Tag:New Orleans Saints
Posted on: August 20, 2011 3:01 pm
 

Pryor dazzles 17 teams w/speed. Less so w/ arm?

Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor proved both dazzling and perhaps a bit disappointing Saturday in hastily organized "Pro Day" workout at a Hempfield (Pa) high school in front of a collection of scouts, front office executives, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin and even Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay.

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was also on hand for the workout, showing his support for the player some blame for the program's recent troubles.

Measuring in at 6-5, 232 pounds Pryor wowed onlookers with his straight-line speed early in the workout, posting times between 4.38-4.41 seconds on a soft FieldTurf surface, according to Zac Jackson's Twitter feed. The soft turf generally slows a player down, at least in comparison to a hard turf or track surface. Therefore, these are lightning fast times for Pryor; ones certain to boost the intrigue of teams considering the playmaker.

As impressive as Pryor was running for the stopwatch, he did not run routes or catch passes as a receiver and was apparently less impressive when throwing the ball. While he threw a tight spiral on many of his throws, he also threw a "duck" after instructing one of his four receivers on hand which route to run and there were several incompletions, according to Jackson.

According to The NFL Network's Albert Breer, Pryor completed 27 of 39 passes. Of the 12 incompletions, Breer counted four drops.

Having not been at Pryor's workout, myself, I can't fairly grade his performance during the throwing session. I have been to multiple Pro Day workouts from quarterbacks, most notably Sam Bradford's, Mark Sanchez's and Jake Locker's. Passes rarely hit the ground during these orchestrated workouts with no defenders.

There were 17 teams present at the workout: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington.

While the fact that more than half of the league's teams were represented at the Pro Day shows that there is a great deal of interest in the former Buckeye, it also should be noted that there were only a few decision-makers on hand. Most of the scouts in attendance were lower-level area scouts, likely close by due to their normal scouting responsibilities at local colleges during the late summer months. The Steelers, not surprisingly given their close proximity, were well represented. Besides Tomlin, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert was also reportedly at the workout. Irsay tweeted that his Colts are "not taking Pryor" though he also mentioned that his team is "evaluating the QB [situation]."

The workout, while exciting, isn't likely to change the opinions of teams heading towards Monday's supplemental draft. I've argued for a long time that Pryor is quite an intriguing prospect at wide receiver. He, however, has indicated a strong preference for remaining at quarterback, though he did tell teams and the assembled media at the workout today that he'd play any position asked.

As a quarterback, Pryor's average accuracy and decision-making means that he's at minimum a two-year project for playing the traditional quarterback role. He could, however, make a significant and exciting contribution early in his career as a glorified Wildcat option for a club.

His athleticism and size are such a unique combination that Pryor most likely will earn a middle to late round pick. Most expect that it will come in the 4th to 5th round.
Posted on: May 19, 2011 11:32 am
 

5 Biggest Steals of the 2011 Draft

I am taking the first of several mini-vacations tomorrow and wanted to write a final blog post identifying some of the players I believe will prove to be the true steals of the 2011 draft before I begin breaking down the crop of 2012 prospects in earnest upon my return.

I'm sure you have your opinions on which players will prove to be steals. I'd love to read them.

Here are mine.

Five Biggest Steals:

1. RB Mark Ingram, Saints -- selected No. 28 overall: Ingram was the 5th rated prospect on my Big Board, so obviously I'm quite high on his talents. Clearly, the Saints had other needs, but the reliable, hard running by Ingram will give New Orleans the strong rushing attack that helped win them the 2010 Super Bowl.

2. OC Rodney Hudson, Chiefs -- selected No. 55 overall: A career left guard, Hudson will be moved inside to center for the Chiefs and prove a star. His agility, underrated strength and instincts will make him an immediate and long-time standout.

