Saints’ Chris Ivory’s ball-security issues arise in victory

NEW ORLEANS – Making a mistake is a problem. Repeating the mistake can change a roster spot.

That’s the situation Saints running back Chris Ivory is trying to avoid after fumbling in the first quarter of Saturday night’s 34-27 win over the Houston Texans.

While falling forward on a bruising 11-yard run, Ivory was leveled by Texans strong safety Glover Quin with the ball popping loose for the first turnover of the night.

Ivory had trouble holding onto the ball in training camp and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said his fumbling issues are a focus of the staff and needed to be emphasized to him every day.

Ivory, who’s been a part of the halfback rotation for the past two seasons, is being pushed by rookie Travis Cadet as the fourth contributor at the position.

Not all was negative for Ivory, who took the bulk of the carries in a drive that resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley to open the second half. Ivory finished with 57 yards on eight carries.

UP AND DOWN NIGHT: Former LSU track and football standout Trindon Holliday, who had a pair of long touchdown returns on special teams in the preseason, had two bad plays and a good one in his bid to earn a roster spot with the Texans.

In the first quarter, Holliday fumbled a kickoff when hit by Saints free safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. Defensive end Junior Galette picked up the ball and raced 16 yards untouched to the end zone to tie the game at 14-14.

In the second quarter, Holliday redeemed himself by returning a kickoff 62 yards before muffing a punt that he recovered.

“Obviously, if you spot a team seven points on special teams … it’s not a good thing,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “It was disappointing. I was disappointed in another decision (the muffed punt) he made. I did not like what I saw from him tonight from that standpoint.”

LINEUP CHANGES: Because of a rash of injuries at linebacker, the Saints had two big lineup changes Saturday night.

Jonathan Casillas, a weakside linebacker, played out of position in the middle because Curtis Lofton was sidelined by an injured ankle and Will Herring got the nod on the weak side for David Hawthorne, who had his knee scoped last Monday.

Newly-acquired middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who had just three practices with the Saints, played in the second half when the second-team defense entered the game and was credited with three tackles.

SITTING IT OUT: Other Saints not suiting up were LB Ramon Humber (hamstring), WR Adrian Arrington (knee), WR Andy Tanner (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), DT Tom Johnson (ankle), and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).

Also, running back Darren Sproles, who returned to practice this week after missing 1 1/2 weeks with a knee problem, was held out as well.

TEXANS HURTING, TOO: Houston was also missing three starters on defense as linebacker Brian Cushing (ribs), defensive end J.J. Watt (dislocated elbow) and nose tackle Shaun Cody (back) were held out of the game.

LOUISIANA CONNECTION: The Texans have three former LSU players on their roster — Holliday, middle linebacker Bradie James and punter Donnie Jones.

Jones, a former Catholic High standout, and Holliday won BCS titles in the Superdome with the Tigers in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

Wide receiver Mario Louis, a rookie from Grambling, is a New Orleans native.

WHAT’S NEXT?: By Monday, the Saints and all NFL teams must reduce their 90-man training camp rosters to 75 players. In addition, rosters have to be trimmed to the regular-season limit of 53 by Friday night.

Sheldon Mickles and Scott Kushner contributed to this report.

Saints kicking duel likely to go down to the wire

METAIRIE – The Saints’ kicking duel between Garrett Hartley and John Kasay is apparently going down to the final two exhibition games, starting with Saturday night’s matchup with the Houston Texans.

Hartley, one of the heroes of the team’s run to a Super Bowl XLIV title in 2009, is being challenged by Kasay, who capably filled in last year when Hartley was sidelined for the entire season with a hip injury.

On Wednesday, special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said the coaching staff is no closer to making a decision than when training camp started July 26.

“We’re going to go to the last two games and just let it play out,” McMahon said. “I think that is the fair process. That is what we decided to do going into camp, and we’ll stay true to that.”

In the first three exhibition games, Hartley has made both of his field-goal attempts, while the 42-year-old Kasay is 2-for-4.

“It’s the whole process and there are a lot of elements involved in it,” McMahon added. “We will sit down as a staff once we get through (the preseason) and decide which direction we want to go.

“We’re just not ready yet. It’s not just who makes the most kicks. We have to look at the whole picture just to be fair to it.”

