Ask Mike - July 2, 2007 (1 Viewer)

Dan in Lafayette

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Ask Mike – April 2, 2007

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Name: Ryan Post

Handle: Postman

From: Crowley, LA



Thanks for your time.

My question is about Kevin Houser. I know Sean Payton values versatility in players because he takes his "roster spots" seriously (just ask John Carney and Billy Cundiff). Year after year, Kevin Houser is a shoe-in for the final 53, and his only job is a deep-snapper. He is NEVER used on offense. I know Kevin is excellent at what he does, and I can't remember him ever botching a snap, but my question is how rare is it to find a dependable deep-snapper? It seems like it wouldn't be that hard to find a dependable deep-snapper who is also versatile enough to serve as a solid backup at another position, therefore, freeing up a roster spot.


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Postman, I can’t remember Kevin Houser ever messing up a critical snap either or I might say a non-critical snap, but it is a lot harder than you think to find someone that good at his spot. I speak to a number of college offensive linemen and even guys who play linebacker and encourage them to learn how to deep-snap and very few even try to do it.

I remember talking to Mike Ditka about freeing up a roster spot by finding someone who could do it just as good as Kendall Gammon, who was the deep-snapper from I think 1996 thru 1999 and he had the best line, “Mike, you don’t know how good of a snapper Gammon is until the replacement I would get messes up a snap or two and then I get criticized for getting rid of him. There are a handful of real good deep-snappers and that is a part of the game I wouldn’t touch because I have a real good one in Kendall.”

Postman, I really know what you are talking about, but I would be surprised if the Saints got rid of Kevin Houser because he is a very good deep-snapper. Listen there are a lot of real good deep-snappers, but again it goes back to the Ditka line, you really don’t know how good of a player you have, until that deep-snapper messes one or two up, and also a new snapper breaks the timing issue with holders and kickers and with the heavy emphasis this coaching staff is placing on special teams I don’t see him making a move in that direction.

In my opinion Houser is a pretty safe bet to make this roster, unless something happened and the timing and his snaps weren’t as crisp as they have been in past.

Good question Postman..

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Name: Guillermo Martinez-Zalce

Handle: Guillermo

From: Montreal


Hi Mike, as always, it is a pleasure to read you.

I am writing with a concern about Jason David. Not knowing much of him, I have tried to focus on him on several colts games re-broadcast on the NFL Network. You are right in everything you have written about him defending the pass, but I am really concern on his game defending the run. I have to say that he reminds me of Deion Sanders defending the run.

In my opinion, David was caught several times out of position in running plays, and almost looked reluctant to get into contact.

It worries me because cornerbacks have bigger responsibilities in the running game than in the Tampa-two system. For that matter, Thomas and McKenzie are very good playing the run.

Am I right on my early diagnostic? And if I am, how much it will affect his chances on starting, and also the overall defensive scheme if he starts.

Thanks again,


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G-Man, it’s good to hear from you again.

Jason David’s strong suit is in pass defense and that he really does pick up the ball quickly in flight. Jason is a feisty little guy, but he is not a real big cornerback and these runners today can really put it to corners physically. G-Man, what I see that he has problems with is getting off the receivers to get into the tackle. He has problems at times getting off the would-be blocks quick enough to make the play and that is all about hand usage and being out-muscled. I know what you mean and at times he seems to be trying to get a good angle to chop a runner down by the legs, but he really is not a reluctant guy in run defense, but he has trouble getting off blocks quick enough to get into the flow.

To be honest very few corners are real good open field tacklers and I would say that Mike McKenzie showed me a whole different side of his game last season when he became a much more aggressive player in run support, but he really upgraded his ability to get off a receiver’s would-be block in a quicker manner. That was the big difference.

I agree with you that David’s strong point is not in run defense, but I would be totally shocked to not see him in the starting lineup. The little guy is not great in run defense, but they are paying him a lot of money to defend the pass and come up with turnovers and I believe he can excel in those categories.

