Mike D's10 Weekly Observations......
Sponsored by Thibodaux Regional Medical Center
1. Every "Who Dat Nation" member wants to see, even though it is just preseason, the best player to ever wear the black and gold in quarterback Drew Brees connect to 2014 1st round pick Brandin Cooks.
Brees is still one of the elite players in the game today and you are looking at a future superstar and the next "Steve Smith" in wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
2. Free Safety Jairus Byrd is something special....
Despite missing a host of time on the field in the OTA's and training camp due to recovery from off-season back surgery Byrd stood out so much once he hit the practice field for the first time this week.
He made a play on a pass over the middle that Saints QB. Ryan Griffin looked one way and threw to the other side of the field and Byrd took an angle to the ball that you rarely see, and broke up the would-be completion.
Byrd is a special player and you can clearly see why the Saints paid what they did to get him and why he has intercepted 22 interceptions over the past 5 seasons.
Kenny Vaccaro/Jairus Byrd.. best safety tandem east of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor/Seattle.
3. The Saints OL. is much improved......
Last season the Saints Offensive Line gave up more QB. sacks and Drew Brees got hit more than any other time in his career in New Orleans.
The Saints O-Line playing without Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans in the starting lineup early on in the preseason has given up just one QB. sack in 82 passing plays. Kudos to Terron Armstead, Zach Strief, Tim Lelito, Jonathan Goodwin, Bryce Harper, Marcel Jones, Thomas Welch, Jason Weaver and Senio Kelemete..
They have done well to protect Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown.
4. The Most Important Player on D.
Right now due to health, depth and age issues on defense the most important player defensively for the New Orleans Saints is cornerback Keenan Lewis. It would be a Mount Everest dropoff in cornerback play if Lewis were to miss playing time for an extended period.
With injuries to Patrick Robinson, injury/Father Time issue with Champ Bailey, Stanley Jean Baptiste in the learning stages.... cornerback is a real concern from a starting and depth issue standpoint.
Corey White is really an inside nickel cornerback in the NFL, but he may be forced into the starting lineup.
No debate with depth and talent issues .... Keenan Lewis-a player on the verge of Pro Bowl status- and is the most important player today on the Saints roster on defense.
5. The 4...
There are 4 players, inside linebackers Ramon Humber and Kevin Reddick, tight end Josh Hill and the biggest surprise of the OTA's, training camp and 2 preseason games in weakside linebacker Kyle Knox, that are in the lineup for all special team units. Bet the House they all make the 53-man squad.
6. Want to see the Heat
I really want to take a good look at the pressure the Saints front seven put on Indy QB. Andrew Luck. The 3rd preseason game is the dress rehearsal to an extent and while the Colts do have some signature players like T. Y. Hilton, a healthy Reggie Wayne, TE's Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, OLB. Robert Mathis, CB. Vernon Davis and S. LaRon Landry, their overall talent is slightly above average.
Andrew Luck is a superstar in the making.
If given a NFL expansion team today. Luck is my choice to start a team from scratch.
Interesting to see how the Saints get pressure on Luck.
7. When the 53-man roster is set I really believe the Saints keep 5 safeties.
Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush, Marcus Ball and Vinnie Sunseri, all make the final 53-man roster.
8. The Adams Era at LSU...
I am not comparing talent, but in talking to upper-classmen on the LSU team the one player they universally say is a cut above is freshman safety Jamal Adams. He is talked about in the same football vein as Tyrann Mathieu was when he was a freshman.
I have written in the past that in many ways the former Texas high school standout reminds me so much of a young Kenny Vaccaro. He has great instincts to the ball in flight, he is very physical and he packs quite a shot to opponents in the openfield.
Watch for Jamal Adams at LSU. He is the next All-American player and what a secondary lineup with the two best sophomore cornerbacks in America in Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White.
9. Gotta Find Room
Les Miles has always talked about playing the best five offensive linemen and he is loaded across the board upfront. The next big time player in my opinion is redshirt sophomore right tackle Jerald Hawkins, but watch for Ethan Pocic.
Pocic, the sophomore from Lemont High School in Illinois, is the younger brother of former Illinois 3-year starting center Graham Pocic.
Ethan has seen work at center, guard and tackle for the Tigers and now many believe he will beat out senior center Elliott Porter.
The 6-6 1/2, 295 pounder has quick feet, excellent technical skills and he is a very good pass protector. He has worked hard to physically get stronger and now he is pressing Porter for the starting center spot.
10. Kalen to the rescue.
Next weekend I travel to the Air Force Academy for the very first time to watch Nicholls State play Air Force.
And I get to watch the most physically gifted football player to wear a Colonels uniform since cornerback Lardarius Webb in quarterback Kalen Henderson.
The former East St. John High School standout, who started his college career at Tulsa, is a playmaker of the highest order.
Henderson is a terrific openfield runner, he has a quick over-the-top delivery and the ball comes out of his hand in a flash. Kalen has a chance to be a big time game changer.....Let's hope he can stay healthy and give the Colonels a signature year offensively.
10B.. Love the idea of a 10-man developmental squad.
