Take it away, Snark Ingram...
Welp, it seems Sean Payton's forgiveness for the insider-enabled witch hunt that cost him an entire year of his career, and potentially a whole hell of a lot more, only extends so far. Opposing sidelines have only recently come to be included in that distance, but the worldwide web? Eh, looks like were still a long ways off from any sort of online pardon being granted.
Personally, I think Sean Payton should feel free to take as many unprovoked shots - be they subtle, obvious, petty, or profound - at the weasel that tried to save his own ass by putting that of the man that gave him the opportunity to raise a Lombardi Trophy to the fire. Honestly, I'm really not sure there's one thing he could say or tweet about Gregg Williams that I would deem over the line. Though, as a Saints' fan that thinks Sean Payton is at his best when he DGAF, I'd be cool with him prepping for the Divisional Round during his next bye week by mailing a box of diseased rodents to the doorstep of the human that shares their blood type.
The Sights And Sounds Of The Saints Locker Room Following Drew Brees' Record-Setting Night Were Exactly What You'd Expect Them To Be
Countless daps and hugs? A celebratory dance off around the awkward white guy? An approving postgame speech from Sean Payton, capped off by the presentation of the most deserved of game-balls? A selfless show of grace and gratitude from the one player who's definitely owed a disproportional amount of the thanks? A reminder from said player of what the ultimate goal is?
For what scene lacked in containing any sort of surprise whatsoever, it sure made up for in being special. There's enough players on SnapChat for the fanbase to know exactly what the locker room looks like when this particular Saints' team is feeling themselves, but it was still nice to have an in-focus video of a group that's taken massive strides over the last five weeks as they enjoyed a historical night for their unquestioned leader in preparation of their week off. If not only commonplace, it was also cool to listen to Drew Brees back up his record-setting play on the field with the type of words that make him impossible not to rally behind. The night was truly his, and it ended with him surrounded by a team that, in both sights and sounds, is truly starting to believe that the season might be theirs.
The term 'project' can be a scary one in the world of sports. It implies uncertainty. Calls for the acceptance of an above average possibility of failure. Demands patience from those either in or invested in a field in which instant gratification is not only paramount to success, but also key to unlocking some job security. For that reason, trading two first round picks that are typically viewed as immediate contributors for a 'project' at a pressing position of need (that isn't quarterback) is about as comforting an idea amongst predominantly risk averse football minds as...well...trading with Bill Belichick.
Luckily for the Saints, Marcus Davenport is no ordinary project. What's been fairly obvious throughout the first five games of his career is that it's not as if the Saints chose to return from IKEA to a painstaking process that will inevitably be elongated by coming to find out that an unexpected piece is missing from the box when they moved up and select a 6'6 freak of an athlete out of small school in San Antonio. Instead, his drafting already compares favorably to deciding upon paying extra for the delivery of a performance mattress while knowing it'll take some breaking in. Not every intricacy of being a well-rounded, every down pass rusher that's tasked with facing the most trusted member of each opposing offensive line has quite yet sunken in, but Marcus Davenport's physical makeup is helping him conform and become more and more comfortable with each passing game...
Consider that Trent Williams is unquestionably a genetic anomaly in his own right...
...and it becomes even more impressive that Marcus Davenport was able to overpower and outmaneuver him on multiple occasions.
If only because of how much better he could be with more seasoning, 'raw' is still an accurate way to describe a player that manages to defy his size for the better on a weekly basis. With that being the case, he's raw like premium quality sushi that was rolled by an amateur chef. We're just getting a taste of the absurd things he's capable of, even if the bites are a bit inconsistent for the time being. Marcus Davenport is a project, just not the kind that requires anywhere near as much maintenance as other front offices feared.
If we're being honest, regardless of Josh Norman delivering the first jab, I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of Michael Thomas returning a not-so-subliminal shot at a disgraced cornerback whose bark has long been bigger than his backpedal, though that's not necessarily saying all that much. I'm typically entertained by players carrying their issues with each other off the field and onto the internet, but that tweet feels a lot like punching down. Especially since the target of it, who took the "high road" by not "wasting his breath", has never been short of hot air whenever his play has actually allowed him to start huffing and puffing. To put it bluntly, one of the most dominant and trustworthy pass catching options in the entire NFL should have bigger fish to fry than the one that looked like he got caught out of water before being iced on the bench...
If anything was evident on Monday Night, it's that the Saints were going to go wherever they wanted with the ball whenever they wanted (see 26-29, 363 yards during a game in which they took their foot off the gas in the 3rd quarter). Therefore, Josh Norman's best defense against Michael Thomas - any time he happened to run a route into his particular area of the field, that is - was Drew Brees' desire to get complimentary receivers heavily involved in the offense for the first time all year. You can't guard Mike, and - even on the off-chance you could - it wouldn't be with the type of zone-reliant cornerback that gets rendered unplayable by his own coach's unspoken admission that they can't protect Josh (as evidenced below)...
It's true that Michael Thomas was "held" to a relatively pedestrian stat line (4-74) by his exceptional standards. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the guy who is one off the league lead in catches and leads the universe in catch rate wasn't feeling too bothered by how his blocking assignment was trying to bracket him...
Especially when that blocking assignment was this helpless in getting under his own damn pads...
Despite Drew Brees' Demands, The Record-Setting Return Of The Domefield Advantage Was A Night That Was His And His Alone
To his credit, he tried. He really did try. After manipulating the defense, in a way that was as vintage as it was mechanical, into leaving Tre'Quan Smith open for what was a casual and uncontested stroll atop yet another chapter of the history books, the forever humble and systematically selfless Drew Brees did the absolute most in trying to incorporate everyone else into a night that was realistically never meant to belong to anyone but him.
Whether it was the youthful exuberance of him jumping for joy amongst his teammates, or acknowledging a teary-eyed crowd that's long appreciated him for a whole hell of a lot more than any of his record-setting numbers, or sharing a warm embrace with the head coach with which he already shares a brain, or - most notably - taking the time to turn it into a teaching moment for his kids before planting one on his wife, the newly crowned king of professional passing was as diligent as ever in making his milestone an "us" thing for the entirety of the Who Dat Nation...
