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Jack Tabb is eager to show the Saints what he can do on the field

It was a rough time for Jack Tabb.

After hooking on with the Saints as an undrafted rookie last season, he was starting to make an impact during training camp when he went down and clutched his knee during training camp last summer. He was carted off the field with a torn ACL, which effectively ended his season.

“It hurt me,” Tabb said. “As soon as I felt like I started making some plays, moving up, getting more reps, it all just kind of went like that. God works in mysterious ways, right?”

There is still mystery about what Tabb can do as a player. During his best season at North Carolina, he caught 26 passes for 257 yards. That was likely more the result of the offense not providing the athletic tight end with opportunities, but it also makes it difficult to expect moving forward.

Tabb is now to the point where he’s starting to get back in the mix and is hopeful he can get on the field and answer whatever questions remain about his ability in the near future.

He wishes he could have done that last year, but there was a bright side to having to sit out the whole season.

“Watching Ben Watson and Josh (Hill) and how they handled the season (was valuable),” Tabb said. “I know it’s a hard transition going into your rookie season. Just being able to sit back, get healthy and watch was a blessing as well.”

Tabb enters this season in the mix with Chris Manhertz and RaShaun Allen for a roster spot behind Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui and Coby Fleener. The battle for the final roster spot — if one even exists — will be a highly-contested battle.

Tabb, who will be in the mix as a flex tight end, is exited to get back on the field and go to work.

“I think (the competition) is great. I really like the room,” Tabb said. “Obviously, Coby is new. He has a lot of input, he’s been making plays up in Indy quite a while. Me, Chris, RaShuan — we’re the young guys in the room. We’re all fight and scratching. We all got something a little different we bring to the table.”

Former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan says Saints weren’t running his defense the last two years , Sean Payton disagrees

Bills_Rob_Ryan_FootballFormer Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan told  Jenny Vrentas of the MMQB that the defensive problems in New Orleans stemmed from the fact that he wasn’t running the scheme he preferred.

Ryan, who was fired after 10 games with the Saints at the bottom of most defensive rankings for the second straight year, is now a defensive assistant on his brother Rex’s staff in Buffalo.

But he believes that his downfall in New Orleans was related to a scheme change.

“I need to be in a multiple system. I was hired to be in a multiple system in New Orleans,” Ryan said. “I did a damn good job and got fired for it.”

New Orleans ranked fourth in the league in defense in Ryan’s first season in 2013.

Then the bottom fell out, and Ryan presided over arguably the league’s worst defense the last two years.

Ryan says that the Saints changed their defensive direction after the 2013 season. According to Ryan, New Orleans shifted to a system like the one run in Seattle, a simple system predicated on man coverage, a single-high safety played by Jairus Byrd and little variation.

“There are two years that don’t have my signature on them, and it’s the last two years in New Orleans,” Ryan said. “And that’s the truth.”

Saints coach Sean Payton resisted that line of thinking in an appearance on  Pro Football Talk on Friday morning.

Payton placed the blame on the substitution, alignment and defensive call problems that plagued the Saints over the last two seasons.

“The idea that it wasn’t his defense, or that he wasn’t in charge of it, is silly,” Payton said.

For Ryan’s full comments, read Vrentas’s full interview at The MMQB.

Roger Goodell writes Tom Benson to say he was impressed by Saints’ Super Bowl bid

Even though New Orleans lost its bid to host Super Bowl 53 to Atlanta, the NFL was still impressed with the Saints’ effort to land the game.

Commissioner Roger Goodell recently sent Tom Benson a letter that was obtained by The Advocate to express those regards. He also said he wants New Orleans to host a Super Bowl in the near future.

“The vision for the ‘Big Easy, Super Bowl’ was well articulated and presented. It is clear to all owners that New Orleans is a top-notch Super Bowl city with talented leadership representing the Saints and the community,” Goodell wrote. “Although you did not secure the 2019 game against unusually strong and unique competition, we would look forward to working closely with you and your community in bringing a Super Bowl back to New Orleans soon.

“There is a reason New Orleans has been the home of 10 Super Bowls, and we know that it is in a strong position to host more in the future.

“Thank you for your leadership and your many contributions to the success of the league. Our office and the Super Bowl Advisory Committee will continue to support your efforts.

“My best to you and Gayle, who did an excellent job articulating the case for NOLA.”

Benson has been engaged in a legal battle with his heirs since he laid out a plan to leave the Saints and Pelicans to his wife, Gayle, upon his passing.  However, many of his interests and businesses continue to do well.

Since Benson’s heirs tried to have him interdicted, the Pelicans made the playoffs in 2015 and are now working to get back on track. A source indicated that there are plans to tweak some things for next season.

His TV station, Fox 8, surpassed WWL in the ratings for the first time in 38 years.

Benson also put two horses in the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Saints have discussed holding joint practices during training camp with multiple teams

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, talks with general manager Mickey Loomis during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, talks with general manager Mickey Loomis during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The New Orleans Saints could hold joint practices with multiple teams during training camp this season.

