NFC South: David Patten

Saints part ways with Patten

February, 12, 2009
2/12/09
5:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Saints have started the process of getting under the salary cap. They released veteran wide receiver David Patten on Wednesday, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Patten, 34, is expendable because the Saints have a group of talented young receivers in Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem. More importantly, the Saints freed up $3 million by cutting Patten. They had been about $4.6 million above the salary cap. The next question is whether running back Deuce McAllister will follow Patten out the door.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We'll continue our team-by-team look at how wide receivers performed (in terms of drops and how frequently they were targeted) with the New Orleans Saints.

Player Targets Catches Drops % Caught % First Down
Marques Colston 88 47 8 53.4 39.8
Devery Henderson 57 32 2 56.1 47.4
Robert Meachem 20 12 2 60.0 40.0
Lance Moore 120 79 2 65.8 33.3
David Patten 20 11 1 55.0 35.0

 Notes: Henderson showed dramatic improvement, dropping only two passes after consistently being among the league leaders in recent years. ... Colston tied for seventh in the league with eight drops, despite missing five games due to injury. Colston had been sure-handed in his first two seasons, but this year's numbers might reflect that he injured his thumb early in the season and may not have been fully healthy all year.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Fine work by the Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan in getting the full 2009 salary cap breakdown for the Saints. With the Saints already over the cap, there's going to be some major movement.

Just scanning through Duncan's list, here are some guys I think could be out of New Orleans because of their salary-cap figures: Receiver David Patten, running back Deuce McAllister, guard Jamar Nesbit, defensive tackle Brian Young, cornerbacks Jason David and Mike McKenzie and safety Kevin Kaesviharn.

The Saints also can free up some cap space by restructuring the contracts of some of their veterans, and defensive end Will Smith would be a prime candidate for that.

 
 Matt Stamey/US Presswire
 Lance Moore just might be the NFC South's most productive receiver.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

He has more catches than Carolina's Steve Smith and Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant. He has more touchdowns than Atlanta's Roddy White.

He has, for most of the season, taken the place of Marques Colston as the No. 1 option in New Orleans' high-flying passing game.

If you want to go out on a limb -- and that limb's a heck of a lot shorter than it was at the beginning of the season -- you could make a case that Lance Moore is the NFC South's best receiver. No, not in terms of pure talent because Smith, White, Bryant, Coltson and, probably four or five other guys, have an edge on Moore there.

But let's just talk production for the moment. Moore, a guy you'd probably never heard of before this year unless you're a die-hard New Orleans fan, has the numbers. He's got 57 receptions for 724 yards and seven touchdowns. He's caught a touchdown pass in each of his last four games.

He's a fantasy football player's dream. In reality, Moore has become a dream of a football player.

"He's not a secret anymore," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, who faces Moore and the Saints on Sunday. "He's caught a lot of balls down there. He's obviously a very reliable guy and, to me, that's the key for the Saints. (Quarterback) Drew Brees puts them into good plays every snap. He knows where to go, the hot receiver. He knows who to get it to and the audible. You have to have reliable, accountable people. To have a guy like Moore, who also is a talented guy, is a double-edge sword for a defense."

If it sounds like Moore might simply be in the right place at the right time, that's only because it's the truth. But the fact is the guy has become a staple in New Orleans' offense.

"I feel like I belong in this offense," Moore said. "I feel like they have to give me the ball because I am making so many plays."

Those might be the kind of words you'd expect from Smith, White or Bryant, who never have lacked for confidence and have the résumés to back it up. But Moore?

Heck, the guy really didn't even have a résumé until this year.

"These guys started on first base, not third base," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "He was a free agent from Toledo. He played over in Europe."

At 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, Moore didn't even get a look in the draft when he came out of Toledo in 2005. Pretty much as a courtesy because he was a local kid, the Cleveland Browns signed Moore, but he didn't even come close to making the roster. The Saints signed him to the practice squad and he spent two seasons bouncing from there to the regular roster and got a free ticket to NFL Europa. He got enough playing time last year, making 32 catches.

But, when the Saints went to training camp this summer, Moore was a classic "bubble" guy because the Saints had Colston, veterans David Patten and Devery Henderson and 2007 first-round pick Robert Meachem. The way things have sorted out, though, Moore has had a bigger impact than all those guys.

The reason is simple: The Saints were going to throw the ball a lot, no matter what, and Moore has stepped up and been the one guy who has shown he can catch it on a consistent basis. He's a large part of the reason Brees is on pace to set the single-season record for passing yards.