Still, the night was that of Drew Brees, and Drew Brees alone, as he clinically dissected the Washington Redskins with a performance that was eerily reminiscent of so, so many that have come before it. 26-29. 363 yards. 3 touchdowns. The most statistically accurate game throughout the eventual Hall of Fame career of the most historically accurate quarterback of all time. A game script that allowed for a 40-spot come the halfway point of the 3rd quarter and ingenuously incorporated more secondary characters on the fly than a Curb Your Enthusiasm improvisation. An effort so unstoppable that it seemingly served as a steroid to a banged up defense that suddenly looked dominant. In a way that was both fitting and familiar, the outcome of last night's contest felt like it was in doubt for all of about 5 minutes, as the SuperDome was the type of abuzz that could only come as a result of rostering someone as unquenchably competitive and cutthroat as Drew Brees.
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of other storylines.
Other than some suspect ball security, Mark Ingram chomped right back at that bit in showing exactly the type of energy, versatility, and power he brings to a Saints' offense that - despite what its point totals might suggest - was missing a little something without him.
Tre'Quan Smith and Cameron Meredith finally busted out and took a huge weight off the overused shoulders of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in letting them serve spectator to history. If they keep it up, a downright dangerous Saints' offense will be unspeakably hard to stop.
The secondary not only absorbed the blow of losing Marshon Lattimore to concussion protocol, but appeared to treat it as a challenge that the likes of P.J. Williams and Justin Hardee readily accepted. If that confidence in their execution is here to stay then the first three weeks of the season will be a distant memory in no time.
The pass rush, led by Cam Jordan and followed by Marcus Davenport, had Alex Smith seeing 6'7 ghosts all night. The former is all but a formality at this point, but the latter is a sign that it's only a matter of time before the bang matches the buck in regards to the first round athletic freak whose coming out party included some fireworks.
All in all, the whole team just looked poised to take advantage of the Domefield advantage from the outset, and the combination of that mood and the knockout punch of a momentum swing that typically follows is something that has been somewhat lacking in recent years. If last night was any indication then the Saints are all the way back to being a complimentary football team that simply decimates the will of their competition at home. That will is obviously easier to decimate when it's that of a team that's taking stupid, untimely penalties and struggles to get anything going downfield, but you still couldn't ask for the Saints to be in a better head space than they are heading into a two week break on a 4-game win streak with each victory proving more decisive than the next.
That's especially true considering their quarterback appears to be in common form as the record-setting and history-defining force behind an absolute juggernaut at 39 years young. Drew Brees has literally thrown himself into the conversation as the GOAT, and - considering the youth and talent that's finally been built around him - I don't see anything short of another championship bringing a stop to that anytime soon. Last night was his, but it won't be the last last night that was his, as his right arm clearly still holds quite a few reminders of how under appreciated he is outside of a city that lives vicariously through his graceful greatness.
Sean Payton Says The League Tried To Get Him Fired With The Punishment They Handed Down For 'BountyGate', Which Makes A Whole Lot Of Sense
You know, in retrospect it seems silly that I never really considered that the NFL was trying to strong arm Sean Payton out of his job for good by making an example out of the New Orleans Saints instead of looking in the mirror in regards to the player safety agenda they still stumble over their own feet in trying to push. Looking back on it, it seems pretty obvious that by giving him an unprecedented penalty (for a practice that was common, albeit unspoken) that forced him entirely out of an insanely demanding job in which the small amount of security barely allows for a week's vacation, never mind a year long shunning, was meant to get him ousted to the unemployment line.
Of course, this new tidbit that two unnamed owners basically let Tom Benson in on the league's intention when a sentence got handed down makes that an indisputable fact, but - after seeing how the NFL has handled just about every controversy since - the lines don't seem as though they should have been all that difficult to read between. The NFL couldn't flat out fire Sean Payton, but if it was their heavy-handedness that was ultimately responsible for getting him canned then they'd forever have his disgraced dismissal to point to as proof of just how deeply they care (about looking as though they actually care) about the well-being of players. I'd never use the word "genius" to describe Roger Goodell & Co., but in being one step ahead in their thinking they were actually two steps ahead of how far most people deem them capable of thinking.
Unfortunately, they chose the wrong target. A head coach that were even slightly less than psychotically competitive might have been broken by being blamed for BountyGate, and I know that because even the most psychotically competitive of head coach was noticeably bent by it. Which was the cause and which was the effect is a little hard to differentiate when looking at the relatively dispirited of demeanor that Sean Payton had on the sidelines through three straight 7-9 seasons, but you won't find too many Saints' fans that didn't think 2012 threw a wet blanket on the fire burning inside him.
As the result of some combination of "time heals all" and "winning cures all", that fire is now as blazing as it's ever been, but a suspension that lasts the NFL equivalent of an eternity isn't served in a vacuum. The extent of it is uncertain, but there was a hangover of sorts that...well...hung over both the Saints and Sean Payton after the wasted year in which they weren't granted the opportunity to build on the championship run that got away in 2011. Granted, they were a playoff team again in 2013, but that seems like an aberration given the three year purgatory of the rebuild that followed.
I can't speak for Sean Payton when it comes to why he chose now to be so open about the time he had his livelihood unceremoniously stripped from him, but considering that he's two weeks removed from randomly seeming friendly with the man with which he fairly recently held an obvious grudge (Gregg Williams), it leads you to believe that he's finally been able to put the past in the past. A head coach of lesser conviction probably couldn't have done so, as Sean Payton's commitment to continuing his career in New Orleans is, in conjunction with the loyalty of the late Tom Benson, likely the main reason why the NFL's true objective of getting him axed by New Orleans mostly remained a mystery until right now.
The New Orleans Saints Returned Home To A Sight For Sore Eyes In The Other Half Of The Best Running Back Duo In The NFL
Incidental or not, the suspension that Mark Ingram just finished serving was of no fault but his own. He has no one to blame but himself for the four games he potentially compromised by way of his unavailability during the start of a season that had all the makings of being one of the most special in Saints' history. I have nowhere near enough faith in the NFL, their testing policies, or their priorities to consider Mark Ingram selfish for whatever illegal substance he happened to let in his system, but he certainly wasn't selfless in being at least mildly irresponsible with regards to what he put in his body and/or when he did so.
