Friday, October 21, 2011

E-mail Roundtable: Losses make us forlorn!

Ralph Malbrough:
Listen, to me it says alot about the Saints that they had 4 turnovers, lost their coach, let Earnest Graham run for 100 yards, and yet still were in position to win. They were a train wreck and still almost won.
They'll be ok but they do have a couple issues.
1. Kevin and I chatted on the phone about Olin Kreutz and I asked, "What if the Saints looked at him and said. Yeah he is struggling in Chicago but their line sucks. But him between Evans and Nicks and he'll be fine." Not bad theory but in practice it's a fail. Teams will figure it out if they haven't already.
2. Defense is a blitzing team that can't get sacks. Bad. Gregg Williams ain't changing so I'm not sure what changes they can make except hope it gets better and hope is not a plan.
And by the way, I thought the first down play calling in the second half was awful. The Saints ran up to gut against a defensive line that was whipping them.
Just because Drew Brees didn't get sacked doesn't mean the line didn't play like crap.
3. Saints can't afford to have a bumpy month because the 49ers are winning 12 games with their defense and schedule.

Absolutely BRUTALLY demoralizing loss. I haven't done shit today except mope, and that's how I plan to spend the rest of my day. I hear you about "Yeah, but they still almost won" but there are no moral victories, and even if there were, I don't see anything about yesterday that would qualify. The Saints got their asses handed to them in all facets of the game by a team that's mediocre at best. Division game, 3rd straight road game, pissed off opponent looking to bounce back from a trouncing, I don't care about any of that stuff.
I think I'm finally ready to come over to the dark side (and/or jump off a bridge) about the defense. I've been trying to defend them and stay optimistic that they'll get better, but I'm just about done. They're not gonna get any better, not without yet another infusion of personnel. And I don't trust them to hold anybody, ever. You guys were right all along. We got sold a bill of goods on the so-called "new and improved" defense. They're slow, old, undisciplined, weak, and soft. Tracy Porter flat out blows at this point. The linebackers are atrocious. Roman Harper isn't even very good at Roman-Harper-stuff lately. There are no pass rushers on this team. None.
Kreutz is terrible. Absolutely wretched. Complete whiff of an acquisition and he ought to be not just benched but released. Give me Brian de la Puente over this guy, if you refuse to play Tennant.
Lots of people blaming the offense this morning and trying to absolve the defense. Sure, turn the ball over 4 times and only score 20 while not running the ball for shit and you don't stand a chance. I get that. And it certainly wasn't a good day for the offense either. Plenty of blame for everyone yesterday. But that speaks to the larger issue, no? We're right back to 2008 where if Drew isn't 100% supernatural and the offense doesn't put up 30+, we've got no chance because the defense is all-but-fucking-helpless out there.
The good news is that I do think the offense will continue to put up 30+ more often than not, and I still fully expect the Saints to win 10+ games and the division. But the defense is circling the drain. Most of the time it looks like they're just hanging on for dear life out there.

Ralph Malbrough:
Wang, I'm not into moral victories either. I guess the only point I'm making is Saints dropped a big fat F- on the road against the second best team in the division and still almost won which means the division is shit.
I want different guys to bitch at on defense at least. Play Wilson more, play Gallete more. I also think it may also be a case of the NFL figuring out Gregg Williams. As Mike Lombardi says, "The Saints need Gregg Williams to have a great game plan to succeed because their personal is average at best."
Your point on Porter is dead on. Jesus, he looks like Ashley Ambrose on his second tour with the Saints. Old and slow. Just because he is young doesn't mean his body isn't shot.

Kevin Held:
Does Payton just hand over the draft reigns to Gregg Williams this off-season? Basically say, "we're going for defensive improvement." And will Loomis sign a LB this off-season? I'm saying off-season because it's patently obvious that these guys are interested in riding and dying with the defense they have.
We beat ourselves in this game, especially on offense. We ran up the middle for nothing so many damn times I thought I was watching Coach Conlin's later Brother Martin teams. BA-ZING!
Long story short: Saints need to skull drag the Colts and Rams. If they can't beat those two teams, we might as well relegate the season to a dogfight for a wildcard birth and a trip to San Fran or some shit.

Ralph Malbrough:
Gregg Williams is AWFUL at personal decisions. If the saints want to rebuild the defense in the drat fine but Williams can't have big say on players.

And listen, they tried to fix the d-line with Franklin/Rogers. And it might be a case of Vilma and Will Smith getting old at the same time. It happens.
Wang, I do think they'll be better than 2008 on defense just because all the blitzing will create some weeks where they get turnovers. And I'm not convinced teams can just cram the ball down their throat.
Besides Patrick Robinson is anyone on defense having a good year?

