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Aug

14

Marcus Williams’ future too bright to dwell on ‘Minnesota Miracle’

  • Mike Triplett    ESPN Staff Writer

METAIRIE, La. — Marcus Williams would rather let his play do the talking as he tries to move past the “Minnesota Miracle.”

If Friday’s practice is any indication, that should work.

The New Orleans Saints’ second-year safety broke up a pair of Drew Brees passes on back-to-back plays during full-team drills on the second day of training camp — again flashing the type of playmaking ability that he demonstrated throughout his breakout rookie season.

But Williams knew that wasn’t what he would be asked about most after Friday’s practice.

Read more here.

Aug

08

NEW ORLEANS AT JACKSONVILLE: GAME PREVIEW

It’s go time! What to look for in the preseason opener
By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

Thursday the preseason opener brings an end to the speculation and guessing part of how good the New Orleans Saints can be as it’s time to see what players can actually do in a game.

2017’s season has Saints fans excited, as excited as I’ve ever seen them not only in the Sean Payton era but also in franchise history. You’ve read and heard about how much talent and depth this team has over the past few weeks and months. All of that though comes without seeing a single meaningful snap and off of assumptions.

I understand that preseason success and failure doesn’t determine and at times really give an indication of the season to come but it can shine a light on areas of promise or concern.

A winning start is important for the Saints this season and in the past two seasons head coach Sean Payton has said winning mattered even in preseason. The open is against a team that is getting plenty of chatter nationally.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS VS HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Jacksonville was just as a surprise team in 2017 as the Saints were finishing the year 10-6 and winning the AFC South. The Jags in the post season beat Buffalo 10-6 in the Wild Card round, stunned the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 and lost at New England in the AFC Championship game 24-20 in game in which they lead 17-10 entering the 4th quarter.

NFL analysts across the county predict Jacksonville to have just as good a chance at having a good season led by a stout young defense and by LSU’s Leonard Fournette on offense who rushed for 1040 yards in his rookie season to go with 9 TDs. Head Coach Doug Marrone, a former Saints assistant under Payton, has gone about this year like last by putting his team though grueling training camp practices.

I’m interested in seeing how the Saints stack up against a team that was a quarter away from the Super Bowl. I’m not talking starters against starters as I’m aware that many on both sides will wear ball caps instead of helmets but depth against depth.

Kick off is set for 6p.

AREAS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE

The Saints have held 12 practices and you could argue the defense has won darn near all of the workouts, including Monday’s final practice of this game week. Whether it’s interceptions, pass blocks, strip fumbles, stuffing run plays, you name it as it seems as if the defense is doing the job. The plays being made also aren’t just from the starters but from players that this team will be looking at as key depth.

I’ll be looking to see the Saints defense shows the flow and hats to the ball, show the ability to break up pass plays even after their caught but not fully completed. Lastly the team has not had a live period in practice so the game will be the first time to judge how well the tackling can be. Jacksonville’s offense is not a pass happy offense so it’ll be interesting to see if the defense can be physical at stopping the run.

BACK UP QB

Let’s start by stating the obvious. Drew Brees gets injured to where he misses a handful of games or more this is not the same team. He’s a first ballot hall of fame quarterback. You don’t replace those. At best you deal with a loss like a damaged ship, keep it afloat and maybe even still manageable to stay in the fight. So that aside, there is a real possibility that a helmet malfunction, the flu, an injury during the game takes place and someone other then him needs to take a or a few snaps.

Tom Savage and Taysom Hill are battling for the back up role. Savage has starting experience where as Hill doesn’t. Payton this week said that when comparing the two you have to start with the fact that they are two different quarterbacks. Hill is the more athletic. Savage the more manager of the two. Hill throws darts. Savage gets the ball there and you’re counting on making the right reads. Hill to me brings one other element that goes with his athleticism. The ability to extend or even make a play with his legs. In practice we’ve seen broken plays turn into runs down the field gaining big yardage. We have even seen college style read option plays where he kept and took it into the endzone. Payton has long talked about wanting an almost dual threat QB. Before you balk at the notion you need only take a look in the Saints own division. Carolina’s Cam Newton is that and won a league MVP.