I say all that not to trash a guy whose presence was sorely missed in a rushing attack that only yesterday finally managed to get things going on the ground, but rather to highlight just how beloved that presence is amongst a team that appears absolutely amped that he's back. Doesn't seem to be even one hard feeling within a group whose jobs were made more difficult by the lack of the type of back who can give a struggling defense a breather, as there's nothing but a soft spot for Mark Ingram inside a locker room in which he's undeniably become a leader...
Of all the players that have been scapegoated by the fanbase during the Sean Payton era, Mark Ingram might be the player who was most often served the nuttiest dose of undeserved shit. When you think about how many wildly overpaid defensive additions have churned out performances that were both literally and figuratively defenseless throughout the years, that's certainly saying something.
I say that not to bring up bad memories, but rather to highlight exactly how far Mark Ingram has come by running off the stink in the process of winning over the entirety of the Who Dat Nation. It is now absolutely indisputable how important he is to both the Saints' recent success, as well the cohesive culture that's equal parts the cause and the effect of it. Regardless of why he was out in first place, a team that somewhat miraculously managed to go 3-1 without him knows exactly how much better off they are with him. Both on and off the field, Mark Ingram is a vital piece to the championship caliber puzzle, as - for the most part - it was painfully obvious it wasn't quite close to being complete in his absence.
There are probably a couple players whose physical impact is bigger than that of one of the many offensive weapons at the Saints' disposable, but I'd contend that there aren't nearly as many whose emotional impact looms as large. I suspect his season debut in the Dome for 'Monday Night Football' will put that full array of contributions on display, as he spent the preseason running like he was motivated to put out the fire that looked to be burning under his ass.
When you're considered to be one of the preseason favorites in your conference and appear to have a relatively easy (not that anything ever comes easy in the NFL) schedule to start your season, you'd prefer it not take until the conclusion of the first quarter of said schedule to be able to pencil in a 'W' before the clock strikes zero.
Obviously that hasn't been the case for a Saints' team that, in a lot of ways, was 2-1 despite itself, but it sure felt good to experience a win that had quite a bit in common with the casual 49 yard scamper that put an exclamation point on 3-1...
Just as Alvin Kamara never really pulled all that far ahead of the trail of defenders in his wake, it was also all but an inevitability that he was going to run both himself and his team off the field with a comfortable margin of victory. The Saints certainly didn't play a perfect brand of football, as evidenced by the drop-induced field goal fest that was the first half, but they consistently played a step ahead of an opponent that never really seemed capable of catching up. I wouldn't consider yesterday a sign that New Orleans is hitting its stride, as they still made a bunch of inexcusable mistakes. However, I would consider the fact that they put up 33 points during a "meh" offensive performance to be a reminder of exactly how dangerous they can be when they do play complimentary football.
The Giants are to scoring 30+ points what the Saints are to pitching a shutout, so Eli Manning and his extremely offensive line are more likely to instill a defense with false confidence than they are to truly help one measure it's effectiveness. That said, with what the likes of Calvin Ridley and Co. were able to do in past weeks, it was still encouraging to see the Saints collect some sacks while making modest the All-World talents of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham.
I consider every year it's own distinct entity in a sport as fickle as professional football. However, with regions of the Who Dat Nation having comforted themselves during yet another slow start by referencing last season's quick turnaround, it bears mentioning that yesterday's effort had some similarities with last year's Week 3 win over the Panthers. Of course, statistically speaking, that road victory was much more desperately needed, but it was also just as dominant as it was flawed. If the Saints can even mildly mimic the success they had in building off this like they did that then great things could be in store for a group that still hasn't proved it's any better than pretty good at this point.
- I'll never understand how Alvin Kamara makes what should be physically impossible feats seem so easy. On his first and third touchdown runs he had the look of someone that was taking a leisurely jog in the park, and on the second he basically defied gravity in keeping his knee off the ground. With Mark Ingram's suspension coming to an end, it's almost scary to think what he might be capable of going against defenses that are made even a half step slower by the amount of options in the Saints' backfield. Though, I'd imagine it's probably something a little like his historically efficient ROTY campaign...
- I don't know how a team that stumbles upon otherworldly offensive talent on an annual basis still can't manage to find themselves someone to safely secure a punt/kick, but it's going to unnecessarily cost them a game sooner rather than later if they don't. For as well in hand as it seemed, that game could very easily been yesterday if not for a fortunate bounce or three...
- Taysom Hill is simply a game-changer. I don't just say that as an empty compliment of a versatile player, but rather as a factual acknowledgment that he has now made a massive impact at a crucial time in two straight games. With the way the Giants moved the ball on their opening drive, who knows how things could have turned out if it was given back to them on a second straight 3-and-out. Sean Payton feeling confident enough one him to call a fairly contested fake on 4th down speaks volumes, never mind him proving that decision to be the right one with a perfect throw on the run.
- Demario Davis looks like a 5th defensive lineman out there whenever they let him loose on the blitz. He's starting to prove as advertised in other aspects of his game, but he's offered a boost to a pass-rush that's getting incrementally better as the season wears on.
- Since Week 1, Marshon Lattimore's name has been heard with a lot less regularity, and silence is what you want out of a kid who can shut up some of the best playmakers in the sport when he's at his best.
- Not related to the actual game or anything, but it was cool to Teddy Bridgewater getting a closer look at his future offense. It can be easy to forget that another starting caliber quarterback is on the roster when Drew Brees is cooking and Taysom Hill is doing all that Taysom Hill does, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Sean Payton is slowly simmering the perfect reminder.
The Saints Have Placed Patrick Robinson On IR, As What Was Originally Thought To Be A High Ankle Sprain Is Really A Broken Ankle
I suppose it was only a matter of time. Without doing too much research, I think I can confidently say that not one professional football season has ever come and gone without a team having had to endure a single serious injury to a starter. Knowing the New Orleans Saints' luck, they definitely weren't about to be the first.
Of course, you typically prefer that those injuries don't come as a result of scumbag maneuvers made in a game that's plenty dangerous enough without lineman intentionally rolling the entirety of their body weight over the ankle of someone half their size...
It also goes without saying that, if you absolutely have to absorb a loss in your starting lineup, you hope upon hope that it doesn't end up coming at the expense of the one player in a position group that somehow had gone relatively guilt-free despite being a part of a unit that's gotten shredded to the tune of 103 points in three games.
