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Saints will hold celebration of Will Smith’s life from 2 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday at practice facility

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- New Orleans Saints linebacker  Will Smith speaks to the media before he and his wife Racquel hosted the Celebrity Waiters VII to benefit Bridge House/Grace House, which is sponsored by Smith's  “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way Foundation’ in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON– New Orleans Saints linebacker Will Smith speaks to the media before he and his wife Racquel hosted the Celebrity Waiters VII to benefit Bridge House/Grace House, which is sponsored by Smith’s “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way Foundation’ in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency.

The New Orleans Saints will hold a public visitation to celebrate the life of former defensive end Will Smith from 2 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday at the team’s practice facility in Metairie.

No ceremony or funeral service elements will be held. Guests will walk through the Saints’ indoor practice facility and be able to view the casket, and a celebration of Smith’s life will be presented through photographs and video. Those who attend will also have the opportunity to sign a guest book, prayer cards will be available and can make donations to Smith’s foundation, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way.

A private family burial and funeral service will be held on Saturday.

Smith, who was shot and killed late Saturday night after a traffic accident in the Lower Garden District, was a team captain on the Saints’ Super Bowl team in 2009 and played every one of his 139 games in the NFL in New Orleans.

New Orleans will induct Smith into the Saints Hall of Fame this year, and he planned to be a coaching intern on Sean Payton‘s staff in 2016.

Parking for the celebration will be available at both the Saints’ facility and Zephyr Field next door.

A second line in Smith’s honor has also been scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Half Moon Bay Bar on St. Mary Street, and it will march to the spot on Sophie Wright Place and Felicity, where a memorial has been set up at the spot where Smith died.

Sean Payton explains how the Brandon Browner signing went wrong: ‘There were a lot of hands in that’

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Coach Sean Payton has spent plenty of time wondering why Brandon Browner didn’t work out in New Orleans.

The reason he came up with was that the Saints weren’t good enough as a defense as a hole, and it left Browner exposed on many occasions.

“I think there’s a handful of reasons,” Payton said. “We weren’t good enough overall as a defense; our front struggled,” Payton said. “I asked the same question; this guy just won a Super Bowl in New (England). So obviously the pass rush — it’s that perfect storm. The surrounding parts for us weren’t as strong as they needed to be.”

The Advocate charted Browner as giving up 56 receptions on 87 targets for 893 yards last season. However, Payton said that sometimes when it looked like Browner was being targeted it was actually a linebacker who was out of position.

“At times some of the under coverage there’d be a play that you might see on tape, and it would appear that it would be Brandon’s play, and it was really one of the inside linebackers’ play,” Payton said. “It’s gotten to a point where he’s at in his career. It was important as a coach you kind of have a vision how you want something to unfold, but you got to let that happen.”

Payton said Browner’s struggles last season was one of the reasons defense struggled and it undermined his ability to serve as a leader, which was on of the things New Orleans initially liked about him.

“For us to have had success one of those things last year defensively was for him to have played well and for us to have given him a chance to play well because he’s a leader that’s wanting to lead,” Payton said. “It’s hard to when you’re becoming a target. It’s hard to do that. I think there were a lot of hands in that specifically.”

Payton believes if the Saints strengthen up the front seven this offseason and figure out how to generate more of a pass rush it will help increase turnovers.

“No different than the quarterback that isn’t getting time,” Payton said. “For a defense, secondary, that clock in the head for the passer has to be a little quicker and all of the sudden you’ll be amazed at the balls that become available.”

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Signing James Laurinaitis gives Saints plenty of options on defense

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015 file photo, St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis celebrates during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in St. Louis. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis gets quizzed constantly by family members and friends who want the insider information about whether he’ll be playing in Los Angeles next season. He has empathy for a frustrated, dwindling fan base. Others on the team aren't shying away from the emotions attached to the home finale Thursday night, Dec. 17, 2015 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst, File) ORG XMIT: NY191

FILE – In this Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015 file photo, St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis celebrates during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst, File)

And on the eighth day of free agency the Saints started adding to their defense.