Philadelphia’s Caron Wentz is not just a pocket passer, nor is Jarod Goff with the Rams, Jimmy Garoppolo with the 49ers, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers all use their mobility. No one is saying that they are Michael Vick, but they are definitely stuck in stone in the pocket. With the potential the Saints defense has of keeping opposing offenses from putting up large amount of points and the potential the Saints offense has with young weapons at receiver and in the backfield, a quarterback needs to just not trip on the handoff. That’s Savage. Imagine if they have the ability to air it 50-70 yards down field on a dart on the run or elude a sack and find Kamara running out the backfield turning a sack into a first down and that’s what I think Hill can be. Now the deal is he has to go out and prove it. I still believe the Saints would like Hill to earn the job. He’s highly involved in special teams so he’s on the team. But Thursday will be his first chance his value is at quarterback and not slobber knocking returners on a punt or kickoff.
Sean Payton’s given us what to look for when either Savage or Hill is in the game. Can the team in and out of a huddle?. Pace. Rhythm. Can they move the team up and down the field and produce points? Can they run the offense and make plays? If neither shows the ability to do so by game 3 of the preseason they’ll be on the phone calling someone that can.

RUNNING BACK

Mark Ingram missing the first four games has this position group as a must watch for four games. Your Contestants for a role while he is away in suspension land are Jonathan Williams, Terrance West, Shane Vareen, Boston Scott and Trey Edmunds. Edmunds has seen a move to fullback which could be an indication. I’ve found myself writing #32 a lot during practice and that’s Williams’s number. West has had a play here and there and I’m eager to see the quickness and stop on a dime then go ability Scott has shown at times. Game speed and live action will be the determining factor in determining who stays and who goes. Something to note is that Ingram can do it all, run, catch out the backfield and more importantly pass protect. Which of the back can do all three or at least two of the three?

RETURNERS

Payton has called these players the Bachelor contestant. They are Alvin Kamara, Ted Ginn, Boston Scott, Brandon Tate, Tommy Lee Lewis. Kamara is a we need a home run call up in the return game as he’s far too valuable to use. Ginn is right there. Lewis has flashed here and there as a receiver but it’ll be his ability to return the ball that will earn him a roster spot. Scott can earn his spot here in the return game. West, Vareen and Williams have experience over Scott as just running backs. Tate brought in after the start of camp after Payton admonished the other returners will be given a chance to earn it.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

WR TRE’QUAN SMITH #10: He has been one of the players of training camp that’s stood out. Smith has made plays since the start of camp that get you thinking uh oh did the Saints steal another playmaker in the third round? Smith has shown the ability to catch the ball smoothly, catch in traffic, catch it short take off and out run everyone. Smith has shown the ability to run on the snap, stop on a dime and make a big grab when the defense has the momentum and one of the plays of camp was his ability to go up and out jump a defender and bring the ball down and maintain it after he hits the ground. Can Smith do it in a game though? We’re about to find out and I have no question he will show what we’ve been seeing at practice.

TE DAN ARNOLD #85: Tight end is a thin position group right now thanks to injury. Ben Watson is on the team as is Josh Hill. To me after that the spots are up for grabs. Arnold is a converted WR and honestly, the guy is just catching everything. Not flashy size or speed but just solid.

CB JUSTIN HARDEE #34: The depth chart has Marshon Lattimore at RCB followed by rookie Natrell Jamerson and then Justin Hardee. Hardee a converted WR plays bigger then his 6-1 200 pound frame. He’s made some nice plays during practice and to me has some upside. Could a roster spot come down to Hardee and a draft pick? Payton’s gone with the better player in the past (Pierre Thomas vs Antonio Pittman).

