The Saints begin the third phase of their offseason program today, which is widely known as organized team activities.
All the sessions are closed to the public and the media will not get a look at the proceedings until Thursday. So, for at least a few more days, we’re left to speculate over what’s happening with the team.
And before reports start emerging from OTAs, take everything that comes out of those sessions with a grain of salt. Players are getting used to the system and depth chart battles are just beginning.
There have been many early summer stars who go up in smoke come fall. And just because someone is working with the starters in one of the three practices open to the media, it doesn’t mean he’s currently viewed as a starter. Maybe he’s just getting extended work that day.
So, with that in mind, let’s get to some reader questions.
@nick_underhill What’s more likely to happen – Saints lead the rear in defense (2014) or surprise everyone and finish in the top 5 (2013)?
— john balas (@johnbalas_) May 26, 2015
I’m going to split the difference and go with neither.
I think the defense has too much talent to struggle like it did last year. I’m also going to opt on the side of caution and refrain from making any bold proclamations. Too many people were burned by expectations last year.
I think the secondary is going to be much improved. Brandon Browner, Keenan Lewis, and whoever wins the battle for the star cornerback position will be big improvements over whoever was capable of lining up next to Lewis last year. I also still think Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro could make a great duo at safety.
The defense will improve greatly if the secondary comes together as hoped. Top five would be great, but it isn’t necessary. If this group can be right around the league average in points allowed, the offense will do enough to get the Saints into the playoffs.
A lot of people have said this at various points over the years, but I expect good things from Nick Toon.
With the depth at receiver being pretty thin, he’s going to be given every opportunity to step up. I think he showed real potential late in the season last year, even if his numbers (17 catches, 215 yards, one touchdown) don’t pop from the page.
Thought it was a small sample, he showed that he can hit every route on the tree last year, which is something New Orleans will need from their third receiver. I’ve shared these numbers before, but here they are again:
Slants: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards
Out routes: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 63 yards
In routes: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 37 yards
Comebacks: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 27 yards
Hitches: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 42 yards
Go routes: 2 targets, 1 reception, 24 yards
Crossing routes: 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards
@nick_underhill looks like there will be quite a battle at CB this TC. How many do you see us keeping. Possible that SJB would be cut?
— J-Rod (@jared_mcdaniel) May 26, 2015
The competition at cornerback is going to be tough. I think Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner and P.J. Williams are locks. I would consider Damian Swann and Stanley Jean-Baptiste near locks.
I would guess five players make the roster, but wouldn’t be shocked with six. That means Delvin Breaux, Brian Dixon, Kyle Wilson and Terrence Frederick will be fighting for the last spot or two. It’s too soon to handicap that battle.
As far as Jean-Baptiste goes, I would be really surprised if the Saints give up on him already. He was drafted as a project. Projects take time. He would have to take a step back to get clipped.
@nick_underhill Who's your early favorite to land the number 3 Receiver position?
— TrainingCampBenny!! (@bennywhodat16) May 26, 2015
I’m going back to Toon. That’s not a knock on anyone else. We just haven’t seen guys like Seantavius Jones or Brandon Coleman on the field since training camp.
But I think he could move into the X receiver spot when Colston moves inside. Brandin Cooks would be at Z.
I received another question about which receivers will make the roster. It’s way too soon to answer something like that. We need to see how everyone looks. There aren’t many locks at that position.
— Gary Estwick (@GaryReports) May 26, 2015
I haven’t seen any of the movies. But with a nickname like “Stretch,” you have to go with Seantavius Jones. Seems like a usable skill for a superhero.
@nick_underhill Is Kikaha a " Sam" or a "Jack" LB — or maybe both?
— Barry Hirstius (@HarahanWhoDat) May 26, 2015
Honestly, I don’t concern myself with that too much. I’ve struggled with how much the base defense is talked about since I began covering the team last season. Thinking about this defense in strict 3-4 terms doesn’t make sense when you see how the defense operates.
Sean Payton also attempted to kill that talk last week by pointing out how much the team plays out of nickel packages.
You can call Junior Galette a Jack linebacker. Really, though, most of the time when you turn on film, he’s lined up as a defensive end. And you can call Akiem Hicks a defensive end, but he spent more snaps playing defensive tackle last season.
Payton said he views Kikaha as a strongside linebacker in base. That’s fine, but I expect he’ll make most of his contributions with his hand in the dirt, rushing the passer as a defensive end.
Let’s move beyond the rigid thinking of base defense. It’s antiquated.