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Robert Meachem sits out second minicamp session with foot injury

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The No. 12 was back on the Saints’ practice fields again Wednesday.

This time on former undrafted receiver Kyle Prater, and not Robert Meachem, the long-time Saint who is trying out during the mandatory minicamp this week.

Meachem is battling a foot injury that showed up Wednesday morning.

“We held him back,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow.”

Meachem, the former first-round pick who has played in New Orleans in seven of his eight NFL seasons, is trying to make a comeback after spending the entire 2015 season out of football.

“It’s not a prior injury, but it was something that was significant enough that he wasn’t able to practice today,” Payton said.

 

Drew Brees tells the Dan Patrick Show Saints would make more than half of two-point attempts

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) takes part in a drill during the NFL football team's minicamp in Metairie, La., Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) takes part in a drill during the NFL football team’s minicamp in Metairie, La., Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters earlier this week that he wants the Steelers to go for two after every touchdown this season.

Drew Brees can see Roethlisberger’s point.

And he thinks the principle could extend to another situation that’s almost an afterthought for most teams.

“I think there’s probably something to be said for it, especially now that they’ve moved the extra point back,” Brees said in an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show before Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “I think there’s some people that would argue that you’d go for it on 4th down the majority of the time as well.”

Brees is confident the Saints could make the strategy count in either situation.

“Personally, I feel like if we went for two, that we could make it more than 50 percent of the time,” Brees said. “And I think fourth down, depending on where you are on the field, I feel like, if you’re in a manageable situation, you could convert most fourth downs. I’m all for it.”

New Orleans converted 10 of 16 fourth downs last season, although the Saints had only one two-point conversion.

But Brees isn’t worried about his head coach’s penchant for taking chances.

“I don’t need to tell Coach Payton to be more aggressive,” Brees said. “I think we’ve got that part of it taken care of.”

For Brees’ full interview, check the report on The Dan Patrick Show website.

Saints plan to turn out in force for premier of ‘Gleason’

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The New Orleans Saints have a movie on the schedule for Tuesday night.

One that’s close to heart.

The New Orleans premiere of former Saint Steve Gleason‘s documentary, ‘Gleason,’ opens Tuesday night at the Orpheum Theatre.

“Most all of us will be there and I would say most all of us are really excited to see it and happy that it’s making its debut here,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “We made an announcement the other day. I would say the whole team will be there. Just from talking with Scott Fujita, I know there’s been a number of people putting this together, Steve and his foundation and family. We’re anxious to be there and support it.”

Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, found out his wife was pregnant with their son a few weeks later, and he began recording video messages for his son.

The footage was distilled and broken down into a film that premiered at the Sundance Festival in January.

Now, the current Saints are excited to see more about a man they all know.

“I never got the ability to play with him, but at the same time, I know of him, I know his story, I know the guys that come here, the work he puts in daily,” Jordan said. “He was working out until the shutdown. This is a guy who has tremendous effort, tremendous will, and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie to find out the parts I don’t know.”

Sean Payton says ‘You can’t put a timeline on’ Drew Brees contract situation

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New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe the fact that Drew Brees is heading into the final year of his deal will be a distraction.

If Brees has not signed a contract extension by the time the season starts, he has said he will table talks until after the year.

Payton doesn’t know if that means a deal will be done by then.

“You can’t put a timeline on it like that,” Payton said. “I think time will tell. I know those guys are working at it.”

Payton continues to believe the quarterback and the franchise will have no problems

“I think the one thing that we have is a good understanding,” Payton said. “On Drew’s side and with the Saints, the relationship has been outstanding.”

Notes and observations from Tuesday’s minicamp practice

Attendance: Hau’oli Kikaha was not spotted during practice. He suffered a torn ACL. Safety Jairus Byrd, DE Kasim Edebali, S Jamarca Sanford, P Thomas Morstead and LB Dannell Ellerbe did not participate in team drills.

