Ask Mike - July 24, 2007 (1 Viewer)

Dan in Lafayette

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Aug 1, 1997
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Ask Mike – July 24, 2007

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Name: Doug

Handle: bigdog in ms

From: Jackson, MS


Great site Mike, I love it!

Mike in all your years of covering Saints football, was Joe Horn the greatest receiver talent you saw? I understand why anyone would say he had the best Saints WR career. But when I was a kid Wes Chandler played for the Saints (at least for a couple prime years) and he was a true "great" player at the position.

Does Horn's presence on the Falcon's make Vick's passing threat legit? At this stage in his career I view the signing as desperately wishful thinking on the Falcon's part. I mean no disrespect towards Joe, since he truly is an all-time Saint.

Thanks Mike and for this forum to talk with a bona fide Saints expert like yourself.

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Thanks Doug, I appreciate the nice comments.

Doug, Wes Chandler was probably the most physically gifted receiver to ever play for the Saints, but the bad part of this play-out is that he had most of those great years in San Diego.

In my time covering the league the two that stood out were Eric Martin and Joe. Both different type players, but both very effective and I would give Horn the edge on the best receiver in that time frame.

Horn is still a very effective player, but age and injuries are starting to catch up with him, like any other player that is 35 years old.

Just the addition of Horn will not make the Falcons’ passing game top flight. They really have not fully developed the skills of Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, both guys they spent 1st round picks on. Add to that, Mike Vick has never developed into a consistent downfield passer.

If Vick is in the lineup this year, and that is a big if because I have a feeling he will not take a snap under center this season, they will again be a run-oriented team with Vick or no Vick, with Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood leading the way. Joe is still an effective NFL receiver, but can he stay healthy for a long stretch of the season is the key, but he isn’t the total answer to their wide receiver woes.

Good question and thanks for the nice comments.

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Name: Mickey K.

Handle KM-Bulldog

From: Shreveport, LA.


Hey Mike, love your stuff on the SaintsReport and so many of the other sports outlets. I have a few questions.

1. I noticed on your list of top senior players for the 2008 draft you did not include Michigan RB Mike Hart. He looks like to me the next LaDainian Tomlinson. What’s your take?

2. Which junior players in college might be the top 15 if they decide to come out early for the ‘08 draft?

3. Also which 2 Saints players other than Drew Brees, Deuce, Jammal Brown, Will Smith and maybe Marques Colston would you consider All-Pro material?

Thanks in advance and I wish I could hear you more about the Saints and the LSU Tigers.

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Thanks Mickey, I appreciate the nice comments.

1. Mickey, I like Mike Hart, but he is no LaDainian Tomlinson. The better comparison would be former Cleveland and Washington RB Ernest Byner.

L.T. is a special player due to his great speed, elusive running skills, instincts and toughness and while Mike is a good prospect, he is no Tomlinson.

Mike Hart is a very good football player, but he doesn’t rank as a 1st round choice. Mike is a real tough inside runner, who has good vision, he rarely fumbles the football and he runs with power, but he lacks great size and he is not the most elusive or fastest back around. Right now, I have Mike rated as the top senior halfback for the 2008 draft, but this is not a great year for senior backs.

There is no question that Hart is a quality college back and he will have his place in the NFL, but just look at the junior talents like Darren McFadden - Arkansas, Steve Slaton - West Virginia, James Davis - Clemson, Jonathan Stewart - Oregon, Branden Ore - Virginia Tech, Ray Rice - Rutgers and Felix Jones – Arkansas. They all really could influence where Michael would be selected.

Again, in many respects Hart reminds me of a lot of Ernest Byner, who was a good NFL running back with the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

2. Top Junior Prospects for the 2008 Draft

1. Darren McFadden, Halfback, Arkansas
2. Calais Campbell, Defensive End, Miami (Fla.)
3. Ryan Clady, Offensive Tackle, Boise State
4. Derrick Harvey, Defensive End, Florida
5. Kenny Phillips, Free Safety, Miami (Fla.)
6. DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner, California
7. Tyson Jackson, Defensive End, LSU
8. Michael Oher, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi
9. Rey Maualaga, Inside Linebacker, USC
10. Jack Ikegwuonu, Cornerback, Wisconsin
11. Mario Manningham, Wide Receiver, Michigan
12. James Laurinaitis, Inside Linebacker, Ohio State
13. Malcolm Jenkins, Cornerback, Ohio State
14. Steve Slaton, Halfback, West Virginia
15. Vernon Gholston, Defensive End, Ohio State
16. Darry Beckwith, Middle Linebacker, LSU

3. OK, I would have to say that if it were just two players, it would be Mike Karney - FB and Reggie Bush – RB. I would also say that Jahri Evans-OG, Scott Fujita-OLB and Charles Grant-DE fit into that category also.