"He's a guy that has very reliable and dependable hands," Payton said. "He knows exactly what to do on each play. He's obviously got a lot of confidence behind him with Drew and that's something he's earned. He's a great worker and very detailed at what he does."

Those are the qualities that earned Moore a spot in the league.

"It has been a long road, many ups and many downs," Moore said. "I think it is just a credit to continuing to work. That was my attitude. As long as I worked as hard as I could, then I could say "At least I tried." Working hard and making plays each and every day in practice started to pay off with the coaches believing in me and wanting to throw me the ball on weekends."

At least at first, the Saints were throwing the ball to Moore out of necessity. Colston and Patten each had some injury issues early on and, even with the door wide open, Meachem wasn't able to take advantage of the opportunity for playing time.

Even with Colston back in recent weeks and tight end Jeremy Shockey apparently healthy, the Saints haven't stopped throwing to Moore. The talented Colston probably will reclaim his spot as the No. 1 option in the passing game at some point.

But Moore isn't going to just go away. He's found a role in an offense that's going to keep throwing the ball. He's locked down a starting job for the present and future. True, Moore is no longer a secret. He's become a guy who just goes out and makes plays every week.

"I always felt like I was capable in my mind and it was just a matter of time until I got that real opportunity to show myself," Moore said. "Now is pretty much the time where I have been able to do that and be making plays for my team. The coaches have the confidence in me and I have the confidence in everybody else, so this feels good. There is still a long ways to go, but I am enjoying myself this season."

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As part of our Panic Button package, Scouts Inc. is breaking down the struggles in the Saints secondary. We've been assigned to address other Panic Button issues. Don't want to seem like I'm piling on the Saints, but the other three teams in the division are 2-1 and have no need to hit the panic button. That leaves the injury-riddled Saints, who have several reasons to panic.

Problem: Top receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey are out with injuries for the foreseeable future and Deuce McAllister, arguably the best running back the franchise has ever had, hasn't had a role in the offense. Running back Reggie Bush leads the NFL with 26 receptions, but the running game has been inconsistent and there are no other true weapons on offense.

Time to hit the panic button? Yes.

Solution: New Orleans has injuries and issues on defense, so the Saints are going to have to score a lot of points to win games. The current receiver tandem of Devery Henderson and David Patten isn't going to scare anyone and tight end Mark Campbell is much more of a blocker than a receiver. With a three-game homestand approaching, the Saints have to get creative on offense. They still have a very good quarterback in Drew Brees, but they need to help him out and there aren't a lot of alternatives.

Maybe this is a chance for Bush to step up and be the player people thought he would be coming out of college. Maybe Bush and Pierre Thomas can get the running game going. Or maybe it's time to see if McAllister has anything left in his knees. And maybe it's time for second-year receiver Robert Meachem to show he can play in the NFL. If all or any of those things happen, the Saints will be fine. If not, they're going to be in trouble and it might be too late to recover by the time Shockey and Colston return.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just when it looked like the Saints were about to catch a break with a three-game home stand, there's more bad news on the injury front.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports tight end Jeremy Shockey will be out three to six weeks because of a sports hernia. That's horrible news for an offense that already is without wide receiver Marques Colston for at least a few more weeks.

Shockey, who was obtained in a trade with the Giants, was one of New Orleans' top offseason pickups. His absence leaves an offense that appeared to be loaded at the skill positions suddenly looking very thin.

Shockey's absence likely will change the look of an offense that was still adjusting to his presence. The Saints don't have another true pass-catching tight end. Top backup Mark Campbell is known more for his blocking.

With Shockey and Colston out, the Saints will have to rely more on veteran wide receivers David Patten and Devery Henderson. The injuries could create an opportunity for second-year receiver Robert Meachem to become a bigger part of the offense, especially in the red zone.

The running backs also are going to have to take on a bigger offensive load. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have shared time at running back in the first three games and the Saints haven't been able to show a consistent running game. Veteran Deuce McAllister has carried only twice as the Saints bring him along slowly in his recovery from knee surgery.

Bush has been effective when used as a receiver, but the Saints may turn to him even more as a runner and receiver because they don't have a lot of playmakers right now.

Audibles: NFC South Week 2 preview

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Atlanta Falcons (1-0) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1), 4:05 p.m. ET

The Falcons can't do it two weeks in a row, can they?

