NFC South: Marvin Mitchell

Rapid Reaction: Saints 20, Steelers 10

October, 31, 2010
NEW ORLEANS -- I’m heading downstairs for postgame interviews and will be back with a full column as quickly as possible.

But, first, here’s the Rapid Reaction for the Saints’ victory over Pittsburgh.

What it means: The Saints are alive. One week after a humiliating home loss to Cleveland, they bounced back with a victory against one of the best teams in the league. There’s still work to be done, and some injured guys need to get healthy for the Saints to have a true shot at repeating as the Super Bowl champions, but this game served as a reminder that the Saints still can play with anyone. At 5-3, they’re only one loss behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

What’s next: The Saints travel to Carolina next Sunday. That game may look easy on the surface, but the Panthers usually play the Saints well. New Orleans defeated Carolina by two points in the Superdome earlier this season. The Saints have their bye after the Carolina game.

Unsung heroes: New Orleans’ defense. Even when the Saints were winning big last year, they weren’t doing it with dominant defense. They won a championship with an opportunistic defense. Against the Steelers, the New Orleans defense was dominant most of the game, holding Pittsburgh to only one touchdown. But the defense also was opportunistic when it mattered most. With Pittsburgh driving in the fourth quarter, linebacker Marvin Mitchell forced a fumble by Heath Miller. Safety Darren Sharper grabbed it and that pretty much wrapped up the game.

Saints list inactive players

September, 9, 2010
NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints just announced their starting lineup and their inactives for tonight.

No major surprises. Running back Chris Ivory, defensive back Chris Reis, linebacker Stanley Arnoux, linebacker Danny Clark, offensive lineman Zach Strief, tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Adrian Arrington and defensive end Junior Galette are not active.

Clark’s appearance on the inactive list further confirms the Saints will start Jo-Lonn Dunbar at linebacker. With Clark and Arnoux inactive, the New Orleans linebacker depth after Dunbar, Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle is limited to Marvin Mitchell, Anthony Waters and K.C. Asiodu.

New Orleans Saints cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of New Orleans’ roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Right up until the final preseason game, it looked as if Jonathan Casillas was set to be the starter at weak-side linebacker. But the Saints just announced Casillas has been placed on the injured-reserve list and will miss the season with a foot injury. They also placed Clint Ingram, who was brought in to compete for that spot, on the physically-unable-to-perform list. That leaves them more than thin at linebacker. Scott Shanle was going to start on the strong side and Jonathan Vilma in the middle. Shanle can play either outside position and could move to the weak side if the Saints think that's in their best interest. Stanley Arnoux, Marvin Mitchell, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Anthony Waters are the other linebackers on the roster and none of them are sure-fire starters. Dunbar got some first-team work on the weak side in the early part of camp, but is viewed more as a backup middle linebacker and special-teams player. Arnoux, who missed his rookie season with an injury, has the tools to play the either outside spot, but lacks experience. This looks like a situation in which the Saints will have to look for help from the outside. What’s available on the waiver wire might not be enough. They might have to pursue a trade for a linebacker with realistic ability to start right away.

No-brainer: Although he was an instant fan favorite, and a huge reason why New Orleans won the first Super Bowl in franchise history, the Saints have known for a long time -- barring a huge miracle -- that free safety Darren Sharper wouldn’t be on the opening-day roster. He’s 34 and the Saints didn’t even re-sign him until Sharper checked the free-agent market and found he had very little value. He’s also coming off knee surgery and couldn’t get on the practice field the entire preseason. The Saints placed him on the physically-unable-to-perform list and there’s hope he might be able to come back and provide some help in the second half of the season. But that might be nothing more than wishful thinking. The Saints called in last year’s first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins, who spent his rookie season at cornerback, soon after the Super Bowl and told him he’d be moving to free safety. He’s worked with the first team the entire offseason and he’s not going to be coming out of the lineup unless he struggles mightily.

What’s next: It’s kind of difficult to improve on the roster of a Super Bowl champion. But general manager Mickey Loomis and his staff will watch the waiver wire closely for more than outside linebackers. You still could see a move at defensive tackle, where depth is a slight issue. With only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, it’s imperative the Saints carry one on the practice squad. The odds-on favorite for that is Sean Canfield, who was a seventh-round draft pick and went through the preseason with the Saints.
The New Orleans Saints just announced their roster moves and I’ll do an analysis in just a few minutes. But there’s one bit of important news that I think you should hear first.

