NFL Nation: Anthony Waters
Receiver Marques Colston, who had knee surgery Tuesday, will sit out and he’ll have plenty of company. Tight end Jeremy Shockey (groin) and running back Pierre Thomas (ankle) also are sitting out.
The rest of the inactives for the Saints are safety Usama Young, linebacker Anthony Waters, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, tight end David Thomas and linebacker Kawika Mitchell.
As expected, injured cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer and running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are not active.
Rookie Patrick Robinson and Leigh Torrence are expected to start as the cornerbacks and Chris Ivory is expected to start at running back. The other inactives for the Saints are linebacker Anthony Waters, tackle Charles Brown, tight end Tory Humphrey and defensive end Junior Galette.
The Saints have said Ladell Betts will start in place of Thomas. The Saints also are without injured running back Reggie Bush, and that means Chris Ivory and DeShawn Wynn likely will share carries with Betts.
The Saints also will be without starting strong safety Roman Harper. Pierson Prioleau will start in his place. John Carney will handle place-kicking duties as Garrett Hartley is inactive after missing a short kick in overtime last week.
Also inactive for the Saints are linebacker Anthony Waters, offensive lineman Charles Brown, tight end Tory Humphrey and defensive end Junior Galette.
Chris Ivory, who missed the first two games with an injury, is active today. So is recently signed Ladell Betts. They likely will share carries with starter Pierre Thomas.
Rookie cornerback Patrick Robinson also is active today after being inactive Monday night. Robinson could get some time in the nickel and dime packages with Randall Gay out with a concussion.
Along with Gay and Bush, the rest of New Orleans’ inactive list includes safety Usama Young, linebacker Anthony Waters, offensive lineman Charles Brown, tight end Tory Humphrey, receiver Adrian Arrington and defensive end Junior Galette.
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.
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. That’s the position the Saints opened up when they let veteran Scott Fujita walk in free agency and it seemed like good news at the time. 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 will start on the strong side and Jonathan Vilma in the middle. 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 weak side, 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.
But we’ll give Loomis a pass on this one. The man has been very business because the Super Bowl win kept the Saints playing a month longer than the rest of the teams in the division. Loomis also had to quickly get ready for the combine and free agency.
But he made time to summarize the season and look ahead and the Saints PR department passed along the transcript of his interview. Loomis covered more ground than we can include here, so we’ll touch on the highlights.
The contract talks with free-agent safety Darren Sharper:
“I have all of the love in the world for Darren Sharper. I just don’t have all the money in the world for Darren Sharper. We’d like to have Darren back. We really would and again, no different than any player, if it fits under the salary structure and the resources that we have, then we’ll definitely want to have him back. If it doesn’t and he has an opportunity somewhere else, we understand that.”
The loss of free-agent linebacker Scott Fujita to Cleveland:
“Scott just got an offer that was too good to turn down. He wanted to return to New Orleans. We wanted him to return to New Orleans, but we understand what free agency is. We’re going to miss Scott and [wife] Jaclyn. They were the first to commit to the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina, after the 2005 season and Scott really exemplified the type of player we want in New Orleans, intelligent, tough, high-character and a great leader for our team. We wish them all the best.”
Who will fill Fujita’s position:
“That remains to be seen. We have some guys in our program right now in Jonathan Casillas and Stanley Arnoux, young players. We have some other candidates, Anthony Waters, Troy Evans, but that will be determined in training camp.”
On free agents who are visiting:
“We’re going to have Jake [Delhomme] visit later today. We have James Hall in here today. We had a visit scheduled with Leonard Little and an emergency came up and he’s had to postpone that, so we’ll see what happens.”
On if running back Reggie Bush will remain with the Saints:
“Yes. He’ll be back and he’ll be back at his current salary.”
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 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.
Receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Gerald Hayes, fullback Nehemiah Broughton, safety Rashad Johnson, tackle Herman Johnson, defensive end Jeremy Clark and tight end Stephen Spach are inactive for the Cardinals. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback. If he plays, starter Kurt Warner and backup Matt Leinart cannot enter the game.
Inactive for the Saints: running back Deuce McAllister, safety Chris Reis, linebacker Anthony Waters, guard Jamar Nesbit, tight end Darnell Dinkins, tight end Tory Humphrey and defensive end Paul Spicer. Chase Daniel is the third quarterback.
The pressbox announcer just referred to Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt as "Ken Wizenhunt" -- another indication which team is the visitor for this divisional-round game.
|AP Photo/Bill Haber|
|Jonathan Vilma is excited about playing for new coordinator Gregg Williams.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
METAIRIE, La. -- By all accounts, Jonathan Vilma resurrected his career with the New Orleans Saints last season. After clashing with coach Eric Mangini with the Jets and enduring an injury, Vilma found a home in the middle of New Orleans' 4-3 defense.