Trying out: The following players tried out on Tuesday: WR Robert Meachem, LB Chris Weatherd, LB Royce LaFrance, DT Lawrence Virgil, P Spencer Lanning, P John Kidd, LS Chris Highland, TE Chris Bazile, LB Matt Shaughnessy, DE Darryl Tapp, OL Dahon Taylor, OL Davante Harris. There was another offensive lineman with the last name Richard.

Williams looks good: It was a strong day for cornerback P.J. Williams. He had a one-handed interception on a pass that ultimately carried him out of bounds, jumped a route in team  drills intended for Brandin Cooks and dropped an interception, and also broke up a pass. He’s playing both on the outside and in the slot. Getting him up to speed will be a big development.

Come on, Craig: Linebacker Craig Robertson was another player who looked good. He has good speed and possesses the ability to flip his hips and run with receivers. Saw him break up a pair of passes and flash a few other times. His athleticism is notable considering how the second group of linebackers looked last season behind Dannell Ellerbe.

Different things on defense: We’re still seeing the defense do a lot of different things. The most surprising look of the day came during a hurry-up session when the defensive rolled out a three-man line consisting of Obum Gwacham, Cam Jordan and Davis Tull.

Grayson update: There were things Garrett Grayson could have done better, and a few passes that he would have liked to have back, including one that should have been intercepted, but he had one  impressive moment during team drills. After surveying the defense, he checked out of the initial play and hit his running back on a quick screen for a huge gain. It was the perfect call against the defense.

Nickeled up: Damian Swann received most of the snaps with the first-team defense when the team used a cornerback as the fifth defensive back. Delvin Breaux and Williams served as the outside corners.

Harris shines: Erik Haris, who was imported from the Canadian Football League, continues to shine. He had two broken up passes today and nearly picked off another.

Brees stats: I had Brees completing 17 of 27 passes during team drills. He completed passes to Tim Hightower (3), Willie Snead (4), Cooks (1), Josh Hill (1), Coby Fleener (4), Mark Ingram (1) and Michael Thomas (2). The receiver on one reception is unknown.

Grayson stats: Grayson completed 5 of 7 attempts. He connected on passes to Jordan Williams-Lambert (2), Michael Hoomanawanui (2) and Daniel Lasco (1). Grayson had one pass nearly picked off.

McCown stats: McCown completed all four of his passes. He connected on passes to R.J. Harris, Reggie Bell, Kyle Prater and Jared Dangerfield. McCown had one pass that was either strip sack or batted down at the line by Nate Stupar.

 

 

Full Roman Harper contract details

Here are the details on Roman Harper’s one-year, $1.065 million deal with the Saints, according to a source:

Base salary: $985,000
Guarantees: $150,000 for skill, injury, cap
Signing bonus: $80,000

The deal qualifies for the minimum salary benefit, which means Harper’s cap charge for this season is $780,000.

 

Lasting impressions from OTAs and answering reader questions

A couple of quick, lasting impressions from organized team activities.

  • We didn’t talk much about Nate Stupar or Craig Robertson the last few weeks, but both players flashed at different times. Stupar nearly intercepted Garrett Grayson during the second open practice and had a few nice blitzes. He also flashed a few times on Thursday and broke up a pass. It’s a very small sample, but it looks like the linebacker group is going to be much more athletic this season.
  • Michael Thomas continues to look good. He had a great red-zone touchdown on a pass in the front corner of the end zone over P.J. Williams. He’s been running with the first team. He’s on the right track.
  • The defense is going to look a lot different this season. There have been new and interesting wrinkles during each practice. There are a lot of different personnel groupings and alignments being used across the board. It will be interesting to see how things look during minicamp when we get a longer view of things.
  • The competition deeper down the depth chart is going to be interesting to keep an eye on. R.J. Harris seems to be running pretty close to the front of that pack, but a few other players have flashed at different times.
  • The interior pass rush is going to be better. How much better remains to be seen, as well as the consistency, but Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins are going to bring something that lacked last season.
  • Grayson looks better than he did last season. There are still some ups and downs. Again, the sample size is limited, but he’s progressing. Will it be enough to knock off Luke McCown? There’s still a lot of ground to cover.
  • Erik Harris has been a pleasant surprise. The competition at safety is going to be tough to knock off, but he’s caught the eye several times and is getting a good amount of burn with the first-team defense. It’s too soon to know if he’ll make the team but don’t sleep on him.