Scheme wise, the Saints run a lot of man-to-man coverage and he seems to do a nice job bringing down receivers in the open field. In run defense he has similar responsibilities now as when he played in the Cover-2 scheme. His problem like a lot of smaller corners is when the bigger runners hit the edge and he is one of the last lines of defense other than the safety.

If you watched some of the late games against teams like K.C.and New England, Jason did a nice job slowing down runners on the edge and then Colts’ safety Bob Sanders would finish the runner off.

My concern for the Saints in 2007 on defense doesn’t really lie on the play of the cornerbacks as much as I feel as though they must do a better job up-front against the run and get better play from their safeties in both run support and against the deep pass. With a healthy Roman Harper and the addition of Kevin Kaesviharn, I believe that area will be upgraded. Let’s see what happens when teams get the mindset to take it to the Saints defense and the Saints offense maybe doesn’t have a real good day. Teams like Carolina (the 1st game), Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington and the Bears had success running the ball on the Saints when their offense was not hitting on all cylinders and the opposing team didn’t have to pass the ball as much. Just remember that Tampa Bay with Cadillac Williams in the Dome went toe-to-toe with the Saints until they were not sharp enough to not punt the ball to Reggie Bush late.

Take care.

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Name: James Belcher

Handle: Roaad

From: Athens, TN


My biggest question going into this season is regarding team chemistry. I wonder if you think there are any potential pitfalls or concerns in regards to the off-season additions. An example is anyone we sign from the Bengals, with their obvious team character concern or any rookies that could possibly be carrying baggage into team activities.

We played EXCELLENT team football last year, and that is THE major reason for our success. I am truly hoping that we didn't add any poison to our team, in the name of talent.

What are your thoughts, Mike?

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Roaad, it is the million-dollar question as far as team chemistry is concerned and we really won’t know that for sure until they put the pads on and play a few games, but I will say this again, the team you saw last year you will never see again.

In the NFL you either get better or you get worse.

Sean Payton has put a lot of emphasis on high character guys and guys who put a lot of effort and dedication to their craft and I see no one that seems to be not on the same page as what he wants in a player.

To be honest, if there is someone like that, I don’t think he will be here very long. I give the Coach a lot of credit on this end. Coaches sometimes will sacrifice their wants in a player from a character issue because the guy is such a good football player, but this coach passed on a few guys in the off-season like a Ken Hamlin and Mike Vanderjagt, who could have helped, but didn’t fit into the family mold he wants in a player.

This really impressed me, along with the rookies he brought aboard because we had every one of those guys after the draft on the radio broadcast and every one of them sounded like the coach and told stories about how they got to be selected and they were all so team-oriented.

Don’t worry about Kevin Kaesviharn or Brian Simmons, these two guys are quality guys off the field and in the locker-room and hopefully they will really upgrade their respective positions out on the field.

Team chemistry is a tough one to call, but I have said this before and I really mean it that this football club, barring major injuries, has the type of early make-up to be a strong Super Bowl contender, especially if they can get home-field advantage in the playoffs. Again, I really can’t answer that question right now, but all early indications are that there are not any troublemakers on this club and if there are some, they won’t be wearing a Saints uniform in 2007.

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Name: Chris Jones

Handle: chris_lsu

From: Huntsville, AL


Mike, thanks for your contributions to I love reading your columns.

I'll make my question short and sweet: Do you think that the league might try to institute a rookie salary cap in the near future?

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Chris, There is a rookie salary cap in place which is set-up the same way from year-to-year, but it is increased due to the salary cap has increased. There is a rookie pool to work with every year and teams must work under those guidelines concerning money given out.

I think what you mean is there any way they could lower the salaries for rookies or set it up by play out on the field.

The answer is simple…no. The way the system is set, and it is unfair, but there are some players who have never taken a snap that are making more money than proven All-Pro performers.

As long as the union and the salary structure are in place, nothing will change on that end.

Take care.

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Name: Joshua Paul

Handle: Mrko66

From: Oakland, CA.


