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- Aug 1, 1997
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- Lafayette, LA
Ask Mike – May 18, 2007
Name: Tomms, Shane
From: Louisville, Kentucky
Mike, Love your stuff man. I see the pattern with ESPN Radio now and they have you mostly on Thursdays now in the off-season and The Sporting News gets you on Tuesdays. Great work.
1. Heard your take on Paul Oliver. Do you think the Saints would take a shot at him in Round 1 of the supplemental draft?
2. Sam Adams was recently cut. Do they bring him in?
3. Who takes the place of Terrance Melton and Danny Clark on special teams? Both guys were terrific on our special teams.
4. I heard you guys on draft day and you and Kenny Wilkerson debated back and forth about TE Eric Johnson’s blocking skills. I was at Yale the same time Johnson was and have kept a close eye on him. I totally agree with you that his blocking is OK at best and he is really a bulked-up receiver playing tight end. Do you think he will make a big impact on this team, provided he stays healthy?
5. Which assistant coach has the best chance to be a head coach, either college or the pros?
6. Which rookie has the best chance to start?
Thanks Mike, and I bought your draft guide for the first time and I am hooked. Great work and very thorough.
Shane, thanks for the nice words and I am glad you enjoyed the book.
1. Paul Oliver was my top rated senior cornerback for the 2008 NFL draft. The smooth cover-guy from Georgia has good size, quick feet and good recovery ability. He did the best job I saw anyone do on Calvin Johnson last season. If he runs in the mid 4.4’s someone will take him in Round 1 of the supplemental draft.
This guy is a really good cover guy, but he has to blaze a fast trail on the track to get in the 1st round. I thought he would have emerged as a top-15 pick guy had he stayed in school and worked out well.
2. Pass on Sam Adams… Too heavy, too old and not productive enough. His skills have eroded.
3. Troy Evans and Terrance Faulk. Troy was a good special teams player for the Houston Texans and Faulk, when he was healthy, was also a very good special teams performer for the St. Louis Rams. Both guys are solid role players at LB and very good special teams players.
4. Shane, I scouted Eric when he was at Yale where he was indeed a wide receiver and he has been a very good receiving threat for the 49ers, when he has been healthy. I knew what type of football player he was.
He is not a great blocker, but when he is healthy he has good moves and he has a knack for finding the soft spots in a secondary. Eric is a sure-handed guy and a real clever route runner. If he stays healthy he could well be a very important tool in this offensive machine.
Again, the key point is if he stays healthy.
5. Gary Gibbs has the best shot due to his background as a former head coach at Oklahoma and his ability to really squeeze the most talent out of this average at best defensive unit last season. He does have a few better players to work with in 2007. Doug Marrone is the next guy. Great young coach, with a good eye for talent.
6. WR. Robert Meachem has the very best chance to start of all the rookies. This young man is talented and we while will have to see just how quickly he can adapt to the pro game, the spot for him to claim as either the starter opposite Marques Colston or as the #3 receiver is there for him to grasp.
Robert is a strong competitor and he will come to camp in much better shape. The guy is a playmaker and there is no doubt in my mind he will push for a starting slot at wide receiver in 2007. The UT coaches really praised his ability to go up and grab a football in traffic and his ability to adjust his body to poorly thrown passes.
He was not in good shape at the rookie mini-camp, but that does happen when you are wined and dined like most top rated players at draft time. The fist time for most rookies in a pro camp, even first round choices are a bit humbling to even the better players.
Thanks again for the kind words.
Name: Toole, Pat
From: Fresno, CA
Hi Mike, I read your "Ask Mike" section all the time. Keep up the good work. Fresno doesn't get a lot of Saints news as you might well imagine.
How do you rate the Saints performance in the off-season leading to the draft? For the first time in my memory, I believe the Saints front office made all the right personnel moves. They appear to have addressed every area of need, making significant upgrades at each position.
Losing Horn was a sentimental blow, but signing David and agreeing to terms with Grant are particularly smart moves.
Pat, I would have to agree. This is what the off-season if for, to address obvious needs and to add depth at critical spots. I certainly believe that this team will keep a close eye on adding another defensive tackle before training camp or during cut down time as the season gets underway. It was obvious that Joe was on his way out. This is not a business where you get a gold watch for service and time. To be honest I would just as soon get rid of player a year too early than a year too late.
I like Jason David. And the best part is that all you had to give up was a 4th round pick. Barring a serious injury he will be the starter opposite Mike McKenzie. He’s short, but he is fast, tough, feisty and he plays the ball well in flight.
