NFC South: Jamar Nesbit

Saints keep Leckey, Prioleau

March, 6, 2010
3/06/10
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The Saints just officially announced they’ve re-signed a couple of their own free agents. Offensive linemen Nick Leckey and safety Pierson Prioleau have agreed to one-year contracts.

These aren’t huge moves, but they are steps towards keeping the depth that helped the Saints win the Super Bowl. Prioleau wasn’t much of a factor in the secondary last season but he led the team with 21 tackles on special teams and has experience with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dating back to their days together in Jacksonville.

The Saints have a very solid starting offensive line, but the recent release of backup Jamar Nesbit makes the signing of Leckey important. He can play center and guard and probably is the top interior backup at the moment.
In a move that’s been speculated about for months, the Saints have announced they will release defensive end Charles Grant on Friday.

Not sure exactly why they’re waiting until Friday to officially make the move, but I’m sure there is some contractual reason the Saints are playing it this way.

The Saints also said they already have released veteran offensive lineman Jamar Nesbit and linebacker Mark Simoneau.

Grant, the team’s first-round pick in 2002, played in 118 games for the Saints and made 106 starts. Although his 47 sacks rank eight in team history, Grant’s production never quite matched the potential many thought he had when he came into the league.

Grant had 5.5 sacks last season, but was placed on the injured-reserve list before the postseason started. The Saints still have Anthony Hargrove, Bobby McCray and Jeff Charleston as candidates for the starting position opposite Will Smith, but probably will look to add more depth in free agency.

Saints' Shockey active, Jenkins not

January, 24, 2010
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NEW ORLEANS -- No real surprises on the list of inactives for the Saints. The biggest news of all is that tight end Jeremy Shockey, who had not been practicing because of a knee injury, is active.

The biggest name on the inactive list is rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, but that’s not a huge surprise. Jenkins had been questionable with a hamstring injury.

Also inactive for the Saints are linebacker Anthony Waters, guard Jamar Nesbit, tight end Darnell Dinkins, tight end Adrian Arrington and defensive end Paul Spicer. Chase Daniel is the third quarterback.

McAllister inactive for Saints

January, 16, 2010
1/16/10
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NEW ORLEANS – As expected, running back Deuce McAllister will not be active for today’s game against Arizona.

McAllister was signed yesterday after sitting out all season. He’s expected to lead the Saints onto the field as a ceremonial gesture. Defensive back Chris Reis, linebacker Anthony Waters, guard Jamar Nesbit, tight end Darnell Dinkins, tight end Tory Humphrey and defensive end Paul Spicer also are inactive to the Saints. Chase Daniel is the third quarterback.

Arizona’s inactives are quarterback Brian St. Pierre, fullback Nehemiah Broughton, safety Rashad Johnson, linebacker Gerald Hayes, offensive lineman Herman Johnson, defensive end Jeremy Clark, receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Stephen Spach.

Shockey out for Saints

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
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The New Orleans Saints will be without tight end Jeremy Shockey tonight.

Shockey, who has turf toe has been declared inactive. The other players on the inactive list for the Saints are defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, cornerback Jabari Greer, kicker John Carney, safety Usama Young, cornerback Marcus McCauley, linebacker Anthony Waters and guard Jamar Nesbit.

Saints making switch at kicker

December, 6, 2009
12/06/09
12:24
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The New Orleans Saints are shaking things up with their kickers.

Veteran John Carney will be inactive for Sunday’s game against the Redskins. That means Garrett Hartley will take over field goals and extra points. The Saints had been carrying two kickers with Hartley inactive on game days.

But Carney has been somewhat inconsistent and the Saints apparently want to take a look at Hartley, who had to serve a four-game suspension at the start of the year.

Also inactive for the Saints are receiver Lance Moore, cornerback Tracy Porter, cornerback Jabari Greer, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, linebacker Scott Fujita and offensive lineman Jamar Nesbit.
 