Make no mistake, with the flat out frightening manner in which Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams have performed thus far, Patrick Robinson getting carted out of the slot and onto the IR hurts in a way that's reminiscent of when the Saints' primary source for secondary help was plucking dudes off the street in 2016. Granted, they didn't have a top-notch talent like Marshon Lattimore at the time, but if Calvin Ridley's unencumbered track meet on Sunday was any indication than this team needs a lot more than one capable corner if they want whatever broken scheme they've been running to be even mildly successful.
The news of a potential Sterling Moore signing is encouraging in the sense that he's familiar with the team, but it's discouraging in the sense that said team was pretty damn hopeless when he was fighting above his weight class in playing a significant role for it. Oddly enough, one of the better efforts of his first tenure came against Odell Beckham Jr. the last time the Saints traveled to New York for an early season showdown. Unfortunately, that's not me trying to predict a repeat performance as much as it's me pointing out the deja voodoo of misdiagnoses and trying to patch a secondary that's as wounded as its confidence with a stopgap like Sterling Moore.
The fact is that the Saints need Ken Crawley to figure out what the hell changed over the summer and start treating this season like the contract year that it is. They need Marcus Williams to stop trying to improvise his way past his nightmarish end to last season. They need Dennis Allen to make a damn adjustment or two to a defunct defense that's easily looked the weakest at it's presumed strength. With their d-line coming around and their linebackers developing a bit of chemistry, they can overcome the loss of one of the better slot corners in the league. Whether or not they actually will, however, is dependent on the last line of defense changing things up a bit by actually playing some.
Some Of The Saints' Not-So-Secret Weapons Spent Monday Fawning Over Each Other's Superhuman Abilities On Twitter
Leave it to one of their beloved former teammates to put it the most accurate way possible...
The truth is, if you asked me to choose between the three players mentioned above in deciding which one is truly too good to have not had their skill set carefully crafted by a kid who was tired of getting his ass kicked by the computer in the latest 'Madden' release, I wouldn't have a good answer for you.
The versatility of Taysom Hill, who - as a "backup QB" - has put the special in special teams, as well as received rave reviews for his playmaking prowess as a runner, blocker, and tackler, is unlike anything ever seen on a non-pixelated football field. There's simply no denying how unprecedented he is as a skillful Swiss Army Knife and the exclamation to the NFL equivalent of the 'ATH' designation...
On the other hand, the quantity of Michael Thomas' target share returning the unmatched quality of a 95% catch rate is simply unheard of. The record setting amount of completions he's hauled in while setting a historically unsustainable pace throughout the first three weeks of the season is somehow only as impressive as the efficiency with which he's done so. The only reason to believe his abilities haven't gotten a virtual bump from a boy who is a bad loser is that artificial intelligence couldn't possibly comprehend a wide receiver whose dependability in getting open and closing the deal is nearly as certain as death and taxes.
Then, of course, there's the 37 year old who has worked himself into such ludicrous shape that he's able to still make plays from a position that's became more and more reliant on athleticism with each of the passing fourteen seasons he's played it professionally. Age considered, working the middle of the field at a high enough level to start under a coach that loves himself some talented tight ends makes Ben Watson as much of a unicorn as anyone else on the roster.
So, in closing, I've determined that a conversation about freakishly gifted athletes that doesn't include Alvin Kamara isn't one worth having. The fun the Saints are having with each other after a huge divisional victory, however, definitely is worth having, so hopefully they keep winning in ways that allow them to do so.
Thirty-Nine Years Young Is The Living Legend That Remained Unrivaled In The Latest Ridiculous Chapter Of The Saints/Falcons Rivalry
Ridley me this, how does a team overcome their own insistence on continuing to deploy a secondary-dependent scheme whose kryptonite appears to be a blind launch of the football to one particular side of the field? Punitively speaking, how does a team overcome a deprivation of discipline that rendered what little defense they were effective in playing completely defenseless? From a mathematical standpoint, how does a team that's visiting a rival on the road overcome getting punched right in the mouth with a fistful of touchdowns?
The answer, of course, is for said team to employ the person who, as of yesterday, has now completed more passes than any other quarterback in NFL history. Drew Brees is the only reason that a team that looks way more disjointed than the one that everyone expected to show up to start the season is currently sitting at 2-1. The truth is that the Saints could (or even should) just as easily be 0-3 and staring down the line at a fairly daunting schedule. After all - whether it be penalties, turnovers, flawed execution, or all of the above - they have gotten in their own way with a far higher rate of success than they've (legally) gotten in the way of opposing wide receivers that have taken off streaking down their sideline. I say that to say this. There just aren't many players in the history of the sport that have proven capable of navigating so many obstacles put forth by their own organization in leading their team to victory, and one of them just did it for the umpteenth time in his illustrious career.
Drew Brees was obviously aided by the matchup proof presence of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, the occasion spell from the titillating transformer of a toy that is Taysom Hill, and the timely relentlessness of Cam Jordan, but - as it so often does - the difference between a depressing loss and inspiring win wore #9 yesterday.
For as anxiety inducing as it was to see a near 40 year old franchise quarterback scramble his way around two defenders and into the end zone with a shocking spin move that twirled him right out of character, it was just as comforting to see the ball placed in his hands to start overtime. While yesterday proved that the Falcons should really take heed to Steve Gleason's advice to "never punt"...
...it was also advice that the Saints needed to follow if they planned on leaving Atlanta having clipped the wings of their rivals. A game that had more ups and downs than the heart rate of those that were emotionally invested in its outcome was left to be determined by whether or not Drew Brees could orchestrate the ball in the end-zone. That is still, after all these years, the sweetest of spots for the New Orleans Saints.
Look no further than Matt Ryan's stat line and/or the penalty yardage totals for evidence that Sean Payton and Co. have a whole hell of a lot of work to do to get a team that's considered a contender to play smart and focused enough to make good on that promise. The P.J. Williams experiment failed Dennis Allen in about as much time as it takes Calvin Ridley to run the 40 yard dash, Ken Crawley wasn't exactly redeeming in relief, and a solid pass-rush and ruthless run defense was left to suffer in supervision of a complete undressing of whoever happened to line up opposite Marshon Lattimore. The Saints' biggest problem is that they continue to have on-going problems (See: their attempts to defend a bunch formation), and right now nothing is more problematic than starting a corner(s) that couldn't be more gracious as a target if he were drunkenly stumbling down Bourbon Street tossing a $20 to every con-man that fooled him with the "I know where you got your shoes..." scam.
