Once again, thank you for filling up our Facebook and Twitter with your questions, and I appreciate you taking the time to ask them. We had an overwhelming amount of questions, so this will be broken up into two parts. The New Orleans Saints face a plethora of questions heading into the offseason, and I’m here to tackle some for the Who Dat Dish mailbag.
Tim G. – Who are some Veteran players you are looking at for the linebacker corps?
For starters, I believe Justin Houston, as high of a commodity as he’s going to be during free agency, is realistically on the Saints radar. How is that possible? For starters, the addition of CFL cornerback Delvin Breaux – while it’s not a given that he even starts – helps the secondary tremendously. He and Duron Carter were the most sought after prospects. They brought him in for a reason. So, with the astronomical salary cap space the Saints have to offer in 2017 and future years, the team has a way to get Houston on board. Will they be able to? No telling. We never thought we would land Jairus Byrd in the offseason. Mickey Loomis works magic, constantly.
I highlighted the Saints offseason situation at linebacker a little over a month ago. As of now, the biggest pairings the Saints could look at (excluding Houston) would be Brandon Graham and Pernell McPhee. For the inside, I would love to see Mason Foster in black and gold. Foster doesn’t possess big cover skills, but would be a good complement to Curtis Lofton in the middle over David Hawthorne. Personally, I see the draft as our friend this year.
Julie L. – What is your opinion of Drew Brees’ arm strength?
I don’t question it whatsoever. This question is a very common misconception. Brees can still deliver a home run ball, but what many need to remember is that it’s all about timing. With good protection (see 2009, 2011, 2012 even), Brees can be on target with any deep ball. Overall, he was second in the league in terms of accuracy. With him being sacked so many times over the past two seasons, teams are getting smarter to prevent Brees from even having the option to throw the deep ball. When respective defensive coordinators plan their attacks against Brees and the Saints offense, they are sure to plan the looks that will create the most outside pressure mixed with a good push of inside pressure to negate Brees from stepping up in the pocket. The interior part of the offensive line broke down more than a few times last season.
John P. – Do you think that our offensive line priorities have increased since the surgery of Evans and question marks for his recovery given his age? I feel it’s been a bigger one all along over what everyone seems to be making it out to be.
If anything, the surgery that Jahri Evans had to have during the offseason certainly answered a lot of questions around his play in 2014. He wasn’t bad by any means, and definitely did enough to warrant a Pro Bowl selection. If it were a knee or other extremity that would limit his movement, then I’d be more inclined to say the team needs to shift their priorities to the offensive line.
I believe the bigger question marks are around Ben Grubbs, and the replacement of Jonathan Goodwin. Personally, I feel good about Tim Lelito stepping in for Grubbs or Evans, but more so Grubbs. I also like Senio Kelemete, a guy who stepped in for Grubbs during camp. The word on the street is that the team has re-signed him, and I believe that is a very smart move.
To your point, the overall condition of the Saints offensive line isn’t necessarily getting any younger. It’s something that may require a complete overhaul after next season.
Mike K. – O-Line? Defense? Offensive options…what were y’all thoughts on why the Saints went south this season? Now the catch…what one area can turn the team around with ONE draft pick or ONE free agent signing?
It was a mix of everything, but no doubt about it, the defense was the number one suspect for the Saints last season. The Saints ranked high in offense – 1st overall, 3rd overall in passing, 13th overall in rushing. Yes, the offensive line had their respective struggles with nearly 30 Drew Brees sacks, and yes, there were issues with play calling. However, the defense could not simply make the stops needed when needed most. The Saints had an atrocious third down defense, and it was clearly evident that they weren’t in sync whatsoever. To sum up the season, just re-visit the collapse against the Detroit Lions. It says it all.
As for what can help turn the team around, I’m looking at a draft selection of an outside linebacker who is that ‘Luke Kuechly’ type player to help this team turn the corner. Assuming Junior Galette’s legal troubles are solved, it would help bring pressure from the opposite side of him and Cam Jordan.
A free agent addition of someone like a Justin Houston (dream scenario) or Pernell McPhee would also solve the issues on defense. I’d also love to see the team make a play for cornerback Buster Skrine. If I’m looking for the area to improve the Saints in 2015, it starts and ends with defense. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Kirk B. – Will Byrd be ready to go for camp, and is Suh a target of free agency for the Black n Gold?
Ah Kirk, I’ve already answered your question surrounding Suh in a previous article. The cliff notes version? He’s one of the free agents I think the New Orleans Saints should stay as far away from as humanly possible. They can’t afford what he’s asking for, nor should they have him on board because of his ‘track history’. The Saints need discipline, Suh is anything but that.
As for Jairus Byrd, all signs point to him being ready to go. The nature of his injury (torn lateral meniscus) isn’t something we should think the worst of, but the recovery and rehab is pivotal to Byrd’s return. Here’s some notes from the Sports Injury Clinic:
"The lateral meniscus is less prone to injury than the medial meniscus because it doesn’t attach to the lateral ligament like the medial cartilage meniscus attaches to the medial ligament. A tear of the lateral meniscus can occur during twisting movements, direct impact to the knee-joint, deep squats or due to degeneration of the cartilage in older athletes."
Nothing that I’ve seen has suggested that Byrd won’t be ready. He spoke to reporters prior to the College Football National Championship and saying that rehab is going fine. However it all plays out, I can definitely see the Saints taking their time to not rush or force Byrd into action.
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