Take care.

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Name: Adam

From: Lake Charles, Louisiana


I saw in some of your posts that you are very high on Kevin Kaesvihorn. But, would this defense benefit more from KK being a spot starter at FS & SS while allowing Harper to prowl the line of scrimmage and Bullocks to prowl up field. I just don't see KK coming in and outright taking Josh Bullocks’ job.

What do you think, Mike?

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Adam I respect your opinion, but I always believe that you have to play your best players and right now I really believe that Josh will be pushed to the limit by Kevin K. and to he honest, I think he will beat him out of the starting spot.

Adam, you have to play your best players, and that means as a starter. Last season Josh did not play very well in deep pass defense situations and he seemed to be out of position at numerous times. There is no question that Josh is the better athlete, but I also have no doubt that he will be pushed to the limit by Kaesvihorn.

What is surprising to me is how stiff Josh is with his movement skills. That certainly wasn’t the case in college, but he has stiff movement skills and there is a delay in his ability to turn and accelerate up the field in pass coverage.

Hopefully the addition of Kaesvihorn may spur Josh to pick up his game. A lot of time competition brings out the best in people and that may be the case with Bullocks, who has talent, but it is his average-at-best reaction skills in coverage, that has me thinking that he could well lose his starting spot to Kevin.

The best of both worlds would be for Bullocks to escalate his play in pass coverage and have Kevin K. as the nickel safety, but Kevin didn’t come here to sit and watch. He signed on to the Saints because he feels as though he can be the starter and to be honest he has a strong chance to unseat Josh, if Bullocks plays like he did last season.

I do agree with you Adam that Josh is good in run support, but right now, this football team needs better play in deep coverage situations and Kevin is better in that phase than Josh.

Good question, Adam.

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Name: Glenn Collins

From: Biloxi


Hi Mike,

I live in Biloxi and I look forward to reading your articles on the internet when they come out.

I have a question about the developmental/practice squad. How does it work? During the season, can they practice with the regular team? Can another team sign them? If a player is new to the NFL, are they treated the same as a veteran on the squad? I assume these salaries don’t count towards the cap.

Thanks in advance,


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Thanks Glenn. I appreciate the nice comments.

If you are part of a practice squad you can practice with the 53-man roster team all season long and get experience in practice sessions. You can work out, practice, lift weights, run and attend team meetings with the 53-man squad.

For the most part they play the part of different players on the opposing teams that they play that week.

If you are part of a teams’ practice squad who can be picked up by another NFL team, but not to be put on their practice squad. If you are picked off another teams practice squad you have to be a part of another squad’s 53-man roster.

In a nutshell, if you are on the Saints practice squad and another team wants you, they have to pick you up and then put them on their own 53-man roster and not on their practice squad.

Yes, the practice squad salaries do count against the cap. Some teams carry a smaller number of players because they want that money for their 53-man roster and not on the developmental squad.

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Name: David Robbins

Handle: DRSaint

From: Jackson, MS


Hey Mike. How's it been going?

A couple of questions.

1. In college recruiting, you have a star ranking. This recruit is 5 stars, that recruit is 3 stars. Personally, I never bother with the star ranking because they seem to be determined by how many offers a recruit has. Who determines this and does someone like you, who looks at a kid for the NFL draft concern yourself with what kind of star ranking a kid has?

2. Ole Miss's Ed Orgeron goes after kids 365 days a year. Recruiting is a passion for him. He never seems to concern himself with the top 100 or top 250 lists, but instead goes after kids he likes, especially staying in the region and trying to steal recruits from Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. To date, he has 19 commitments already. This is before most of the kids have been ranked! What do you think of this kind of recruiting?