That said, the face of the franchise put on a clinic in reminding everyone - least of all, his teammates - that all else doesn't have to be equal when you have the great equalizer under center. Hopefully the Saints get their shit together sooner rather than later, but I'll be damned if Drew Brees isn't still willing and able to provide them as such margin for error as any single player in the league.
Very, Very Short Time Saints' Center Olin Kreutz Once Threw Drew Brees Against A Wall During An Argument With Former O-Line Coach Aaron Kromer
Kreutz: For me personally, I had a coach in New Orleans, and he was here, in Aaron Kromer. If I would’ve spent one more minute with him I would’ve torn his head off. I had to get out of that building. Didn’t feel comfortable in there. Just, just really a bad situation for me at the time where I knew if this guy said one more thing to me I would’ve put him in the hospital.
McNeil & Parkins: What did Kromer say to you that you hated so much?
Kreutz: Oh it was months. It was months. It was months of saying things to someone who’s 34, 35 years old and put in all that time. It was months of things that you shouldn’t say to a grown man without expecting an (expletive)-whooping. It was months of it, and it came down to where enough was enough and I couldn’t be in the room with that guy one more day.
I knew that it wouldn’t be good for the team for me to be there any more. And I know that when I stood up to go after him and somebody grabbed me and I threw him against the wall, and it was Drew Brees, it was time for me to go.
M & P: You threw Drew Brees against the wall?
Kreutz: Yeah, that would’ve been my last day in New Orleans. (laughs).
M & P: That’s a future Hall of Famer, face of the franchise. you threw Brees against the wall?
Kreutz: Listen, Hall of Famer or not, you don’t grab people.
As much as this debunked my self-assuring theory that Drew Brees steps off the practice field and gets rolled around the Saints' facilities in a protective bubble that somehow prolongs his youth, I do have to tip my cap to Olin Kreutz here. Seeing as the person who went on to absolutely obliterate records during that same season was no worse for the wear, credit has to be given to the savvy veteran signing gone awry. After all, if he did nothing else right in NOLA, he did know how to make one hell of an exit...
I don't know much about the internal operations of the New Orleans Saints, but I feel pretty confident in saying that laying one finger on Drew Brees in an aggressive manner is the quickest way on to the same street on which you'll later find your bags packed. Olin Kreutz may not have made the best player or teammate during his short time in black and gold, but - as an employee - he got to the live out the dream of making a shocking spectacle of his decided departure. Slamming the franchise quarterback, especially one of Drew Brees' acclaim, against the wall is as "fuck this, I'm out!" as it gets, and we all want to feel comfortable enough come the conclusion of our career to do something similar, albeit less superhuman.
Considering the typical demeanor of offensive line coaches, it's not too tough to understand how someone who was already on the verge of retirement got bull-rushed over the edge. The demands of blocking for the best are rigorous, so it's not really surprising that a 35 year old who must have been made physically and mentally exhausted by years of hopelessly blocking for Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler wasn't entirely up to the task.
For that reason, the only thing keeping this anecdote from having an "all's well that ends well" type conclusion is that, in my biased opinion, it should be one of the tales repeatedly told during the reunions of the Saints' second Super Bowl team, as 2011 will forever be the one that got away.
Wil Lutz And Thomas Morstead Made Sure To Offer An Encouraging Word To Browns' Kicker Zane Gonzalez After His Nightmare Of An Afternoon
As proven by the fact that he was both sitting and standing alone when approached by Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead respectively, it's a lot easier to be feel sympathetic towards Zane Gonzalez after having benefited from what ended up being his last day as a member of the Browns. Therefore, I guess it's no surprise that I retrospectively feel horrible for a kid who, despite failing miserably at his one job, doesn't deserve anywhere near the amount of death threats that are both sadly and inevitably headed his way in the coming week.
I mean, it's easy to crucify kickers, but there can't possibly be a lonelier place in the entire world than lined up about 18-19 yards offset behind center, with every one of over 100,000 eyes in the building staring through you, while the weight of a year and a half long losing streak weighs heavily on your shoulders, as you've already booted away whatever job security you might have had to start the season. Mix in that Zane Gonzalez was allegedly working through a sore groin, of all things, and - although it's what he signed up for - I wouldn't wish those circumstances on my worst enemy...
I credit both Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead for their classiness, as they didn't have to interrupt their excitement and go out of their way to give a 23 year old kid a sentence or two of support, but I'm certainly not surprised by it. They basically got a first hand look at another man literally living out their worst nightmare. The place-kicking community is a fraternity, which makes sense, since - like most fraternities - almost all the news that they create is bad news. Unfortunately, in the case of kickers, being the scapegoat for a team of 46 active players is an occupational hazard, so it's no wonder those that do said job have a special appreciation for others that potentially sacrifice their career with every swing of their leg.
A Win Is A Win, Which Is About The Only Positive Thing That Could Be Said About The Saints Ugly, Lucky, And Undeserved Victory Over The Browns
Wins are far too hard to come by in the NFL for any of them to ever truly feel like a loss. That's simply a fact.
That being said, it was a fact whose legitimacy as such was put to the test by a Saints' team that spent the vast majority of the afternoon doing the counterproductive things that so often lead to defeat against a team that's damn near allergic to victory. It's a cliche for a losing team to claim they lost the game as opposed to it being won by their opponent, but - as a fan of said opponent - I think the Cleveland Browns would be well within their rights to in saying they repeatedly booted the sure victory they've been waiting nearly two years for outside the uprights. Simply put, the Saints really don't deserve to be 1-1 headed into an important, tie-breaking matchup against a division rival on the road, as they needed the Browns to Brown as hard as they have ever Browns'd just to win by a field goal in come-from-behind fashion.
