major stations along the East Coast gives this award a special place for me. Believe me the success of the Saints in 2006 opened up the door for me in many outlets I hadn't been on in the past. It's a great honor and I certainly appreciate their trust in my talents.

Thanks.

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<b>Name: David Robbins

Handle: David Robbins

From: Jackson, Ms

Comments:</b>

Hey, Mike. I was thinking about you the other day. I received an order form from Mel Kiper and my wife contacted me about it. I told her to file it in the trash, because the only one I want is yours.

Man, I can hardly wait till your draft guide comes out. You are the best!

I have several questions for you pertaining to the Saints and the draft:

1. Devery Henderson has done some great things this year. He has also shown that he is a very inconsistent receiver with hands of butter. Joe Horn is getting up there in age and has been injured several years now. What are the Saints plans at WR? I don't think Terrance Copper is the answer at the #2 slot, so that means we need a WR with Colston moving to #1.

2. Jamar Nesbit has played much better than I would have thought. Still, I think Payton would love to upgrade at this spot. Stinchcomb is a free agent, and most likely will be hard to re-sign. Strief was drafted and has looked really good in limited action. What do you think the plans are for the O-line this off-season?

3. Free agency is not looking promising for the Saints this year. With the above-mentioned Stinchcomb, we also have Hollis Thomas, Mark Simoneau, Danny Clark and Charles Grant becoming un-restricted. How many of these guys do you think the Saints will try to re-sign?

4. Cornerback, in my opinion, is the biggest need going into the off-season. Fred Thomas is not what he used to be, and Mike McKenzie has never lived up to expectations. There are 2 big time Corners coming available -- Asanti Samuels and Nate Clements. Do you think the Saints will go after these guys?

5. The second biggest need for our team is Middle Linebacker. You know I am a huge Ole Miss fan. My dream is to see Patrick Willis as our stud Middle Linebacker. However, he will be gone before we draft. Do you think Mickey Loomis will try to move up to get him?

6. Rory Johnson is another guy I would love to get to back up Scott Fujita at the SS Linebacker position. What are the Saints chances of getting him?

As always, thanks for all you do for us fans at SaintsReport. We all love the work you do for us.

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1. David, I see the Saints using an early round pick on a wide receiver. I tell you this LSU's Dwayne Bowe or Tennessee's Robert Meachem would be great picks in the late part of Round 1.

2. I agree that Nesbit has played very well this season. I see the Saints addressing the offensive guard spot with a middle to late round pick.

Montrae Holland is leaving via free agency, probably to the Carolina Panthers and I see the Saints trying to replace him, not Nesbit.

This is a huge year for Jon Stinchcomb. I know the Saints would love to bring him back and they have had some talks with his agent, but starting tackles in the NFL on the free agency market really get top-dollar price. If he leaves the Saints would be in good shape moving Zack Strief over to the right side. Strief really impresses me as a starting-type player in the NFL at right tackle.

Again Payton has stated quite a few times that he always wants to upgrade the offensive line, via the draft each and every year. Also, when you win, your players are coveted even more than the ones that play on average or bottom teams in the league. This is new to the Saints and expect big money plays on Charles Grant and Stinchcomb, if they can't come to contract terms before free agency starts.

3. That is hard to predict, because none of us are privy to the contract talks, but I expect Grant to be the hardest to sign. They would love to have all of these guys back, but it is a bottom line (money business) and that normally drives the train as the free agency period gets closer. Also with an increase in the salary cap money many agents tell me that their clients want to take a hard look at free agency and possibly a much larger payday.

This is just my opinion, but I think Charles Grant will not be in New Orleans next season. He knows some team will pay him the big money he wants and I don't see the Saints breaking the bank on him.

4. I agree with the cornerback comment. I see Nate Clements ending up in Washington. Asanti Samuels is the guy I would target. Samuels is a little undersized, but he has very good coverage skills and instincts and a real nose for the football. His reactions skills are outstanding and while he will be coveted by a host of teams, he would be the guy I would really go after, with a thick checkbook. Just have a feeling Clements will be a Redskin though

5. David, I am a big fan of Patrick also. I think the world of this young man as a player and he is pleasure to be around. I am good friends with Coach "O" and he loves the guy. I don't think Willis will wow the scouts with his workouts and while I see him going early in the 20's in Round 1 the Saints wouldn't have to move up real high to get him. David, he would be a great fit on this football team.

6. Rory is really best suited for the weak side spot, but he has the talent and the combustible hitting talents to develop into quite an NFL player. Now, he is a work in progress, but he has a great amount of talent, athletic ability and instincts to develop into an NFL starter in time.

Johnson projects in the 4th round of the draft and he will make someone a tremendous special teams performer in his opening years. He really is a trip to talk to because he rarely has a filter on what he says. He took a gamble by coming out early, but he does have special talents to play in the NFL. If he matures some he has a chance to be a good NFL starter.

Thanks David, and take care partner.
 

Mamba

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Excellent info. Thanks as always!
 

jackers

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Wow, thanks for posting that. A lot of good information listed above. I am really encouraged after reading his responses. Still don't like to think of Charles Grant leaving us, but it seems like Coach Payton has a plan....and that plan has been working so far.
 

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I definitely see Donnie Edwards coming here. He wanted to be a Saint the moment it was announced that Brees signed here.
 

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Edwards will be 34 when next season starts. Do you really think we'll make a play for him? I know he is a real strong character guy and still produces...but for how long and how much?
 

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I've watched a few Chargers games this season and Edwards is as dominant as he ever has been. Yes, he is getting up there in age, but the only reason that would be a problem is if it affected his speed. And at 33, he's still one of the fastest LBs in the league. And his instincts are so good that if his speed dropped off a little bit, his play would still be very solid.
 

David Robbins

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Donnie Edwards can be a starter for at least 2 more years. I'd love to get him and draft Patrick Willis to back him up.
 

Loose Cannon

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Donnie Edwards can be a starter for at least 2 more years. I'd love to get him and draft Patrick Willis to back him up.
You want to go spend a hefty sum of money on a free agent MLB, and then spend our first round pick on a guy to back him up?

Ok.
 

birdog

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I'm glad that Mike D thinks the same way about Bullocks, as I do! Mike thinks that Josh's instincts are questionable, with regard to the deep ball, and he regressed this season. I noticed that myself. Although Mike doesen't think the Saints will go early for a safety, that might change in case someone falls into their lap. It's not out of the question to go after someone in the 2nd, or 3rd rd, stranger things had happened before! I myself would prefer a veteran to the position, but the good ones will never see the FA, so I'm skeptical about that! Anyway, if the Saints get someone with better instincts at the position, that would influence, and improve the play of F Thomas, IMO.
 

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Edwards might not be the best but he is certainly a big upgrade over Simoneau. He might be old but he also brings a veteran presence to the defense and he will be the best MLB the saints have had in a LONG time even at the age of 34. Even if it is a 1 year stopgap that is fine, we cant sign studs or first round draft picks at every position of need.
 

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why pay all that money for edwards when we already have clark
Clark simply isn't very good in coverage, or else he'd be playing a lot more.

Saints need an everydown MLB. Simoneau's played valiantly all year, but if there's an opportunity to get a stud in both run support and pass coverage, you gotta do it.
 
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MLU

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I have a feeling that Donnie would be backing Patrick Willis up...
 

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