  Getty Images
  A healthy Marques Colston and a consistent Drew Brees could mean even better things for the Saints offense this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We've spent months upon months talking about how the New Orleans Saints need to get better on defense. At the same time, we've barely talked about the offense.

That's because the offense is presumably perfect. Truth is, it was close to perfect last year as Drew Brees was throwing for 5,000 yards and the Saints had the league's top-rated offense.

How do you top the No. 1 ranking? I'm not sure you can quantify it, but I'm going to make the argument the Saints are going to be better on offense this season. Much better.

"I see those guys in practice every day and it's scary how good they are,'' middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "I don't think you can call it an upgrade over last year because the offense already was so good, but I think you're going to see a boost in our offensive firepower.''

I'm with Vilma. I'm not sure Brees will be eclipsing the 5,000-yard mark again because some of his numbers came because the Saints often were playing from behind. I think they'll be winning more this year and that may drop Brees' numbers just slightly.

But I think the offense, as a whole, will be much better than last year. Here are five reasons why:

1. Marques Colston is healthy. I'm starting with this one because I think it's the most significant change in New Orleans' offense. Colston wasn't at full strength last year. He hurt his finger in the opener, missed some time and wasn't anything close to the Colston of old until near the end of the season.

I saw the Colston of old a couple weeks ago when I visited the Saints in camp in Metairie, La. In a morning session, I saw Brees gun a ball to the back of the end zone. The throw was very high and very hard. There probably are about three human beings in the world that could have caught that ball. Colston grabbed it.

I asked Brees after practice if the throw had gotten away from him and if Colston had bailed him out.

"No, that's exactly where I wanted to put it,'' Brees said. "I knew that was the only spot I could put it and I knew he was going to get it.''

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Brees' 2008 season is that he put up huge numbers without a true No. 1 receiver. The Saints didn't even have a 1,000-yard receiver, although Lance Moore was close. Brees tied an NFL record by throwing touchdown passes to 11 different people.

That's not going to happen this year and that's a good thing. The Saints have a healthy Colston, which should equate to about 1,200 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns. They also have Moore, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem, who should be able to thrive as role players and give the Saints a group of receivers that's as good as any in the league.

2. Jeremy Shockey is healthy. Remember how everyone talked about Shockey being the missing link when the Saints traded for him last offseason? It didn't quite play out that way. Much like Colston, Shockey was banged up most of last season. He'll tell you he never was at full strength, but is now. Shockey still caught 50 passes last season, but never reached the end zone.

He's going to get there some this season and that's only going to help Brees and the rest of the offense. Look back at Shockey's best years with the Giants. In a typical season, he'd give you about 60 catches for 700 yards and six or seven touchdowns. Plug numbers like that into the New Orleans offense and imagine the possibilities.

3. The offensive line is going to be better. Numbers would suggest the offensive line was very good last season, but that's not entirely true. Brees was sacked just 13 times, but a lot of the credit for that goes to his quick release.

The Saints used some smoke and mirrors on the offensive line last year. They opened the season with guard Jamar Nesbit suspended for the first four games and they had to throw rookie Carl Nicks in before he was fully ready. Center Jonathan Goodwin missed three games with injury problems and left tackle Jammal Brown missed a game.

Although Brown is dealing with a groin injury in camp at the moment, the rest of the line is healthy. Nicks came on faster last year than anyone expected and he and Jahri Evans now form one of the best guard tandems in the league. Pass blocking shouldn't be an issue with this group and the run blocking should improve.

4. There will be a running game this season. The Saints aren't going to suddenly take the ball out of Brees' hands because that would be flat-out stupid. But coach Sean Payton and his staff have spent a large chunk of the offseason thinking about ways to improve the running game. With an offensive mind like Payton, you have to believe he's come up with some ideas that will work.