Yeah I don't think Gregg Williams ought to be the guy making those decisions, but I'm not sure it ought to be the regular Saints braintrust either. Sedrick Elllis? Just a guy. Tracy Porter? We'll always have 2009, but he's just a guy too. Malcolm Jenkins? Last year everybody thought he was on the verge of becoming a perennial pro bowler, and by no means have I given up on him, but this year he's looking like just a guy. Cam Jordan? Too early to tell, but I don't have much hope that he's gonna be anything more than just a guy. Patrick Robinson has been looking pretty good so far this year, but time will tell if he's anything more than just a guy. I've defended Roman Harper for 5 years, because he doesn't suck nearly as much as people say, but if you combine his + production as an inside the box guy and his - production in pass coverage, you've got... just a guy. Usama Young? Just a guy. Martez Wilson, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Jon Casillas, Junior Galette, all just guys. Al Woods? Ha!
This administration hasn't drafted for shit on D. I mean we're talking about 3 first round picks, 2 second rounders, 2 third rounders over 6 drafts, and the BEST they've done is "just a guy." (Pending Jenkins/Robinson, I concede that it's too soon to tell there.) Just a guy ain't nearly good enough, that doesn't get the job done. Not with first day draft picks. So I'm not sure who they ought to hand the draft over to and say "Draft us a defense" (oh by the way, without a first rounder) but I don't think he's "in the building."
Hell, for that matter, it hasn't been much better with acquiring vets either. Vilma gave us a couple good years (and I'd make that trade all over again) but he's always been a little overrated, and evidence is starting to mount that he might be done. Alex Brown? Shanle? Fujita? Simoneau? Dan Morgan? (Ha!) Bobby McCray? Franklin and Rogers? All just guys at best. I'd call Vilma a "hit" and I'd definitely call Greer a "hit." (Of course, they kinda lucked into Greer because Ron Bartell wouldn't sign with us.) Sharper was lightning in a bottle for 1 year. (And for that matter, they lucked into Sharper too because Gerald Sensabaugh wouldn't sign here.) Fujita and Shanle maybe qualify as "hits" just for the longevity of their contributions, even though they're average players at best. But there's been just as many if not more misses. And even the hits are just "meh" for the most part.
Honestly I think the whole franchise is pretty much rudderless as far as defense goes. I mean, look no further than the last two drafts. It comes out this week that they had their eye on Adrian Clayborn, but then when Tampa took him they went with Cam Jordan. Could the two players be any more different? And in 2010, they were drooling over Jerry Hughes, but then when the Colts take him, they completely switch gears and go with a corner. I know they'll scream "BEST AVAILABLE PLAYER REGARDLESS OF POSITION!!!" and that's fine and all. But at the same time, it could be taken as an indication that they're directionless. They don't have a firm goal, they're not sure who they want to be or how they want to construct the defense. They just plug in guys and hope for the best.
It's not that they don't try, because clearly they've been trying. Over and over again. But they haven't hit a single home run (except the inside-the-park home run on 2009 Sharper.) It's like the best they can hope for is to occasionally stretch a single into a sliding double.

Ralph Malbrough:

Yeah the defense acquisitions have been mostly bad. By the way Jerry Hughes is a big pile of fail right? At this point who's the best player on this defense through 6 weeks?
I have no idea really as no one has stood out except Robinson.
I do think they will be able to create a pass rush at home. They did against the Bears and late against Houston. Their pass rush is alot like the Bears offensive line. Cutler gets protection at home(Like last night) but get that shit offensive line on the road in a full stadium and it falls to pieces.
Saints defense might be the same. A loud Dome crowd, o-line has to go silent count, etc. At least at this point it's the only hope I got Wang.

Junior Galette!!! Heh. Yeah, I guess it's gotta be Robinson so far. Hell, he's got 2/3 of the whole team's takeaways. So... uh... yeah I guess it's him. Him or Shanle.
The whole Payton thing has the potential to be a big, BIG deal too. 8 weeks before he's even able to get up on crutches? Ouch. That's mid December, and even then they might not want to risk Payton being on the sideline if he can't move and get out of the way when another play comes his way. He gets rolled up on again and it could cripple him for life. So where does the buck stop on the sideline now? Who's in charge down there with Payton in the booth? Gregg Williams? Drew Brees? Maybe I'm overreacting, but I think potentially it could be almost as big as losing an actual player. An important one. And that's just on gamedays. He's not gonna be able to crack the whip at practices either. The lack of mobility could be a huge limitation as far as being able to monitor players' performances effectively during the week, and of course that's what a lot of his gameday decisions are based on. Etc. etc. etc. It could be a huge hinderance to his effectiveness as a head coach, in lots of different ways. And don't even get me started on the V word.