You might be surprised. Although Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia is getting most of the heat (and a seat) after last week's loss in New Orleans, the biggest culprit might have been the Bucs' defense. Units led by Monte Kiffin aren't supposed to look like the Bucs from the Sam Wyche days.

But that's what happened in the Superdome. The Bucs gave up three huge plays and never really were able to dictate the game the way they have in the past. Maybe Tampa Bay's defense is too young at the same time it's too old and there's not enough in between.

We'll find out if last week was just a fluke for Tampa Bay's defense or a real problem because Atlanta did a pretty good job tearing apart Detroit's defense last week. For those who don't make the connection, Detroit is coached by Rod Marinelli, who spent years at Kiffin's side and subscribes to all of his theories.

Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan looked very poised against Marinelli's defense and running back Michael Turner was spectacular. If linebacker Derrick Brooks sits out with a hamstring injury, Kiffin is going to have to rally the defense or else it will get embarrassed for the second straight week.

Chicago Bears (1-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0), 1 p.m. ET

A week ago, this looked like a pretty dull matchup of two winless teams. But, suddenly, it's a game between two teams that could be NFC powers. That's because the Panthers and Bears knocked off most of the AFC's elite. Carolina went out to San Diego without Steve Smith and beat the Chargers. The Bears rediscovered their defense and made Peyton Manning and the Colts look ordinary.

Something's going to have to give in this game, but not much. John Fox and Lovie Smith are all about defense and they seem to have their teams back to doing what they do best. Both teams showed surprisingly strong running games last week.

Whichever team walks out of Bank of America Stadium with a win is going to be the new darling of the NFC.

New Orleans Saints (1-0) vs. Washington Redskins (0-1), 1 p.m. ET

It's been a rough week for the Saints since they beat the Bucs. They lost receiver Marques Colston for about six weeks and defensive backs Randall Gay and Roman Harper are banged up.

But don't feel too bad for the Saints. Even though Colston is their best receiver, by far, they've got plenty of options. Devery Henderson and David Patten are decent and second-year pro Robert Meachem finally may get a chance to show if he can play in this league.

But more than anything, the receiver slack will be picked up by tight end Jeremy Shockey and running back Reggie Bush. In their own ways, each of them is pretty close to being a wide receiver.

The situation in the defensive backfield is pretty similar if Gay and Harper can't go. New Orleans actually has some depth in the secondary this year and Aaron Glenn and Josh Bullocks wouldn't be bad as short-term fill-ins.

Thursday morning mailbag

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Time for another installment of the mailbag. Thanks for your questions and keep them coming.

Caleb from Louisiana writes: I, like many of the other Saints' faithful, were incredibly befuddled regarding Meachem's inactive status last weekend. From what i saw of the preseason, he gobbled up every ball thrown his way, was a legitimate hr threat (more so than colston), and basically looked like a Devery Henderson who could catch balls thrown under 50 yards. Please give me some insight as to why he was inactive for the first game; where is his downside? I really would like to know.

Pat Yasinskas: I think the Saints were just bringing Robert Meachem along slowly still even though they also were happy with his preseason. They activated two receivers ahead of him because of their abilities on special teams. With the injury to Marques Colston, I think Meachem will be active this week and he'll finally get a chance to show what he can do. He's got good size and physical skills and I think he might be able to turn himself into at least a No. 3 receiver.


Spencer in Charlotte writes: One question. Do you think that now Jake's proved he's 100 percent and that we've forgiven Steve Smith a million times, other people will stop questioning our team and start giving us more respect? Especially since we beat one of the top 5 teams in the league.

Pat Yasinskas: Not sure who was questioning the Panthers. I think the consensus was they would be pretty good with Jake Delhomme back. Now that he's shown he's healthy and the Panthers went out to San Diego and won a huge game, there's really no reason anybody should not respect this team.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Meachem

We've heard a lot about how tight end Jeremy Shockey and running back Reggie Bush will be counted on to pick up some of the slack with wide receiver Marques Colston out at least a month with an injury. There's also been some talk about Devery Henderson and David Patten, the top remaining healthy receivers.

But what about Robert Meachem? This finally may be his chance.

Meachem, of course, was a first-round pick last year. But he never got on the field last season, largely because of a knee injury. Meachem was deactivated last week and that surprised some because he had a strong preseason. But that might have been due to a numbers game for the special teams.

With Colston out, there's an active spot for Meachem and he might be able to take advantage of it. No one's ready to declare him the next Colston or even a potential starter. But Meachem does have good size and that could get him some playing time in the red zone.