One of the smartest things done by the NFL in quite some time.
The NFL needs a spot to develop their young players and the developmental squad is cheaper than sending players to Europe. I still think they should have a developmental league in the spring, but in the states... not in Europe.
In January of 2016 Thibodaux Regional Medical Center will open their new Wellness/Orthopedic Center... A 1st of its kind in Louisiana .. It's a game-changer in Louisiana and the Deep South.
Proud to be part of Team Thibodaux Regional Medical Center
1. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
2. Randy Gregory, Defensive End, Nebraska
3. Leonard Williams, Defensive Tackle, USC
4. Brandon Scherff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
5. Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
6. Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
7. Andrus Peat, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
8. Michael Bennett, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
9. Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA
10. Landon Collins, Strong Safety, Alabama
11. Shilique Calhoun, Defensive End, Michigan State
12. Bryce Petty, Quarterback, Baylor
13. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
14. Mario Edwards, Jr., Defensive End, Florida State
15. Vic Beasley, Outside Linebacker, Clemson
16. Todd Gurley, Halfback, Georgia
17. P.J. Williams, Cornerback, Florida State
18. Cameron Erving, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
19. Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver, USC
20. Benardrick McKinney, Outside/Inside Linebacker, Mississippi State
21. Dante Fowler, Jr., Defensive End, Florida
22. Josh Shaw, Cornerback, USC
23. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
24. La'el Collins, Offensive Tackle, LSU
25. Denzel Perryman, Inside/Outside Linebacker, Miami (Fla.)
26. Devin Funchess, Tight End, Michigan
27. Spencer Drango, Offensive Tackle, Baylor
Mike D's Top 10 Weekly Observations sponsored by Thibodaux Regional Medical Center/Sports Medicine Clinic @thibodauxregion
1. Brandin Cooks: I wrote in my 2014 M&D Draft Report that after watching Cooks at Oregon State for three years he reminded me so much of former Carolina Panthers and current Baltimore Ravens WR. Steve Smith.
He is everything that has been advertised!!!
In doing an interview with Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux in July, Mannion pointed out to me that most people don’t fully appreciate how fast Cooks is out on the field.
“It’s sometimes so hard to see what he does after the catch out on the field, but when you watch the game film you come away stunned with his speed and his ability to get away from defenders. It’s stunning sometimes and he never drops the ball either.”
Friday night Cooks caught five passes for 55 yards and one score, and he displayed those sure hands, great speed and 1st rate run after catch skills.
And he played every WR position and also saw work in the slot displaying his football intelligence and his ability to pick up new assignments and different route running details.
Football Savvy… Cooks has it and while Darren Sproles had exceptional quickness and make-you-miss moves the Saints have not had a homerun hitter in the same football vein like Cooks since Reggie Bush.
He is “Football Special” and he ain’t no Larry Burton, who was a track athlete playing football.
Cooks is a fast football player who ran track.
We just saw a glimpse of what he will bring to the football table in the first preseason game.
Every year the New Orleans Saints seem to hit on a longshot free agent and he makes an impact for the team. This season that longshot player may well be former Fresno State outside linebacker Kyle Knox.
The 6-1, 230 pound weakside linebacker started 22 games during his last two seasons for Fresno State and he recorded 55 tackles and 6 tackles for losses as a senior.
Knox was an undrafted NFL free agent who was with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012 and some of the 2013 campaign before he was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars in late August of 2013.
The Jaguars waived him in early October of 2013, but Knox really seems to have picked up Rob Ryan's defense very well and he has been a standout for the Saints on special teams.
Friday night Knox played on every special teams unit and I like his aggressive play, he has excellent foot speed and he is a very instinctive football player.
The difference between Knox at Fresno State and the Knox today is that he is physically much stronger and you can see he has learned how to use his hands and arms better to shed off blockers in heavy traffic.
He has always gotten high marks for his ability to drop back into his coverage areas.
Keep an eye on Mr. Knox, especially as a special teamer. That may be his way to as head coach Sean Payton puts it "Get on the bus, any bus, to make this team."
Finally the long months of non-football has ended.
It is just preseason, but the hope of another Super Bowl run has begun for the "Who Dat Nation" and while it is just the first preseason game it is very obvious that the New Orleans Saints are major contenders to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 49.
There are four elite teams in the NFC in Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans and which one of those four teams can stay the healthiest and get home-field advantage will pave the way to Super Sunday in February of 2015.
Friday night was the first dress rehearsal and a couple of things stuck out to me.
First of all, if there was any question that rookie first round pick wide receiver Brandin Cooks was not the real McCoy he put that to rest real quick.
Cooks caught 5 passes for 55 yards and one score and displayed the electrifying speed and elusiveness I saw for three seasons at Oregon State.
He doesn't have much of a learning curve to maneuver around at the NFL level.
Cooks is fast, no doubt about that, but he is also a good route runner, elusive after the reception and he has sure hands.
But what really sticks out about him is his football intelligence. You can't teach someone to be a natural at what they do and to have the ability to pick up certain things quickly.