I totally agree with bringing back Charles Grant. Now, I will be honest and say that he got more than I thought he would, but it was apparent the coach wanted him back. Give Tom Benson plenty of credit for shelling out the dollars and Mickey Loomis for making the deal right for the team. This was not an off-season of big-name signees, but they brought guys in that fit the scheme. That is the most important issue in today’s game of free agency and the salary cap.
Name: O'Neal, Lakendrick
From: Shreveport, LA
Do you think Tulane Damarcus Davis will make the Saints roster?
Mank, Damarcus was brought in for a workout before the draft, but he has not signed with the team and is not on the present roster.
From: Metry brah
Hi Mike, thanks for answering our questions. I enjoy your analysis. Two questions for you:
1. Could you please give your analysis of the play of Scott Shanle last year? IMO, he was very good and has been underrated by most fans. I think the weak link at LB last season was in the middle and even that was an upgrade over years past.
2.Based on just getting healthy on the OL and the draft, I see the Panthers being the biggest threat to the Saints in the NFC South. What's the latest on Jake's thumb and will that continue to haunt him like Warner? Also, why is everyone so quick to write off Fox? The guy's three seasons removed from the Super Bowl and two from the NFC Championship. If the Saints have half the OL this year, will people say Payton is on the hot seat in ‘
08? That makes no sense to me. Fox is one of the top coaches in the NFL and the Panthers would be fools to let him go.
Thanks again for answering my questions.
1. ULSaint, Scott was a real surprise for me. He showed good speed and a lot of aggression as a special teams player, and a part-time player for Dallas, but he really developed well last season. He thinks fast on his feet, he has good athletic ability and Shanle flows well to the ball. It doesn’t take long for the head to tell the body what to do. He has also really improved as a cover-guy, but he was a former defensive back in high school and early on at Nebraska. He is never going to be a great player, but he is a good starter for this team. Again, he is a good fit for this team and he brings an aggressive attitude to the club.
To be honest the weak link for the Saints was at cornerback opposite Mike McKenzie. Fred Thomas played pretty well early on, but by mid-season he was getting picked on regular. Mark Simoneau did a serviceable job in the middle and while I know that Brian Simmons is a more talented guy, I must give Mark his just due last season.
2.I agree that the toughest club for the Saints in the division is the Panthers, but to be honest they have stood pat with their club and done very little in free agency this off-season. What was surprising last season was their offensive meltdown late in the 4th quarter in a number of games and they didn’t play especially well on defense, which was suppose to be their strong point.
Jake was really suffering from the thumb injury, but everything I have heard is that he is totally rehabbed and doing OK. When you have that thumb injury it just devastates a QB because it never heals during the season and it affects your grip of the ball when throwing.
I agree with you that John Fox is a quality coach, but expectations were put super high for them last year and they didn’t even make the playoffs. Even though I agree with you, he better make the playoffs this season because I have a gut feeling he may not be around for 2008, if he doesn’t. As long as the huge shadow of former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, who lives in the area, is around he is on the hot seat. I agree with you that he is a very good coach, but their management of the salary cap and their inability to get in the free agency game in 2007 hurts Fox’s chances of catching the Saints in 2007.
Name: RJ in Lafayette
Mike, once again you did a tremendous job with your draft preview book and with your radio work before and on draft day. Congratulations.
A few quick questions.
First, I was surprised that the Saints didn't pick Ryan Kalil in the second round. Your thoughts on that.
Second, this off-season New England has done more than be aggressive. Rather, New England seemingly has abandoned its organizational model of picking team-first players of high character and instead has pursued this off-season players known for their talent but not for the character traits New England had emphasized with extraordinary success. Why the big change? Will it work? And does it mean that Belichick is looking to leave after one more championship?
Third, are you hearing of any veteran defensive tackles who might become available this summer and be a good fit for the Saints?
Fourth, the Saints picking Antonio Pittman has generated much speculation. I wasn't surprised that the Saints picked Pittman in the fourth round--but trading up to draft him? How high did the Saints have Pittman rated?
Fifth, in the first round with the Saints, was it Meachem all the way, or did the team really consider other players at that slot?
1. Hey, I was surprise that so many teams passed on Ryan. He is an excellent football player and there will be a host of teams that will regret passing on this guy. I just had a gut feeling that the Saints were looking to either upgrade their defensive tackle spot or cornerback slot with the second pick, after selecting Meachem in Round 1.
