Saints-Eagles Scouting Report

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

TV/RADIO: ESPN/WTGE (100.7-FM), WWL-AM (870-AM, 105.3-FM)

RECORDS: Eagles, 3-4; Saints: 2-5

LAST WEEK: Eagles lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-17; Saints lost to the Denver Broncos, 34-14.

COACHES: Eagles, Andy Reid, 14th season (139-94-1); Saints, Joe Vitt, 2nd season (4-8)

NFL RANKINGS

Offense (league rank in parentheses)

Points: Eagles, 17.1 (t28); Saints, 27.1 (6)

Total yards: Eagles, 363.4 (17); Saints, 388.6 (8)

Rushing: Eagles, 117.7 (10); Saints, 72.6 (32)

Passing: Eagles, 245.7 (15); Saints, 316.0 (1)

Defense (league rank in parentheses)

Points: Eagles, 22.1 (16); Saints, 30.9 (30)

Total yards: Eagles, 339.6 (12); Saints, 474.7 (32)

Rushing: Eagles, 110.4 (17); Saints, 170.1 (31)

Passing: Eagles, 229.1 (14); Saints, 304.6 (30)

KEY PLAYERS

Eagles: QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Trent Cole, MLB DeMeco Ryans, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Saints: QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, MLB Curtis Lofton, FS Malcolm Jenkins, P Thomas Morstead.

EAGLES SCOUTING REPORT

Offense: They’re sputtering badly, scoring more than 20 points just twice so far. Michael Vick, who’s been sacked 20 times, has committed 13 turnovers, which has Andy Reid mulling a change to rookie Nick Foles. Vick, however, does have the ability to hurt defenses and the Eagles have big-time players in running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Defense: Even though they rank 12th in total yards allowed, Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo two weeks ago. They’re also around the middle of the pack in rushing defense and passing defense as well as points allowed. Their high-priced secondary was torched for some easy scores Sunday, giving them concern going into a game with Drew Brees.

Special teams: While kicker Alex Henery has been solid in hitting 12 of 13 field-goal attempts and punter Mat McBriar averages 49.1 yards per kick, the Eagles haven’t distinguished themselves in kick returns and coverage. They net just 5.6 yards per punt return and 20.2 yards on kickoffs, while allowing 12.3 and 27.0 yards, respectively.

EAGLES FACTS

The Eagles have only one Louisiana native on the active roster — backup tackle Demetress Bell. … Chalmette native and former Saints assistant Bobby April is the special teams coordinator and his son, Bob, serves as his assistant. … Former LSU player and strength coach Barry Rubin is in his third season as the Eagles head strength and conditioning coach. … The Eagles have scored just seven points in the first quarter this season. … The Eagles lead the all-time series in the regular season, 15-10, with the teams splitting their two playoff meetings.

Compiled by Sheldon Mickles

Vilma adds legal brief with a whistleblower email from a former Saints assistant

ProFootballTalk.com has a copy of an email from former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello last November about the alleged bounty scandal.

Here is the link to the ProFootballtalk.com story:

Story of whistleblower email

Saints’ offense drops five spots in NFL rankings

Monday night’s matchup between the Saints and Philadelphia Eagles in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will bring together two teams a lot of people thought would be much better than they are when the season started.

As October turns to November, however, both the Saints (2-5) and Eagles (3-4) find themselves with their backs to the wall, facing a must-win situation to keep their seasons afloat.

Both teams will be looking for bounce-back performances this week after the Saints dropped a 34-14 decision to the Denver Broncos, while the Eagles fell to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-17.

The Saints struggled on both sides of the ball against the Broncos.

Their offense dropped five spots in the NFL rankings to eighth after picking up a season-low 252 yards. The defense didn’t drop because they couldn’t and remain last in the league in allowing 474.7 yards a game after the Broncos piled up 530 yards.

Here are the pertinent numbers for Monday night’s matchup (NFL rank in parentheses):

SAINTS

Offense: Total yards, 388.6 (8); rushing, 72.6 (32); passing, 316.0 (1); scoring, 27.1 (6).