Hey Mike, love the stuff you post and I was thrilled to hear you say on ESPN Radio that you thought the Saints would play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Last year I remember you picked the Indy Colts to beat the Seattle Seahawks and that was pretty close. Man, that would be awesome to see the Saints playing on Super Bowl Sunday.

You brought up the possibility of this team, well at least looking at Dhani Jones from the Philadelphia Eagles and maybe even DT Robert Armstrong from Morgan State in the supplemental draft.

What are our chances of getting these two guys?

John Clayton from ESPN says that the Saints are interested in Tank Johnson. Would you sign him when he serves his suspension?

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Josh, thanks for the nice comments…

Hey, you have to give picks before the season and if I am wrong, I am wrong, but I really feel as though the Saints and Patriots are the two best teams in their respective conferences. Last season I picked the Colts to win it all, but I picked the Carolina Panthers to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, so I was wrong about the Panthers.

On Dhani Jones, I just feel as though he would be a good fit for this team. He is a high character guy, very intelligent, he runs well to the edge and he is a good insurance policy. He reminds me a little of Darrin Smith, who played for the Saints in the early 2000’s and played pretty well for a stretch as a starter. Jones has good pursuit skills, runs well to the perimeter, drops ball well into his pass coverage assigned areas and he does get above-average pressure from the strong side. What he really struggled at last season was slowing down the run when running plays were directed right at him. He was a little slow to get off the block and he got caught up in a lot of the football traffic and teams had success running at his side. I really don’t think he could beat out S. Fujita or S. Shanle, but he would be a good insurance policy and be a solid addition on the special teams unit.

He can also play multiple positions at linebacker, so that is always a big plus for what Gary Gibbs wants in a linebacker and Payton knows him pretty well when they were both in New York earlier in their careers.

On Robert Armstrong, I believe there is some interest there, not a whole lot, but some. To be honest, I really believe that Armstrong may get undrafted in the supplemental draft and then I believe the Saints would have interest in signing him as a free agent. It’s worth a look, if it doesn’t cost you anything and if he is not what you want then it’s adios.

Robert has great size, he moves well for a big man and at times he spurts out big-time skills, but he was not a very consistent college player and he had problems with his weight. He also had a back problem. Every team takes a long look at a player with his dimensions, 6-4, 319 and can run a (5.0) 40-yard dash, but Armstrong has never really pushed himself very hard.

Some team who has concerns and wants to take a shot at a young DT might take a shot at him late, but I think he looks more like a free agent signee, than a draft choice.

The young man needs to get in better shape and really turn up the intensity button to make it in the NFL. This guy has the talent to play in the NFL, but he really needs some motivation and he needs to shed some pounds to make it in the NFL. He also will be a 24-year old rookie.

Yes, I think the Saints would have interest in Robert Armstrong, if he was not drafted, (I would be a little surprised to see them use up even a 7th round pick on him) but I also see a few other clubs making a pitch at him also, if he goes unselected.

No, I would pass on Tank Johnson. Tank is a good NFL player, but he let his team down not once, but numerous times by getting in trouble and I don’t see Sean Payton bringing someone in who has a past history of finding trouble. He has done everything to build this team with high character guys and I don’t see Tank, even though he is a good starting player, as a guy the Saints would bring in to help out at defensive tackle.

Some other team will sign him after the suspension is up, I am convinced about that, but I don’t see the Saints being that team.

It is just not an issue of Johnson hurting his NFL career, but the Bears stuck their necks out for him and he let them down again and again.

I would pass and I would be surprised to see the Saints make a pitch for Tank.

Take care.

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Name: Greg Lusher

Handle: Slug

From: New Orleans



Love your work, you're a true pro and I’m glad for your national coverage.

My question concerns a split backs type set for the Saints. Do you see Sean Payton integrating some schemes to use either Reggie and Deuce or Reggie and Pittman in split back formation to send both into pass patterns? It seems this would give defenses fits with Colston and Henderson out wide as well.

What do you think?

Thanks, Mike!