3. What do you think of Chris Reis for the Saints? Does he have a shot at making this team?

4. What about Rhema McKnight? I can't believe this kid wasn't drafted. Does he have a shot at making the roster?

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1. David, to be honest, I do pay attention to where a recruit is graded by the scouts coming out of high school, but it does not influence my ranking at all. It’s tougher to grade out the high school kids because sometimes the level of competition really varies and you have some really young men who physically mature different. I have seen 17 and 18 year olds that never get too much bigger or faster in their early 20’s and some just the opposite. Especially with big men, linemen or linebackers, people physically mature at a different rate.

To answer your question, I do pay attention to ratings and I have a huge notebook on comments made to me by college coaches on who they really think highly of and who they don’t, but I do not grade out the college players to the pros on those opinions. You have to grade out what you see out on the field, what you find out about their work ethic and ability to pick up new assignments, their on/off the field issues and also on long-range pro potential.

2. David, Ed is just following the trend of trying to land as many early commitments as possible. Teams know who they want for the most part and they try to seal-up these commitments early, and then try to concentrate on the later signers. To be honest a lot of these young men have their full of recruiting even before their senior season starts and they want to just enjoy the final year of high school, without the heavy bother of college coaches constantly trailing them.

Ed has done a good job recruiting and elevating the talent level at Ole Miss, but he knows it just like I do and the rest of the football world that winning solves just about every problem and this certainly is a critical year for him. If he can get this team to the .500 mark or even a tad better, he will have turned the corner, but that SEC schedule is tough and the Rebels need to learn how to win games late in contests.

They had Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Auburn on the ropes and just couldn’t put them away. I give ‘Be-Be’ a lot of credit because that team took three real butt-kickings early on to Missouri, Kentucky and Wake Forest and he got them to really play hard late in the year.

From talking to a host of college coaches the prep talent level in Mississippi is very high this year and Ed is getting plenty of out-of-state competition for the top performers.

3. Chris will have a hard time making this team, but I like his aggressive nature and his ability to play the run. He is a very good open field tackler and he comes up in an instant to defend against the run. His pass defense skills will make him or break him in camp. I want to see how he plays on special teams also. It won’t be easy for Reis to make this squad, but with lack of depth at safety he will get a full shot to show his skills, especially early on in pre-season games.

4. David, Rhema wasn’t drafted because he doesn’t have great speed and he also had a built-in reputation for being a bit of a “diva” at Notre Dame. I thought he would get selected also, but these two factors led him to going undrafted.

At first in the off-season work Rhema really bristled at the coaching methods of Curtis Johnson, but he settled down late on in the training sessions and to be honest, he was very impressive. He has the size that Sean Payton wants in a receiver, he will go over the middle to make the tough catch and he has a knack for getting open in the red-zone. He isn’t a real speedy kid, but he is sneaky quick and he makes good adjustments to the football in flight. What was interesting at Notre Dame was that he was a bit inconsistent catching the ball, but he seemed to be a natural catching the ball in drills and I didn’t see that part of his inconsistent game.

If he continues to progress he could make this training camp interesting, but with players like Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Terrence Copper, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and David Patten running ahead of him, and barring an injury, it will be hard for him to make the final 53 man roster. The one thing that is certain about training camp is that injuries influence roster spots more than anything and I agree with you that McKnight has the talent to play in the NFL and hopefully we will get to see the best of his skills. If he really pushed himself hard he could really make that final cut-down hard for the coaches and I always believe that competition (and he will get plenty of that in Jackson) brings out the best in people.

Don’t count McKnight out, but it will be tough for him unless an injury breaks open a spot.

Thanks David and take care.

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Name: Joseph Capuano

Handle: jay1

From: Illinois


Hi Mike, I speak for us all when I say I am excited to hear you are going forward with the preseason preview next year and I can't wait to get mine.

I also agree that the Saints should just say no to
Tank Johnson. This guy is a good football player but he has had problems everywhere he has been and the league is really trying to rid itself of people like that anyway.

With the ever-increasing threat of terrorism do you really think it is wise to start playing regular season games internationally?

Thanks again for all you do, you are the best!


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Joe, thanks so much for the support and the kind words.

You know I thought the same thing when the league announced that it had in place thoughts of playing NFL games in Europe. I know we live in dangerous times, especially away from the homeland, but people in the NFL front office have assured me that they will do everything in their powers to assure the security measures of NFL teams playing abroad.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes down to security and if someone is willing to put their life on the line for a cause it has been shown that he is difficult to stop, if they don’t slip up any in the process.