Defense: Total yards, 474.7 (32); rushing, 170.1 (31); passing, 304.6 (30); scoring, 30.9 (30).

EAGLES

Offense: Total yards, 363.4 (17); rushing, 117.7 (10); passing, 245.7 (15); scoring, 17.1 (t28).

Defense: Total yards, 339.6 (12); rushing, 110.4 (17); passing, 229.1 (14); scoring, 22.1 (16).

Saints chat with Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles

Saints TE Jimmy Graham back in lineup against Broncos

DENVER — After missing last week’s game against the Tampa Bay Bucs with a sprained right ankle, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was back for Sunday night’s game with the Denver Broncos.

Graham, who hurt his ankle in the game before the Saints’ bye week on Oct. 7, practiced on a limited basis all week and interim coach Joe Vitt said Friday that Graham would be a game-time decision.

After testing the ankle in pregame warm-ups, Graham was given the OK to start and he had a 13-yard catch on the first play of their second possession.

Graham finished the game with five receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.

STREAK HITS 50: Saints quarterback Drew Brees failed to throw a touchdown pass in the first quarter for the first time this season, but he did get one on the first play of the second period.

Brees led running back Darren Sproles perfectly over the middle and Sproles snatched the ball out of the air and sped to the end zone for a 29-yard TD with 14:53 to play in the quarter.

It was the 50th consecutive game with a touchdown pass for Brees, extending his NFL record streak.

PLAYING THE MATCHUP: The Saints’ inactives include two surprises — strongside linebacker Scott Shanle and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.

While Shanle was banged up a little in last week’s game against Tampa Bay, he wasn’t included on the team’s practice report. Bunkley also did not appear on the injury report during the week.

It’s likely that Shanle and Bunkley were deactivated because the Saints utilized their nickel and dime alignments for much of the night against Peyton Manning.

LINEUP CHANGES: The Saints opened in a nickel package with Junior Galette getting a start at left end, which necessitated the move of Cameron Jordan inside to defensive tackle alongside Sedrick Ellis.

Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma earned the starts at linebacker with rookie cornerback Corey White starting at the nickel spot. When the Saints went to their 4-3 base defense, linebacker Will Herring came in on the strong side.

INACTIVES: In addition to Shanle and Bunkley, not dressing for the Saints were WLB David Hawthorne (hamstring), WR Joe Morgan (chest), TE Daniel Graham (knee), DT Tyrunn Walker and T Bryce Harris.

The only inactives of note for the Broncos were CB Tracy Porter (illness), DT Sealver Siliga (back) and RB Knowshon Moreno.

Porter has been battling an illness that forced him to miss the Broncos’ last game on Oct. 15 at San Diego.

INJURIES: For the Saints, WR Courtney Roby left the game in the second quarter with a should injury and did not return. … SS Roman Harper left in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion but returned later in the period.

SUNDAY STREAK ENDS: With the 34-14 loss, the Saints’ seven-game winning streak in Sunday night games came to an end.

Six of the victories came in games televised by NBC, which had the telecast Sunday night. The Saints’ last loss on Sunday night was a 38-31 setback to the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 17, 2004.

LAGNIAPPE: The Saints averaged 4.2 yards per play in the game Sunday night against the Broncos, who ranked fourth in the league in allowing just 4.78 yards per play in their first six games. … The Broncos are now 18-6 after a bye since the NFL started adding them to the schedule in 1990, the second-best mark in the league in that time. … Former UL-Lafayette wide receiver Brandon Stokley was a game-day captain for the Broncos, while former LSU player Trindon Holliday returned punts for Denver. … The attendance of 76,832 was the fourth-largest home crowd in Broncos’ history.

Saints TE Jimmy Graham good to go vs. Broncos

DENVER – After missing last week’s game at Tampa Bay with a sprained right ankle, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham warmed up and will play in Sunday night’s game with the Denver Broncos in Sports Authority Field.

Graham, who sprained his ankle in the game before the Saints’ bye week on Oct. 7,  practiced on a limited basis all week and appeared to be running well during warmups.