Be it drive-killing fumbles from Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn that were only technically forced as they came as the direct result of unnecessary attempts to gain empty yardage. Be it missed opportunities, as Drew Brees dropped a sure touchdown about five yards out of the bounds that restrained a wide open Ben Watson and later short armed a streaking Ted Ginn. Be it points taken off the board, as an Alvin Kamara touchdown was brought back by enough holding to satisfy a lover with abandonment issues. Be it Sean Payton's play-calling that clearly didn't account for a prominent pass rush, as he was undeniably outwitted by the sick and twisted mind of Gregg Williams. Be it dumb penalties that extended drives and took away from what was an otherwise intriguing performance by a defense that was coming off a thorough dismantling. Be it that same defense saying "not so fast..." in being let off the hook by allowing the only thing they couldn't let happen to happen when Ken Crawley lost focus and let a receiver get behind him on 4th down to score what should have proved to be a go ahead touchdown with a minute left. Be it Dennis Allen showing he learned next to nothing from the Minneapolis Miracle by giving up just enough yardage to allow for a game-tying field goal attempt in next to no time flat. The Saints made so many fundamental mistakes that I'm near positive that this extremely elongated paragraph didn't account for them all.
The NFL is as year-to-year a sport as you'll find, as a short 16 game schedule allows for the closest possible thing to a purely fresh start, but the Saints have already rotted out all the optimism that surrounded them coming into this season. The truth is that their first two opponents are probably a lot better than expected, but what's false is the sense of security they look to be playing with against less talented teams. Other than Drew Brees stat line, there's just not all that much that currently speaks to this team being a contender in a loaded conference. As proven last year, that could certainly change quickly, but it's going to happen almost immediately if they want to come anywhere close to reaching their potential.
To a fanbase who knows all too well what 7-9 looks like, this team has no excuse to appear strikingly similar. With the amount of mistakes that have haunted them, from the front office on down to the sideline and out onto the field, a team that was presumably poised for greatness comes off as having a shocking amount of complacency considering they've accomplished next to nothing. There's still hope that this is but a slow start, but - since their season was basically saved in Week 2 by the sheer incompetence of a team that hasn't walked off a winner since 2016 - it would be a lie to call that hope anything but subjectively blind at the moment.
- An underachieving offensive line hasn't helped, but Mike Gillislee has looked like the exact opposite of the type of player you reconfigure your roster for in making everyone, including Alvin Kamara, miss Mark Ingram...
- It was both a huge relief and a little redemption for Marcus Williams to make the play most responsible for letting the sanity of Saints fan live to see another Sunday. The game against the Buccaneers made it easy to forget how great he was in camp, but - boy, oh boy - did he literally pick a hell of a time to make his lurking presence felt...
- I don't know if saying that the best defense against Michael Thomas is himself, as his competitiveness is what has allowed him to post historic numbers throughout the first two weeks. However, he clearly needs to pick and choose more appropriate times to fight for every inch, as his fumbles have sabotaged ungodly stats in being the only person, place, or thing proven capable of stopping him...
- It's just about never that you say this about a team with Super Bowl aspirations, but the Saints have got to find a way to get their 3rd string quarterback on the field more. With his first chance at kick return duties, Taysom Hill almost did what's so rarely seen from those wearing black & gold by breaking one the distance. If anything has been made clear through the first two weeks, it's that this team is too reliant on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. As great as they may be, another playmaker only stands to make their jobs easier. I don't how or what can be done to get one of the most athletic players on the team the ball more often, but if there's someone that should be able to figure it out then it's Sean Payton.
I wouldn't say I am surprised by the humility shown by someone who is constantly working to prove he's as near perfect a person as he is a player, but I will say that I'm somewhat sickened by it in this instance. From a future first ballot Hall Of Famer who will, before the halfway mark of this very season, have thrown for the most yards in NFL history, the claim that a rookie who has yet to have taken a regular season snap could be a lot better than him is so preposterous that it would sound like outright sarcasm from the mouth of someone even slightly less modest. Aaron Rodgers probably has the most arm talent the league has ever seen, and to consider him substantially better than Drew Brees would be stretch. Therefore, I'm going to go ahead and say that, while Baker Mayfield is a promising player with a presumably bright future, the eventual best quarterback to ever grace the planet he is not.
Now, I will encourage Saints' fan to shed a layer or two, for the incoming take might be a little hot for some of them to handle, but I actually do think that Baker Mayfield could be as good as Drew Brees.
In the perfect world where, as a member of the Cleveland Browns, he develops unmatched mechanics, the ability to see through, around, and over lineman that dwarf him, a pocket presence that would make your wallet self-conscious, a manipulation of defensive backs that borders on mind control, the type of accuracy that makes everyone he throws to better, and an insane work ethic, they are basically the same player. As a quarterback that's six feet tall on a good day, who has a sneaky amount of athleticism, slightly above average arm strength, a chip on his shoulder, and an unrelenting competitive streak, what's stopping Baker Mayfield from having a drink at the bar set by Drew Brees? Besides the aforementioned list of things that the latter has worked tireless to prefect under the meticulous mentoring of the offensive genius of Sean Payton, I can't think of anything. All Baker Mayfield has to do is find a brilliant play-caller to share a brain with and go as far above and beyond in outsmarting his often exaggerated physical limitations as anyone in the history of sports and when it comes to keeping Drew Brees company in the record books...hey, it could happen!
An Embarrassment Would Have Been An Upgrade For A Saints' Team That Started The Season In Hauntingly Familiar Fashion
And it was at that point, as DeSean Jackson completed his all-too-casual jog into the end zone, that I knew I had seen that same movie oh-so-many times before.
The clock read 9:41 of the 1st quarter and the score was an extra point away from being tied at just seven, but the damage had already been done to the psyche of those that know all well what it looks like when the same ole' Saints are in for a looong afternoon. That might seem a bit dramatic, but all it took was one bunch formation leading to an opposing receiver running his route against air, and air only, for the Who Dat Nation to let out a collective "here we go again..." in response to yet another inexcusably unprepared start to a season.
Hours of complete defensive incompetence later, when the journeyman extraordinaire, who was made to look like a homeless man's Aaron Rodgers, broke the pocket for the umpteenth time only to slide across the Super Dome turf and into the win column following a 12 yard scramble on 3rd-and-11, it felt only as shocking as it did both fitting and familiar. Drew Brees having his Hall Of Fame credentials borderline abused by having to drag a lifeless corpse of a roster to a relatively respectable result that was effectively anything but must be the stuff that his recurring nightmares are made of at this point.From a fan's perspective, I can tell you it's a game script that feels equally as gory and only as different as each subsequent iteration of The Purge. Ten minutes in and you can already be pretty certain of what you're going to get, so the rolling of the credits feels more like an overdue end to the misery than anything else.