Knowing the high profile nature of the NFL you can be assured that they will get the best security they can get, but knowing the growing disdain of Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, the NFL games in Europe would be a huge target.

The NFL does feel as though it has a huge fan base in Europe and playing games in Europe is their way of trying to promote the league and its huge appeal in a very fertile territory. There is always a risk in playing those games away from the states, but I do feel as though everything will be done to secure the protection in Europe by the government powers.

Personally I feel as though these in-season games should be played in the states and if you are going to promote the league do it via the preseason games. I don’t care for the idea of playing in-season games away from the states, but that is just my opinion.

I know there was pressure put on them, but the Miami Dolphins only play 7 home games this season. I know that Saints fans would love the national exposure, but losing a critical home game is something I wouldn’t want done, if I was making the call.

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Name: Hiatt, Kevin

Handle: SammyIsGod

From: So Cal


Hey Mike, love your columns and your draft guide. Just a heads up, if I ever win the lottery and buy an NFL franchise, you are my first choice for General Manager.

Quick question on my favorite Saint of all time, Sammy Knight. It seems like we are pretty set at safety, but do you see any other teams picking him up? I know he has lost a step, but somebody, somewhere hopefully could use his help, I'm sure.

Keep up the great work. We all appreciate it.

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Thanks Kevin for the nice words.

Yes, I do feel as though Sammy Knight will catch on with another football team. There are a host of veteran safeties still out on the market at the present time and I feel as though Sammy will get picked up later during the camp period. Yes, he has lost a step, but he is still a force against the run, a defensive playmaker and a very intelligent player.

I do feel as though he will not be in the football playing business very much longer (probably this season will be his last) and he will end up as a television or radio football analyst.

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Name: Solomon Monette

Handle: King NOLA

From: New Orleans


Do we believe our LB group is solid enough that we don't continue to search and bring in competition or potential playmakers at that position; Al Wilson is still out there I think and what's the status of Tommy Polley & James Allen on last years IR.

Brian Simmons is as solid as what we've already got I believe. Who of our group is the playmaker capable of a big time hit, turnover, or sack?

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King, with the addition of Dhani Jones, I don’t see the Saints making a play for another linebacker unless injuries start to chip away at their depth.

With projected starters in Scott Fujita, Scott Shanle and Brian Simmons, and depth players like Dhani Jones, Mark Simoneau, Troy Evans-who is a terrific special teams player, Trev Faulk, Alfred Fincher and rookie Marvin Mitchell, the Saints seem solid in this spot.

This unit is not a huge playmaking unit, but they are good flow-players to the ball (I am talking about the starters), they fit this defensive philosophy real well and they are all good open field tacklers.

With the exception of Fujita, none of the above are Pro-Bowl type players, but they fit what Gary Gibbs wants in his linebackers and that has a lot to do with being good role players, solid open field tacklers, very intelligent football players and linebackers that do a good job in coverage spots.

Al Wilson was a terrific NFL player for the Denver Broncos, but there is great concern about his late season neck injury, and he has also had some back problems. There is no question when he is healthy he is a playmaker in the middle and quite an athlete, but when he failed the physical in New York earlier in the year, I knew he would have trouble getting back on the playing field.

If healthy, I would say jump on the chance to bring him in, but he isn’t with another club right now for a huge reason and that is there is great concern about his physical condition. Someone this talented doesn’t get picked up either for health or character problems and he has never been a problem off the field, so you can imagine that most teams are very scared of the neck injury that he sustained last season.

James Allen was a real good athlete, but he also had injury problems and he had trouble digesting a NFL playbook (never seemed to understand where he needed to be on certain plays.)

Tommy Polley also had injury problems and while he was solid NFL player while healthy, he also just can’t seem to stay healthy.

The Saints bid adios to both in the off-season.

This is a solid linebacking corps the Saints have and if I have any concerns on defense it is still the talent they have at defensive tackle. I know the Saints like to rotate their defensive linemen and while the pick-up of Kendrick Clancy helps at DT, this team really needs Hollis Thomas to play like he did last season and you just never seem to have enough quality interior defensive linemen.