3. RB Daniel Thomas, Dolphins -- selected No. 62 overall: In leading the Big 12 in rushing each of his two seasons at that level and playing the position for the first time, Thomas has already proven his ability. His size, surprising agility and acceleration could be put to the test early and often for Miami, as they attempt to replace the production potentially lost with free agents Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams expected to play elsewhere next season.

4. WR Dwayne Harris, Cowboys -- selected No. 176 overall: I wasn't particularly high on the Cowboys' draft, overall, but I believe they found a steal in Harris, one of the better slot receiver prospects in this draft. Harris is everything Roy Williams is not. Dedicated, tough, and possessing reliable hands.

5. ILB Greg Jones, Giants -- selected No. 185 overall: I've panned several of the Giants' top picks over the past few years because I was stunned they didn't recognize their need for help at linebacker. They again showed their unwillingness to invest a high round pick in the position, but in Jones, they found a productive leader who should help stabilize the middle.

Posted on: May 10, 2011 2:11 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Defensive Ends (4-3 and 3-4)

Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Defensive end was one of the strengths of the 2011 draft class, but a disproportionate number of them were five technique defenders best suited to holding the point in a 3-4 scheme. There were few classic 4-3 RDEs to be had in 2011, with former North Carolina standout Robert Quinn being the most explosive of the bunch. In many cases, top collegiate defensive ends -- such as Texas A&M's Von Miller, Missouri's Aldon Smith and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan will be moved to outside linebacker. As such, much of the focus below is on DEs capable of playing immediately in the scheme in which they were drafted, though they may not be used as defensive ends with their NFL teams.

 Like my picks on the offensive side of the ball (the quarterbacks , running backswide receivers , tight end and offensive line fits), I highlight players taken in the middle and later rounds, as well as 1st and 2nd rounders.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints:
New Orleans' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is one of the creative minds in the business, making the versatile Jordan an ideal fit in the Saints' defensive line rotation. Jordan, who emerged as a star at defensive end in the 3-4 while at Cal, proved the ability to be just as disruptive as a 4-3 pass rusher while at the Senior Bowl. At 6-4, 287 pounds, Jordan also has the size and strength to slip inside at defensive tackle in nickel situations.

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins:
The Big Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive end, Kerrigan will be asked to drop to outside linebacker in the Redskins' odd-man front. Kerrigan was widely characterized as strictly a 4-3 defensive end, but some of the clubs I'm closest to who work for 3-4 teams absolutely loved the former Boilermaker's burst and passion as a stand-up OLB. The biggest knock on  Kerrigan coming out of Purdue was that he didn't use his hands well enough to keep NFL offensive tackles from latching on to him. The theory went that by moving him further away, he could use his speed to blow past tackles. Playing opposite an established rusher in Brian Orakpo, Kerrigan could prove an immediate impact player from this draft and ultimately quite a steal at No. 16, overall.

Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams:
Like the Saints, the Rams simply got lucky when a top defensive end that fit their system simply fell in their lap. Quinn was rated by many as a top 10 prospect, but with four quarterbacks surprisingly making the Top 12, Auburn's Nick Fairley and Quinn fell to the Detroit Lions and Rams, respectively. With the exception of the Broncos' Miller (who will be asked to move to OLB), Quinn was the most explosive pass rusher in this draft. Playing opposite a strong, stout defender like former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long, Quinn's speed should give the Rams' otherwise aging defensive line some real playmaking potential. Quinn is already being viewed by some as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns:
Knowing that the Browns desperately needed to get bigger and more productive up front in their transition back to a 4-3 defense, I had Cleveland pegged to take Quinn at No. 6, overall. That may or may not have been the direction they were going to with that pick, but when Atlanta offered them five selections (including their 1st and 4th round picks in 2012) to move down, the rebuilding Browns jumped at the opportunity. In Sheard (taken No. 37 overall), Cleveland got a high-effort pass rusher with an underrated combination of power and burst off the snap. He isn't as explosive as Quinn, but might be a safer pick and could surprise with his immediate production in this scheme.