As bad of an omen as it was for the Saints to get brought on their own stage and toyed around with by FitzMagic, which is typically the type of wizardry you expect to see at a mall kiosk, it was still just one game. That being said, it was one game that gave plenty of reason to question everything that Sean Payton has preached all offseason, for they looked to be fat off all the cheese in proving all the experts wrong. It was one game that gave plenty of reason to question whether the trend of one-off quality defensive deviations from the norm of ineptitude will continue to buoy his tenure. It was one game, on a 16-game schedule of increasing toughness, that appeared more winnable than most. It was one game in which a roster that has been hailed as his most talented looked utterly complacent in carrying the Minneapolis Miracle right over into the New Orleans Nightmare.
Now, the bulk of that roster has proven capable of putting an ungodly ass-whooping or two in their rearview last year. Still, it would be ignorant to act as if the start to the brightest of seasons wasn't quickly clouded with depressing shades of the 7-9 record that followed a promising 2013 all the way through to the beginning of 2017. That's simply unconscionable considering the amount of top-end carryover that resides in a locker room that doesn't even have inter-team turmoil to point to an excuse for starting off short of expectations. Another performance like that against Cleveland next week and I'm going to be forced into thinking that culture of camaraderie is really just built on a bunch of dudes fluffing each other's egos, if only because there's no other alternative answer to what we saw yesterday.
Marshon Lattimore, who might be sharing a block of ice with Ken Crawley in defensive backs meetings after the two of them got wooden spooned by Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson all afternoon, said the Saints needed a good slap back to reality...
For the life of me, I can't possibly figure out why that is, as the last game they played prior to yesterday ended with one of the most unforgettable kicks in the groin in NFL history. Maybe the Saints should have been tuned into the same broadcast their fans were subjected to, because damn near each and every commercial break provided a turn of the knife in an otherwise brutal stabbing. Stefon Diggs must have ran straight across the screen and into the NFC Championship game no less than two dozen times yesterday and somehow the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still matched his yardage. I'd hope that would serve as a pretty big wakeup call to a young team that has about as much reason to be cocky as it's coach does to be stubborn.
To the Buccaneers credit, Ryan Fitzpatrick was awesome and their formidable group of receivers made a ton of plays, as it appears they didn't take kindly to being forgotten by a league that prematurely stomped them as a doormat. That, however, doesn't excuse the effort of those that allowed them to do so, as the Saints' defense was so putrid that they don't even deserve the benefit of doubting questionable officiating.
If not for the heroics of Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and - for a vast majority of the game - Michael Thomas, we're talking about a pounding of epic proportions. It's obviously too early to signal that the sky is falling, but the Week 1 struggles have become nothing short of pathetic while giving very little hope for Week 2. Simply put, there's a lot to clean up if they want to avoid sending Hue Jackson home to a hero's welcome, never mind making the playoffs of which they apparently thought they had already clinched a spot.
If The Totality Of Preseason Proved Anything, It's That The Saints' Problems Are Of The Enviable Variety
That's it. That's the piece of news that finally made me add an expletive to the "what the..." I have gotten caught repeating to myself out of habit as the Saints have trimmed a lot more than fat in cutting their roster down to size.
Boston Scott did everything that could have possibly been asked of a 6th round pick in the rushing, receiving, and return game to keep his spot as a Sean Payton prototype on a 53 man roster that now has all of one running back that's up to speed with a pretty damn intricate system. The recent pickup of a proven veteran like Mike Gillislie should help to complement the superstardom of Alvin Kamara while Mark Ingram impatiently awaits unloading every one of his frustrations on prospective tacklers come Week 5. Still, two running backs (three, assuming Jonathan Williams is activated from the PS) ain't all many available bodies, and - pending Scott clearing both waivers (fingers crossed) and a spot on the practice squad - the Saints as an organization are still as thin in the return game as they were prior to the summer their head coach spent emphasizing it. It just seems like a weird risk to take when you consider the priorities of the person taking it.
In fact, you could argue that a late round pick being cut from a position with which they achieved historical success last season is the most questionable move the Saints have made. If only because it's so specific to the one aspect of special teams that's keeping the Saints from being a truly complete team, risking the loss of a 5'6 running back is the most surprising call Sean Payton has rung in.
Sure, Devaroe Lawrence being traded to the Browns after having lived in the pocket all preseason was disappointing, but also an undeniable sign of unforeseen depth on the defensive line. Natrell Jameson being cut was a shock to the system of fans that are woefully unfamiliar with having to say goodbye to young defensive backs that flashed even a lick of potential, but also a credit to how unbelievably far the secondary has come. Nate Stupar getting chopped with the second swing of the axe was disheartening, as he looked like Lawrence Taylor with cocaine literally on the brain during his last audition, but it's a good thing that the ability to bully the backups of backups no longer guarantees you a spot on the Saints' roster.
What's not a good thing is that Tommylee Lewis, who has had ball security issues in the past, is the only player currently left on the roster that was consistently asked to catch kicks throughout training camp. Hopefully the potential return of Boston Scott, who was likely strategically waived at a point in which most teams are as set for Sunday as they could possibly be, resolves that. Not because he's a great developmental player (though he is), but rather because a team that's as detailed-oriented and thorough in its construction as it has ever been under Sean Payton lacks only a reinforcement in the return game.
Like a true championship contender, the Saints have given themselves no room for moral victories or hedged bets, as they kept only those that can best help them right now and made future considerations a thing of the past. Hell, look no further than Taysom Hill's special teams contributions for proof that you need to be able to help this team win today to remain on it. The biggest issue in New Orleans was/is that they had too many quality and proven young players to hold on to those that might have needed some seasoning during a season that's far too promising to be spent salting away spots that are laughably more difficult to fill now than they were a few years ago. It doesn't take too deep of a stare into the rearview to remember that there are far, far worse problems to have than not enough options awaiting kicks. Though, with the amount of chips that the Saints have already pushed into a pot that they fully expect to collect come February, I presume that one will still be addressed too.