The talent added won’t transform the defense alone. Linebackers Nate Stupar and James Laurinaitis will make the defense better. But the things they bring to the table alone will not suddenly catapult New Orleans to the top of the league in total defense or points allowed.

What they do bring to the team is options. With these additions, the Saints now have the personnel to play different fronts or change their personnel if things stay the same. There’s also the possibility that nothing changes and Laurinaitis and Stupar are here to serve simply as depth.

But options are good to have. There were times last year when the pieces on the defense didn’t seem to blend as hoped in the four-man front employed by New Orleans. The pieces are there now, if the team so chooses, to move some guys around and perhaps get production out of them in other ways than last season.

It’s completely possible that what comes next is far too presumptuous and won’t prove to be true. But my colleague, Joel A. Erickson, and I started running through some possibilities of how the defense could look next season before considering draft picks. By the time we crawled out of the rabbit hole we cooked up several changes that could make sense.

Starting at the top, one of the changes that could make sense is moving Hau’oli Kikaha to defensive end from strongside linebacker. He might need to add some bulk to succeed off the edge in the NFL, but he was one of the most productive pass rushers in college football in 2014. While he had moments of brilliance at linebacker during his rookie year, they were offset by the times when he was forced to drop back in coverage. It quickly became clear this wasn’t his strong suit.

With multiple options at linebacker, if the team feels he’d perform better with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 end, the Saints could choose to move him down. This would allow Kikaha to play forward all the time and use his pursuit ability to snuff out runs. It could also help alleviate some of the issues at defensive end.

This could also create the option to move Davis Tull, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, down to defensive end. Being that these two players are small, the Saints could look to move them to the seven-technique position Cam Jordan played last season. That would then move Jordan over to the other side of the line, where he played before Junior Galette was released.

If this change were to happen, the Saints would need to find another way to deploy their linebackers. It could mean dropping Laurinaitis in the middle, moving Stephone Anthony to the strong side and using Dannell Ellerbe on the weak side.

The Saints might not want to move Anthony, who showed plenty of promise as a rookie playing in the middle, but he has the skills to shine on the strong side. Moving over there would free him up to blitz more, which is something he did well during his rookie year. His coverage assignments would also be more straightforward, which is another thing that could play to his strengths.

And while almost all the reviews on Anthony were positive as a signal caller and quarterback of the defense, if Laurinaitis were to start in the middle, it would give New Orleans a seasoned player in the middle to help guys get lined up and in position. If the Saints wanted to keep Anthony on the field in the middle in nickel packages and have Laurinaitis come off, he could still be the signal caller.

There are a lot of possibilities. Going further down the list, if there are changes at defensive end, Bobby Richardson could then even slide inside to three-technique defensive tackle. In theory, this change could suit his game.

This is all assuming, of course, the Saints stick with a base 4-3 defense under defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. If he switches to a 3-4, all bets are off, and it’s anyone’s guess which two linebackers would play in the middle.

It’s also very possible that the two linebackers added will serve as depth. Or the Saints could simply make some changes at linebacker and not make changes at defensive end.

Right now, anything is possible in theory. But the Saints have options. And after not having many last year, options are very good to have.

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Sources: NFL Security investigating Cam Jordan incident

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates tackling Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAMS149

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates tackling Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAMS149

By Nick Underhill and Ramon Antonio Vargas

NFL Security is in New Orleans conducting its own investigation into an incident in which Saints pass rusher Cam Jordan was accused of patting a woman on the buttocks at a nightclub last fall, multiple sources said Tuesday.

The league’s investigators are scheduled to meet with Jordan– who was never charged with a crime despite the accusation —   and local law enforcement. A source said it would be a surprise if any punishment is handed down and it is standard operating procedure for the league to look into all allegations.

The six-year NFL veteran was accused of touching a woman’s rear end at the Warehouse District club Republic early in the morning of Sept. 6. Jordan was also accused of dangling the woman’s boyfriend in the air in the club’s bathroom and taunting him.

After reviewing the case, both police and prosecutors declined to pursue a misdemeanor battery charge against the player.

Jordan led the Saints with 10 quarterback sacks during their 7-9 season last year. He appeared in his second career Pro Bowl after the end of the campaign.

Check back with The New Orleans Advocate for any more details.