RB BOSTON SCOTT #30: He’s just fun to watch at times. Scott is one of the smaller players on the field but one of the quickest as well and has put some sick moves on some of the best Saints defensive players. I’ve mentioned several times at practice that because of when he’ll play in the preseason games and against maybe not so good defenders, I expect Scott to have a play or two that will wow and get people talking. I mentioned earlier up top, his ability in the return game can really help his chances at making the team.

WR KEITH KIRKWOOD #18: Sometimes things happen to give you an opportunity and it sure feels like for Kirkwood it’s happening. Injuries to Travin Dural and Brandon Coleman have freed up snaps as those two are no longer with the team. At 6-3 210 the undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple is just consistently chugging along. Making a play here and there like Sunday at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium when he caught a pass from Brees in traffic in the endzone. Kirkwood has gotten snaps with the ones. Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Cameron Meredith and Ted Ginn are your 4 locks at receiver. Who’s the fifth? Tate? Austin Carr? Kirkwood can help his cause with in game showings and special teams play.

NEXT UP

The Saints will have a brief closed practice on Friday afternoon before holding a pair of open practices over the weekend at the normal 8:50 to 11:40 schedule. Monday is a closed practice followed by a scheduled day off before the final open practice before preseason game number 2 Friday in the Dome against the Cardinals.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.

Aug

07

Sideline Pass Saints Watch Party

What’s up Who Dat Nation !! come out and see former Saints WR Robert Meacham!!! He’s going to be the Guest of Honor Thursday at Sideline Pass Saints Watch Party / Back To School Saints Pizza Party!

No ticket to buy… Just come meet Robert & watch the Saints’ 1st Game with us at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Uptown! 
sidelinepass

 

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Uptown will donate 25% of whatever you spend to our efforts to take underprivileged female athletes shopping for their back to school sports shoes & equipment!! — at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Uptown (LPK – Uptown).

Just come eat, write “Sideline Pass” on your receipt & LPK will donate 25% of your purchase to our Back to School shopping trip for underprivileged female athletes!!!

Cant make the watch party? That’s ok- go eat at LPK on Carrollton ANYTIME Thursday, August 9, write “Sideline Pass” on your receipt & we get 25% of your check!

Aug

03

Saints fans share why they love their black and gold

The Sports Hangover’s Gus Kattengell asks a few fans during a Saints training camp practice their thoughts on the team and the upcoming season.

Aug

03

Season ticket holders are pumped about 2018 potential

The Sports Hangover’s Gus Kattengell on Friday asked season ticket holders their thoughts on the upcoming 2018 season. There was one thing they all had in common. A combination of a potentially strong defense and potent offense has Who Dats thinking it could be a special season.

Aug

02

Saints Training Camp: Update #2

Heading into the weekend Saints offense comes to life
By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

The Saints have just three open practices, including Friday, before they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener next Thursday.

Friday and Saturday are normal 8:50-11:40 practices at Saints camp in Metairie but Sunday the team will travel uptown for a 7pm workout at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium.

HOW THEY LOOK

There’s not much of a debate as to which side of the ball has been the more dominant one thus far during camp. Defense. Pass break ups. Interceptions. Strip fumbles. Tip or batted balls you name it and the defense is doing it. Saints head coach Sean Payton said on Thursday that you want to see and ebb and flow where both sides alternate having good days and never want to see one side truly dominate.

WELCOME BACK O

Thursday saw the offense get back to the form we are used to seeing. One with good temp and plays being made. Team periods were focused on redzone and goal line plays with a team period dedicated to running the football only in each area.

RB Mark Ingra had a pair of nice runs as did a number of backs. Jonathan Williams is one the backs battling for snaps and at least to me I seem to be jotting down #32 a lot in my notes.

It was easily one of the only practices that I can’t recall seeing Brees angrily pull off his chin strip or slap his hands together in disgust.

