Archive for October, 2008



New Orleans Saints choose kicker Hartley and punter Pakulak

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune October 29, 2008 4:32PM

The Saints have signed kicker Garrett Hartley and punter Glenn Pakulak after auditioning several players at both positions at their practice facility on Wednesday.

“We were impressed with both Garrett and Glenn throughout the competitive sessions and we will continue to evaluate the positions closely throughout the remainder of the season,” General Manager Mickey Loomis said in a press release.

Agent Mark Mersel, who represents both players, also confirmed the signings.

Hartley, 22, is an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma. He signed with the Denver Broncos but was released before the start of training camp. It’s possible that the Saints will still consider veteran options such as Dave Rayner, Billy Cundiff or Aaron Elling after they take an extended look at the rookie over the next week.

Pakulak, 28, has bounced around the league for several years, though he’s never landed a regular-season gig. He was most recently with the Raiders this preseason, averaging 45 yards per punt.



Brees Named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

by Doug Miller, NewOrleansSaints.com
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 – 11:00 AM
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees was named as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for games played the eighth week of the 2008 season (October 26-27), the NFL announced today.

The veteran quarterback threw for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions on 30-of-41 passing (73.2 percent) for a 121.9 passer rating as the Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers in front a crowd of 83,226 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

Brees, who leads the NFL in attempts, completions and yards, completed passes to eight different receivers, including touchdowns to wide receivers Devery Henderson (12 yards) and Lance Moore (30) and tight end Mark Campbell (one) in defeating his former club. This marks Brees’ sixth game of 2008 with more than 300 yards passing and his fifth with a passer rating over 100.

In his eighth season from Purdue, this is Brees’ eighth career Player of the Week Award and second this season (Week 6). Brees’ six Player of the Week Awards as a Saint moves him past linebacker Rickey Jackson for the most total awards in franchise history.



New Orleans Saints cut kicker and punter

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune October 28, 2008 7:01PM

Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff, a sixth-round draft choice, has been cut twice by the club this season.

The Saints released kicker Taylor Mehlhaff and punter Ben Graham on Tuesday, according to league sources. No replacements have been announced.

Both positions have obviously been a huge source of frustration for the Saints. Mehlhaff was the team’s second kicker this year and their fifth kicker since 2006. He appeared in just three games, making three of four field-goal attempts and 9 of 10 extra-point attempts. The missed extra point Sunday against the San Diego Chargers in London was clearly the last straw for the left-footed rookie.

Ben Graham’s stay as the Saints punter lasted one game.

Graham appeared in just one game for the Saints on Sunday in London. He averaged 42 yards on three punts. He had replaced Steve Weatherford a week earlier.



New Orleans Saints hold on for win against San Diego

Posted by The Times-Picayune October 26, 2008 3:15PM

Drew Brees’ big game led the Saints to a win against San Diego.

Finally, things started clicking for the New Orleans Saints.

After watching their season seemingly slip away as the team continued to make mistakes, give up big plays on defense and just simply not getting the job done, New Orleans turned it around and beat the San Diego Chargers 37-30 in Wembley, England.

The Saints’ victory keeps hope alive for a team that has had injuries and could be faced with some players being suspended for a test for a banned substance.
Quarterback Drew Brees was brilliant, going 30-of-41 for 339 yards and three touchdowns to show up the team that gave up on him after a shoulder injury and replaced him with Philip Rivers.

Brees hit eight different receivers. Lance Moore had six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Billy Miller had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Deuce McAllister, the featured tailback in place of injured Reggie Bush, had 55 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. McAllister was solid, running through defenders and showing the kind of hard-nosed running he is known for.

San Diego’s LaDanian Thomlinson did have 105 yards rushing, but the Saints were able to keep him out of the end zone. Rivers was 25-of-40 for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

The game got close when Chargers came roaring back from a 17-pint deficit with 10 points in a 2:20-second span early in the fourth quarter to close the Saints’ lead to 37-30 with 7 minutes to play. The big play was an onside kick by the Chargers which they recovered after kicking a field goal. Five plays later, Philip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for a beautiful diving 14-yard touchdown pass to trim the margin to a touchdown.

Seemingly only minutes before, the Saints had taken what appeared to be an insurmountable 37-20 lead on the second play of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge by fullback Mike Karney.

While the Chargers committed 14 penalties for 134 yards, the Saints, have made few mistakes. They didn’t have a turnover or allowed a sack all game.