“It’s a great competition,” interim coach Joe Vitt said. “They have been competing every day in practice, they’ve been competing in the games. So we’ll let it play out.”

SPROLES LIKELY TO SIT: Even though he returned to practice this week after being out for almost two weeks with a knee injury, running back Darren Sproles is unlikely to play Saturday night or in next week’s preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.

Vitt said he’d have no problems going into the regular season with a fresh Sproles than have him aggravate the knee injury he sustained in the second preseason game at New England.

“We feel comfortable with that, that’s fine,” offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said of Sproles sitting out the next two games. “The important thing is for him to be ready for that week one game.”

JOHNSON BETTER: Vitt said cornerback Marquis Johnson, who has had swelling in his knee that forced him to miss recent practices, had a better day when he returned Thursday and has a good chance of playing against Houston.

Vitt also noted that linebacker Barrett Ruud, who practiced for the first time Wednesday after being acquired in a trade Monday night, took some snaps Thursday and is being integrated into the defense. He said Ruud could get into Saturday night’s game in the second half.

INJURY REPORT: Not practicing Thursday were LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), LB David Hawthorne (knee), LB Ramon Humber (hamstring), CB Jabari Greer (hernia), WR Andy Tanner (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee), DT Tom Johnson (ankle) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).

None of them are expected to play Saturday night.

LEWIS TO APPEAR: Former Saints return man Michael Lewis, who now serves as a team ambassador, will appear at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum at Gate B on the Plaza Level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome from 5-6:15 p.m. Saturday.

The Hall of Fame is open three hours prior to and for 45 minutes after each home game, and admission is free to ticket holders.

Saints football chat with Advocate beat writer Sheldon Mickles

Saints choose Aaron Kromer to replace Vitt as interim coach

METAIRIE — With one week to go before interim coach Joe Vitt begins serving a six-game suspension for his role in the bounty scandal, the Saints on Wednesday chose offensive line/running game coach Aaron Kromer to lead the team while Vitt is away.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis announced in a news release that the 45-year-old Kromer, who has been with the Saints since 2008, will take over on Sept. 3 — just six days before the regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins.

A 22-year coaching veteran, Kromer has split that time evenly, with 11 seasons on the college level before getting his first NFL job with the Oakland Raiders in 2001.

He coached with the Raiders (2001-04) and Tampa Bay Bucs (2005-07) before joining Sean Payton’s staff in 2008.

A former offensive lineman at Miami (Ohio), Kromer started his coaching career there in 1990 and left after the 1998 season. He and Payton worked on the same staff at Miami in 1994 and ’95.

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Kromer was believed to be one of the more likely candidates to replace Vitt, who took over from Payton when he began a season-long suspension on April 16 for misleading NFL investigators looking into a pay-for-performance scheme.

Other candidates included offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., who will call the plays while Payton is out, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who joined the team in January.

“This was a difficult decision because we have several coaches on our staff that would do a great job in this role,” Loomis said in the news release.

Loomis said he consulted with Vitt as well as other members of the organization before deciding on Kromer.

“Ultimately, I wanted to have the least amount of change with both the offensive and defensive staffs, and maintain the most continuity with the program that has been in place for the last six years,” Loomis said.

“I appreciate the confidence Mr. (Tom) Benson and Mickey have in me to handle this duty while coach Vitt and coach Payton are not with us,” Kromer said. “Coach Payton has laid a successful foundation here, and our jobs are to make sure we keep moving in that direction.”

Saints’ LB Barrett Ruud set for first practice Wednesday

METAIRIE – The Saints had to wait another day to get newly acquired linebacker Barrett Ruud on the practice field after he missed Tuesday’s workout because he was taking his physical.

Ruud was obtained in a trade Monday night with the Seattle Seahawks, but because of the lengthy plane ride and physical, could not make it out to the field in time for the 11 a.m. practice.

The Saints are eager to get the eight-year veteran on the field as they practiced a second straight day with only eight healthy linebackers after Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain were injured in Friday night’s exhibition game with Jacksonville.

Chamberlain (knee) is lost for the season, but Lofton (ankle) and Hawthorne (knee) could return for the Sept. 9 regular season opener.

Interim coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches the linebackers, is excited to see what Ruud has to offer, even though he doesn’t know if he’ll get acclimated to a new defense in time for Saturday night’s preseason game with the Houston Texans.