MONEY FADE

A big reason Brees wasn’t disgusted much was because his accuracy was deadly Thursday. The best example was a goal line play with the ball spotted at the five yard line. The formation had two receivers to the left with Tommy Lee Lewis outside and Michael Thomas in the slot. At the snap, they cross with Lee running a slant towards the middle. CB Patrick Robinson is lined up over Thomas and Lattimore was lined up over Lewis but in a blink of an eye has Thomas fading to the near pylon and by the time he reacts it’s too late. The ball was already in the air and Thomas used his 6-3 body to go up and get it before Lattimore could react and brought down a ball thrown over his left shoulder away from Lattimore. It was money. If the Saints run that play 10 times this season there is no way it’s not a touchdown in at least 9 of them.
WATCHFUL EYE

Remember Sean Payton’s bachelor comment back on Sunday about how it’s anybody’s job at punt returner. Well we saw WR Austin Carr get a shot on Monday and Wednesday but with the signing of Brandon Tate, add him to the list of contestants. Head coach Sean Payton made it clear it was a big deal by spending Thursday’s punt and kick catching special teams drills right next to the returners. Like right next to them, blowing the whistle to start or stop the play. Just a little pressure huh?

FUEL UP

Saturday join Gus Kattengell, John Fourcade, Marlon Favorite, Bryan Bienemy and Jordan the Intern as they all head across the street after practice. New Orleans Harley Davidson is having FREE food and FREE beer. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, sausage for the eats and cold beer, water and soda all for free for fans looking to refresh from practice. Sno-Balls and ic cream for the kids will be available as well. So come on by and talk football while you eat and drink for free!

NEXT UP

Monday the Saints will hold a closed practice and will be off on Tuesday. Wednesday following a walk through they will travel to Jacksonville.

The Saints will kick off their preseason schedule on Thursday August 9 at Jacksonville.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.

Jul

31

Weekend hot take aways from Saints training camp

The Sports Hangover’s Gus Kattengell and Bryan Bienemy recap the first two days of padded practices. Among the topics covered are how a rookie is making some noise, did a 1st round pick get a message sent and why Sean Payton talked about the television show “The Bachelor”.

Also Gus and WDSU’s Sharief Ishaq talk about what they are seeing so far in camp.

Jul

31

Sports Hangover

Want to hear more about the Who Dat Nation, well check out Gus Kattengell the host of the
Sports Hangover show.  He can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM – ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.

espn1

Jul

31

SAINTS TRAINING CAMP: UPDATE #1

5 days in, the scheduled day off comes at right time

By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

Tuesday, the final month of July, couldn’t come at a more perfect time for the New Orleans Saints. The bumps and bruises of training camp have begun to take a toll on the team as they wrapped up their third straight padded practice on Monday.

Sunday saw wide receiver Travin Dural suffer per several reports a broken left humerus. It’s the most severe of the injuries so far through five days as we’ve seen a few players leave early from practice. Center Cameron Tom was seeing with his arm in a sling on Monday as he reportedly has a chest injury. Rookie defensive back Kamrin Moore reportedly has a hamstring injury. Head coach Sean Payton has made it clear he will not comment on injuries and won’t do so until he is required to release an injury report.

HOW THEY LOOK

It’s the question that’s asked during training camp to those that attend the practices so here are a few things that have stood to me through five practices. We got to watch 5 practices before camp with three OTA and two mini camp workouts but then and even through the first two days of training camp practices, coaches and players kept saying just wait until the pads come on to start evaluating. Well the hitting has started so here is what has stood out so far.

ROOKIE SHINE: When answering who’s stood out, you have to start by saying “well besides QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara as they are on another level. So other then the trio the player that has stood out so far easily is rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith. The UCF product has made play after play day after day. I’ve referenced him as a “must roll” player as in you better be rolling video when he lines up cause here comes a play.

Smith has shown the long speed that got him drafted but he has also shown the ability to catch the ball in traffic, catch and run, jump up and grab the ball over defenders and earned an “atta-boy” from QB Drew Brees after going up and coming down hard on the final play of Sunday’s practice. Brees ran 40-50 yards to help him up and pat him on the helmet.