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Slug, I would expect that you will see more split back sets this season, but at times one back would have to stay to help out in pass protection. There is no question that Sean Payton wants to tinker around with having Reggie and Deuce in the same backfield more this season and having teams guessing on what they are going to do.

With Bush in the lineup many teams will try and put in a sort of nickel-scheme in pass coverage defense to match-up against him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them running out of this scheme to catch a team off-guard and out of position. USC did a little of this when they had Reggie and LenDale White lined up in the same backfield in split sets and they had great success running the ball because most teams were expecting the pass to go to Bush out in the flat.

To be honest that is what the off-season is all about finding a way to beat the football coaching version of chess out on the field and Yes, I do expect more split-back sets with Bush and Deuce or some kind of halfback combo.

Thanks for the nice comments. I do really appreciate them.

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Name: B.J. Knox

From: West Monroe, LA


Mike, I love your columns man. You seem to have the best inside stuff of all the Saints reporters.

I noticed that you gave a rough roster prediction in your last "Ask Mike" segment. Two players that you left off in the cut were Steve Gleason and Rob Petitti. I was wondering do you expect Gleason to be out for the year because of his knee problem or if you think the Saints have someone else that will assume the role of special teams captain? And with Petitti off, do you think that Bushrod and Strief are going to grow into great backups and eventual starters? My feel is that Bushrod will be an upgrade from Petitti, which is saying something because he started a whole season for the Cowboys, and Strief is a beast that they may groom to take Stinchcomb's place when his contract expires. He was great in his start vs. Simeon Rice.

What are your thoughts, my friend?

Thanks as always, Mike.

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Thanks B.J… I appreciate the kind words…

Those were tough cuts for me, but Steve Gleason will really have his work cut out for him to make this team, but Steve will say it himself that this is the case each year, but this year will be even tougher.

Barring injuries the additions of Troy Evans and Trev Faulk, even though they were brought in for depth purposes at LB, had a lot to do with aiding the Saints special teams. Evans in particular is a very, very good special teams player. The young kids, Usama Young and David Jones, also saw a lot of work in college on special teams and DE Rob Ninkovich, who was hurt most of the 2006 regular season, is also a good special teams performer.

For Steve, he is a good specialty player, but he really doesn’t play safety and that really limits his shot to make the team in 2007.

Right now, and they haven’t lined up yet, but it is going to be a tough road for Gleason to make this team in 2007, but injuries always change your thinking and what a coach wants in a team, so that won’t be known until the training camp and pre-season game play is finished with. For Gleason, it is the usual try-to-make the roster spot for him.

On Petitti, he is a tough battle. The two young players, Andy Alleman and Jermon Bushrod, look like players that could provide excellent depth in 2007 and they also have a good young prospect in Zach Strief, so the road will be tough for Rob in 2007, but as I wrote about Gleason, sometimes an injury breaks a job open for you.

Jermon is a good athlete, quick footed and a good pass protector, but I want to see how well he handles the physical version of training camp and pre-season. I remember talking to Willie Roaf and he told me that his transition from Louisiana Tech to the pros, was all about learning how to play under control more than anything and that he didn’t have to face top players on a weekly basis in the college ranks.

In the pros you play good and sometimes really top football players each and every week, and there is no let up. Handling the challenge each and every week from a physical standpoint and learning how to play under control and on balance is the key. That is what stood out about Jahri Evans last season. I wrote this in my draft report that Jahri was a real physical player and a very strong run blocker, but I didn’t know how quickly he could catch on to pro-style pass blocking and getting use to top competition each and every week.

He made a very smooth transition into the league and to be honest Jahri is on the verge of developing into an All-Pro football player. This guy is tough, real nasty, and very physical at the point of attack and he really upgraded his overall pass blocking skills.

Minnesota’s Steve Hutchinson and Philly Eagles guard Shawn Andrews were the two best guards in the NFC last season, but Jahri was as good as anyone else I saw in the NFC other than Hutch and Andrews in the NFC.