Time for your questions.

I think Stephone Anthony will benefit the most. 

Moving to strongside linebacker will better allow him to go out on the field and make plays. In the middle, where he served last season, he had to process more and get his teammates lined up. That’s a tall task for a rookie player.

If Andrus Peat ends up playing guard instead of tackle, which is what it currently looks like will happen, that takes him out of his natural position. I think he can succeed there, and having a whole offseason to prepare for the switch should help him, but that’s probably not going to be his long-term position.

We haven’t seen a lot of Keenan Lewis yet. It’s hard to know exactly where he’s at in his recovery from hip surgery. But assuming everyone is healthy, then I have to go with Lewis and Delvin Breaux.

That’s not a knock on P.J. Williams. I think he’ll be a good player. But Lewis is a proven veteran, and I’m not going to worry about or doubt him until he provides a reason. It’s too soon for that.   

There’s nothing that says this team won’t make it to the playoffs. That’s still to be determined.

Honestly, I don’t have any big issues with how the team played the offseason.

There’s this narrative that Coby Fleener prevented the Saints from doing something else. He counts $2.4 million against the cap this season. That’s not a prohibitive figure, even with how tight the Saints were to the cap. Could New Orleans have found an impactful defensive player and structured his contract the same way? Perhaps, but I’m not sure who that player would have been.

I like the Michael Thomas pick. Some might argue it’s a luxury. Maybe it is, but he’s going to make the team better and help take pressure off the defense if he lives up to expectations.

If the Saints went all out on building the defense, how much better does it get, given the resources? The offense still needs to be able to cover whatever the defense gives up.

Every little bit you let the offense deteriorate, that’s more pressure on the defense to be better. It’s easier to stay great on offense and improve incrementally on defense. I’m not sure swapping out Fleener and adding a defensive player makes a huge difference. We’ll see if that holds true.

The only thing you can really get on this team for is not acquiring a pass rusher, but that’s easy to say after Hau’oli Kikaha suffered an injury.

That’s easy. Defensive end.

Not only is the biggest question on the roster now, I think there’s a lot of potential there. Obum Gwacham, Kasim Edebali and Davis Tull could all be very good players. The question is if they fulfill that potential.

If they do, the defense is a lot better than it is now.

I think Bell will eventually be the long-term starter at free safety. I’m not sure if that’s a commentary on Byrd or not. I think, for now, adding Bell gives the team more flexibility. That’s attractive.

As far as Harper, they play different positions. I don’t think that speaks to Byrd’s standing with the team at all.

Saints will reportedly hold joint practices with Houston Texans

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The New Orleans Saints will reportedly travel to Houston for two joint practices with the Houston Texans before the two teams face off in a preseason game on Aug. 20, according to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain.

New Orleans was initially scheduled to hold joint practices with the Texans in Metairie last season, but the Saints ended up bringing New England to the Greenbrier instead.

The Saints could still add another session of joint practices to their preseason schedule. New Orleans opens its preseason slate against New England, a frequent joint practice partner, and the Saints could end up traveling to Foxborough to practice with the Patriots again.

Source: Hau’oli Kikaha suffered torn ACL

The New Orleans Saints effort to revamp their defense took a hit after defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha suffered a torn ACL during practice earlier this week, according to a source.

Kikaha figured to be a major piece of the defense, and the team was planning to move him down to defensive end to help aid with the pass rush this season. The former second-round pick served as a strongside linebacker last season and finished the year with four sacks and four forced fumbles.

“My man Kikaha has come back before (and will do it again .. this time even better — count on it,” his agent, Timothy Younger, wrote on Twitter.

The coaching staff was impressed with the work Kikaha had done during organized team activities.