“He is a guy I personally worked out when he was in college, and I think he has a real good feel for the game,” Vitt said of the former Tampa Bay Bucs standout. “He has played at a high level in this league. He has played on some of the top defenses in this league.

“He’s 29 years old, so he still has a lot of football ahead of him. We will introduce him to our system and see where he can get to by this weekend.”

CORNHUSKERS REUNITE: Strongside linebacker Scott Shanle is also excited about what Ruud can bring to the Saints defense after playing with him in 2002 at Nebraska.

“He was a heck of a player at Nebraska,” Shanle said. “He’s the all-time leading tackler for the University of Nebraska, which is a huge accomplishment.

“Obviously, I saw him play a lot of football when he was with Tampa Bay and year in and year out he was the leading tackler down there. He’s a heck of a football player with great instincts. I talked to him (Monday) night, and he’s excited and I’m excited to get him here.”

SPROLES, McBRIDE BACK: The Saints’ long injury list shrunk a little Tuesday when running back Darren Sproles and defensive end Turk McBride were able to dress for practice even though they participated only in individual drills.

Sproles has been out for 1 1/2 weeks with a knee problem, and McBride had a sprained ankle that forced them to miss last week’s game with Jacksonville.

“I think that if this was a regular-season game (Saturday), both players would go this week,” Vitt said.

INJURY REPORT: Not practicing Tuesday were Lofton (ankle), Hawthorne (knee), CB Jabari Greer (hernia surgery), WR Andy Tanner (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee), DT Tom Johnson (ankle), CB Marquis Johnson (knee) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).

Vitt said Marquis Johnson had some swelling in his knee, which caused him to miss a practice last week, and was held out of the workout.

STAYING POSITIVE: Lofton said he was injured making a tackle on the fifth play of Friday’s game, but stayed on the field and played another 25 snaps before being removed from the game along with the other starters.

“It’s just disappointing,” he said. “You put in all the work in the offseason. The preseason is almost done, and you get hurt with an injury like this and it sets you back.

“I’m just staying positive. … I know in the long run I’ll be out there,” Lofton said of being ready for the regular season opener. “I haven’t missed a game in my entire career and don’t plan on missing any yet.”

NO DECISION YET: Vitt said Tuesday he still doesn’t know who will take over for him when he has to leave the team on Aug. 31 to serve his six-game suspension for his role in the bounty scandal.

“(General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and (team owner) Mr. (Tom) Benson are making that decision,” he said. “I am staying busy with the football team. I have nearly two weeks to be with them, so I like being around the team.”

Saints make trade to bolster injury-depleted linebacking corps

After having three linebackers go down with injuries in their last game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Saints quickly made a trade Monday night to help shore up that area of the team.

Hours after interim coach Joe Vitt told reporters that starting linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne would be out for a while with injuries, the Saints dealt an undisclosed draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks for veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud.

An eight-year veteran, the 6-foot-2, 241-pound Ruud played six seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucs and last year was with the Tennessee Titans before signing with the Seahawks this spring as an unrestricted free agent.

Ruud started 68 games with the Bucs and led them in tackles for four consecutive seasons from 2007-10 — collecting a career-high 205 in 2009 — before starting nine games in 2011 for the Titans.

Lofton, the starter at middle linebacker, came out of Friday’s game with a high-ankle sprain. Hawthorne, who started the first three preseason games on the weak side, suffered a knee injury and underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus.

They join backup Chris Chamberlain, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Jaguars, on the sideline. However, Lofton and Hawthorne are expected to return this season.

According to Vitt, Lofton should be back in time for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9 against the Washington Redskins. Vitt is hopeful that Hawthorne will be ready for that game as well.

“We certainly think Curtis is going to be ready for the first game,” Vitt said during his daily news conference. “The diagnosis on David is encouraging. He hurt it earlier in the game and played on it, so he’s got a chance to be back for that (Washington) game.”

Chamberlain, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the second quarter Friday night, 3Lofton and Hawthorne were all signed as unrestricted free agents this spring to give the Saints some much-needed playmakers at the position.

HUMBER TO HELP OUT: With Chamberlain, Lofton and Hawthorne all going down against the Jaguars, the Saints had only eight healthy linebackers available for Monday’s practice.