The Fingers Will Remain Crossed For Awhile, But The Saints May Have Taken A Huge Step In Fortifying Their Future By Trading For Teddy Bridgewater
There are a couple reasons that the battle to become back-up quarterback has quite easily made the most headlines at Saints' training camp. The fact that it includes the rare case that is a freakishly athletic 28 year old who is trying to package the skills that he displayed as a special teams ace into something that mildly resembles an NFL-caliber signal caller is certainly the most compelling of those reasons. The much more telling takeaway from the attention directed under center is that it's a direct result of there being no other glaring weaknesses on a young, rebuilt roster that looks set to contend for longer than it stands to be led by a 39 year old Drew Brees. It feels weird to say, as everyone in the Saints' organization knows the pressure to win is currently being applied, but a huge focal point of the preseason games has been trying to figure out the future.
Insert Teddy Bridgewater.
To be honest, when I saw the news that fulfilled what was previously considered to be a pipe dream of over-optimistic fans, my first instinct was to gather my jaw off the ground and shatter every window in my apartment in solidarity with a franchise that potentially had theirs broken open for the foreseeable future. As I am currently writing this, as opposed to making an extremely costly Home Depot trip, I was able to suppress that urge, deepen my breath, and think rationally about the prospects of a promising player who is currently on a one-year, "prove it" deal eventually taking the reigns of an otherwise solidified offense from an arm that will then eagerly await its induction into the Hall Of Fame.
The conclusion I came to is as follows. Considering both their recent success in the draft and the monster move they made for Marcus Davenport, there is no chance in hell that the Saints traded away another relatively high pick for someone they didn't fully expect to eventually play a valuable role for them. As I hardly consider holding a clipboard to be worthy of a 3rd round price tag, there is some sort of plan in place for Teddy Bridgewater to be that oh-so-elusive successor to Drew Brees.
Whether that plan comes to fruition or not is probably dependent on the patience of the former and the competitiveness of the latter. However, if there is a coach out there that can convince a 25 year old with successful starting experience to sit and wait his turn to take over an otherwise complete team then it's the one that basically shares a brain with one of the best passers in the history of football. Sean Payton seems to have gotten a pretty good return on the first investment he made in "damaged goods" at the most prominent of position, so what better mentor to have while putting a devastating, career-threatening injury in the rearview than the man under which a 27-year old Drew Brees began revitalizing his career and realizing his potential? Touchdown Teddy has all the talent and intelligence necessary to thrive in a versatile, star-studded Saints' offense that suits him perfectly. With the scarcity of quality starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the lottery-esque luck required to stumble upon one at the right time, a 3rd rounder isn't all that huge a price to pay in hopes that he'll recognize that when it comes to negotiating a contract beyond this season.
"Worst" case scenario, the Saints try to split the difference in flipping Tom Savage, solidify their special teams with the full-time return of Taysom Hill, and - if only for a year - are no longer one injury away from having an auspicious season flushed down the toilet while time is of the essence. Best case scenario, they just swapped mid-round picks to make sure time is no longer of the essence with the likelihood of continuing their contention well past 2020 on the arm of someone who already has no business being a back-up. Either way, it's a better day to be a Saints' fan than it was yesterday, even if we are a long way off from finding out if the gamble pays off and the true goal of a ballsy, forward thinking trade gets achieved.
Marshon Lattimore Took A Little Time Out Of Training Camp To Remind Everyone He Has All-Pro Potential
Marshon Lattimore is a gamer.
If it weren't for last season, that short and sweet sentence might just be something I would be stuck nervously muttering to myself as I tossed and turned to sleep after watching the subject of it look relatively mediocre throughout most of training camp.
Fortunately, what last season provided was a pretty good blueprint for what to expect from the insanely talented corner. We're talking about an inexperienced kid who came out of his first camp a question mark, but smacked an exclamation point on the end of his first season by adding Defensive Rookie Of The Year honors to the long list of people, places, and things he dominantly locked down. For that reason, I wasn't particularly concerned about the amount of highlights in which I had seen of Michael Thomas getting the better of his fellow former Buckeye throughout the last month or so.
That said, with Marshon Lattimore having been spent a good chunk of the offseason nursing an ankle injury, yesterday was a pleasant reminder of what we already knew deep down. That, of course, being that he who was at his best when the lights were at their brightest and stakes were at their biggest was just a modicum of motivation away from erasing half the field from a future HOF quarterback who has the tendency to see things that don't even appear to be there.
It'll be interesting to see how he fares in joint practices with the Chargers, but if last year was any indication then a sophomore slump will be about as helpless as the rookie wall was in slowing down the development of the talent who transformed the Saints' defense. The writing was already on the wall for him to have another stellar season, but it's still confronting to see evidence of his abilities transcribed on twitter once, twice, or maybe even three times (depending who you ask) before it starts.
Alex Okafor Going Down In Practice Is An Unpleasant Reminder Of The Saints' Lack Of Depth On The D-Line
The good news here is that this is probably the worst news that has come out of Saints training camp thus far. I'm knocking on wood as I say the following, but keeping in mind offseason's past, a man down that forces a little stunned silence but is followed by said man returning to his feet and making it off the field under his own power isn't any reason to take shelter in Chicken Little's coup. It's unfortunate, but it isn't a sign of the sky falling on what looks to be a promising season.
The bad news, on the other hand, is that a pass rush that was starting to look as though it wouldn't be dependent on a significant contribution from the rawest of rookies isn't anywhere as deep as it seems on the surface. A substantial injury to Alex Okafor would obviously be a horrible turn of events for him, as he's responded about as well as one could have possibly hoped coming off a season that was cut short by an Achilles tear. However, it would also be a horrible turn of events for the Saints, as it would make Marcus Davenport's absence from practice a hell of a lot more concerning for an otherwise lopsided defensive line. Trey Hendrickson's development has been encouraging, but a starting caliber compliment to Cam Jordan he is (more than likely) not.
I'm not saying it will, but - to play the pessimist - if Alex Okafor's diagnosis ends up having been foreshadowed by the nerve-wracking reaction of his teammates then the pressure on the player on which the Saints spent two first round picks will be increased substantially. It could be worse, as that pressure was presumed to exist the second he was picked anyway, but his lack of participation in practice isn't going to continue being a footnote if there's a disappointing headline regarding their current starting RDE coming around the corner.