“The technique that we coach is different than most people in base technique, and Hau had really grabbed ahold of it,” pass-rush coach Brian Young said. “He was probably one of the best guys we had so far at truly coming out of his hips and attacking square and doing all the things we’re asking for.”

It’s not immediately clear which knee he injured, but the pass rusher suffered two torn ACLs while in college at the University of Washington.

It’s not immediately clear how things will work out on the defensive line. New Orleans began reaching out to some free agent players earlier this week, according to a source.

If the Saints stick with internal options, Obum Gwacham could serve in the Jack position. It’s also possible that Cam Jordan serves as the so-called “rush end,” a position he served in last season after previously working as the strongside end.

Bobby Richardson served as the strongside end last season.

New Orleans also has second-year player Davis Tull, who spent last season on injured reserve, and Kasim Edebali at the position.

“At that position you have Obum Gwacham, who showed enough last year and started with a sack against the Redskins and kept pushing forward,” Cam Jordan said. “Of course, Kasim Edebali. He’ll have to come back healthy. I mean he had five (sacks) last year, but he showed a lot of versatility last year. Stout against the run, plays the pass rush from the outside to the in. With that being said, we also have Davis Tull. … But we’re looking forward to seeing him progress.”

It’s also possible the Saints could look to use more three-man fronts this season. The defense has pledged to be more multiple, and it’s not out of the question for the team to use some three-man fronts with six defensive backs on the field.

But that would likely only be one wrinkle to the defense. The team will need someone to step up and serve as a pass rusher opposite Jordan when it looks to use a four-man defensive line.

This is a hit for the defense, much the same it was a hit for the defense last season when Junior Galette first suffered a pectoral injury and then was released after details of his alleged off-field activities came to light.

New Orleans ultimately released Galette before training camp and was then forced to piece together a defensive line that struggled to generate consistent pressure on quarterbacks throughout the season.

It appears that are better internal options this season, and Kikaha was not guaranteed to win the spot he was competing for, but he was considered the frontrunner to work off the edge opposite Jordan.

The Saints were looking to find out if Kikaha, who is listed at 249 pounds, could serve as an every-down player. At the very least, the team was looking to utilize him as a defensive end in subpackages, which the team operates out of on nearly 70 percent of its snaps.

Kiakaha excelled at the position while in college, where he recorded 19 sacks as a senior and 12.5 as a junior.

That kind of potential isn’t as obvious in some of the other players. They have shown flashes of potential in limited doses but have yet to have the same kind of consistent success.

For the Saints to buck the trend of the last few seasons and perform better on defense, at least one of the other players is going to have to step into the void.

Saints end Obum Gwacham excited about defense’s direction, meets with kids at Camp PowerUp

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Obum Gwacham had to get moving after the end of the Saints’ organized team activity on Tuesday.

Gwacham, the second-year defensive end who posted 2.5 sacks in limited time as a rookie last season, had to make it to Camp PowerUp for some light yoga.

Gwacham swept into Zulu’s Roy A. Glapion Building  in New Orleans in time to answer students’ questions and go through a yoga session with them, all in the name of Team Tackle, an NFL arm of the American Diabetes Association.

The second-year end became a part of the program during the offseason, and as part of the cause, he flew to Washington, D.C. to meet with some of the other team representatives and toured the White House.

“I was blown away,” Gwacham said. “We were on the inside, and I saw Obama walking past on the outside, so I was able to get video of the back of his head.”

Gwacham spent some time teaching the kids assembled for the camp how to stay fit.

“The importance of exercise, eating the right foods, and obviously hydration down here in the South,” Gwacham said. “I know a lot of these kids might be in one ear, out the other, but if it sticks with one or two, I feel like I’ve done my job.”

Gwacham answered plenty of questions from the kids, including several about how the Saints might fare this season.

And the second-year end thinks he’ll be part of a much-improved defense this season.

“I love where our defense is going right now,” Gwacham said. “Guys are playing harder, faster. … DA is always talking about effort to the ball.”