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who seemed to be headed for a starting job, has been placed on the injured-reserve list and will miss the season. Casillas suffered a foot injury in the preseason finale. With Clint Ingram being placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list, this leaves the Saints a little thin at linebacker.

Stanley Arnoux, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Marvin Mitchell look like the candidates to move into a starting role. Stayed tuned on this one because the Saints may have to look for help elsewhere.
The New Orleans Saints have just been hit with their first key loss from their Super Bowl team. The Cleveland Browns announced they have signed free-agent linebacker Scott Fujita.

I don’t know contract details yet, but it’s safe to say the Browns paid more than the Saints were willing to for Fujita. There seemed to be mutual interest in Fujita returning to the Saints, but only at a reasonable price.

Fujita will turn 31 in April and he dealt with some injury problems last season. Although there is no automatic replacement in place, the Saints have some options in young linebackers Marvin Mitchell, Jonathan Casillas and Troy Evans. All got a fair amount of playing time last season.

The Saints also drafted Stanley Arnoux last year, but he was injured in minicamp and missed the entire season. Arnoux is expected to return this year and could be a factor.

But it remains very possible the Saints could use one of their early draft picks to find a potential replacement for Fujita.

Official list of NFC South RFAs

March, 5, 2010
There have been a lot of reports out there in recent days about restricted free agents and the tenders they received. Most of the reports were accurate, but a few were not. For clarity's sake, I thought I would share with you the NFC South portion of the official list of restricted free agents and tenders sent out by the NFL this morning. ROFR stands for right of first refusal.



New Orleans

Tampa Bay

NFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
Atlanta Falcons

Potential unrestricted free agents: CB Brian Williams, WR Marty Booker, QB Chris Redman.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Jason Snelling, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, CB Brent Grimes, OL Quinn Ojinnaka, T Tyson Clabo, G Harvey Dahl.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: General manager Thomas Dimitroff repeatedly has used the phrase “fiscally responsible’’ when talking about the approach to free agency. In other words, the Falcons aren’t going to go on some wild spending spree. This organization prefers to build through the draft. But history has shown the Falcons aren’t afraid to make a strategic strike or two in free agency. They have a huge need at defensive end and that’s a tough spot to get guaranteed production from when you’ve got the No. 19 overall pick in the draft. The Falcons aren’t likely to target elite free-agent DE Julius Peppers, but you could see them make a move for another pass-rusher.

Carolina Panthers

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Julius Peppers, WR Muhsin Muhammad, QB Josh McCown, QB A.J. Feeley.

Potential restricted free agents: LB Thomas Davis, QB Matt Moore, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall, DT Louis Leonard, LB James Anderson, DT Tank Tyler, CB C.J. Wilson.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: Owner Jerry Richardson is very concerned about the uncertain labor situation and that may keep him from spending big money in free agency. The Panthers avoided a $20 million hit by not placing the franchise tag on Peppers, but that doesn’t mean all of that money is going to be used in free agency. The Panthers traditionally are a team that builds through the draft and they didn’t sign a single UFA last year. But look for at least a few smaller moves because coach John Fox has to win this year and needs to improve this roster, especially on the defensive line, at wide receiver and perhaps at quarterback.

New Orleans Saints

Potential unrestricted free agents: QB Mark Brunell, S Darren Sharper, TE Dan Campbell, TE Darnell Dinkins, DT Kendrick Clancy, LB Scott Fujita, S Pierson Prioleau, LS Jason Kyle.

Potential restricted free agents: G Jahri Evans, RB Mike Bell, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore, TE David Thomas, T Jermon Bushrod, S Roman Harper, S Usama Young, DT Remi Ayodele, DT Anthony Hargrove, T Zach Strief, S Chris Reis, WR Courtney Roby, LB Marvin Mitchell.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: As a final-four team the Saints aren’t allowed to sign any unrestricted free agents unless they lose one of their own at a similar price tag. That’s likely to keep the Saints from being big players in free agency. But the good news is they don’t have a lot of dramatic needs. They will have to keep a protective eye on some of their restricted free agents, who may draw interest from other teams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Potential unrestricted free agents: WR Antonio Bryant, DE Jimmy Wilkerson, S Will Allen, LB Angelo Crowell, S Jermaine Phillips.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Cadillac Williams, LB Barrett Ruud, T Donald Penn, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Bucs haven’t spent a lot of money in free agency in recent years and they’ve been sending out signals this year won’t be much different. They’re focused on the 10 draft picks they hold. But the Bucs could pull a small surprise or two. They’ve got a restless fan base and more needs than those draft picks can handle. A couple of signings in free agency could energize the fan base and help the rebuilding process. The Bucs really need a No. 1 wide receiver and they’re not truly positioned to get that in the draft.