Only four of the eight — Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring and Ramon Humber have played in an NFL regular-season game. The others are first-year players Ezra Butler and Lawrence Wilson, and undrafted free agents Aaron Tevis and Kadarron Anderson.

Before acquiring Ruud, Vitt said Humber would get a shot to fill Lofton’s spot in the middle. It will be his job to relay calls sent into his helmet radio from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to his teammates.

Humber, who played in three games with the Saints in 2010 and 13 last season, was signed just last week after not being offered a contract as an unrestricted free agent this winter.

CAMARILLO SIGNED: Also thin at wide receiver with Nick Toon, Adrian Arrington and Andy Tanner sidelined by injuries, the Saints signed veteran wideout Greg Camarillo to a one-year contract.

A seven-year veteran, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Camarillo has played with San Diego (2005), Miami (2007-09) and Minnesota (2010-11) with 28 starts in 75 games. He has 142 receptions for 1,686 yards and five touchdowns.

The Saints also put Chamberlain on injured reserve and waived/injured guard/tackle Fenuki Tupou with a torn triceps. Like Chamberlain, Tupou was injured in the game with the Jaguars.

INJURY REPORT: Running back Darren Sproles, who suffered a knee injury in an Aug. 9 preseason game at New England, remained sidelined Monday and isn’t expected back this week, Vitt said.

Among the other players who didn’t participate in practice were Toon (foot), Arrington (knee), Tanner (ankle), defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) and defensive tackle Tom Johnson (ankle).

Vitt noted that McBride is close to returning, but said Johnson will be out for another two weeks.

TOUGH TIME ON TURF: In retrospect, Vitt said he probably should have taken the Saints to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a practice before Friday night’s game.

In the first half, the Saints missed 10 tackles and Vitt said it might have served them well to get used to the Superdome’s new turf like suspended coach Sean Payton traditionally did before the first home exhibition game.

“In pregame warm-up, (Jaguars coach) Mike Mularkey was complaining to me about their players falling down,” said Vitt, who said after the game that he didn’t want to make excuses about his team’s sloppy tackling. “But, I do think we got our cleats stuck a couple times and probably should’ve had a practice there first.

“That being said, the tackling has been addressed. The tackling has to get better. We’re going to have tough practices here.”

GLEASON ON REAL SPORTS: Former Saints safety and special teams star Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS, will be featured in the August installment of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday on HBO.

Saints get veteran LB Ruud in trade with Seahawks

After having three linebackers go down with injuries in their last game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Saints quickly made a trade Monday night to shore up that area of the team.

Hours after interim coach Joe Vitt told reporters that starting linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne would be out for a while with injuries, the Saints dealt a undisclosed draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks for veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud.

An eight-year veteran, the 6-foot-2, 241-pound Ruud played six seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucs and last year was with the Tennessee Titans before joining the Seahawks this spring as an unrestricted free agent.

Ruud started 68 games for the Bucs and led the team in tackles for four consecutive seasons from 2007-10 — collecting a career-high 205 in 2009.

Lofton, the starter middle linebacker, came out of Friday’s game with a high-ankle sprain. Hawthorne, who started the first three preseason games on the weak side, suffered a knee injury and underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus.

They join backup linebacker Chris Chamberlain, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Jaguars, on the sideline. However, Lofton and Hawthorne are expected to return this season.

According to Vitt, Lofton should be back in time for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9 against the Washington Redskins. Vitt is hopeful that Hawthorne will be ready for that game as well.

“We certainly think Curtis is going to be ready for the first game,” Vitt said during his daily news conference. “The diagnosis on David is encouraging. He hurt it earlier in the game and played on it, so he’s got a chance to be back for that (Washington) game.”

Chamberlain, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the second quarter Friday night, Lofton and Hawthorne were all signed as unrestricted free agents this spring to give the Saints some much-needed playmakers at the position.

Saints lose two more linebackers to injury

A lengthy Saints injury list grew a lot longer — particularly at linebacker — during Friday night’s exhibition loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In addition to linebacker Chris Chamberlain and wide receiver Andy Tanner, who left the field with knee and ankle injuries, respectively, interim coach Joe Vitt said Monday that linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne also suffered significant injuries in the game.