The Saints took a 23-17 at halftime and with Brees leading the way, were moving the ball at will. Brees completed 22 of 29 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Like the Chargers in the fourth quarter, the Saints scored quickly, taking a 16-3 lead in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns within a 2:10 span.

On one of the few miscues for the Saints, Taylor Mehlhaff missed the extra point on the Saints first touchdown.



Reports: Deuce, Will Smith, two other Saints fail drug test

Posted by The Times-Picayune October 24, 2008 3:08PM

Saints running back Deuce McAllister is reported to have failed a test for a banned substance.

According to two published reports, New Orleans Saints star tailback Deuce McAllister and star defensive end Will Smith were in a group of players that have tested positive under the NFL’s steroid policy as a result of taking water pills to lose weight.

Fox 31-Denver reporter Josina Anderson first reported the story, citing an unnamed NFL source, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen confirmed it later Friday with two sources. Anderson’s report said four Saints players failed the test. It did not name the other two players.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel, in London with the team for its game Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, said “this is a league matter and we have no comment.”

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has no comment on the report but said any player suspension for this week would have already been announced.

Anderson’s report cited “a rash of positive tests.” The number is more than 10 and may exceed 15, two sources told Mortensen, ESPN’s senior NFL analyst.

Under the NFL’s steroid policy, a player’s first positive test results in a four-game suspension but that suspension doesn’t take effect until an appeals process is completed. It’s unclear where McAllister and Smith are in that process but they both practiced with the team all week and are expected to play Sunday.

Saints guard Jamar Nesbit was suspended four games Sept. 24 for violating the league’s steroids policy. Nesbit said at the time that his failed drug test stemmed from an over-the-counter product he took this summer, which was advertised as an all-natural body-cleansing health product. He has been practicing with the team on a special roster exemption this week and is expected to be activated Sunday.

According to Anderson’s report, McAllister and Smith are part of a group that tested positive for a diuretic known as Bumetanide. Others tested positive for a different substance.

“Most of them tested positive for Bumetanide,” said the league source, according to Fox 31-Denver. “The last few tested positive for another substance that works similarly.”

A source told Fox 31-Denver that Bumetanide “can also mask the use of other drugs or steroids.”

Bumetanide has been on the list of the banned substances for “many years,” according to Aiello.



Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints, hope for a bounce back this week

Posted by Teddy Kider, The Times-Picayune October 22, 2008 4:18PM

Off the injury report and on the practice field for the Saints’ first full session abroad, receiver Marques Colston displayed his typically calm demeanor Wednesday. And he was blunt about his comeback in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Saints receiver Marques Colston is hoping for a better performance this week.

“I fully expected to come in and pick up right where I left off, and obviously that didn’t happen for me, ” Colston said. “But I really can’t say it was harder. I just didn’t have a good day. You have those every once in a while, and hopefully it’s a long time before you have another one.”

Colston finished the 30-7 defeat, which dropped the Saints to 3-4, with no catches. After two weeks of practice and more than a month of recovery from thumb surgery, 10 Saints had more catches than Colston on Sunday.

Colston, however, said his lack of production was not the result of “a medical issue.” As he tries to get back to the type of performances that made him the Saints’ most dangerous receiving threat, the issues for him are timing and rhythm.

They will be again Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London against the San Diego Chargers, with Colston, a Hofstra alumnus, performing in what he said will be the largest stadium he has ever played in.

“This week I definitely want to make a lot of progress, ” Colston said. “I didn’t have my best game last week in my first game back, but this is an important game for the team, and I’ve got to step up and play well. And so I fully expect that.”

Expectations are also high, as always, for another player in a similar situation. Tight end Jeremy Shockey is trying to return from hernia surgery. Shockey, who has been more vocal than Colston about his frustration, did not practice Wednesday.

He finished the game against Carolina with five catches for 50 yards. But he lost a fumble and missed a key block, and he said afterward that he aggravated his injury on the Saints’ first offensive play.

“I think any time you miss that significant amount of time — we’re talking a month or more for both of them — there’s an adjustment, there’s a rhythm to practicing and playing and a confidence level and that sort of thing, that just kind of needs to be regained a little bit, ” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “And so I’m not worried one bit about either of those guys. I think it’s only a matter of time before we all get right back on the same page and then elevate our game to another level, even better than we have been before.”