But the Saints aren’t releasing any plans yet.

“We’ve talked with a couple teams,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “At some point, I’m sure, when we iron out the final training camp schedule, we’ll announce it.”

Two teams on the Saints’ preseason schedule seem like obvious choices.

The New England Patriots, a frequent partner for joint practices and a team that came to the Greenbrier last season, is the first preseason opponent, and the Houston Texans — a team the Saints nearly scheduled joint practices with last offseason — is the second team on the preseason slate. Both of those games are on the road, making it likely the Saints would travel to either Foxborough or Houston.

Drew Brees should have no trouble blocking out contract talks to focus on football, Sean Payton says

Saints_Football

Drew Brees is famously unflappable, able to compartmentalize everything swirling around him and center in on the task at hand.

For that reason, after a decade together, Saints head coach Sean Payton knows the unresolved nature of Brees’ contract won’t affect the quarterback’s preparation for the season.

“I think he does that extremely well,” Payton said. “He’s someone that’s extremely focused. Been sharp here these three days.”

Brees and the Saints have not discussed a potential contract extension in the past couple of months, aside from a brief discussion when Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman was available.

For the moment, Brees is headed into the final year of his deal with a $30 million salary cap hit, but both the quarterback and the club have expressed interest in locking down the best player of franchise history through the end of his career.

If no extension is reached by the start of the season, Brees will wait until the end of the 2016 campaign to resume talks, in order to focus on the task at hand.

“I would say it’s been a strength of his, just in regards to playing,” Payton said. “The ability to focus, whatever situation we’re in.”

 

 

Notes and observations from Thursday’s organized team activity

We finally got our first look at the Saints in action. Remember, these are organized team activities. It’s extremely early. The things we see likely won’t hold, or may not even be an indication of what the team is thinking.

With that said, here are a few observations:

Attendance, please: Brandin Cooks, Jairus Byrd, Jack Tabb and Kasim Edebali worked out off to the side. Mitchell Loewen, Jamarca Sanford, Tommylee Lewis and Sione Houma rode bikes. Keenan Lewis, Cam Jordan, Bobby Richardson and Davis Tull did not participate in team drills. Undrafted offensive lineman Avery Young was not spotted at practice. Tim Lelito also did not practice.

Safety look: With Jairus Byrd sideline, Erik Harris and Vonn Bell played the deep safety role in nickel packages with Kenny Vaccaro roaming the box. Vaccaro was all over the field. He often blitzed, covered slot receivers and played deep as the strong safety. Vaccaro had a few nice blitzes in nickel looks with Stephone Anthony and Dannell Ellerbe handling the linebacker duties.

Defensive end shuffle: Hau’oli Kikaha and Davis Tull received their work with the defensive ends during individual drills. Kikaha played Jack during team drills. Obum Gwacham worked some as the strongside defensive end. Kikaha recorded sacks on back-to-back plays at one point working against a second-team offensive lineman.

Rookie work: David Onyemata received some snaps with the first-team defense, but coach Sean Payton said that was more due to the team mixing guys around and trying to get players snaps in different packages. With Brandin Cooks out, Michael Thomas appeared to be working high in the rotation.

Offensive line shuffle: Andrus Peat received snaps at right guard with Senio Kelemete working at left guard. Payton said Peat has been receiving work at both positions.

Grayson: People are going to see what they want to see, but quarterback Garrett Grayson appeared to be more in command than he was at this time last year. He threaded two really nice passes down the field to Kyle Prater and Josh Hill. The one to Hill came up the seam and over the arms of a defender. He hit Kyle Prater on an out route earlier in practice over a defender, but the pass was not reeled in.

Defensive play of the day: Didn’t catch who it was on, but Delvin Breaux dove to break up a pass during team drills. He still looks good. Vaccaro also had a nice PBU. He was the most active player on the field.

Guys to keep an eye on: Wide receivers R.J. Harris and Jared Dangerfield caught my eye at different points throughout the practice. It’s early, but they We’ll be keeping an eye on them moving forward.

Putting in work: James Laurinaitis and Anthony mixed in and out in the nickel package. You could see the veteran directing traffic and getting guys lined up already at this early juncture. He should be a settling presence for this young defense.

Position switch: Kaleb Eulls moved from defensive tackle to guard. Sean Payton said he feels like Eulls had the skills to make the switch.

Saints free safety Jairus Byrd may be limited until training camp

New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd (31) brings down Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Donteea Dye (17) after a catch during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla.  (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd (31) brings down Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Donteea Dye (17) after a catch during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Free safety Jairus Byrd may be limited throughout the Saints’ offseason training program, according to head coach Sean Payton.

Byrd, who had trouble recovering from the torn meniscus that ended his first season in New Orleans and missed the first three games last year, is doing some work, but he’s been held out of full-team action..

“We expect him to be ready when training camp starts,” Payton said. “Right now, he’s getting walk-through snaps and work off to the side.”

Byrd played in the final 13 games for the Saints last season, making 53 tackles, breaking up three passes and an interception.