His presence is good news for the Saints, who will be without third-string tight end Daniel Graham. He did not practice this week because of a knee injury and will miss the game with his old team.

SHANLE, BUNKLEY OUT: The Saints’ inactives include two surprises — strongside linebacker Scott Shanle and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.

While Shanle was banged up a little in last week’s game against Tampa Bay, he was not included on the team’s practice report that was issued Wednesday and updated throughout the week.

Bunkley also did not appear on the injury report during the week.

While there was no official word from the Saints’ locker room, the deactivation of Shanle and Bunkley could be an indication they will be in the nickel and dime packages a lot going against Peyton Manning.

INACTIVES: In addition to Shanle and Bunkley, not dressing for the Saints are WLB David Hawthorne (hamstring), WR Joe Morgan (chest), TE Daniel Graham (knee), DT Tyrunn Walker and T bryce Harris.

The Broncos inactives are CB Tracy Porter (illness), DT Sealver Siliga (back), RB Knowshon Moreno, LB Steve Johnson, C/G C.J. Davis, TE Julius Thomas and QB Caleb Hanie.

Porter has been battling an illness that forced him to miss the Broncos’ last game on Oct. 15 at San Diego.

LINEUP CHANGES: The Saints announced that rookie Akiem Hicks will start at defensive tackle in place of Bunkley, if they open the game with four defensive linemen.

Will Herring and Jonathan Vilma were listed as the starters for Shanle and Hawthorne, respectively.

For the Broncos, Chris Harris will get the start in Porter’s usual right cornerback spot.

Saints’ Jimmy Graham will be game-time decision, Vitt says

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who has been limited in practice this week by a sprained right ankle, was able to do a little more in practice Friday and will be a game-time decision Sunday night against the Denver Broncos.

Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Graham, who missed last week’s game at Tampa Bay with the ankle injury he suffered in an Oct. 7 contest with San Diego, will be monitored closely before a decision is made.

Vitt officially listed Graham as questionable for Sunday’s game along with weakside linebacker David Hawthorne, who’s missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. Hawthorne practiced on a limited basis all week.

Running back Darren Sproles worked Friday after being excused from practice on Wednesday and Thursday to attend to a family matter and will play Sunday, Vitt said.

Here is the final injury report turned in to the league office by Vitt and Broncos coach John Fox on Friday:

SAINTS

Out – TE Daniel Graham (knee), WR Joe Morgan (chest).

Questionable – TE Jimmy Graham (ankle), WLB David Hawthorne (hamstring).

Probable – RB Darren Sproles (non-injury related).

BRONCOS

Questionable – CB Tracy Porter (illness).

Probable – TE Jacob Tamme (hip), DT Selver Siliga (non-injury related), S Mike Adams (knee), CB Chris Harris (ankle), G Chris Kuper (forearm), LB Dannt Trevathan (thumb), WR Matt Willis (hamstring).

BREES WINS FEDEX HONOR: Saints quarterback Drew Brees was chosen Friday in an online vote of fans as the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week for his 377-yard, four-TD day in a win over Tampa Bay last week.

SAINTS HEAD OUT: The Saints, who normally leave town the day before a road game, departed for Denver following Friday’s practice in order to get acclimated to the thin air.

The team will have a walkthrough practice in the stadium Saturday.

Saints’ Vitt says RB Ivory isn’t going anywhere

A day after running back Chris Ivory said he was frustrated with not seeing any playing time in the first six games of the season and noted that the trade deadline is approaching, Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Thursday the third-year pro isn’t going anywhere.

Vitt said Ivory, who has been inactive for five games and didn’t play in the only game he dressed out for, will get his shot even though he’s fifth on the depth chart behind Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and rookie Travaris Cadet.

While Ivory said he was frustrated in not being given a chance to help jump-start the NFL’s 32nd-ranked rushing offense, which averages just 76.2 yards per game, Ivory stopped short of saying that he would request a trade in a talk Wednesday with WWL Radio sideline reporter Kristian Garic.

“We’re excited about Chris Ivory,” Vitt said during his daily news conference. “We have a great stable of backs right here. Chris is going to get his chance. Chris is not going anywhere.”