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Guarantees kick in for Saints QB Drew Brees, safety Jairus Byrd

If the Saints have plans of not bringing back Drew Brees or Jairus Byrd next season, the team missed an important deadline.

Both players had clauses in their contracts that guaranteed a significant portion of their base salaries become guaranteed next season if they remained on the roster Wednesday, according to a source.

For Brees, $10.85 million of his $19.75 million base salary became guaranteed on Wednesday. And for Byrd, $6 million of his $7.5 million base salary is now guaranteed.

In the case of Brees, this isn’t a significant development since there was little chance he was going to be released this offseason. Both coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have said he will be the quarterback of the Saints next year and it remains possible his contract is extended at some point this offseason.

For Byrd, unless his deal was reworked like Ellerbe’s and that information has not yet been announced, this could indicate that he will be back next season. The free safety carries a $11.4 million cap number and it would cost New Orleans more to release him than to keep him on the roster.

New Orleans could, however, part ways with Byrd and designate him a post-June 1. If this happens, he could be released and only count $3.4 million against the cap in 2016. That would, however, create a dead money charge in 2017.

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Film review: Saints DC Dennis Allen calls strong game against Bucs

After reviewing Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one has to wonder what Dennis Allen could have done if he started the season serving as the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been any different. Maybe the defense would have struggled all year and still crumbled under the weight of all the injuries in the secondary. But after seeing the game plan and how well he called the 24-17 victory, it’s interesting to wonder how different things might have been.

There’s little question this was the best called game of the season for New Orleans on defense. In his third game as defensive coordinator after taking over for Rob Ryan, Allen finally put his stamp on a game and there were a lot of differences in how the team operated from other games earlier in the season.

The biggest noticeable differences were in the coverages the team used. After operating primarily out of single-high safety looks with man coverage underneath, the Saints used a variety of different looks and did a good job of disguising them.

While the team still used several looks with a single-high safety, the Saints also mixed in several Cover 2, Tampa 2 and “inverted” Cover 2 looks. The defense also played more zone coverage than it typically does.

The mixing and matching of looks made it difficult for Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to diagnose the defense, especially when New Orleans waited until right before the snap to show its coverage.

The end result was that the defense did not ever get beat on a deep pass. Winston only attempted two deep passes during the contest, neither of which were completed. The rest came on short passes and the Saints were often in position to quickly make a tackle.

It’s too soon to know if Allen will cure all that ails the Saints or if he can keep this up, but this game was a strong step in the right direction.

QUARTERBACK: 3 out of 4

This was a really solid game by Brees. He took what was there, didn’t miss any receivers, and picked apart the Tampa secondary from start to finish. Only three of his passes were deep down the field, and he connected on one for 41 yards. Most of Brees’ passes were in the short and intermediate areas of the field. He didn’t take many risks, mostly because he didn’t have to.

RUNNING BACKS: 2.5 out of 4

Spiller missed an opportunity when he caught a screen pass with 5:49 remaining the first quarter. After catching the ball in the left flat, he allowed his momentum to carry him into a blocker. Had he been able to stop, there was a big cutback lane to his right. Perhaps not being able to make such plays is why the team left him on the field for only 15 snaps. And of those snaps, approximately five came in the second half. There was one odd moment late in the second half when Willie Snead motioned over to become the running back and Spiller served as a receiver. … Tim Hightower got the yards that were there for the taking. When he had a hole, he hit it and made the most of the yardage that was available. He had one nice run in the third quarter for a gain of 7 when he beat a defensive end to the edge and turned up field out of 12 personnel. It worked so well the team ran a similar play to the other side out of 11 personnel for a gain of 7 on the next snap. He needs work picking up blitzes, as he said after the game. He simply forgot to pick up his man and allowed a sack in the first half. He got better as the game went on and should continue to improve in the weeks to come.