Questionable Fit:

Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers:
While some pointed to quarterback or cornerback as the 49ers' biggest areas of concern, I've maintained that the team desperately needed to address their lack of a consistent pass rush. The 49ers clearly agreed, but I have real reservations about the player they chose to fix their concerns. It isn't that I dislike Smith. Actually, I'm quite high on the former Tiger's upside... I just liked him much more as a 4-3 defensive end rather than as a 3-4 rush linebacker. I didn't see the balance and change-of-direction from Smith that I believe translates into a high degree of success as a 3-4 OLB. Taking into consideration Smith's long, relatively lean frame (6-4, 263 pounds and exceptionally long arms, legs) and age (20), I see Smith getting naturally bigger as spends time in an NFL weight room. Quite frankly, I see Smith growing out of the position and struggling to put up the numbers expected of a player taken so high (No. 7) in the draft. 

Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 10:06 pm
 

Video exclusive -- Blake Griffin hypes TE Cameron

Considering the rise to superstardom that NBA fans have seen this season from Los Angeles' Clipper Blake Griffin , we can probably take it for granted that he knows athleticism when he sees it.

And apparently, the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk champion sees it in former USC tight end Jordan Cameron, endorsing him as the best player in the 2011 draft in a viral video that began on YouTube and has since become an internet sensation, earning replays by the NFL Network and SportsCenter.

In the video Griffin spoofs Spike Lee's character Mars Blackmon from the Air-Jordan videos of the 1990s.

NFLDraftScout.com was given the link to the second cut of the video, which, while perhaps not quite as comical, does a better job of highlighting Cameron's unique athleticism and provides a "tale of the tape" between Cameron's workout at the Combine and the other tight ends available in the 2011 draft.



As the video notes, Cameron is the only player tested at the Combine this year who finished among the top five in all seven events (40-yard dash, short shuttle, three-cone drill, long shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press). Cameron finished either first or second among all tight ends tested in five of the seven events.

A little later in the video and Cameron's senior production while at USC is compared to that of 2010 tight end prospect Jimmy Graham. Graham, of course, looked like a rising young star in limited duty this season for the New Orleans Saints after being drafted in the third round.

Like Graham, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, Cameron's production on the football field comes in large part due to his skills on the basketball court. Cameron originally signed with BYU out of high school to play basketball and only returned to the football field four years ago while with Ventura Community College. Emerging as a highly touted JUCO prospect, Cameron signed with USC as a wide receiver (playing basketball in 2008) and only made the switch to tight end as a senior.

Despite his minimal production (16 catches for 126 yards and one touchdown at USC), the obvious athleticism seen in the video was just as apparent at the Combine and during Cameron's strong week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game.

Considering this year's weak class of tight ends, it isn't surprising to learn that Cameron is moving up draft boards. While undeniably raw, his size, speed, leaping ability and soft hands make him an ideal developmental prospect for today's the hybrid receiving tight ends dominating the league.

Don't be surprised if Cameron ultimately is drafted at a similar point as Graham (No. 95 overall)... or perhaps even earlier.

Link to original video
Link to second video (same as one above)


Posted on: January 11, 2011 8:47 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 12:54 pm
 

'Fairley' dominant game won't push DT to No. 1

For those who have watched Auburn's Nick Fairley dominate the competition all year long, last night's performance against Oregon in the BCS Championship game was no surprise. Even the comparisons to the Detroit's Pro Bowl rookie Ndamukong Suh used by ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit had been used before.

The reality is, however, many had not seen Fairley play until last night's game -- including some NFL general managers.

The 6-5, 299 pound Fairley was his typically disruptive self, posting five tackles, including three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Oregon tried beating with with traps, double-teams and having QB Darron Thomas "read" him in an effort to slow down the big fella and nothing worked consistently.

The All-American finished his junior season with an eye-popping 60 tackles including nearly half of them behind the line of scrimmage (24 for a loss of 106 yards) and 11.5 sacks.