Yesterday did one hell of a number on me. My head is exploding over here. I'm all "OH SHIT!!!" about EVERYTHING right about now.

Ralph Malbrough:
Payton issue is HUGE DEAL. I think the biggest thing I worry about Wang is when the Saints are struggling and he is in the booth and not on the sideline and can't go over to the o-line and communicate to them about a blitz pickup, chew ass, etc. It's a huge deal but I think having Brees makes a huge difference. I think Brees can sort of do the whole Peyton Manning QB/coach thing at least on game days as far as sideline stuff for the offense.
The more I think about it though the more it worries me. The over/under on how many games Payton is on the sideline the rest of the year is 1. I'm taking the under.

Kevin Held:
You know how you're always talking about "the little signs from the football gods" or how certain teams "get the lucky bounces or the right calls at the time"? I think/fear we'll be looking back at Jimmy Graham getting shoved out of bounds into Payton's knee as a turning point.
/unsubstantiated rabble'd
Dave Cariello:
Saints are fucked....

Andrew Juge:
You guys all sound like a whining wife. The Saints just went 2-1 on a 3 game road trip and lost to the Packers. Big deal. 4-2 is an acceptable record at this point. The Packers proved last year it's all about getting hot late. The Saints can win on the road if Brees gets hot. Does the defense blow? Absolutely. Are they going to stay at a .5 takeaways per game ratio? Doubtful. Brees is still healthy and I'll be SHOCKED if they aren't 6-2 in two weeks. Then it's Tampa at home again. They'll be ready for that one. Are you guys still going to be crying at 7-2? It's all about making the playoffs. Sure I'd prefer home games, but none of us should be that picky. Playoffs beat no playoffs. After that, it's all about 1 game at a time.
If the Saints were 2-4 or even 3-3, with @ New England and vs. Atlanta coming up... Then yes, id be panicked like you all. But they're 4-2 with Indy and the Rams. 6-2 doesn't get anymore cupcake. If they lose either, then I'll panic. At 6-2 they'll be in terrific position.
You're telling me down the road you don't think the Saints can win in Detroit, San Fran or New York if they have to? Please. The only team I'm not convinced they can beat is GB and they almost did this year.
Ralph Malbrough:
I really like your grades this week, especially on Charles Brown. I can see why the Saints picked him and also why he dropped to larte 2nd Round. He'll look so good for two plays be mediocre on 3 and awful on 1. I can definitly see how a Saints coach would watch his college film and say, "I'll get him to play consistent."
I'm wondering about Payton's injury and my biggest concern is if he struggles physically in the booth to call plays effectively would he give up play calling duties for awhile? He's said in the past he loves calling plays and would never delegate them. I just wonder if he would be capable of saying, "You know my leg is so fucked at least for the next two or three weeks I'm going to game plan during the week but on game day I'm go to just be like Joe Paterno and oversee everything from the booth."
We really don't have any template for how a team handles this.
Andrew I think you right to say the Saints are in ok shape. The St. Louis game scares the shit out of me though. Their offense is moving the ball and I think they'll still win 3 or 4 games.

Vicodin, bitches!

Ralph Malbrough:

Whatever it takes Wang. Do you think at any point the rest of the year someone else will be calling plays for the Saints?

Kevin Held:
As the chief officer of the "St. Louis Bureau" I can assure you that the Rams' offense can't move shit. Literally. They're all about bowel obstructions up here. These cats are fucking useless. Now if Brandon Lloyd shows up in Week 7 and has a good day and helps open things up for the Rams, THEN AND ONLY THEN, I might be worried. I'm more worried about the hapless Colts then the Rams.

Ralph Malbrough:
Wang, has the President of #wegotthis resigned? Great read and I think you have like a 80% chance of being right.
The only argument I can give is I think the 2008 secondary was a crime against humanity
Jason David
Randell Gay
Mike McKenzie
Kevin Kaesviharn
Roman Harper
Josh Bullocks
I'm saying Greer/Robinson/Porter at CB is way better and so is Harper/Jenkins at safety. 2008 defense couldn't do shit and Gary Gibbs bend/don't break was the equivalent of asking to get kicked the balls repeatedly while hoping the person would eventually miss and you could limp away. At least Gregg Williams blitzs will eventually at least I think lead to run of turnovers. 2011 defense can maybe start to create some big plays(not like '09) but something. If I don't see any the next two weeks then I'll admit you are 100% right.
I guess the difference is this year at least I can scream for Jenkins, Greer, Robinson or Harper to make a play. In 2008 we didn't even have that hope. Oh and Brees wants to get paid. I don't think we can underestimate that.