RECEIVERS: 3 out of 4

Snead again succeeded with his precise route running. It’s clear Brees has a level of trust in Snead and looked for him in big moments. Bonus points for picking up more than 30 yards after the catch. … Brandin Cooks only had three catches for 29 yards, but he should have had more. Whether it was him not being in the right spot or Brees missing a throw, there were two other passes where Cooks was open and Brees simply missed him. … Marques Colston is the third option at receiver now, but he’s still reliable enough to bring value. He continues to find soft spots in zone coverage and figure out ways to get open. … Michael Hoomanawanui, Ben Watson and Josh Hill all had some poor moments in run blocking. Both Watson and Hoomanawanui missed blocks on a play that resulted in Hightower getting dropped for a loss of three yards. … Not a bad game for Brandon Coleman, even if 20 of his 38 yards came on a pass when he was left uncovered. … Big play by Watson on the final drive to fight for a first down on a third-and-1 play.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: 2.5 out of 4

Max Unger and Tim Lelito did a stellar job opening up a hole for Hightower on the first series of the game on a 12-yard that put the Saints at the 3-yard line. It would have been impossible for the running back to fail on the play. … Andrus Peat was once again solid. He gets better each week and continues to look more comfortable pulling and getting out into the second level on running plays. He allowed one hurry. There wasn’t much else to nitpick. … Zach Strief allowed a couple hurries and a quarterback hit. He also surrendered a sack that was nullified by an illegal use of hands penalty on the other side of the line. … Lelito is doing a good job filling in for Evans and is more athletic in the running game. He needs to develop some more consistency, but he’s had some really solid moments this season.

DEFENSIVE LINE: 2.5 out of 4

The Saints need to find Cam Jordan a running mate this offseason, whether it be at defensive tackle or coming off the other edge. He remains the only player who can generate consistent pass rush. He had a few pressures, a quarterback hit, a tipped pass, and a few good plays in the running game, including when he stuffed a run from the back side. … New Orleans remained aggressive in this game, blitzing on about 37.5 percent of Winston’s dropbacks, but the team struggled to get consistent pressure – especially when attacking with only four men. … Tavaris Barnes only played six snaps but managed to record a pressure and a quarterback hit. … Obum Gwacham owes linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha for creating his sack. The linebacker pushed him back into Gwacham. The bigger question on that play is what Winston was trying to do. It looked like he wanted to run but turned back after spotting Dannell Ellerbe waiting for him to take off. … Bobby Richardson flashed several times and was very good against the run. His best moment came on the second series when he shed an Austin Seferian-Jenkins block and stuffed Doug Martin. … Rookie Tyeler Davison showed a lot of promise last week against Carolina starting in place of John Jenkins. This performance was more mixed. He was cleared out a couple times on big runs.

LINEBACKERS: 2.5 out of 4

This wasn’t the best game that Ellerbe has played this season. He’s been better, but there’s something about his presence that makes the defense be more successful. In his first game back from sports hernia surgery, Ellerbe was pretty solid against the run. He fits his gaps better than his replacements and is quick to the ball. His performance in coverage was just OK. … Despite not having many “flash plays,” Stephone Anthony was very solid in coverage and his ability to drop back in zone was one of the keys to the defense being able to constrain Tampa’s passing attack. For example, in Tampa 2, Anthony is required to drop back and cover a deep third of the field. He also had a lot of responsibility in other coverages, both man and zone. While those things do not show up in the stats, they were huge for the defense.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: 3 out of 4

Delvin Breaux has really bounced back after a shaky performance against the New York Giants. In the five games since, he’s better targeted 16 times for five receptions and 33 yards. He was not thrown at against the Bucs until there was 4:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. The pass, intended for Mike Evans, fell incomplete. … Breaux was used in an interesting capacity in this game. New Orleans ran an “inverted” Cover 2 several times, with Breaux flowing up the field and serving like a safety and another player covering underneath. … Brandon Browner was left covering Evans several times and never gave up a reception. Overall, Browner surrendered two catches for 25 yards. … Evans finished with two receptions, one which came on Anthony (22 yards) and another on Damian Swann (17 yards). … Kenny Vaccaro had more deep responsibility in this game than what has become typical. It didn’t count as an official play since there was a penalty elsewhere, but he blitzed a put a nice hit on Winston on the first snap of the game. He was later flagged for roughing the passer. It looked like a bad call. Vaccaro was already in motion to tackle to Winston when the ball was released. … Kyle Wilson had a two penalties on the same drive. That can’t happen. … It was a good game for Jairus Byrd, who seemed to benefit from playing half the field at times. He broke up a pass intended for Cameron Brate that came out of a Cover 2 shell.