And yet for as dominant as Fairley was last night, he isn't likely to have moved himself into position to be taken with the first overall pick.

Why? There are two reasons.

For one, scouts are rightfully afraid that he is a bit of a one year wonder. Fairley did little to stand out in his first season at Auburn after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Mississippi. Starting two of 13 games, Fairley posted 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss.

There is no denying Fairley's talent - I've had scouts tell me he's the most gifted player in the country - but few teams have been willing to gamble a high first round pick on a "one year wonder" at defensive tackle since some high profile busts of similar players in the early part of the decade. The Browns (Gerard Warren), Jets (Dewayne Robertson) and Saints (Johnathan Sullivan)  each devoted top six picks to flashy SEC defensive tackles whose stock was based largely off of one dominant season and that tantalizing thought of "upside."

More importantly, Fairley is simply a poor fit for the 3-4 defense Carolina may incorporate if they do hire San Diego's defensive coordinator Ron Rivera as is being widely reported.

EDIT - Rivera played and coached extensively out of the 4-3 alignment during his time with the Bears (player and coach) and Eagles before becoming the Chargers defensive coordinator --

Fairley's best attribute -- his explosive burst upfield - makes him a prototypical fit as a three-technique defensive tackle in the 4-3 alignment -- just as he was being used last night (and all year long) by Auburn. His long arms make it possible that he could make the transition to the 3-4, but it would be a waste of his talents to put him at defensive end in the odd man front, especially considering that the "money" man in this alignment is at nose guard. Fairley, for as dominant as he is, is special due to his quickness, not extraordinary strength -- a requirement to play the zero technique in the 3-4.

Of course, with Carolina expected to strongly pursue any trade offers out of the No. 1 pick, a teaming built around the 4-3 and willing to gamble on Fairley's upside could still make him the No. 1 pick.

As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com.

Posted on: January 9, 2011 12:07 pm
 

SEA win should (but won't) quiet playoff re-seeds

As the only sub-.500 division winner in NFL history, the Seattle Seahawks entered the playoffs largely as a joke, at least to many.

The idea that they'd be rewarded for their 7-9 regular season record with a home playoff game rankled some. Critics pointed to Seattle as a primary example of why the NFL should consider re-seeding the playoffs based in wins, rather than division titles.

One might argue, as I, Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter (and many others) did on Twitter yesterday that the Seahawks' victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints would end the discussion. By convincingly winning a game in which many of the national experts predicted Seattle would be slaughtered, it would serve to reason that the NFL's policy of rewarding division winners with a home playoff game, is indeed, working.

Critics maintain, however, that Seattle's win over New Orleans, could, in fact, have the opposite effect. They argue that New Orleans, due to their significantly better record (11-5) while playing in the more competitive NFC South division deserved the right to host the game. That Seattle, essentially, got an unfair advantage and if Saturday's divisional playoff game would have ended quite differently had the game been played in New Orleans.

There are elements to their argument that I understand. The Saints' regular season was unquestionably more deserving of recognition than the Seahawks'. Critics who feel that the NFL should consider re-seeding can point to Seattle, the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs (who host the 12-4 Baltimore Ravens today) and countless other teams in history as "proof" that the NFL's playoff system needs fixing.

However, if the Seahawks' win Saturday doesn't convince critics that the NFL is right to continue their playoff system, I don't know what would. I don't believe anything would.

Isn't it obvious that if Seattle had been throttled by the Saints Saturday (as so many expected) that playoff critics would have pointed to the lopsided score as evidence the Seahawks didn't deserve to be in the playoffs, much less host a game? Hell, even if Seattle had lost despite giving a "surprisingly" competitive effort, that those same critics would give a collective, "See, we told you so."

And now, because Seattle did win the game, they still don't deserve it?

Pick a side. You can't have it both ways. 

There remains a lot that needs fixing in the NFL -- the rookie wage scale, the miniscule pension provided to retired players, and the ridiculously long review policy among them.