He just stands out with his 6-2 frame and at times flashing solid balance to stay upright after contact. It’s been to the point where at times many in the media while watching hold up two fingers after a play as in “this is the second best receiver on the team”.

D-FENCE

In the past when QB Drew Brees showed signs of frustration by snapping off his chin straps quickly, slamming down his helmet, or giving a brief yell to go with a hard hand smack you were concerned it was the offense not performing up to expectations. Shockingly it’s been the norm so far at training camp.
The Saints defense has frustrated Brees and company with pass break ups, interceptions, tip balls at the line, strips on ball carriers, coverage sacks, and stretching out runs where the defense looks like a flowing school of fish. Head coach Sean Payton still is unhappy that the consistency level isn’t where he would like it to be in that they’ll be a big play given up after several good plays but trust me there has been many more good plays then bad ones.

Monday’s practice alone was a defensive clinic as the defense collected four interceptions with three coming from the linebacking corps in Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson and Demario Davis. The linebacker position group is the best and deepest it’s been I dare say since the Dome Patrol, which isn’t saying much for as we all know there have been some lean years in that group.

I’ve had one heck of a challenge so far this training camp in trying to temper my enthusiasm and praise of this Saints defense but man I KNOW the Saints offense has weapons and I’m telling you Brees and company are having to fight for every yard or catch.

PBU-CITY

Ok it seems like I’m just continuing for the above point but specifically the Saints secondary seems to record a PBU literally on every other play if not every play. If it’s not a clean pass break up, the defensive backs are doing just enough to keep the play from being a completion. Several times the receivers have won the route and are open but at completion or coming down with the catch, a hand dislodges the ball and poof you got an incompletion. On my radio show I’ve asked and suggested we tweet during games after a PBU a catchy hash tag. I’m suggesting “#PBUcity”.

TESTY SEAN

One of the concerns you had heading into camp was how would a talented yet young team handle expectations. Competition helps. This team has so many areas on the squad where snaps if not jobs are up for grabs or on the line that if you’re not focused on that it could me a pink slip. Another way to keep a team grounded and focused is the coaches staying on the players. You can’t feel or act like you’ve made it if you’re constantly being told or shown you haven’t.

An example of this was Sunday when Payton was asked about where the team is and he brought up sloppiness such as dropped snaps and areas of concern such as the return game. He likened it to the television show “The Bachelor” referencing there were 12 roses and it was anybody’s job for the taking.

Many saw it as Sean being funny but to me it was coach understanding the importance of that area on his team and what it could mean come game time. Look the NFC is loaded and the Saints schedule looks daunting so it’s not impossible to think that the black and gold will be in some tough games this season. Think a return outside the ten yard line matters? It opens the playbook to more then okay let’s not make a mistake and punt it. A return close to or over the 30 could mean points or flips the field. I love that Sean is putting the emphasis on the return game. He knows every yard will matter in a season that can be special but for that to happen you have to give yourself the best chance at a win and special teams will play a vital role this season.

NEXT UP

Six practices remain following the team’s day off on Tuesday with only two of those being closed to fans. Sunday the team will practice at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium in an evening practice that begins at 7p.

The Saints will kick off their preseason schedule on Thursday August 9 at Jacksonville. Many national analysts consider the Jaguars as a team that could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. Thanks to several seasons of futility Jacksonville has drafted high in past drafts and have hit on some pretty good players especially on the defensive side of the ball. It will be interesting to see which team is deeper when starters come out of the game early.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.

Jul

31

SAINTS TRAINING CAMP: CAMP OUTLOOK

By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

The 2018 NFL football season is here, well at least the part of the season where teams try and figure out the right 53 man roster they feel will lead them to a successful season.

An 11-5 season a year ago has the Saints fans amped up for the new season and as always there are a number of storylines as camp begins. These are my 5 top storylines for me heading into the upcoming season and refreshingly for once it mainly has to do with non-football specific issues.

