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Saints’ kicker battle could come down to stopwatches

The coaching staff probably already has an idea of who they want to handle kicking duties this season.

But if things come in as a push and the Saints can’t choose between Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke, the coaching staff might look to the stopwatches to decide.

When Saints coach Sean Payton was discussing the kicker battle earlier this week, he said he would look at efficiency, distance, and get-off time.

We already know that both kickers have connecting on all four of their attempts (Graham missed an extra point and Dimke missed a long field goal that was nullified by a penalty), so the next element is get-off time*.

And there, on the stopwatches, it appears that Graham holds a slight edge.  The incumbent kicker has posted an average get-off time of .87 seconds, while Dimke comes in at a slightly slower .96 seconds.

The difference might seem minor, but that could be the difference between getting a kick off and having it blocked.

While the samples are small and it might not matter since Thomas Morstead could be asked to handle kick-off duties, Graham also holds an edge in kickoff hang times.

On his one kickoff this preseason, he hung the ball 4.18 seconds. Dimke came in at an average of 3.89 seconds.

So if the clocks decide things, Graham is the clear winner.

Fortunately for Dimke, there are additional layers to this battle. And one could argue that he holds an edge in some of those other areas.

** Each kick was timed from when the kicker began his motion and the holder fielded the snap and began his motion to spot it.

Despite being an underdog throughout his career, Luke McCown remains hopeful about future

brightcove

Being a McCown means being patient.

Opportunities don’t come, and sometimes you’ll feel unappreciated. It’s part of the gig. But being a McCown means that you’ll always stick with it and keep grinding until your opportunity comes.

It took Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown until he was 35 for a team to recognize his talents and give him a shot to be a starter. And now, Luke McCown, 33, is grinding out with the Saints and hoping that he’s done enough to win the backup job.

“I mean, the right situations don’t come along for everybody,” Luke McCown said after the Saints’ 22-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the preseason finale. “And for my brother and myself, they’ve not come along very often for either one of us. But that’s not to knock our abilities or our capabilities of being a leader of a team. That’s just the way the cards have fallen for us.”

Luke McCown wants to earn the opportunity to serve as Drew Brees’ backup this season, but it’s not necessarily the job he wants. He wants to be a starter. That’s how he’s approached this preseason, and hopes he’s done enough to impress one of the other 31 teams if the Saints decide to go with Ryan Griffin as the backup.

“I play to win, I compete to win, to be the starter,”Luke  McCown said. “As I said early in camp, I’m not just competing for a spot on this team, I’m not just competing to be the backup. I want to start. And obviously Drew has got that pretty well under hand. But that’s the mentality you have to have.”

It’s difficult to know if Luke McCown has done enough to sway some team into making him the starter, but he’s certainly done enough to win New Orleans’ backup job. He was 26-of-43 passing for 240 yards with three touchdowns and one interception this preseason. On Thursday, he played one series and completed all of his passes for 29 yards with a touchdown.

Griffin, meanwhile, struggled against the Colts and finished his preseason 48-of-77 passing with three touchdowns and one interception.

It would be easy for Luke McCown to feel discouraged about his situation and lack of opportunities he’s received throughout his career, but he remains positive.

“I’ve gotten shots here and there. The majority of mine have been hampered by two ACL (injuries),” Luke McCown said. “You can be frustrated at those things but it doesn’t do any good. Nobody cares, and it’s not going to help your situation. Why be frustrated about it? Why not understand that it’s part of the game?

“If you don’t let it get you down you can turn it into something that will help you get better. I don’t dwell on it. I look more like, ‘Well, the sun is going coming up tomorrow.’ I’m pretty certain about it, and I’m going to make the most of tomorrow.”

 

 

After productive preseason, Saints d-lineman Tyrunn Walker says, ‘The more I play, … I just get smarter and smarter’

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- New Orleans Saints defensive end Tyrunn Walker (75) bats down a  Tyrod Taylor (2) pass as the New Orleans Saints faced the Baltimore Ravens in pre-season action.

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER — New Orleans Saints defensive end Tyrunn Walker (75) bats down a Tyrod Taylor (2) pass as the New Orleans Saints faced the Baltimore Ravens in pre-season action.