The NFL playoff seeding is one of the league's longest standing traditions. The system makes divisional games mean more than others, creating and maintaining natural rivalries that are good for the competitiveness of the game.  To change the seeding based on the NFC West winner's 7-9 record is a bad idea.

To change it now, after Seattle (like many other division winners in the past) took advantage of the spoils of their title and beat a wildcard team, would be a slap in the face to the traditions and competitiveness that makes the NFL the world's greatest sporting league.

Posted on: January 5, 2011 1:14 pm
 

Focus was on Mallett, but Heyward stole the show

NFL scouts watching last night's Sugar Bowl may have tuned in primarily to watch Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett play in what is widely expected to be his final collegiate game, but a funny thing happened along the way -- Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward stole the show.

Heyward was dominant, lining at RDE, LDE and defensive tackle and beating virtually every blocker the Razorbacks put in front of him, including All-SEC offensive tackle DeMarcus Love, a potential first round pick.

Heyward, the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, played inspired football last night on the same field in which his father had once starred at fullback for the New Orleans Saints. Ironhead succumbed to a long battle with brain cancer and passed away in May of 2006 at the age of 39.

After a breakout junior season in which young Heyward registered 46 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks while earning Second Team All Big-Ten honors, expectations were high. Heyward's production in 2010 was similar in tackles (42) and tackles for loss (10) but with only 2.5 sacks on the season, many characterized his regular season as a disappointment. Big Ten coaches certainly did not, as they voted Heyward to the First-Team all-conference team.

Against the Razorbacks, however, Heyward was a terror, registering six tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. On numerous other occasions, his rare combination of burst upfield, stellar strength and recognition forced Arkansas ball-carriers to alter their running, presenting Buckeye teammates with easy tackles near the line of scrimmage.

Heyward lacks the burst off the edge that teams operating out of the 4-3 defense are looking for in a first round defensive end. However, with enough burst to occassionally surprise pass blockers, an effective swim move and most importantly excellent size and strength, Heyward rates as one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the draft.

Considering that roughly half of the NFL listed the 3-4 scheme as their base defense this season, there should be plenty of suitors for Heyward early in the draft - including the Baltimore Ravens - who I currently project as taking Heyward in the first round.

Posted on: December 9, 2010 5:42 pm
 

Ivory, Lee stand out in impressive week for rooks

The 2010 NFL season has been a strong one overall for rookies. This isn't a surprise considering the amount of hype that the group enjoyed prior to the draft.

Two players who didn't gain a great deal of attention, however, were among the rookies who most stood out this past weekend.

Undrafted free agent Chris Ivory enjoyed another strong performance for the Saints, overtaking No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh to be recognized for the third time this year. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints' 34-30 win at Cincinnati. The highlight of Ivory's afternoon was a career-long 55 yard run in the second quarter that was the first touchdown scored by either team.

Other offensive players whose play stood out this week included Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, and fellow Buc LaGarrette Blount (running back).

While the Cowboys' Sean Lee , as a second round pick, certainly entered the league with a much higher profile than Ivory, the success of the Cowboys' flashy first rounder Dez Bryant and Lee's long recovery from a 2008 ACL surgery made him one of the "quieter" high profile selections in Dallas history. The former Penn State star has flashed during his rookie season but remains a backup behind veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James for the Cowboys.

Lee's play against the Colts spoke volumes, however. Lee victimized Peyton Manning for two of the All-Pro's four interceptions in this game, returning the first 31 yards to score his first NFL touchdown. Lee's second came in overtime, putting the Cowboys in position to kick the winning field goal. He also tied his previous career-high with five tackles on the day.

Among the other defenders whose play stood out this weekend was the Giants' pass rusher (and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Week) Jason Pierre-Paul, Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap, New England inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and a trio of cornerbacks - Cleveland's Joe Haden, Kansas City's Javier Arenas, and the Patriots' Devin McCourty.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com