Nah, he'll be back I'm sure. He's just confused and irritable right at the moment.
As far as this defense vs. 2008? I'd love to agree with you Ralph, and I definitely agree that there's no reason this team SHOULDN'T be a shitload better than 2008. Problem is, it ain't exactly working out so far....
2008: 23rd in total defense, 26th in scoring defense, 393 points allowed, 30 takeaways (15 INT, 15 FR)
2011: 17th in total defense, 26th in scoring defense, 403 points allowed*, 11 takeaways* (8 INT, 3 FR)
*on pace for that over 16 games
On pace for one third as many takeaways and 10 more points allowed. Over 2008! Yikes!

Ralph Malbrough:
Wang, I think the next two weeks will tell us a lot as far as the defense. If they can't get right against the Colts and Rams and improve those awful projections then It's 2008 part II.
If they can't hold the Colts/Rams under 20 points and create at least two turnovers per game then daddy will need to buy more crown for the rest of 2011.
Andrew Juge:
It blows my mind that this team only has 3 interceptions. Considering the accuracy problems of Josh Freeman, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler, how the heck do they only have 3 picks?!?! Aaron Rodgers was the only guy that was dead on accurate all game long. Schaub was like that for a half. The rest were all over the freaking place. Some of the incompletes we've seen in those games miss their targets by miles. Some of that has been poor luck, some of that has been bad hands by: Jonathan Casillas (at LEAST 2-3 times), Shanle (at least twice), Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson. All those guys have dropped picks this year. Casillas has been hit in between the numbers twice, including once where he juggled it before flipping it to a Texan for a touchdown. I just don't understand that total. It would be one thing if the DB's were getting shredded by superior QB play, but that's not the case. If anything, I think this defense has been fortunate the accuracy of the quarterbacks they've played hasn't been better. I feel like the LSU DB's would have had 8-10 picks by now with the same balls.
I'm going to go ahead and offer that the Saints lack playmaking potential and HANDS on this defense. No one can catch. Sharper's 9 picks, most of which came in the first half of the season, made a HUGE impact in 2009. Jenkins through 6 games now has ZERO. That's the answer to improving this defense I think. Jenkins needs to be less of a headhunter and more of a ballhawk. That's what will turn this thing around. I'm convinced of it. I'm not sure if he's capable of that, and if he isn't, maybe he needs to get moved to SS and we need to find a better ballhawk at FS.

Kevin Held:
HONEY BADGER knows how to ball hawk!
/goes back to work

I'd like to publicly thank Wang for sending me the stat comparing the 2008 and 2011 saints defenses which gave me my Friday column idea. By the way I know it's not Saints related but I'll be so pissed if LSU loses to Auburn because the Honey Badger had to get high. I was so looking forward to reading Peter Finney write two weeks of columns waxing nostalgic about the Bear and Charlie Mac leading up to Sabangedon. Seriously, Pete Finney's book on the history of LSU football is one of my favorites.

Well, I'd like to thank the email roundtable for prompting me to look it up. I probably wouldn't have thought to do it otherwise. I was replying to your email when it occurred to me to do that. Can't wait to read the Forecast. And is there a podcast tonight?
LSU's not gonna lose to Auburn. I mean, I can't think of 3 bigger players to lose all at once than Badger, Tharold Simon and Spencer Ware. Damn, that's an awful lot of talent to lose. I'd almost rather have lost Jefferson AND Lee. But LSU will still win, just by half as much as they would have otherwise. And you know Les would rather cut off his own balls than let the suspensions affect the Alabama game. So I suspect this will all blow over by next weekend

Ralph Malbrough:
Just wanted to give you props, and I think LSU wins I just think it's close. The great/awful thing about college football is every game is basically an elimination game. I think LSU/Alabama have looked unbelievably awesome because the SEC is absolute garbage after LSU/Bama/Arkansas.

Kevin Held:
"I think the Saints play mad and run the ball down the Colts throat. You read right, I think the Saints run the ball a lot against the 30th ranked run defense." -Ralph
AH-HA! My mad ranting got to you!!!

Ralph Malbrough:
It did. Of course you know we're both wrong and Payton will be calling 50 passes while in his wheelchair.

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