2. You know I have a feeling that Bill Belichick believes that the football team “village” can change a player’s attitude. That might not be correct, but it certainly worked with RB. Corey Dillon when they acquired him from Cincinnati. Bill has always been a bit of a risk taker, but he feels as though strong team oriented players and a winning attitude can change others attitudes.
He has taken more risks than in the past this spring, but I would never want to second-guess the coaching/evaluation skills of Bill Belichick because of his past success in New England. Also when you look at how they have structured the deals with Stallworth, Randy Moss and Kelley Washington, they have quick “out” clauses to not hurt themselves cap wise, if it doesn’t work out. I see Bill back in New England in 2008.
3. I have not put my finger on one defensive tackle, but I certainly believe they will try and address that issue with a veteran player. No, I don’t think it will be Sam Adams. Age, weight issues and eroding skills make him a “pass” for me.
4. The thing that makes this so appealing to grab Antonio Pittman is that he fits what the Saints do best. He is a good inside runner, with the speed to hit the edge plays and he has shown he has good hands coming out of the backfield. He needs to get stronger and improve his blitz pick-up techniques, but he is a good running back and I never worry about having too much depth. I worry about not having enough.
What would happen if Deuce or Reggie goes down for an extended period of time? With Pittman on the roster you have the ideal insurance policy for 2007. The Saints liked both Pittman and Louisville RB Michael Bush, but once Bush got picked real early in Round #4 they decided to pull the trigger on the Pittman trade. We asked Coach Peyton on Day #2 and while he did not give a concrete answer you have the feeling they probably graded him as a 3rd round choice. I had him rated as a 2nd round pick.
5. The coaches we talked to said that there was little debate and Robert Meachem was their guy.
Thanks for the questions.
NAME: Rory James
From Nashville, TN
Mike, I hear you often up here in Nashville and you always bring back a touch of home for me.
1. I heard you the other night with Brent D. and you really praised the work of tackle Jammal Brown and you stated that he was one of the top three left tackles in the NFC. Some disagree. Your thoughts?
2. Will Jermon Bushrod stay at tackle, especially at left tackle?
3. Do you expect Benson to give Sean Payton a long term extension this summer?
1. Rory, you sound like an old offensive lineman to me. I just can't imagine anyone not believing that Jammal Brown, based on his play last season, is not one of the top three left tackles in the NFC. Factor in that this was his first season ever on the left side and that makes his 2007 season even more impressive. The guy is a real killer as a run blocker and he really adjusted well to the speed element on the left side as a pass protector. He really upgraded his overall footwork and techniques.
I really didn't think he could make it there after watching him early on in pre-season, but he is one of the top left tackles in the NFC right now, and this is just his first season on the left side. I am concerned about his knees, but he has missed very little time over his first two seasons due to the knee ailments. Jammal is a quality left tackle in this business and very few teams got the production the Saints got out of their left tackle in 2007.
Just a few days ago an AFC head of pro scouting told me that he thought that other than Walter Jones in Seattle that Jammal Brown was the best left tackle in the NFC last season. He is just not a good football player, but he has the skills to be a dominant player and he played that way last season.
2. Yes, I think Bushrod will get a shot at left tackle first. He is a huge man with quick feet, but he needs a more extensive workout regimen with the weights to upgrade his upper-body strength. Bushrod is a good athlete, long-armed and quick footed and that is what you are looking for in a left tackle. I certainly believe that the Saints will give him a long look at that spot first and then decide where he is needed and best suited for later.
3. Rory, Tom Benson has been burnt a bit in giving long-term extensions to first Mike Ditka and then Jim Haslett and finding out quickly afterwards he had made a mistake. I would be a bit surprised to see that happen in 2007, but if the Saints play anything close to what they did last season in 2007, then you tear up the contract and extend.
What makes everyone happy is cold cash. Give the head coach a nice raise, along with his assistants and this would be an olive branch for the future. I feel strongly that Sean Payton has the skills to be a very good NFL head coach, but I certainly can see Benson's point about possibly holding off on a long-term deal. Do the best for both parties, increase the pay for the head coach and his assistants and put off the extended deal until later.
Thanks, for the kind words.
Name: David Robbins
From: Jackson, MS
Hey, Mike. Well, the draft is over and done with, now comes the part of trying to figure out what we got. Here are my questions:
1. Usama Young rose up the boards after a great pro-day. Before that, no one had really heard anything about him. With the signing of Jason David, what will happen with Young? Is he good enough to be a starter in the NFL after coming from a small school?
