New Orleans Saints: Pierre Thomas, Will Smith And The Cleveland Browns
By Keith Null
All indications are that Saints running back Pierre Thomas will miss his fourth consecutive game this Sunday after suffering an apparent nasty ankle injury late in week three’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The injury was originally reported as an ankle sprain, not the dreaded high, with an expected recovery time of 1 to 2 weeks but the ankle has not responded as the team originally hoped extending that recovery time to somewhere between 4 to 6 weeks.
With Thomas all but ruled out the start will go to rookie Chris Ivory who is coming off a 158 yard performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
Ivory averaged over 10 yards a carry during the game helping the Saints secure a lopesided 31-6 win while producing their best rushing output of the season with 212 total yards.
Veteran running back Julius Jones seems to be the more favored option as the number 2 behind Ivory than Ladell Betts as he has been given more carries in practice so far leading up to Sunday’s game.
Jones was the second leading rusher against the Buccaneers last week with 32 yards on nine carries including a six yard reception. He also has experience in Sean Payton’s offense playing under him during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys.
What’s wrong with defensive end Will Smith?
Last season Smith averaged nearly a sack a game finishing with a career high 13 totals sacks while helping the Saints win their first ever Super Bowl championship.
So far this season through six games he has managed only one sack. Coverage is definitely being rolled his way but given his tendencies to draw a double team his team mates around him should be reaping the benefits.
Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis so far is having perhaps his best season since turning pro three years ago with three sacks so far this year, one off his career best of four set during his rookie season in 2008.
Ellis is on pace to finish the year with nine sacks, a pro bowl caliber ouput for a defensive tackle.
Left defensive end Alex Brown, considered an upgrade to Charles Grant, was supposed to come in and wreak havoc on the defensive line but he too has found little success totaling one sack on the season.
Six other Saints players also have one sack including linebacker Jonathan Vilma, safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson but for a defense that blitz’s nearly a league best 50% of the time output should be much higher.
As a unit however the overall defense has improved dramatically in 2010 ranking seventh in total yards allowed (301.6), eighth in points allowed (18), seventh in pass yards allowed (195) and fifteenth in total rush yards allowed (106).
A familiar face will hit the field against the Saints when former linebacker Scott Fujita makes his first appearence against his former team.
Fujita decided he wanted a bigger pay check rather then the possibility of another Super Bowl title when jumped ship this off-season for the Cleveland Browns.
The Saints honestly were searching for an upgrade to him after dwindling statistics over the last two seasons and so far the combination of Danny Clark and JoLonn Dunbar have given them just that at strong side linebacker.
Fujita, inside the Browns 3-4 scheme, is having a pretty decent season even though his team is 1-5 toaling 33 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. His familiarity with the Saints offense may be problematic but equally the Saints familirity with this playing strenth and weaknesses may be an advantage.
Check out Keith Null’s weekly article about the Saints on NFL.com by clicking here.
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