Drew Brees praises former Saints teammates who now play with the Eagles


It was difficult for both New Orleans Saints fans and players to part ways with a handful of veterans during the 2014 offseason.  From safety Malcolm Jenkins to all-purpose running back Darren Sproles, who are both finding success with the Philadelphia Eagles now, it was a tough pill to swallow.  The Black and Gold cleaned house a year ago — it’s the disheartening business aspect of NFL football.

During Drew Brees‘ Wednesday press conference, the Saints’ quarterback showed great praise for his former teammates, who he’ll face on the road Sunday when Philly hosts New Orleans in an NFC South versus NFC East afternoon showdown.

“Ton of respect for Malcolm (Jenkins),” Drew Brees said. “I’ve been really happy for the opportunity he’s had there (Philadelphia). Obviously, I hated to see him go because he was such a big part of our team.  Not only just his productivity, but from a leadership perspective, he’s everything you want in a teammate. His approach, his work ethic, his intensity and focus on game day, he’s just a competitor.

“I miss those offseason times — those are the times we actually got to be on the same team. We’d actually draft teams and do competitions, you know, conditioning competitions and stuff like that. I’d always try to get on Malcolm’s team,” Drew Brees chuckled.

“But he’s a stud, he does a lot of things for them. He’s such a versatile player because he came in the league as a corner and he’s been a safety for a long time, but he still has great coverage skills. You see him in the slot on receivers, bump and run, plays man, he’s on the tight ends, he’ll play middle of the field, he’ll play the deep pass, he’s all over the place. He’s just an outstanding football player.”

The Saints selected Malcolm Jenkins with their first pick (14th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, earning a second-team All-Pro vote in 2010.  He helped lead New Orleans to a Super Bowl win his rookie season.

As for Darren Sproles, Sean Payton and company acquired him in 2011 via the free agent market.  Sproles played three seasons down on the bayou and was the NFL all-purpose yards leader as part of that historically high-powered offense in 2011.

“You gotta have a plan for him (Sproles),” Drew Brees said. “He’s such an explosive player, such a versatile player. Obviously, we saw all the plays he can make for three years here, not just on offense, but on special teams — the guy’s one of the best returners in the league. We knew from a game-plan perspective going up against defenses that they had to have a plan for Darren Sproles.

“Defenses couldn’t just say we’re gonna focus on Jimmy (Graham) and focus on this guy or that guy, or we’ll just put so and so on Darren Sproles. Sproles was one of the guys you had to make sure you had a plan for. You get him in space on a guy, that’s where he’s greatest strength-wise.”

Unfortunately, there’s no more Darren Sproles or Malcolm Jenkins in New Orleans.  The Saints hoped to have upgraded at the safety position last offseason with the addition of Jairus Byrd, who missed a majority of last year and the first three games this year.  At full health, Byrd looks to become that playmaker on defense.  The same goes for running back C.J. Spiller, who can be just as good, if not better than Darren Sproles if he can remain healthy.

Brees, Byrd, Spiller and the Saints travel to Philadelphia to take on Sproles, Jenkins and the Eagles Sunday afternoon in a hostile environment at Lincoln Financial Field.

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