2. Nathan Brown was brought in as an UDFA and I heard on WWL-Radio that the Saints coaches love him. I love this kid’s intangibles and the fact that his coach said he was a true shut down CB with great speed. What are his chances to make it? You had nothing on him in your draft guide.
3. Rhema MckNight is an intriguing prospect. I feel that he will go on the practice squad this year. Still, what are your thoughts on this kid?
4. Walter Thomas is a huge man. Do you think he will actually get his act right for the NFL?
5. McKinley Boykin is back. What do you think his chances are to make this team? Rodney Leisle has shown me nothing and we need an upgrade here. I would love to see Boykin and Thomas in the rotation.
6. Joe Porter is guy you had nothing on in your guide. I read that he has great speed and instincts. Is he just a practice squad guy, or will he actually have a chance?
7. Fred Thomas should retire from what I saw last year. Jason Craft has never seemed comfortable in man-to-man. What are the chances that the coaches will be willing to replace them with the young guys?
1. I agree with you David, he was a late middle round rated player until he wowed the scouts at his workout day. He was a good college player, but not getting an invite to the major bowl games or the combines just slid him back. His workouts had him rise up the draft charts quickly and this is the advantage of having the late April draft. Guys who may not workout well early or don’t get invites to the post-season game or combine workouts have an opportunity to get back into the draft game.
No, I don’t think Usama Young will start as a rookie. Barring an injury it is a clear-cut Jason David/Mike McKenzie starting duo. Young is a strong candidate to break into the nickel slot though. He needs some work with his backpedal and techniques, but he has played in a conference that throws the football a ton and he has seen a lot of man-to-man coverage situations thrown his way. Again, barring an injury I see Young as a strong contender for the nickel slot cornerback, but not as a starter in 2007.
I know the word is that he looked great in practice, but again it is just practice and he needs some refinement with his overall game to see extended playing time. I really like his work ethic and commitment to the game, so I could see him claiming that nickel slot when teams go to three wide receiver schemes.
2. David, Nathan Brown is not on the Saints roster.
3. Rhema is a big, very physical end, who knows how to get open in the red zone. While he is effective in the short-to-medium areas of the field, he is no burner. Charlie Weis really rode him to become a better route-runner at Notre Dame and while he improved in this area he has a bit of a “diva” complex. He needs to be pushed hard to get the best out of him and he thinks he is a much better player than he really is.
He better leave that attitude in South Bend, but there is no doubt he is a good adjustment style receiver and he worked hard to come back from a serious knee injury in 2005. Fifteen touchdown catches in 2006 were impressive. The talent is there, but he didn’t get picked because of his lack of top speed and question marks about just how hard he will push himself.
4. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see it happening. He has great physical ability, but he is way, way too heavy and he has never been a guy that has pushed himself hard. He has one move, a big forklift move and that is about it. The guy is athletic for his size, but his work ethic has always been questioned. He should have known to come in better shape and try to instantly convince the coaches he deserves a shot. The Saints found out that he just would not push himself hard enough and so will the next team that gives him a workout.
5. McKinley is a long shot to make this team. He needs to stay healthy to have a shot. He has had a long history of knee problems. Boykin is quick and he is a solid inside penetrator, but the coaches would have to see him show more in practices and pre-season games to give him anything more than a fighting chance.
6. Porter was considered a track guy playing football. He is NOT a very instinctive player and he is late finding the ball in flight. That is the reason he was not in the draft guide. If he has a shot to play in the NFL he has to make a big splash on special teams.
7. One of these guys will be gone before the season starts. Fred was brought back and given a shot to play the nickel back slot, but he is not a sure thing to make this squad. Craft is much better as the #3 cornerback in the slot. If everyone stays healthy I see this team keeping 5 cornerbacks. Mike McKenzie, Jason David, Usama Young and David Jones look like the favorites and Craft and Thomas would fight it out for the final slot.
Remember that both Young and Jones, the two rookies are both good special team players. The “X’” factor guy is DeJuan Groce, the young man from Nebraska, who the Saints picked up before the season started from the St. Louis Rams. This guy is quick, real instinctive and he plays the ball well in flight, but he is constantly hurt. The guy is a pretty good cover guy and he can play special teams, but Groce needs to stay healthy to having a fighting chance to make this team. If he stays healthy, keep an eye on him because everyone that has coached him really likes his skills, but you can’t make the club in the injury-tub. He is the unknown factor or I might say the known injury factor and the unknown stay healthy factor.
Take care, David
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