Saints mailbag: Dixon over Champ?

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
1:00
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The New Orleans Saints’ next media availability will be Wednesday. That’s also when we’ll get our first injury report leading up to their Week 1 showdown with the Atlanta Falcons. In the meantime, here’s the latest edition of the Saints mailbag. Thanks for submitting your questions to me on Twitter. Send them anytime to @MikeTriplett.

@MikeTriplett: I think Champ Bailey still looked good enough to play. And I wouldn't be surprised to see him land on another team that needs cornerback help. But ultimately, Bailey and Patrick Robinson were probably fighting for just one roster spot all along. The Saints' fifth defensive back is safety Rafael Bush, and their sixth is cornerback Corey White -- two guys whom they trust on defense and, more importantly, are big-time special-teams assets. So where was Bailey going to fit in when everyone was healthy? Inactive on game days? Break the glass in case of emergency? For that reason, it didn't really come down to Bailey versus rookie cornerbacks Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Brian Dixon. Those guys probably won't play much on defense this year if everyone else stays healthy. But they can play special teams if needed. Or maybe they'll be inactive on game days since they're still young developing players. The Saints often reserve those inactive spots for "redshirt" guys. The big question is whether the Saints made the right choice with Robinson ahead of Bailey. And I honestly don't know. Both came with question marks and a recent track record of injuries and inconsistency. I think Bailey felt a little more stable and would probably be better in press coverage. But Robinson had a slightly better performance throughout camp. And he's younger and much faster, so he's able to run down the field better with speed receivers. So I understand the move. But I also understand the concern among Saints fans, who were hoping Bailey would come in and look like his old self and lock down the No. 2 cornerback job, which remains a question mark. @MikeTriplett: It's a combination of many factors. I'll rank the O-line and the improved play of the overall run game No. 1. We started to see it toward the end of last year, especially in the playoffs. And they're coming into this year really confident. No. 2 is the way Ingram is being used in a more versatile role. I've said for years that he got a raw deal when he was stuck in the base/goal-line package with a fullback and two tight ends. The Saints weren't very good at running out of that formation against defenses loaded to stop the run. Now we're seeing Ingram as the lone back more, sometimes in the shotgun, sometimes catching passes -- and seeing more open space. No. 3 is Ingram himself. He has been healthy all year. And he's certainly still developing as a fourth-year pro who has had a lot of stops and starts in his career. However, while I'm optimistic that all of these factors are real, it's important to point out that I was saying a lot of the same things about Ingram last summer. I also thought he looked great in his first summer in 2011. And it just never really materialized those years. So consider me cautiously optimistic about his chances this year. @MikeTriplett: Three names come to mind -- one guy with the toughest matchup of the day, and two who are licking their chops over their Week 1 matchup. The first is cornerback Keenan Lewis, who needs to keep living up to his lockdown reputation against one of the NFL's best receiving corps. Lewis is often matched up against No. 1 receivers, so maybe he'll draw Julio Jones. But Roddy White is no slouch, and neither is Harry Douglas, for that matter. The other two are defensive end Cameron Jordan and outside linebacker Junior Galette, who can't wait to test rookie left tackle Jake Matthews and an already-questionable Falcons line that lost veteran Sam Baker to an injury during the preseason. They've got to exploit that matchup, and I think they will. @MikeTriplett: I assume you mean young players. Otherwise I'd obviously start with safety Jairus Byrd. And I'm not sure if second-year left tackle Terron Armstead counts. But he has a chance to be very special and generated almost as much buzz as Cooks this summer. As for the other rookies, I don't expect any to play significant roles on offense or defense right away. Safeties Vinnie Sunseri and Marcus Ball could have the biggest impact on special teams, and one or both could contribute in goal-line packages. Other young players like Jean-Baptiste, Dixon, Ronald Powell, Kasim Edebali and Kyle Knox will probably be limited mostly to special teams. @MikeTriplett: I made the same observation after the Saints released two pass-rushing outside linebackers (Victor Butler and Keyunta Dawson) and kept seven defensive linemen. ... And we knew they were likely to stick with three safeties after they re-signed Bush in the offseason. Obviously I expect defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to have plenty of tricks and tweaks up his sleeve on a weekly basis. But I don't expect any significant shift from last year's bread and butter.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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