Payton will be the first to tell you the Saints were way too inconsistent in the running game last year and he'd like to have a ground game that can eat a little bit of the clock. The plan is to use Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush as the main running backs and settle on a short-yardage runner from a bunch of guys who have been competing throughout the preseason.

Bush often gets criticized for not living up to his status as a second overall draft pick. But he was showing signs of being very productive before running into injury problems last season. He's never going to be a guy who you want to pound between the tackles 20 times a game.

But, if he can stay healthy, he can give the Saints big production as a runner and a receiver. Thomas is steady and he and Bush can give the Saints enough of a running game to balance things out.

5. The defense will be better. Ah, you knew we couldn't get through an entire column on the Saints without dwelling a bit on the defense. But we couldn't leave the defense out because it's going to make the offense better.

The Saints are going to make
some stops on defense this year. Under new coordinator Gregg Williams and with a lot of new personnel, they're also going to come up with some sacks and turnovers. That's only going to help the offense.

Brees put up those huge numbers last year without any help from the defense. Imagine what he can do when he gets a short field from time to time? Imagine what he can do with a better offense around him?

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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The NFC South's rookie class has been getting a lot of attention, but it probably should be getting more.

Way beyond first-round picks Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, Jonathan Stewart, Jeff Otah, Sedrick Ellis and Aqib Talib, this class is making significant contributions. Each division team is getting good production from its first-round choices and beyond.

Time to single out some guys who weren't taken in the first round but are producing.

ATLANTA: By the time all is said and done, the Falcons could end up with one of the better drafts in history. We all know about Ryan and, to a lesser extent, Baker. But second-round pick Curtis Lofton has had a huge impact. In essence, the Falcons got their quarterback on the other side of the ball in Lofton. He's stepped right in at middle linebacker and Atlanta's defense has been better than anybody expected. Receiver Harry Douglas, a third-round pick, also is starting to emerge.

CAROLINA: Stewart and Otah have had their flashes, but third-round pick Charles Godfrey has been the most consistent of Carolina's rookies. He earned the starting free safety job in training camp and hasn't made many rookie mistakes. Give veteran strong safety Chris Harris some credit for helping to keep Godfrey on the right page.

NEW ORLEANS: There's no question the Saints gambled when they used their second fifth-round pick on guard Carl Nicks, who had some character concerns. But, so far, that move is paying off. Nicks has started the last five games and may be viewed as a long-term upgrade from Jamar Nesbit.

TAMPA BAY: The Bucs have had good luck drafting offensive linemen in the middle rounds in recent years and it looks like they've hit again. Third-round pick Jeremy Zuttah has received early playing time because of injuries at guard and coach Jon Gruden keeps singing his praises.

Saints remain mum on reports

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
11:39
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

LONDON, England -- Just came back to the press box from the field at Wembley Stadium, where Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, through a team spokesman, declined to comment on reports that several Saints have tested positive for a banned substance.

The Saints have remained silent on the issue since reports first surfaced Friday. The Saints have activated guard Jamar Nesbit (who had a roster exemption after serving a four-game suspension). To clear space for Nesbit, the Saints waived receiver Terrance Copper.

Saints' injury update

October, 24, 2008
10/24/08
11:34
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

LONDON, England -- The Saints likely will have to shuffle their offensive line Sunday against San Diego.

Starting center Jonathan Goodwin is doubtful because of a knee injury, coach Sean Payton said after Friday's practice. Matt Lehr filled in at center after Goodwin was hurt in a loss to Carolina and remains a possible replacement. But the return of Jamar Nesbit from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances gives the Saints other options.

Rookie Carl Nicks has been starting in Nesbit's spot at left guard. Payton said he would consider putting Nesbit at center.

The Saints already have declared running back Reggie Bush, who is back in New Orleans recovering from knee surgery, out. Defensive tackle Brian Young is questionable. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, cornerback Mike McKenzie, defensive end Will Smith and guard Jahri Evans are probable.

