NFC South: Rookie Watch

New Orleans Saints mailbag

December, 9, 2010
The New Orleans Saints are next in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

Razza in South Florida writes: No mention of Chris Ivory in the Rookie Watch? What's up with that? I agree with Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh being at the top of the list. High expectations were met. But to be mentioning LeGarrette Blount and no Ivory is a puzzling omission to say the least.

Pat Yasinskas: No argument here. In fact, I’ll put a bug in Matt Williamson’s ear, especially if Ivory has another big game Sunday. Also, I’ll give you a little alert here about a column I’m writing for Friday. Can’t give you all the details yet, but a big part of it is how Ivory’s emergence has helped the entire offense.

Jordan in New Orleans writes: Thanks again for all the effort and time you put into keeping us informed about the happenings of the South. I wanted to ask what was going on with Patrick Robinson. I mean, he wasn't doing anything amazing, but I haven't heard much about him lately.

Pat Yasinskas: The return of starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter pushed Robinson into a backup role. He got some time as a starter when they were out and, overall, he did pretty well. He didn’t put up any amazing stats or anything, but he was a reason the Saints were able to keep winning without two key starters. The coaches like Robinson and he has a future with this team.

Steve in Redlands, Calif., writes: Can you put some heat on these Power Rankings voters? Putting the Steelers above the Saints for a second week in a row is criminal. I don't care if Pittsburgh beat the Ravens. New Orleans' offense has way more firepower than Pittsburgh's, and we're still winning games (even if they are close). And has everyone forgotten the Halloween smack down the Saints put on Pitt? Time to turn up the heat and get a little more love for the NFC South.

Pat Yasinskas: Hey, you know I bleed NFC South. I’ll see what I can do. I’ve got a pretty good-size advantage on John Clayton, Paul Kuharsky and James Walker, so maybe I’ll twist some arms and try the intimidation angle. No, seriously, they’re all good guys and free to vote however they want. But maybe they’ll see this and re-think their votes.

Checking Rookie, MVP Watches

December, 8, 2010
Each week, colleague Matt Williamson does a Rookie Watch and Mike Sando does an MVP Watch. I comment on them from time to time when the NFC South is heavily involved and I'm going to do it with both of the watches this week.

Let’s start with Williamson’s Rookie Watch. His topper on it is about Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount and I think Williamson points out some very good things (positive and negative) about one of the NFL’s most surprising success stories this season.

Williamson is a guy who has worked in NFL front offices and knows a lot about technical details. He points out the Blount is a big, powerful runner. I think that’s something we all can see. But the part I think goes beyond the obvious is that there is room for improvement with Blount.

Williamson said he can better utilize his power and also become a more useful part of Tampa Bay’s passing games. Excellent points and I wouldn’t view them as being too harsh on Blount. He’s a guy that came into the league undrafted and quickly got thrown into a starting job. Blount’s flaws are things that can be improved upon with some coaching and some work in the offseason.

Williamson also sings the praises of Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams, which is nothing new. Williams is one rookie who has been a big factor from the first day of the season.

Now, let’s hop over to Sando’s MVP Watch. He has Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan at No. 4 and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees at No. 6. Each of those guys dropped one spot from last week and I have no problem with that.

Matter of fact, let me give you some behind-the scenes information how seriously Sando takes his MVP Watch. He formulates his own ideas after reviewing each week’s games. But, then, he also takes the time and effort to check with each of the division bloggers to make sure he’s not dramatically off in his assessment.

When Sando and I talked about Ryan, we were totally on the same page. He did not have a great statistical game against Tampa Bay on Sunday, but I said any drop should be only minimal because Ryan led a game-winning drive when he had to. We had pretty much the same conversation about Brees.

Earlier in the year, I was in Sando’s ear about Atlanta receiver Roddy White. But White’s slowed down his pace in recent weeks, so I let that one slide this week and he didn’t make the top 10. But, Atlanta fans, don’t get down on Sando. He told me he was real close to including running back Michael Turner for one of the last few spots. It didn’t happen, but another strong game or two by Turner could get him on the list.

Hitting the NFC South links

December, 1, 2010
Time for an afternoon trip across the NFC South for some of the division's latest headlines.
  • New Orleans coach Sean Payton said he expects tight end Jeremy Shockey and safety Darren Sharper to return from injuries Sunday. The injury list is getting pretty short with only running back Pierre Thomas, linebacker Anthony Waters and running back Ladell Betts on it. Thomas and Waters were limited in Wednesday's practice, while Betts did not participate.
  • Stephen Holder wonders if we've seen the last of guard Davin Joseph with the Buccaneers. It's a legitimate question because Joseph, who went on injured reserve, can become a free agent after the season. The Bucs haven't been locking up their own players and I think some of that is due to the league's labor uncertainty. It also might be wise for Joseph to test free agency. He's one of the league's better guards and he's in his prime.
  • The Saints signed linebacker Ramon Humber and released quarterback Sean Canfield. Don't be surprised if Canfield ends up on the practice squad shortly. The Saints have been bouncing him between the regular roster and the practice squad much of the year.
  • Joseph Person reports Carolina safety Sherrod Martin was fined $40,000 for a hit on Cleveland tight end Evan Moore and also writes that a teammate said cornerback Chris Gamble was benched for parts of Sunday's game for missing practice last week.
  • In his latest Rookie Watch, our Matt Williamson has three Tampa Bay players among the top 10 -- Gerald McCoy, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. I'm with him on all three selections and I don't want to get too carried away. But let's examine this a little more closely. McCoy was the third overall pick and he's starting to do what he was supposed to do. But Williams was a fourth-round pick and Blount was an undrafted free agent the Bucs picked up off waivers. Tampa Bay is currently carrying 16 rookies and a couple more of those guys are bound to emerge. Receiver Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick, has had some promising moments. Defensive tackle Brian Price, another second-round pick is on injured reserve. Let's say Benn continues to develop, Price comes back next year and does what he's supposed to and another guy or two emerges. The Bucs could end up having one of the best rookie classes in history.