Because of Who Dat Nation’s overwhelming responses to our recent invitation to our mail bag, I felt it necessary to split it up into two separate articles. In case you missed Part One, be sure to check it out here. Now, let’s go to your New Orleans Saints questions!
Jan O. – How do you guys describe an ideal draft? Do Dupree, Kikaha, and Hicks fit that mold? Humphries as a later round gem?
Given last year’s draft class flop, I’d describe an ideal draft as selecting players that make sense and actually make it through the season on the roster. I’m obviously not speaking about Brandin Cooks, Vinnie Sunseri, or even Stanley Jean-Baptiste. While many were frustrated and questioning why SJB wasn’t suiting up all year, it made sense. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. I have a bigger issue with using a fourth round draft pick on Khairi Fortt and a sixth round pick Tavon Rooks.
I’ll go on a tangent from your question, but the Saints haven’t had anyone shine from the fourth round since 2007. I’m dead serious.
2014 – Khairi Fortt
2012 – Nick Toon
2010 – Al Woods
2009 – Chip Vaughn, Stanley Arnoux
2007 – Antonio Pittman, Jermon Bushrod
2006 – Jahri Evans
In summary, we’re hoping that Jeff Ireland can scope of the right guys in the later rounds this year.
Alvin Dupree was already highlighted by my colleague, Andrew Schuster. He talked about his ‘gifts’ perfectly. What I can add to the Dupree conversation is the fact that he’d likely fit the bill more as an outside linebacker for the Saints. He’s fallen towards the bottom half of NFL Mock Drafts, and I believe the Saints will likely look more at Shaq Thompson, Vic Beasley, or Dante Fowler Jr.
Hau’oli Kikaha and Jordan Hicks most definitely fit the bill of what the Saints could be looking for at outside linebacker, but injuries would make me hesitant to draft them too high. I’d see Hicks being more of a likely target, and would easily be a second or third day draft consideration for the black and gold.
If I’m a scout for the Saints at any level, I’m watching any and every combine to get the right fit at outside linebacker during the draft.
I’m assuming you are talking about D.J. Humphries, the Florida Gators OT, and he’s an intriguing prospect. He certainly brings a fire and passion to his play, and that’s something the Saints could always use. The thing about Humphries is that he could/would fall into a Tavon Rooks category if the Saints drafted him. Rooks is 6’5″, 300 pounds compared to Humphries at 6’5″, 284 pounds. Rooks was heralded as an eventual Zach Strief replacement, but never developed into it. Humphries would have no immediate play in his future with the Saints, and could be drafted in the first round. Keyword: could.
James S. – What offensive piece is missing that will ignite Saints to return to a near unstoppable force again?
As crazy as it sounds, I believe it’s the center position. I believe the Saints are highly talented at all of the skill positions. We’re assuming that Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks enter completely healthy in 2014, which makes the Saints offense extremely dynamic.
Here’s my take on the center position….the offensive line is arguably the most important position in football. The offensive line is responsible for controlling the tempo in the run and passing game, and when they can be effective, they’ll give their defense a much-needed rest.
For example, take the Dallas Cowboys. They’ve prided themselves on building a monster offensive line, and it was nothing short of incredible last season. Imagine, if you will, controlling the time of possession, being able to push around guys, and just never letting up. That’s what happened for the Cowboys.
It made their defense, who was fondly made fun of prior to the beginning of the 2014 season, not have to do as much. They had virtual ‘no-name’ guys on defense. They were able to finish second in the league with 31 takeaways. Does this start to sound familiar? 2009 Saints?
Jan O. – What are the odds of Joe Vitt being demoted to assistant only?
We’re hearing a lot of hearsay as to potential suspects being brought in the coaching department. However, I get the feeling that a host of these moves are going to come all at once.
I talked about Vitt needing to go, at worst case, don’t let him coach the linebackers. If the team is truly giving Rob Ryan the reigns to run his squad as he sees fit, then he should be allowed to select ‘his guy’ to run that position. It’s borderline embarrassing to think of how many failed linebackers have come and gone through the Saints organization since Sean Payton has been head coach. See Martez Wilson, Khairi Fortt, Nate Bussey, and Stanley Arnoux.
It’s been a neglected position that the team has ‘skated by’ with plugging in veterans, and hoping the undrafted pool of rookie free agents hits. We’ve even let the good ones go over the years like Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Jonathan Casillas, and Rob Ninkovich. If they aren’t going to fire Vitt, then just let him be an assistant head coach. Let someone else coach that spot.
Look at what Ken Norton Jr. did. He was a former linebacker, and most recently the Seattle Seahawks linebackers coach. You can’t tell me that the Seahawks linebacking corp wasn’t spectacular. Why? Norton Jr. knows that spot, and knows how to coach linebackers. Vitt, who played linebacker in the late 70s, is a bit outdated.
Jan O. – What’s your take on free agency? Is a veteran at the nose tackle position needed, or do you believe in Hicks and Jenkins?
Honestly, I don’t see the Saints making a ton of splashes in free agency this year. But then again, I felt the same way last year. The Saints have a veteran at nose tackle on the roster, Brodrick Bunkley, but I believe he’s on his way out. There’s no sense in continuing to invest in a player who can’t stay on the field and plays ‘part-time’. In retrospect, it was a bad signing and bad front office move.
I’m not basing one bad season of play from Akiem Hicks and John Jenkins as an end-all, be-all. Jenkins did fairly well when he was healthy, and that’s the keyword. Healthy. He was a bit reserved when he came back off of his pectoral injury from the offseason, but he did well down the stretch.
As for Hicks, I feel that made a fairly large impact, but not on the stat sheet. Hicks, who was pegged as a prime breakout candidate in the offseason, was still a prime anchor on his respective side of the ball. Teams didn’t want to run to his side. I feel he just needs to generate more pressure up the middle, and healthy John Jenkins could make that happen.
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