Friday's practice was the final preparation for the game. The Saints, who have been staying about 40 minutes outside London, will move into a hotel in the city tonight.

Nesbit returns from suspension

October, 22, 2008
10/22/08
3:26
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Nesbit

WATFORD, England -- Jamar Nesbit returned to practice Wednesday after serving a four-game suspension, but that doesn't mean he'll instantly return to the starting left guard spot.

Nesbit was suspended for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances. Rookie Carl Nicks played well in Nesbit's absence and there suddenly are some questions on the offensive line. Center Jonathan Goodwin and right guard Jahri Evans missed Wednesday's practice with injuries.

Coach Sean Payton said Nesbit possibly could move to one of those positions if Goodwin or Evans can't play Sunday against Dallas. Matt Lehr filled in at center after Goodwin went down with a knee injury early in last Sunday's loss to Carolina.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just when it looked like the Saints were starting to get healthy, injury has struck again.

This time it's center Jonathan Goodwin. He just came out of the game with an injury to his left leg. Backup Matt Lehr has taken his place. That leaves the Saints short on depth on the offensive line.

But there is help on the way. Jamar Nesbit is finishing a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on steroids and related substances. Nesbit is eligible to return to the Saints after today's game and is expected to be with the team in London as practice begins Wednesday for Sunday's game against the Chargers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Brady has been disqualified by injury and Peyton Manning -- for the moment -- by circumstance.

That leaves open the question that was closed for so long: Who's the best quarterback in the NFL?

 
 Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
 New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is establishing himself among the NFL's elite signal-callers.

Maybe it's already been answered. Everywhere you look in the league's passing statistics, Drew Brees is at, or very near, the top. You could leave Denver's Jay Cutler in the argument until you throw in degree of difficulty.

Cutler's doing it with Brandon Marshall, who just might be the league's best receiver, and Eddie Royal, who just might be the best rookie receiver. He has a coach (Mike Shanahan) who's been called a genius and a bunch of other weapons.

Brees is doing it with smoke, mirrors and healthy dose of screen and swing passes to Reggie Bush. And Brees is making it look easy.

"It's never easy. Never, ever easy,'' Brees said. "Your preparation throughout the week can make it easier. The more comfortable you are, the calmer you will be because you understand where the ball is going to go, no matter what the coverage or the situation. That's what allows you to be successful out there, the preparation. You're always trying to envision every scenario. That way, when game day comes around, it's as if it's always happened.''

As big as he is on preparation, there's no way Brees could have envisioned how things have played out in the first four games. Already one of the league's better quarterbacks, it's not especially surprising that Brees has become the best with Brady out for the season with an injury and Manning playing very ordinary football.

What is truly shocking is that Brees has been able to do it with a supporting cast of guys who were supposedly practice-squad players and busts. The star-studded cast he opened the season with has disappeared.

Top receiver Marques Colston went out with a thumb injury in the opener and probably won't be back for at least a few more weeks. Tight end Jeremy Shockey, the top pickup of the offseason, went down with a sports hernia and could miss a few more games. Throw in a few other injuries on offense, the four-game suspension of starting guard Jamar Nesbit and New Orleans' reluctance to use veteran running back Deuce McAllister in the first three games and it's a minor miracle the Saints have been able to move the ball at all.

But they're moving it quite nicely because of Brees. He's the reason the Saints -- who have had even more injuries to the defense -- have been able to keep their heads above water. The Saints are 2-2 heading into Monday night's game with Minnesota and Brees has been putting up huge numbers throwing to the likes of Lance Moore and Robert Meachem.

"It just shows if you do the right things, eventually good things will happen to you,'' Brees said. "Lance was on the practice squad at one point in his career where he was just running scout team for the defense. Robert Meachem ran scout team every day last year for the defense. Those guys have paid their dues and now they're reaping the benefits.''

That's mainly because of Brees' cerebral play and accurate arm. He leads the league in completions (107), completion percentage (72.3), yards (1,343) and yards per game (335.8).

