Answering reader questions about the Saints …
Do you view Cooks as a true field stretcher? If Joe Morgan doesn’t make the team, Cooks has to be that guy? — @wash_kevin
I’m not sure anyone has to be “that guy.”
I know Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem use to fill those roles, and that Joe Morgan is cut from the same cloth, but I’m not sure this offense needs a designated guy to run straight lines down the field.
I think those players fulfilled that role in previous seasons because they were good at it. I know many have issues with how the offense operated last season, but the Saints didn’t have a guy in the Henderson role last year and still managed finish third in the NFL in passing yards.
If Joe Morgan doesn’t make the team, I don’t foresee Cooks becoming the designated field stretcher. He would be miscast if that were his primary role and his abilities would be marginalized, as you can see from the following statistics:
Screens: 12 targets, 12 receptions, 50 yards
Quick outs: 1 target, 1 receptions, four yards
Slants: 10 targets, 9 receptions, 64 yards
Out routes: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 73 yards
In routes: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 50 yards
Comebacks: 1 target, no receptions
Hitches: 12 targets, 10 receptions, 108 yards
Post routes: 2 targets, 1 reception, 50 yards
Go routes: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 71 yards
Crossing routes: 5 targets, 5 receptions, 60 yards
I think what’s more likely, if Morgan doesn’t make the team, is that different players will help fulfill that role. The Saints love running a three-level passing concept, especially against single-high safety looks. I don’t expect that to change. The only difference will be that different guys will be responsible for running the deep route.
The pictures below illustrate that different players are capable of doing such things.
Here’s a play from Week 1 against the Falcons. Cooks is the receiver closest to the formation, Meachem is on the outside.
The safety begins to shade toward the offensive left side of the field, allowing Cooks to get open over the middle.
This next one is against the Steelers. Nick Toon (I believe) runs the deep route and Kenny Stills runs an intermediate route to the sideline.
Toon freezes the safety long enough to get Stills a one-on-one matchup on the outside, where Brees finds him for a gain.
Running deep routes isn’t always about burning everyone and getting open for a shot play. You just need guys who can get down the field quick enough to manipulate the safeties and open things up for other players.
There will be times when Cooks or whoever else beats their guy off the line and smokes the safety. That’s great. But I don’t see a need to force someone into this role.
Which is worse – losing Junior’s production or having him on the team unwanted by a good majority of teammates/coaches? – @MikeSnoopy2561
I’m not sure Junior Galette’s teammates and coaches want him off the team. Speculation has run wild, but I haven’t seen or heard anything concrete to corroborate such talk.
Unless he turned into a complete cancer last year, I can only think he was a good teammate since he was voted a captain by his peers. The team’s view might be a little bit different given all the incidents piling up.
But if they want him gone, they’ll find a way to make him disappear. There are ways to make that happen.
To answer your question, I think both avenues would lead to him not being on the field. And, as I’ve said before, that will be a blow to this defense. You don’t just replace 10 sacks. Those guys aren’t hanging around, waiting for a chance to join a team. And even if Hau’oli Kikaha or Anthony Spencer can pick up the slack, that only means you could have that production to go along with whatever Galette would have provided.
Losing Galette would also potentially rob the defense of getting creative with its personnel in subpackages.
It’s an unfortunate situation. If the team can’t find a resolution or Galette ends up being suspended by the league, it’s going to hurt on multiple levels.
Does Breaux seem like the most likely starter as nickel CB or would P.J. Williams or Stanley Jean-Baptiste fit better there? — @KeithBurt95
Honestly, I’m not sure at this point if Delvin Breaux will be the answer at nickel cornerback. We only saw him practice there once and then he suffered a minor injury that sidelined him for the rest of minicamp.
He looked good on that day, but I need to see him receive more snaps in that role before I start projecting him into it.
P.J. Williams had some solid moments covering the slot, as did Damian Swann.
As for Stanley Jean-Baptiste, I see him on the outside or nowhere at all. He doesn’t have quick enough hips to keep up with speedy guys on the inside.
Questions for your mailbag:
1. Thoughts about the Saints’ offseason transformation?
2. Whose next in line for a contract extension?
3. Thoughts about Tim Hightower?
4. Who has disappointed you so far through OTAs/mandatory minicamp? – Todd (via email)
Let’s check these off in order.
1. I’m intrigued by what the Saints accomplished this offseason. I think the defense is going to be much improved and I would consider it a disappointment if New Orleans doesn’t rise to the middle of the pack. I’m excited about the secondary and I think the team should generate more pressure with the corners buying the line more time.
How the offense turns out remains to be seen. Losing Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills are big blows. However, I think C.J. Spiller will be a big weapon for the offense. I’m also interested to see how things look next year. Sean Payton is basically starting with a blank slate and has alluded to some changes being made.
2. Probably Akiem Hicks. He might need to show a little bit more before he inks a new deal — and might even want that himself after a somewhat down 2014 — but I think he would be the next domino to fall.
3. I think Hightower has had some good moments. He admittedly needs to shake off some rust, but I would give him the inside edge on the job to backup Spiller as the so-called third-down back. Seventh-round pick Marcus Murphy is also in the mix and could steal the job if he blows the team away in the return game. I still like Hightower better at this early juncture.
4. I don’t like to rush to early judgments, but the only answer here is Kyle Wilson. He seemed to be exploited several times during the offseason program.