With Brian Young sidelined early in the practice sessions due to a foot injury and surgery, this area is again a concern for me, especially on a team that had problems at times in run defense.

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Name: corey

Handle: truck man

From: NOLA


How's it going Mike? I know you're getting revved up for the start of the season like us. Couple of questions I'd like ask.

1. We all know Deuce and Reggie will be sharing the ball, but do you see one back asserting himself in training camp and earning more touches than the other?

2. We all have heard Rhema McKnight has had some great mini-camp practices. How are good are his chances of making the team as an undrafted FA?

3. Who to you is better at this point, Usama Young or David Jones?

4. Many of us on felt that Nesbit was the weak link on the OL in stretches last year and against the Bears in the playoffs and maybe the OL position that can be replaced from last year. Who is someone you see that could do that? Could it be Bushrod, Alleman or Goodwin?

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Corey, I am very excited for the season to start and this year it is just not about hoping to be good, but having a real good team to cover that has a legitimate chance to make it to the big show…

1. I really feel as though Reggie Bush will have more touches than last season as a runner. The two will still share the carries, and that will be determined more by whom they play and what their strengths/weaknesses are, but I have a gut feeling that Bush will touch the ball more as a runner than he did a year ago.

That one-two punch of Deuce and Reggie is the best in the NFL in my opinion and they compliment each other so well, that both will have their fair share of touches in individual games.

Barring an injury I still feel as though Deuce will carry the football more as a runner than Bush, but Reggie will touch the ball more when you combine rushing attempts and receptions.

2. Rhema certainly has a shot to make this team, but t is not going to be easy. He certainly has the size, inside route running skills and good hands that Coach Payton likes in a receiver, but if you look at the numbers and players he has his work cut out for him to make the 53-man squad. Barring an injury with the talents of Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Terrence Copper, Robert Meachem, David Patten and Lance Moore on the roster, it is going to be tough.

He would be a perfect practice squad guy, if he doesn’t make the final 53-man roster, but again none of us thought that Jamal Jones would make the 53-man roster last season at this time and many thought that Mike Hass and Chase Lyman would make the team.

That is what training camp and pre-season is all about, but I certainly feel as though he will be a well-watched performer during the practice sessions and games.

3. Corey, at this stage Usama Young is the better prospect and he has the best chance to see more playing time as a rookie. He really looked good during team drills and he has the athletic skills to excel in this league, but let’s see how well he performs in training camp. David will make this roster in my opinion, but right now Young is the better player and both can really help out on special teams. I really feel as though Young will really push the two veterans, Fred Thomas and Jason Craft, for the nickel/dime slot with Mike McKenzie and Jason David as the starters.

4. Jamar Nesbit did a very solid job last season and he will be hard to unseat as the starter, but if anyone knocks him out of that slot it will be Andy Alleman. Matter of fact I would be very surprised to see Jamar lose his starting berth at left guard this season and Alleman will get his best because Jamar is in the final year of his Saints contract. Nesbit was a bit of a journeyman-type player before last season, but he was really a big part of the success of that unit. He is athletic, a good run blocker and he certainly upgraded his pass protection skills.

I really believe that the biggest untold story last season was the great success that the Saints had up front with guys who were either not here the year before, or had not played the spot before and had never worked together as a unit. Doug Marrone did a superb job with that group, but I have to single out Jammal Brown and Nesbit for protecting the blindside of Drew Brees, keeping him clean virtually every game and the mental mistakes were minimum.

Playing along the offensive line at new positions and with new teammates normally throws the timing off, but Marrone did an excellent job working the players to form an excellent unit and the mental mistakes were held to a minimum, especially when you have a QB that throws the ball as much as Drew did and you are constantly getting blindside edge pressure and Jammal and Nesbit did a real good job keeping Brees clean.

Andy is tough, very athletic and I am anxious to see how fast he makes the learning curve every rookie goes through.

Jermon Bushrod will be worked early on at tackle and it will be very difficult for him to unseat Jammal Brown and/or Jon Stinchcomb unless an injury occurs. I really believe that Alleman has the best shot to see extensive or starting time between the two this year, but he will have to really put on a show to unseat Nesbit.

Jonathan Goodwin is a serviceable back-up at both center and guard and he is a good insurance policy to have if Jeff Faine went down to an injury.

Take care, and thanks for the good questions, Corey.

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