The Saints still are looking for a breakthrough game that shows a good command of offense and defense with the luxury of a full roster. The opportunity is gone now that running back Reggie Bush (knee) is sidelined, and Shockey appears to be farther away from 100 percent than Colston, based on practice time.

But the Saints did appear to have a few things to be pleased with Wednesday. Rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (knee) was off the injury report and back on the practice field for the first time in weeks, and Saints Coach Sean Payton said he expects Ellis to play Sunday.

Also back for the Saints was left guard Jamar Nesbit, who, after a four-game suspension, is playing with an exemption until Sunday’s game, when the Saints will have to free a roster spot for him. Nesbit’s return is important because center Jonathan Goodwin (knee) and right guard Jahri Evans (ankle) missed Wednesday’s session.

Defensive end Will Smith missed practice and was an addition to the injury report with what Payton called a slight abdominal strain, cornerback Mike McKenzie (knee) missed practice as expected and defensive tackle Brian Young was limited.

It seems the bye week could not come soon enough for the Saints — and they are hoping they can reach it with a 4-4 record, not 3-5.

“I think we’re getting there, ” Payton said about Colston and Shockey getting healthy, “and I think after the bye certainly we’re going to have a better feel.”



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Upon Further Review: Saints at Panthers

Posted by David Schexnaydre Jr October 19, 2008 4:09PM

Well, I didn’t see that coming.

Actually, if you had told me that the final score would be 30-7 I would have felt very confident that the Saints would be the winning team. I really didn’t think our offense would be held to only 7 points, but Carolina is a good team and that’s what good teams do. They take you out of your game and make you play theirs. Carolina did exactly what they wanted to do on both sides of the football. On defense they held Drew Brees in check, they got off of the field on third downs, and they caused turnovers. On offense they converted on third downs, they didn’t turn the ball over, and they used the run to set up the pass. The Saints, on the other hand, didn’t really do anything.

This loss could potentially be a devastating one. First off, it sets the Saints back in the division. They are now 3-4 and looking up at the rest of the NFC South. Not only does the loss hurt in the standings, but it’s a huge confidence booster for a division rival and has to be detrimental to the Saints’ psyche. In short, there are absolutely no positives to come out of this game. Some clouds have a silver lining. This one does not.
Let’s be honest and not try to fool ourselves. This is an inconsistent team that has a tendency to turn the ball over. On offense the Saints are entirely dependent on the quarterback. While some other teams can rebound from poor quarterbacking performances and still manage to win games, the Saints cannot. On defense the Saints are improved from last year but it still isn’t enough. They cannot create turnovers and sometimes have trouble getting off of the field. While Vilma has been great, the Saints still lack a true playmaker on that side of the ball. There’s no one on the Saints defense that is a game changer or that can make up for others’ mistakes. In short, almost everything has to go right for the Saints to win. They’re simply not good enough right now to overcome mistakes and miscues.
The Essentials

The Saints had 17 first downs (7 rushing, 9 passing, 1 penalty); The Panthers had 18 (7,10,1)

The Saints were 5/12 on third downs; The Panthers were 7/15

The Saints had 343 total yards; The Panthers had 336

The Saints turned the ball over twice; The Panthers did not turn it over

The Saints had the ball for 26:59; The Panthers had it for 33:01
The Cie Grant Injury Report

Reggie Bush (knee), Jonathan Goodwin (knee), Entire Roster (pride)
The Willie Roaf Offensive Player of the Week Award

Deuce McAllister. Deuce only carried the ball 9 times but he did manage to get 47 yards rushing. Along with his work in the running game, Deuce also did a good job in protection.
The Rickey Jackson Defensive Player of the Week Award

Kendrick Clancy. The Saints defense once again played well against the run and Clancy was a big reason. He played well again today and even came up with a sack. The Panthers ran the ball 39 times and were held to under 4 yards per carry. 5 of those 39 running plays were stopped for a loss of yards.
The Steve Gleason Special Teams Player of the Week Award

Pierre Thomas. Thomas has been very good on kickoff returns this season. He returned 4 against Carolina for an average of 27 yards. If he only had better speed he would have at least 2 return touchdowns this season. He consistently breaks tackles and is very rarely taken down by the first defender to him.
Anatomy of a Play

With 11:33 left in the 4th quarter and trailing 27-7 the Saints faced a 4th and 2 from the Carolina 3 yard line.