GRAHAM WORKS AGAIN: Vitt said Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, who missed last week’s game with a sprained right ankle after being hurt in an Oct. 7 game against San Diego, was limited in practice for the second straight day.

Vitt noted that Graham participated in some land-based drills, but it’s still not known if he’ll be able to play Sunday night against the Denver Broncos.

PRACTICE REPORT: In addition to Graham, LB David Hawthorne (hamstring) and WR Joe Morgan (chest) were limited, while TE Daniel Graham (knee) and RB Darren Sproles (not football-related) did not practice.

Vitt said Morgan and Daniel Graham won’t play Sunday, but said Hawthorne, who has missed the last three games, did not have any ill effects from his return to practice Wednesday.

For the Broncos, former Saints cornerback Tracy Porter (illness) was the only player who did not practice Thursday,

VITT VS. VITT: Vitt was asked who his daughter, Jennifer, will be rooting for Sunday considering she’s the wife of Broncos quarterbacks coach Adam Gase.

“I’ve told my daughter on a lot of occasions there’s not a male on this earth that has loved her as long as I have,” a grinning Vitt said. “My son-in-law is a great father. He’s a great husband. He’s become a real good friend to me.

“He and I aren’t playing. This is a players’ game. I think deep down Jennifer is rooting for me. That’ll get me in trouble.”

Adam and Jennifer Gase, who were married in 2008, have two children. Adam Gase was a graduate assistant coach at LSU from 2000-02.

THE AIR UP THERE: The Saints will depart for Denver following Friday’s practice, leaving a day earlier than usual for a road game to get acclimated to the thin air of the Mile High City.

Vitt will also take the Saints to Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday for a brief walkthrough in the stadium, another change from their normal routine.

STATS CHANGE: Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was credited with his third sack of the season after a review of Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Bucs by the Elias Sports Bureau.

On the Saints’ critical goal-line stand in the third quarter, Jordan didn’t buy a play-action fake by Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman and stayed at home before chasing him out of bounds.

Statisticians originally credited Freeman with a run and 4-yard loss.

Saints will have to finish strong against Broncos

METAIRIE – When the Saints began the 2009 season that ended with them winning Super Bowl XLIV, one of their mottos was “Finish Strong” after letting some games get away the year before.

They might do well to revive that mantra for Sunday night’s game with the Denver Broncos, whose second-half comeback in their last outing on Oct. 15 was one for the ages.

The Broncos trailed the San Diego Chargers 24-0 at halftime, but came back for an improbable 35-24 victory with 14 points in the third quarter and 21 in the fourth.

With the fourth-quarter explosion, the Broncos, who had a bye last weekend, have outscored their six opponents 79-6 in that period. In the second half, they’ve piled up 128 points while allowing 40.

“If there’s ever been a game where we’re going to put finish as a premium, it’s going to be this week,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “We’re going to have to finish this game. We’re going to get their best as the game goes on.”

GRAHAM WORKS: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who was sidelined for Sunday’s 35-28 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs because of a sprained right ankle, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.

Vitt said Graham was able to do some “land base” work and was being examined by team doctors and trainers after practice ended to see how he came out of it.

“He looked very, very good,” Vitt said. “He looked good.”

PRACTICE REPORT: If Graham can play against the Broncos, it would be big for the Saints because Daniel Graham, one of the other two tight ends on the roster, did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.

RB Darren Sproles was excused because of an illness in his family, Vitt said, while WR Joe Morgan (chest) and WLB David Hawthorne (hamstring) were limited.

Hawthorne practiced for the first time since being hurt in a Sept. 23 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

For the Broncos, CB Tracy Porter (illness) was limited, while DT Sealver Siliga (not football-related) did not work.

FACING THE SAINTS: Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley, one of five Louisiana natives on the Denver roster, is looking forward to Sunday’s game after playing the Saints just three times in his 14-year career.

His most memorable moment against them came with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Stokley had four catches for 73 yards and a TD in a huge 41-36 upset of the reigning Super Bowl champs in a first-round playoff game.