Guess who is the Saints' No. 3 QB?

December, 13, 2009
ATLANTA -- The Saints just listed their inactives for today and there's one interesting twist.

It's really nothing more than a formality, but receiver Lance Moore is listed as the third quarterback. Technically, that means he could enter the game if Drew Brees and Mark Brunell are injured, but I don't think the Saints want Moore taking any snaps. Brees and Brunell are the only quarterbacks on New Orleans' roster.

Kicker John Carney, running back Mike Bell, cornerbacks Tracy Porter, Jabari Greer and Marcus McCauley and linebackers Marvin Mitchell and Scott Fujita are inactive.
The Falcons put out their injury report and it doesn’t look at all promising. Quarterback Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are listed as questionable and they haven’t practiced all week. Other starters listed as questionable are receivers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, center Todd McClure, tackle Sam Baker and guard Harvey Dahl. Cornerback Chris Houston already has been declared out.

The Bucs added wide receiver Sammie Stroughter to the injury report Friday and listed him with a lower-back problem. They say he’s questionable for Sunday. This is significant because Stroughter was slated to take over Clifton Smith's return duties. Smith went on injured reserve earlier this week.

The Saints have gone ahead and declared linebacker Scott Fujita out for Sunday, after previously doing the same with cornerback Jabari Greer. Cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Marvin Mitchell also are doubtful, which means there’s almost no chance of them playing. The other injury to keep an eye on is Mike Bell, who is listed as questionable. If he can’t go, you could see some of Lynell Hamilton in the backfield rotation.

We already knew quarterback Jake Delhomme will be out for Carolina. But the Panthers have also said defensive end Tyler Brayton will be out. That likely means more playing time for Charles Johnson and rookie Everette Brown.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan missed practice again Thursday and it’s looking less likely he’ll be ready to go Sunday. But coach Mike Smith shot down a report that said Ryan’s status was tied to the health of the offensive line. Tackle Sam Baker and guard Harvey Dahl are banged up, but Baker practiced Thursday on a limited basis. Dahl did not practice at all. If Ryan’s toe suddenly improves in the next few days, he’ll play. It might help if Baker’s definitely playing because he’s a left tackle. Dahl’s a guard and his absence isn’t going to dramatically weaken the pass protection. But you’re probably looking at another start by Chris Redman in Ryan’s place. Also, running back Michael Turner continued to sit out.

We previously mentioned New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer had surgery on a sports hernia Tuesday and the Saints went ahead and officially declared him out for Sunday. It’s looking like there’s a good chance linebackers Scott Fujita and Marvin Mitchell and cornerback Tracy Porter also will miss the game with Atlanta as all three sat out for the second straight day this week.

Tampa Bay actually had good news on the injury report. Tight end Kellen Winslow, who sat out Wednesday with a knee injury, fully participated in Thursday’s practice.

Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme sat out another practice. As I said Wednesday, broken fingers take at least a few weeks to heal, so look for another start by Matt Moore on Sunday.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice. But don’t go ruling them out yet. The Falcons may test Ryan and Turner either Thursday or Friday. Guard Harvey Dahl and center Todd McClure also didn’t practice. One other injury of note, especially with Drew Brees and the New Orleans passing game coming to town Sunday, cornerback Chris Houston (hamstring) sat out. Cornerback has been a huge problem area for the Falcons this season and Houston’s been the closest thing they have to adequate.

Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow and receiver Michael Clayton each sat out Wednesday’s practice with knee injuries.

The Saints listed 18 players on their injury report, but 14 of those participated in practice on a limited basis. The four who did not participate were starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter and linebackers Scott Fujita and Marvin Mitchell.

Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams was back at practice after sitting out Sunday. Quarterback Jake Delhomme didn’t practice (get ready for another start by Matt Moore). Running back Jonathan Stewart and receiver Muhsin Muhammad also sat out.

Saints making switch at kicker

December, 6, 2009
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.

Fujita won't return against Giants

October, 18, 2009
Posted by’s Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints just announced linebacker Scott Fujita won’t return in this game because of a calf injury.

That’s all we know at this point. But you have to wonder what the Saints will do if Fujita is out for any extended period. Troy Evans is playing in Fujita’s place right now, and Marvin Mitchell, Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas are the other backup linebackers.

The Saints worked out Derrick Brooks back in the preseason, and despite the wishes of a lot of fans to the contrary, have not signed him. If Fujita is going to miss any serious time, Brooks might be an option.