The Saints came out with Lance Moore split wide left and Devery Henderson split wide right with Robert Meachem in the slot to the right. Aaron Stecker was the lone back in the backfield and Jeremy Shockey was lined up to the left as a tight end.

The Panthers came out with four down lineman, two linebackers, and five defensive backs.

At the snap, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb blocked left defensive end Hilee Taylor to the outside and right guard Jahri Evans blocked linebacker Thomas Davis, who was lined up as a down lineman, to the outside. Center Jonathan Goodwin immediately went to the second level and blocked linebacker Jon Beason. Left guard Carl Nicks blocked defensive tackle Damoine Lewis down to the right side of the field and left tackle Jammal Brown went to the second level and blocked linebacker James Anderson.

This left tight end Jeremy Shockey on the left side of the line blocking Julius Peppers one-on-one. At the snap Peppers sliced right across Shockey’s face and Shockey reached to block him but was too late. Peppers hit Stecker as the got to the original line of scrimmage and took him down immediately. The Saints failed to get the first down and turned the ball over on downs.

Carolina then went on a 16 play drives that lasted for 9:30 and culminated in a John Kasay 28-yard field goal. The Saints would not get the ball back until there was 1:57 left in the game.
Fantasy Focus

If you were starting any Saint today then you were likely disappointed. Brees had his worst performance of the season, Reggie only played one half, Colston was held without a reception, Shockey lost a fumble, and the only touchdown of the day went to Mike Karney, who is owned in approximately 0% of fantasy leagues.
Short Yardage

+ The Saints did a horrible job of tackling today. They did not consistently wrap up and Carolina made them pay for it. The Panthers broke several tackles and had a bunch of yards after first contact. Against a physical team like the Panthers you cannot afford to blow tackles.

+ Drew Brees was definitely off today. He missed badly on several throws and when we was accurate the receivers didn’t make the catches. The interception that the threw was intended for Colston and was clearly underthrown and he also missed Devery on a deep ball that was overthrown. Drew is probably the best quarterback in the NFL right now but he was clearly not on top of his game today.

+ I will never understand why Aaron Stecker is getting touches. Never. While he likely got some carries because of Reggie’s injury, we still have too many talented playmakers to be wasting snaps giving the ball to Stecker. On the 4th down that was stuffed at the goal line, Stecker got the carry. Really? Someone thought this was actually a good idea? Wow.

+ The Saints actually had a good day running the football. They ran the ball 22 times and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. They weren’t really able to benefit from the running game, however, because they fell behind and had to start throwing it. Carolina has a very good defense, obviously, so having some success in the running game is encouraging.

+ What do you call a wide receiver who doesn’t receive? The Saints had entirely too many dropped balls today. Meachem bobbled a ball on the sideline, Devery dropped a deep ball, and Colston dropped a couple as well. The receivers had done a good job of holding on to the ball this season but they were awful in this game.

+ I’m still waiting on a return for our investment in Jeremy Shockey. I know that he has the ability to change a game and make plays, but I just haven’t seen it in black and gold yet. So far all we have to show for him is a hernia surgery and two fumbles.

+ It’s official: Jammal Brown is not an elite left tackle. He was an All-Pro in 2006 but he hasn’t lived up to that billing since then. I understand that he was going against one of the better pass rushers in the league in Julius Peppers but if you’re an elite player, shouldn’t you be able to match up against other elite players? Brown has been guilty of holding entirely too much this season and just hasn’t performed at the level that the Saints need him to play at.

+ Bobby McCray made some nice plays. His speed is undeniable and he has done a good job against the pass as well as the run. On one play McCray came from the other side of the field to make a tackle in traffic against the run. He has done a good job filling in for Smith and Grant and has arguably been the best pass rusher on the team this season.

+ The linebackers had a pretty good game. Vilma, Fujita, and Shanle all did a very good job of flowing to the football and making plays. I’ve been critical of Shanle in the past but I thought he played one of his better games today and Vilma once again led the team in tackles.

+ Off the top of my head I cannot think of an NFL team with worse safeties than the Saints. Harper has been the best of the bunch but that’s not saying much. They all take horrible angles on the ball and rather than providing a safety net over the top for the cornerbacks in pass protection, the safeties are huge liabilities. Without a doubt, this is an area that needs to be addressed in the offseason.
Looking Ahead

The Saints play the Chargers in London on Sunday. The Chargers are coming off of a big loss to Buffalo now have the same 3-4 record as the Saints. The Chargers and Saints are very similar teams. They both have plenty of big names and talent but have struggled in putting it all together. More than likely, one of these teams will find their season in shambles next week, while the other will be back at .500 and have a chance to make a run. Let’s hope that the Saints come out ready to play and still have a shot at getting to January once the clock runs out next week.