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Report: Mark Ingram dealing with ‘serious shoulder injury’

Update, 3:55 p.m.

Mark Ingram has been placed on injured reserve. Click here for more.

Original story

The New Orleans Saints might have been dealt a potentially devastating blow.

Running back Mark Ingram is reportedly battling a serious shoulder injury and there is a “fear it could be season ending,” according to the NFL Network.

Ingram played 55 of 64 snaps during Sunday’s 41-38 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

If this is a new injury, it’s unclear how it occurred. Ingram was on the field for the last offensive play of the game. He was targeted on a screen pass with 24 seconds remaining. His final run resulted in a 9-yard touchdown.

Ingram was limited with a shoulder injury during practices on Nov. 25 and 26. He appeared on last week’s injury report and was listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

While the Saints’ hopes of making the playoffs are already very slim, losing Ingram will be a tough hurdle to overcome over the final four weeks of the season.

Ingram has served as the featured back for the offense this season, playing on every down, and currently leads the team with 166 carries for 769 yards with six rushing touchdowns.

He’s also developed into a viable option catching passes out of the backfield this season, and currently has 50 receptions for 405 yards.

If Ingram is unable to play, it’s likely that C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower will see a higher dose of snaps.

More to come …

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Rob Ryan on NFL Network: ‘Everything in New Orleans is being blamed on me, including Katrina’

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Former Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hasn’t been asked much about his firing in New Orleans during two hours on the NFL Network Sunday morning.

For the most part, the NFL Network has hinted at his departure, rather than address it directly.

But Ryan did comment on his firing after Marshall Faulk brought up the subject on Sunday morning.

“Everything in New Orleans is being blamed on me, including Katrina. I think that’s a little far-fetched,” Ryan said. “The bottom line is this: I’ll hold my head high and walk out in the sunset, but believe me, I’ll come back with a vengeance.”

Ryan acknowledged the Saints needed to make a move to turn around a defense that is dead last in the NFL in both scoring and total yardage, 30th in the league against the run and on pace to set an NFL record for the worst opposing passer rating ever.

“Something had to be done,” Ryan said. “Right now, the defense is ranked 33rd in the league, and there’s only 32 teams. I had a lot to do with it.”

Source: Keenan Lewis’ hip still an issue, sees specialist

Keenan Lewis is trying to get back to full strength. His hip has different plans.

After having surgery to repair a ligament in his hip during training camp, the Saints cornerback has continued to experience discomfort, according to a source.

After playing eight snaps during Thursday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, Lewis flew to see a specialist to get his hip checked out on Monday since his recovery has not gone as smooth as hoped.

His ability to play will continue to be determined by how he feels.

Lewis was slated to miss 4-6 weeks after having surgery on Sept. 1.  He met the early end of that timetable, playing in an Oct. 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys. He played 18 snaps and was used only in nickel and dime packages during that game.

Lewis then played 27 snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles the next week. On Thursday, against the Falcons, his role diminished and he could be seen on the sidelines riding a stationary bike during the game.

Getting Lewis back to full strength would be a major development for the Saints and would further solidify a secondary that is enjoying the emergence of Delvin Breaux. With Lewis healthy, it would allow the Saints to use Brandon Browner against tight ends more often, as they did against Dallas.

New Orleans tried out a handful of players on Monday, including former Falcons and New England Patriots cornerback Robert McClain. He did not receive a contract offer from New Orleans.

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Saints have least amount of salary cap space available

After signing veteran tackle Zach Strief to a new five-year contract on Monday, the Saints had the least amount of cap space available among the 32 NFL teams as of Tuesday afternoon.

According to NFL Players Association figures, the Saints, who agreed to a four-year contract with former Tampa Bay Bucs fullback Erik Lorig on Tuesday morning, were just $849,212 under the $133 million cap.

The Saints were the only team in the league to have less than $1 million available to them. The Pittsburgh Steelers had the second-lowest amount available at $2,174,434.