EXPECTATIONS

At the top of the list is Expectations. The fact the team was a game, or really a play away from playing for another shot to be in a Super Bowl has raised the expectation level for the team. Fans are as excited about the upcoming season as they have ever been arguably in franchise history. On my radio show for the past several weeks, I have asked listeners if the Minnesota loss was on their minds or if it hurt like the San Francisco loss did back in 2011. I believe the answer is overwhelmingly no. Don’t get me wrong, that Vikings game, play, isn’t one anyone wants to watch but I feel that a “the best is yet to come from this team” mindset lives among many Who Dats.

2017 was a pleasant surprise. Sure there was hope the draft class would help but who had the Saints drafting the offensive and defensive rookies of the year? Not many had the team drafting a tackle of the future that started every game much less starting the season on the left side and finishing on the right side. Add a starting safety and linebacker, to go with second year receiver in Michael Thomas who had back to back thousand yard seasons and the team quickly built a foundation of young talented players that made the post Drew Brees era seem doable.

Entering training camp the Saints roster is talented. It’s as deep as it’s ever been and local observers join national analysts that this is at the very least a playoff team with some believing they are Super Bowl contenders.

A slight difference from two seasons ago where the expectation levels were can this team even win six games? The Saints have five primetime games this season and that doesn’t happen if people think you’ll suck.

THE NFC IS LOADED

My second storyline is that the Saints could have a Super Bowl contending team despite only winning 10 or 11 games. The NFC is loaded. 2018 sees the Saints play the NFC East, and the AFC North and both of those divisions have challenging opponents. Also the Saints will get another go at the L.A. Rams as they come to the Dome but once again will have to travel to Minnesota. The Vikings and Rams are also picked to have solid teams and are considered by many as contending teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

2017 saw three teams come out of the Saints NFC South division and there is no reason to believe that Atlanta and Carolina will not be as competitive as they were a season ago. The NFC North were the Vikings call home also have a Packers team many nationally like to contend and Detroit has a chance to be a playoff team. Oh yea and what about Philadelphia? Incredibly they were underdogs in every post-season game they played in last season mainly and understandably due to starting quarterback Carson Wentz not playing. They still were the top seed and if he isn’t hurt he is the league MVP winner. So yea the NFC is loaded. I’ve referred to it over the past few weeks as the NBA’s Western Conference.

HOW HUNGRY WILL THE INJURY BUG BE

This goes without saying that that damn injury bug better have died due to obesity. 2017 saw a ridiculous 20 plus players get placed on season ending injured reserve with many being starters. The defense lost several key players and there is no question that after Alex Okafor and A.J. Klein were lost the defense slipped a bit. The Saints approach this offseason through free agency and the draft was to solidify the ability to withstand injuries. It’s going to happen. Players will get hurt. I commend the “next man up mentality” but for many teams those players are backups and not starters stuck behind talent. The Saints I believe have helped that cause in the competition exists a several position groups where the backups were starters last season or can start on other NFL teams.

WHO REPLACES MARK INGRAM

Mark Ingram’s four game suspension initially may have you, like many, thinking “who replaces Ingram”? I have a different take in that yes it’ll be interesting to see who gets the reps in his place but I don’t feel the team will look to “replace” him per say. There are a number of candidates to get carries as the team has Trey Edmonds and Jonathan Williams from a year ago. They drafted Boston Scott, signed Terrance West and Shane Vareen this summer. West and Vareen have veteran status that would be good if Kamara can’t go but I truly feel that it’s a battle to see who spells Kamara.

The Saints brought in three new pass catching weapons this offseason in receivers Cameron Meredith and Tre’Quan Smith and tight end Ben Watson. I have a hard time believing that Sean Payton will look to have those backs carry or catch the ball 15-20 times. The calling card of the Saints has been through the air and as long as a hall of fame quarterback is around they’re going to pass the football. I’m not saying they won’t run it or won’t need to run it and can’t run it but I don’t think who ever the backs are that they’ll be key roles in the game plan.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.