Some fans might be ready to give up on Meachem, but that's premature. Quarterback Drew Brees had some high praise for Meachem's progress Wednesday.

"I just see him continue to work and continue to get better," Brees said. "He's a guy who really takes a lot of pride in his improvement, takes coaching very well and has taken a lot of mentorship from guys on this team. He's always looking to get better."

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Colston

When I listed the NFC South's most irreplaceable players Tuesday, I came very close to listing Marques Colston for the Saints. Instead, I went with linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

The thinking was New Orleans' offense has enough weapons to survive without Colston, but the defense couldn't get by without Vilma. Now the offense is going to have to prove it can go without Colston.

He has ligament damage in his thumb and is going to be out four to six weeks. It's a big loss any way you look at it. But there are other options for this offense: Veteran receivers David Patten and Devery Henderson are going to have to step up and second-year pro Robert Meachem finally will get a chance to play. That trio of receivers isn't going to totally make up for Colston's absence.

The Saints are going to have to throw a lot to tight end Jeremy Shockey, which is why they brought him in to begin with. More than ever, the Saints are going to have to keep running back Reggie Bush heavily involved in the passing game.

Colston's injury is big, but it won't completely devastate this offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

With just a little bit of help from his friends, Drew Brees would have completed better than 70 percent of his passes last year.

Brees completed 67.5 percent (440 of 652) last season to finish third in the league in that category. Only Tom Brady (68.9 percent) and Chad Pennington (68.8) were better. But Brees easily could have topped both of them if his teammates held onto a few more passes.

According to STATS, the Saints dropped 41 passes last season. They finished second to the New York Giants, who dropped 42 passes that should have been caught. Thirty-seven of New Orleans' drops came on balls thrown by Brees. Receiver Devery Henderson and running back Reggie Bush tied for third in the league (along with Washington's Santana Moss) with 10 drops each. Indianapolis' Dallas Clark and Cleveland's Braylon Edwards tied for the league lead with 12 drops each.

Henderson's drops were especially troubling because he was only targeted 42 times. That could impact his job security when rosters are cut down. Marques Colston and David Patten are the top two receivers, and young players Robert Meachem and Adrian Arrington could move ahead of Henderson.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

JACKSON, Miss. -- It was only one catch, but it was enough to make you wonder if the Saints have tapped the secret to drafting wide receivers in the seventh round.

Adrian Arrington, New Orleans' final pick in this year's draft, made a spectacular catch in Thursday morning's session. Despite decent coverage by Greg Fassitt, Arrington made an over-the-shoulder, diving catch of a deep pass from Tyler Palko.

A Michigan product, Arrington brought back memories (at least for a moment) of 2006 when seventh-round pick Marques Colston was the surprise of camp. Colston quickly became the team's top receiver. Lightning striking twice in the seventh round at the same position might be too much to expect, but Arrington could be a factor in the receiving corps this season.

Veteran David Patten is the safe choice, but the Saints are hoping Robert Meachem, a first-round pick last year, can step up and claim a starting job. Meachem wasn't a factor last season, but the Saints believe that was because he fell behind because of a knee injury. At worst, the Saints are hoping Meachem can be the No. 3 receiver. At best, they're hoping he can start.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Jeremy Shockey
Shockey

The New Orleans Saints went from having a pretty good offense to having a great one this afternoon. The trade for New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey makes New Orleans' offense complete.

The Saints already had a very good No. 1 wide receiver in Marques Colston and the potential for a strong running game with Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. They also have one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees.

With Shockey, they've tied everything together. New Orleans needed someone to take some of the attention away from Colston. Defenses won't be able to roll the Cover Two on him all day because Shockey will take coverage away and cause matchup problems for safeties and linebackers.

He's a natural fit in the New Orleans offense because he can make things happen over the middle and down the field. That will open things up for Colston along the sidelines and it should help whoever is playing the No. 2 receiver spot (Robert Meachem and David Patten are among the candidates). Shockey also is going to make Brees much more effective because he gives him a tight end who is as dangerous as most wide receivers.

Shockey isn't noted for his blocking, but his presence still will help the running game. Defenses are going to have to account for Shockey with linebackers and safeties and that's going to open things up for Bush and McAllister. Opposing defenses won't be able to use eight men in the box and they won't be able to devote all their coverage to Colston.


ESPN analyst Floyd Reese breaks down the Jeremy Shockey trade to the New Orleans Saints.

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