His team may have lost 22-13 on Thursday night, but third-year Saints defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker bedeviled the Baltimore Ravens plenty in New Orleans’ final exhibition of the 2014 preseason at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Walker batted down three passes for incompletions, two of which were on third downs and forced the Ravens (4-0) to settle for field goals. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had to kick a field goal from 27 yards away in the second quarter on one of those occasions and a 32-yarder in the third quarter on the other.

It capped off a big preseason in which Walker topped the Saints (3-1) in pass defenses with four. None of his teammates had more than two, not even defensive backs, who usually have many more opportunities to make such plays on thrown balls.

Walker also led the Saints in takedowns behind the line of scrimmage with four this preseason. He ranked among team leaders with 12 solo tackles (four on Thursday), and he had one quarterback sack in the Saints’ exhibitions.

The third-year player and native of New Iberia credited his production to the experience he’s naturally accumulated with the Saints ever since the club signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Tulsa in 2012.

“I’m going to keep learning — the more I play, the more years I’m in the league, I just get smarter and smarter,” said Walker, who didn’t appear in a game in his rookie year and then missed nine contests in 2013 with a hurt knee. “I don’t think it’s more anything physical — it’s just mental.”

With Saturday’s deadline for the Saints to reduce their roster from 75 players to 53 looming, the 6-foot-3, 294-pound Walker at this point is a virtual lock to provide depth on a defensive line led by Pro Bowl end Cameron Jordan, third-year man Akiem Hicks and veteran nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley. He’ll certainly add to the 12 regular-season tackles (five solo) and one quarterback sack he has in his career if he can stay healthy.

“That’s what it’s all about — putting myself on film and showing I can contribute to the team,” Walker said. “That’s all I’m worried about.”

Welcome to the Superdome for tonight’s game against the Ravens

Superdome

Welcome to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the New Orleans Saints’ preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

BACKUP BOWL: The Baltimore Ravens have announced that their starters will not play, and the expectation is that the Saints will take a similar approach. The only reason there is any doubt is because many key players missed significant time this preseason, so it would not be shocking to see some starters log a few snaps. At quarterback, however, coach Sean Payton said he expects Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin to carry the load. So that means Drew Brees will probably spend the evening on the sidelines.

Colston

BATTLES: A few key battles to keep an eye on tonight are at wide receiver, kicker, quarterback, and possibly safety. Joe Morgan, Nick Toon, and Robert Meachem are all fighting it out for the final spots at receiver. At kicker, Payton said that Derek Dimke and Shayne Graham both remain alive. The final spot at safety could come down to Marcus Ball and Pierre Warren.

PURSUIT OF PERFECTION: Not that it really matters, but the Saints could finish the preseason undefeated in the preseason for the first time in team history. The significance of this? Nothing. The Lions went 0-16 in 2008 following an undefeated preseason. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl after going undefeated last year.

Several waived Saints go unclaimed, become free agents

After being cut by the Saints ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to reduce their roster from 90 players to 75, tackle Manase Foketi, defensive lineman Rufus Johnson Jr., quarterback Logan Kilgore, linebacker Kevin Reddick, cornerback Rod Sweeting and defensive end George Uko all cleared waivers unclaimed.

They are all now free agents and can sign contracts with any NFL team that may be interested. They all are also eligible to join the Saints’ practice squad.

Kilgore and Uko are undrafted rookies. Johnson, Reddick and Sweeting are all in their second year and finished the 2013 campaign on the Saints’ 53-man roster. Foketi spent last year with Buffalo prior to signing with the Saints this past offseason.

Welcome to Lucas Oil Stadium

Lucas Oil Stadium -- By Nick Underhill/The AdvocateLucas Oil Stadium — By Nick Underhill/The Advocate

INDIANAPOLIS — Welcome to Lucas Oil Stadium for tonight’s game between the Saints and Colts.

DRESS REHEARSAL: The third preseason game is typically treated as a final dress rehearsal for the regular season. Due to injuries to key players, the Saints could decide to use some of their starters in the fourth and final preseason game.

GETTING HEALTHY: The current expectation is that we should see quarterback Drew Brees, cornerback Champ Bailey, and safety Jairus Byrd on the field for the first time tonight. Cornerback Keenan Lewis, who has been battling an undisclosed injury, should also see the field tonight.

SCOUTS: The Falcons, Eagles, Broncos, Texans, Bucs, Steelers, Browns, Bears, Redskins, and two CFL teams have scouts in attendance tonight.

COVERAGE: Stick with us throughout the night as we’ll have a live chat and updates on the blog throughout the night.