Injuries have plagued Byrd since he signed a six-year, $54 million contract with the Saints in 2013, but New Orleans isn’t concerned about Byrd’s injury.

“He’s going through his rehab,” Payton said. “It’s right on schedule, so it’s nothing different than what was expected.”

Drew Brees loses home run crown to Justin Drescher at Celebrity Black and Gold softball game

Brees

The home run derby crown from the Saints’ annual charity softball game used to reside permanently on the head of Drew Brees.

Not any more.

Brees hit a handful of eye-popping home runs, but the quarterback lost out to long snapper Justin Drescher, who blasted 12 homers and socked one off the scoreboard at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium on Wednesday night.

“I’m kind of upset about that,” Brees said. “I hit every ball hard, I just hit every ball on top of it. Obviously, I probably should’ve gotten in the cage a little bit before I got out here, but I feel like I should just be able to pick the bat up and hit it whenever I want, wherever I want on the field.”

With one day of practice left in the first OTA of the summer, the Saints gathered at the stadium for the annual Celebrity Black and Gold softball game, led by guard Tim Lelito and raising funds for Team Gleason and Son of a Saint.

Lelito, who inherited the responsibility from Ben Grubbs, learned a little from his first year hosting.

“I figured, if we do it on a Wednesday, we’ll have more guys out here,” Lelito said. “It was real exciting in the locker room. We’re all about competing this year. Even yesterday, we had an activity to get two guys up and competing, so I figure softball just adds a little more competition.”

The Saints played two softball games, one against a local tournament champion and one between the offense and the defense.

But the highlight of the event is always the home run derby, and Lelito’s decision to hold the event early in the week produced some fireworks. Josh Hill, Coby Fleener and Luke McCown all turned in impressive performances, and McCown hit two homers that left Turchin Stadium entirely.

Then Drescher and Brees went head-to-head, with the Saints quarterback batting from the left side.

“I can hit right as well, but I’m more consistent left-handed,” Brees said.

Brees got a measure of satisfaction in the offense-defense game, socking a home run and playing shortstop as the Saints’ offense blew out the defense to wrap up the night.

Stephone Anthony fine with move from middle linebacker

Stephone Anthony is fine with shifting over.

The addition of James Laurinaitis means that Anthony will likely end up moving to strongside linebacker after serving as the middle linebacker as a rookie last season. And he’s fine with it.

“It kind of makes my job easier,” Anthony said. “I’m enjoying it.”

Serving as the middle linebacker, Anthony was responsible for calling plays in the huddle and getting players lined up. By moving to strongside, those responsibilities will no longer be on his plate.

The move allows him to focus more on making plays and what he’s supposed to be doing.

He said he’s comfortable at either spot, though there is a bit of an adjustment.

“You can’t see as much but it’s a different game,” Anthony said when asked about the differences between the two positions. “You can’t see as much, but it’s more of a point-of-attack game. It’s something I got to get used to.”

Coach Sean Payton has said that he expects Anthony to play on the strongside this season, but he has also been getting repetitions on the weakside during organized team activities. He said the coaching staff called him during the offseason and told him to prepare for a shift.

Anthony likes that the move will free him up a little bit more to do some different things. One area where he might be more active is in blitz packages.

“It’s going to show the different things I can do,” Anthony said. “I’m going to have some fun with it and make the best of it.”

Anthony said he has been studying film to prepare himself for the move. He’s also eager to get on the field with Laurinaitis, who he feels will help alleviate some of the pressure on the linebackers.

“He’s a great asset for this team,” Anthony said. “The way he communicates, the way he gets guys lined up is going to help us a ton.”

Wide receiver Jake Lampman savoring unlikely shot with Saints

A week and a half ago, Jake Lampman got called up to Sean Payton‘s office after the end of the Saints’ rookie minicamp.

Lampman, a little-known wide receiver from Ferris State, a Division II school in Michigan, had already been through one tryout without an offer, at Baltimore the week before he came to New Orleans.

Then Payton gave him the good news. New Orleans wanted to sign Lampman to the 90-man roster, offering him a chance to prove himself over the summer and potentially into training camp.

“The first people I called were my parents, because they got me to where I am,” Lampman said at the Saints’ annual crawfish boil for the fans and rookies last week.

Ferris State has had a handful of alumni reach the NFL, usually for a short period of time.

But Lampman entered the tryout process knowing his team could play on an NFL. Two of his roommates, defensive tackle Justin Zimmer and college quarterback-turned-NFL tight end Jason Vander Laan, had already earned contracts with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, respectively.

Lampman took that attitude into his three-day tryout.

“I just tried to work as hard as I could and leave it up to the big man upstairs as to what was going to happen,” Lampman said.

Now, Lampman finds himself playing with a bunch of household names in the Saints’ organized team activities this week, savoring every moment of an unlikely NFL shot.

“I think they really liked the fact that I worked hard, and I think they can see that I have a good presence on special teams,” Lampman said. “No matter how long it is that I’m here, every moment, I’m just going to take it all in and work my hardest for this organization.”