Bushrod has the athletic skills and quick feet you want and now let’s see how quickly he can make the transition to the pros and adapt to a more physical game on a weekly basis. You can’t determine those type skills working in shorts.

Zach Strief has redefined his body. He was a huge guy at Northwestern and probably a little too big to be honest, but he has worked hard to redefine his body build and he has lowered his weight from his days at Northwestern.

I have always thought he was better suited to play on the right side because he was not the quickest footed O-lineman, but he did a very good job on the left side playing for Brown and head-up against Simeon Rice.

Right now this football team is in good shape depth wise up-front and even reserve OC/OG Jonathan Goodwin has seen plenty of playing time for the N.Y. Jets. It is a good problem to have and it is going to be tough for any of the reserves to knock off a starter this season, but if you have an injury the talent level doesn’t fall off the map. And you always have the free agency process in the back of your mind as a coach or GM, so you have the type quality reserves to fill in the gaps in case you have an injury or you have a loss in the free agency period next year or the following.

To answer your question, Yes, I do feel as though Zach has the ability to start in the NFL, especially as a right offensive tackle.

Take care.

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Name: MarlboroMan

Handle: MarlboroMan

From: Chalmette/Denver


Hi Mike thanks for your input to All of our members really appreciate you and your insights.

My questions are: How do you think our defense will fare against what I call the hurry up and wait offense of the Colts in the season opener? Since coach Payton likes to rotate the D-Line and Hollis Thomas’ has an asthma problem, what do you think coach Payton's strategy will be to counter that style offense?

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MarlboroMan, thanks for the nice compliments.

I think the Saints will steal a page out of what has given the Colts problems in the past and that has been to get plenty of pressure on Peyton Manning from the inside using some blitz schemes and putting a heavy emphasis on stopping the run. For years, the Patriots did this and had great success and when you saw games in the past against the Steelers or Chargers teams, primarily teams with 3-4 alignments, they really gave Manning trouble with pressure coming right up the middle and secondly stopping the Colts’ running game. If you let them get in the rocking chair and establish the run and they give Manning time to throw the ball, it is all over for you. Their skills players are as good as anyone in the league and that unit has played together for so long, it is like second-nature ability to find the target areas in certain down and distance situations. Have people falling at Peyton’s feet, throw off his timing and slow down the running game and you have a shot to beat the champs, but it is a lot easier said than done.

Offensively what makes them so good is that they are so well-balanced with the run and the pass and they will go for the “kill” shot a few times during game to break the back of an opponent with deep throws downfield. You are correct, they can play the 16-13 game if you want and if turns out to be a 40-38 game, they can play that sort of game also.

Offensively the Saints need to protect Drew Brees from the pressure he will feel from DE Dwight Freeney coming from Jammal Brown’s left side, which should be quite a battle, and run the ball on them. Make them prove to you that they are a solid run defense team and in pass situations spread the field and force S Bob Sanders off the line of scrimmage. He is the playmaker for them on defense, especially against the run and over the top in pass coverage.

I say nickel and dime them to death with the short pass and hit them with a steady diet of Deuce/Reggie in the running game and prove to the football world that the games played late in the 2006 season and playoffs when they really did play good run defense, is for real.

Take care.

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If you have a question for Mike, just go to the top of this page and hit the "Ask Mike" button and fill out the form.


hard, pipe-hittin'
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Apr 13, 2002
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Great stuff, Mike. Many thanks for taking the time.


Whodie I'm a Saints fan
Dec 13, 2006
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Gert Town
Awesome read....I love these threads. Sometimes I read the thing straight through, sometimes I leave a little for later.


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Feb 1, 2004
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Monroe, La
Top notch as usual Mike, thank you. Great questions also.


I hate American Airlines
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May 13, 2005
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5 Stars...... Mike does such a great job of giving well thought out and written responses. I'm amazed by the detail each time I read them.



I'm with you fellers.
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Apr 14, 2002
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Carencro, LA
Merci, Mike (and Dan). Good questions and even better answers. "Ask Mike" is my favorite feature on SR.Com.

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