There have been constant changes in personnel and not much consistency in the running game until the Saints unleashed McAllister last week. That's allowed opposing defenses to focus all their efforts on stopping Brees and they've thrown a steady diet of blitzes and different coverages at him.

But take a stroll back through the tapes of the first four games and it's hard to find a play where Brees looked flustered.

"It happens from time to time,'' Brees said. "You always have to expect the unexpected. At times, you'll see something where you are not quite sure what that was when you look at the picture when you come to the sideline trying to figure it out. That way I can try to see it coming the next time. Defenses are always evolving, trying to stay one step ahead of you, just like you're trying to stay one step ahead of them. It's a chess match.''

It's a chess match Brees is winning without all the pieces of his offense. It's not going to be that way forever. The Saints are hoping Colston and Shockey can return around midseason and the re-emergence of McAllister has given the ground game hope.

If Brees can do this well without a full supporting cast, imagine what he can do when he has it. When all is said and done, he could be in the lofty perch usually reserved for Manning and Brady.

Audibles: NFC South Week 5 preview

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
4:05
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Atlanta Falcons (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-2), 1 p.m. ET

With quarterback Aaron Rodgers banged up and defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins gone for the season, the Falcons could be catching the Packers at the right time.

A few weeks ago, you would have looked at this game and said there was no way the Falcons could go into Lambeau Field and win. Now, that's not out of the realm of possibility.

But it won't be easy. Atlanta hasn't played well on the road and 70,000 Cheeseheads aren't going to make life easy for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. He's been just fine in the two home games, where Michael Turner was able to run wild against Detroit and Kansas City. But the Packers aren't the Lions or the Chiefs.

Atlanta's two losses came when Tampa Bay and Carolina took the ball out of Turner's hands and put it into Ryan's. Think the Packers might try to follow that route?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (3-1), 4:05 p.m. ET

For a very long time, Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber has been one of the best and most dependable cornerbacks in the game. The last couple of weeks, however, Barber suddenly looks vulnerable.

He's had problems with slipping and there are questions about whether he's lost a step. We'll find out for sure Sunday as he goes against Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.

The Tampa-2 defense is pretty good at covering over holes because the safeties give the corners plenty of help. But Denver's offense is clicking. If you thought Barber has been targeted the last couple of weeks, you haven't seen anything yet.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-1), 1 p.m. ET

On the surface, this looks like an easy game for Carolina and a tune-up before next week's division showdown with Tampa Bay.

If this sounds like a classic "trap'' game that's only because it is. Throw in the fact that left tackle Jordan Gross (concussion) will miss the game and right tackle Jeff Otah (ankle) is doubtful and Carolina has to take this game very seriously.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme has looked great in his return from Tommy John elbow surgery. But the absence of the starting tackles could prompt the Panthers to be cautious and not have Delhomme take many deep drops. Third-down back Nick Goings has missed some blocks this season and the role of the running backs as blockers will take on added importance with the injuries up front.

The one player the Panthers have to keep healthy is Delhomme.

Minnesota Vikings (1-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-2), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday

The latest injury news for the banged-up Saints is that rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis will be out at least a couple of weeks with a knee problem. That's the last thing you want to hear when Adrian Peterson is coming to town.

More than ever, that puts the pressure on the offense. Particularly quarterback Drew Brees, who has kept this team respectable through all the injuries. Brees keeps putting up huge numbers, no matter who is around him.

It looks like Brees will get some more consistent help from the running game now that Deuce McAllister has shown he's got something left. Even without suspended guard Jamar Nesbit, the Saints have done a good job protecting Brees.

But the quarterback will have to be sharper (and quicker) than usual because the Minnesota defensive front is the best he's seen this year. If Brees can lead the Saints to a win in this one, they'll have a chance at a 4-2 start because Oakland comes to the Superdome next.

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