Saints cut Weatherford after poor outing

Posted by The Times-Picayune October 19, 2008 5:04PM

The Saints evidently were so diasppointed in punter Steve Weatherford’s poor outing Sunday against Carolina – 35.4 yards (gross) and 30.2 (net) – that he was cut after the game.

That means the Saints will have to sign a punter this week while they’re in London.



Knee injury will keep Bush from making trip to London

Posted by Herb White, The Times-Picayune October 19, 2008 4:34PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. –The Saints will have to get along without Reggie Bush for a while.Bush injured his left knee returning a punt in a 30-7 loss against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium and will miss next week’s game against San Diego in London. Saints Coach Sean Payton said Bush will undergo an arthoscopic examination Monday in Birmingham by noted surgeon James Andrews and could have surgery.

“We’re going to look at his meniscus in his left knee a little bit more,” Payton said.

Bush, who was injured on the last play of the second quarter, left the locker room without speaking to reporters. He finished with 76 all-purpose yards, including 55 rushing on nine carries.

Bush’s injury was the most significant of the day, but it wasn’t the only one to hit New Orleans’ offense. Starting center Jonathan Goodwin also injured his left knee, but Payton said he would be on the flight to London.

“We’re a little more encouraged with Goodwin’s and little more discouraged with Reggie, so we’ll see where he’s at,” Payton said. “There’s a chance that he won’t make this trip and that we fly him to (Dr. James) Andrews for a scope. There’s a good chance that’s going to happen with Bush. Goodwin, we expect to make the trip.”

Bush didn’t practice last Wednsday or Thursday because of soreness and swelling in his left knee. He missed the final five games on the 2007 season after tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his that knee.

The former Heisman Trophy winner from Southern California was having his best professional season. He had returned three punts for touchdowns and going into Sunday led the NFC in receptions with 41.

Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, the Saints’ first-round pick from USC this year, tore the medial meniscus in his right knee against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 28 and had surgery to repair the damage. He was expected to miss two to four weeks of play which could mean he might be able to play against the Chargers. If Bush’s recovery timetable is similar he could be back as soon as the Nov. 9 game at Atlanta.

With Bush out of the lineup, the Saints didn’t muster much offense, failing to score in the second half after trailing 13-7 at the break. As the third quarter started, quarterback Drew Brees had an inkling New Orleans would be without its most versatile playmaker.

“We were kind of worried about him, wondering what was going on,” Brees said. “Certainly, we’ve been in positions last year and this year where guys go down and the next guy has to step up and I felt like Deuce (McAllister) did a good job today, and (Aaron) Stecker when he was in there.”

McAllister finished with nine carries for 47 yards; Stecker had two for 10.

“When (Bush) goes out of the game, it’s a big blow to what they have because he’s a big playmaker for them,” said Carolina receiver Muhsin Muhammad. “But this is a team sport and we had one of our huge playmakers go out early in the season too and we had to go on the road and beat San Diego and come home and play a tough Chicago team. I don’t think that’s something they want to say was the cause of their loss today but obviously he does pose a big threat when he’s on the field on special teams, and of course on offense, too.”

With Bush sidelined, Carolina pressed the issue defensively in the second half. The Panthers, who were tied for first in the NFC South at the start of the day with Tampa Bay, limited Brees to 21 of 39 passing for 231 yards and an interception. Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers was especially active with three tackles (two for losses), one sack, quarterback hurry, pass defended, and a forced fumble.

“They made adjustments. They’re a well-coached football team with good players and they’re not going to let you run around the edge all day long,” Brees said. “Then it’s a chess match from there. We tried to run the ball inside, outside, throw it short down the field. We tried to keep them off balance but unfortunately today, it kind of worked the other way around.”

At 3-4 and two games out of first in the division, the Saints will need to pick up the pace in order to contend, fullback Mike Karney said.

“You can’t turn the ball over and you can’t mis-execute. Period,” he said “You’re going to get your butt beat, no matter who you’re playing, Carolina or anybody else you’re playing. We’ve got to find a way to not do that and start putting together some wins.”