Lofton, who is the starting middle linebacker, has a high-ankle sprain ankle, while Hawthorne, the starter on the weak side, had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

Vitt said Lofton should be back for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9 against the Washington Redskins, but Hawthorne, who’s expected to be out at least a couple of weeks, may or may not be ready.

Vitt noted that Hawthorne has a chance to play in the opener considering he was injured early in the game with the Jaguars and continued to play on the leg.

Those losses, as well as the season-ending torn ACL that Chamberlain suffered, leaves the linebackers corps extremely thin pending some likely roster moves as they are down to only eight healthy players at the position.

The group includes only four players who have ever appeared in an NFL regular-season game — Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring and Ramon Humber.

The others are first-year players Ezra Butler and Lawrence Wilson and undrafted rookies Aaron Tevis and Kadarron Anderson.

The Blaine game: Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert gets noticed after Saints game

Jacksonville Jaguars second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert was so impressive in the team’s 27-24 victory against the Saints on Friday that he got a front page photo and a mention in the Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column released on Monday on si.com.

Gabbert completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards in the first half against the Saints. He has completed 18 of 26 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns this preseason.

King named Gabbert his offensive player of the week.

Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been a headline grabber this preseason.

Peter King Peter King>MONDAY MORNING QB

Replacement refs have rough time in New Orleans Saints’ loss

NEW ORLEANS — After further review, it appears the replacement officials working Friday night’s exhibition between the Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars might need a little more seasoning.

The second quarter became excruciatingly long due in part to several dubious calls by referee Jim Core’s officiating crew.

The first play in question involved Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who officials ruled fumbled when hit by Jaguars defensive end Jerome Mincy. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton recovered the loose ball at the Saints’ 15 although many in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd thought Brees’ right arm was going forward.

After a lengthy delay, Core reviewed the play and upheld the call. Three plays later, Josh Scobee kicked a 36-yard field goal to push the Jaguars’ lead to 17-3.

Several minutes later, field judge Raymond Dobson flagged rookie Saints cornerback Corey White for pass interference against Jaguars wide receiver Laurent Robinson. It appeared White had solid coverage on the play, though Dobson saw it differently, resulting in a 28-yard penalty against White.

SECOND-HALF SURPRISE: Jaguars’ first-year coach Mike Mularkey came out of the locker room for the second half with a trick up his sleeve as he called for an onside kick by Scobee.

Scobee’s dribbler, which was executed perfectly right in front of the Saints’ bench, was recovered by safety Courtney Greene.

The Jaguars, however, could not convert and had to punt three plays later.

SITTING IT OUT: Not suiting up for the Saints because of injuries were RB Darren Sproles (knee), CB Jabari Greer (sports hernia), DT Tom Johnson (ankle), DE Turk McBride (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).

INJURY REPORT: For the Saints, linebacker Chris Chamberlain (knee) and wide receiver Andy Tanner (ankle) had to leave the game in the second quarter. … Also safety Isa Abdul-Quddus left in the second half after getting dinged, Vitt said.

LOUISIANA CONNECTION: The Jaguars have several players with Louisiana ties on the roster, including two former LSU standouts — running back Richard Murphy and rookie defensive end Kendrick Adams.

Also on the roster are Scobee and defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith (Louisiana Tech), defensive end Aaron Morgan (UL-Monroe), safety Dawan Landry (Hahnville) and guard Daniel Baldridge (Opelousas).

FAMILIAR FACES: Several players found themselves on opposite sides of the field Friday night, including three former Saints — cornerbacks Leigh Torrence and Trumaine McBride and linebacker Nate Bussey — who suited up for the Jaguars.

Bussey, a seventh-round draft pick in 2011, was released last week and claimed off waivers.

Also, Saints reserve quarterback Luke McCown was with the Jaguars last season.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: Prior to the national anthem, the Superdome crowd was asked to observe a moment of silence for slain St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s deputies Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche.

LAGNIAPPE: Suspended Saints coach Sean Payton will be the subject of an Outside the Lines piece that will air Sunday at 8 a.m. on ESPN. … With Friday night’s game, Scobee, a nine-year veteran, has played in every NFL stadium that is currently in use. … Brian Robiskie, the son of former LSU star running back and longtime NFL assistant coach Terry Robiskie, is on the Jaguars roster.

Sheldon Mickles and Brian Allee-Walsh contributed to this report.