“It’s always fun to play the Saints,” the 36-year-old Stokley told Denver reporters Wednesday. “You know all your friends and family from where you grew up back home are watching the game, so it always is a bit extra special to play them.”

MORGAN SETTLES FOR NO. 2: Joe Morgan’s spectacular 48-yard TD catch from Drew Brees on Sunday earned him the No. 2 slot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Plays of the Day although he claims he didn’t see it.

Morgan caught the pass at the Bucs’ 10 and avoided Mark Barron, then regained his balance — barely keeping both knees off the ground — and flipped Eric Wright over his head before diving into the end zone.

“I don’t watch SportsCenter,” Morgan said. “Those guys can be your friend one day and your enemy the next. But it’s still pretty cool when everybody sees it.”

VOTING ENDS FRIDAY: Fans have until 2 p.m. Friday to vote on the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week award, which Brees is a candidate for again. To vote, go to www.nfl.com/FedEx.

Saints-Broncos Scouting Report

WHEN: 7:20 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver

TV/RADIO: NBC/WTGE (100.7-FM), WWL-AM (870-AM, 105.3-FM)

RECORDS: Broncos, 3-3; Saints: 2-4

LAST WEEK: Broncos had a bye week; Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Bucs, 35-28.

COACHES: Broncos, John Fox, 11th season (90-86); Saints, Joe Vitt, 2nd season (4-7)

NFL RANKINGS

Offense (league rank in parentheses)

Points: Broncos, 28.3 (7); Saints, 29.3 (t3)

Total yards: Broncos, 384.7 (6); Saints, 411.3 (3)

Rushing: Broncos, 93.8 (23); Saints, 76.2 (32)

Passing: Broncos, 290.8 (4); Saints, 335.2 (1)

Defense (league rank in parentheses)

Points: Broncos, 23.0 (t17); Saints, 30.3 (29)

Total yards: Broncos, 330.5 (11); Saints, 465.5 (32)

Rushing: Broncos, 115.2 (18); Saints, 160.3 (31)

Passing: Broncos, 215.3 (10); Saints, 305.2 (30)

KEY PLAYERS

Broncos: QB Peyton Manning, RB Willis McGahee, WR DeMaryius Thomas, DE Elvis Dumervil, LB Von Miller, CB Champ Bailey.

Saints: QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, G Jahri Evans, DE Cameron Jordan, MLB Curtis Lofton, FS Malcolm Jenkins.

BRONCOS SCOUTING REPORT

Offense: The Broncos rank sixth in total yards with Peyton Manning using the no-huddle to direct a passing game that ranks fourth at 290.8 yards per game with solid receivers in Eric Decker, DeMaryius Thomas and former UL-Lafayette star Brandon Stokley. While they rank just 23rd in rushing, they have a capable back in Willis McGahee, who averages 4.3 yards a carry.

Defense: With an average of three sacks per game, the Broncos can bring the heat with their 4-3 base defense. Strongside linebacker Von Miller and end Elvis Dumervil are two of the league’s top speed pass-rushers with six and five sacks, respectively, while 14-year veteran Champ Bailey, one of the league’s premier shutdown corners, anchors the secondary.

Special teams: Kicker Matt Prater has made all seven of his field-goal tries, with two of them coming from 50 yards and out. Punter Britton Colquitt has been solid with a gross average of 47.0 yards and net of 42.7 yards per kick. The coverage teams have been effective, holding opponents to 20.3 yards per kickoff return and 4.9 yards on punts.

BRONCOS FACTS

The Broncos have five Louisiana natives on the roster — Manning, cornerback Tracy Porter, wide receiver Brandon Stokley, kick returner Trindon Holliday and tackle Chris Clark. … Holliday was claimed by the Broncos on Oct. 11 after he was waived by Houston. … Jack Del Rio, who played for the Saints in 1985-86, is the Broncos’ defensive coordinator and former LSU player Tyke Tolbert is the wide receivers coach for John Fox. … The Broncos lead the all-time series, 7-2, after taking the last three meetings and are 4-1 at home against the Saints.

Compiled by Sheldon Mickles