He got back to playing middle linebacker the way he was used to playing it and instantly became the leader of the defense. By Vilma's account, that wasn't nearly good enough.
Personal satisfaction has a way of getting watered down when you're playing on a defense that's not very good. Vilma might have been a bright spot, but the rest of the defense was a dark hole. Nine different times the Saints allowed opponents to score at least 27 points and they lost seven of those games.
In the process, the defense helped squander a brilliant season by quarterback Drew Brees and the offense. Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards, but it didn't mean much because the defense didn't stop anyone and the Saints finished out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
It's critical the streak doesn't reach three seasons because that would put coach Sean Payton very much on the hot seat. That's why Payton brought in coordinator Gregg Williams to run the defense and encouraged general manager Mickey Loomis to reshuffle the defensive personnel.
Williams' impact has been felt from the first moment he entered the building and it's been obvious out on the practice field.
"The X's and O's are pretty much the same," Vilma said. "But it's a different mindset. It's about letting us play. Coach Williams lets us know it's all right to go out there and make mistakes. It's all right to go out there and be wrong. As long as you're doing it 100 miles per hour, as long as you're hitting somebody, it's all right. We'll go into the meetings and make our corrections there."
"Everybody's playing with swagger," defensive end Bobby McCray said. "We've got 160-pound cornerbacks looking to knock your head off."
That should be a welcome sight in New Orleans, where there wasn't a lot of hitting last season, and cornerbacks (and safeties) spent most of their time chasing receivers who already had caught the ball. The roles will be different this season.
"It's a lot more man-on-man," said veteran safety Darren Sharper, who was brought in as a free agent to help stabilize the secondary. "You're doing some zone. You're blitzing guys from different directions. That shouldn't be a problem for us. We have no excuses as far as getting to the quarterback. It's a state of mind. You attack the ball. You have 11 guys being aggressive and you make aggressive calls. We're going to be an aggressive, attacking defense."
It's been said that even an average defense might be good enough to get the Saints to the playoffs. But the Saints aren't looking for an average defense. They want more.
"We can be as good as we want to be," Vilma said. "We have the talent. We had the talent last year, but we just didn't make plays. This year, we're focusing on making those plays. The talent is there. It's just a matter of going out and doing it."
It's never good to be without your starting defensive ends. But the Saints have had the entire offseason to prepare for this situation.
They brought in veterans Paul Spicer and Anthony Hargrove, and they still have McCray, who might have outplayed the underachieving Grant and Smith last season. The Saints would like to use McCray as a pass-rush specialist once Grant and Smith return, but they believe he can fill a starting role in the short term. They're also very fired up about Hargrove, who appears very focused after having some problems that interrupted his career.
There's even hope that Grant and Smith might be better off in the long run because of the suspensions. Both are very talented, but haven't played up to their ability the past couple of years. The Saints are hoping they'll come back from the suspensions with more motivation than ever.
Can the No. 1 offense be as good as last year?
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|Quarterback Drew Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards for the Saints last season.|
Heck, it could be even better. Brees' season was remarkable under any circumstances. But a lot of people tend to forget he did all of that with the top three offensive weapons banged up for most of the year. Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards, but didn't have a 1,000-yard receiver or any consistency in the running game.
The 1,000-yard receiver shouldn't be an issue this year. Marques Colston is back at full health and looking absolutely spectacular in training camp. He's the kind of big receiver who should be good for somewhere around 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. Throw in tight end Jeremy Shockey, who never was at full strength last year, but is healthy now.
Shockey and Brees look to be developing a strong chemistry in camp. When healthy, Shockey can be one of the league's best tight ends. He didn't catch a touchdown pass last year. He's painfully aware of that and wants to prove he still can find the end zone.
Then there's Reggie Bush. He was off to a very good start as a multi-purpose running back last year, but he got sidetracked by injuries and missed six games.
Can Bush ever live up to the hype he carried coming out of college?
If he stays healthy, yes. Bush will never be the kind of back who runs between the tackles 25 times a game. But that's not what the Saints are looking for. They'll let Pierre Thomas handle most of the carries between the tackles. Bush is a threat to score any time he touches the ball and the Saints will look to get him the ball in space as a runner, receiver and a return man.
The Saints really were hoping that Dan Morgan or Stanley Arnoux could take over as the starter at weakside linebacker. But Morgan retired in June and Arnoux tore his Achilles tendon in offseason workouts and will miss the season. That means the Saints appear destined to stick with veteran Scott Shanle in a linebacking corps with Vilma and Scott Fujita. Shanle's experienced, but he doesn't make any big plays and lacks great speed. The Saints have been very impressed with young linebackers Anthony Waters and Jonathan Casillas so far in camp. They're raw, but Williams wants aggressiveness and he may take a chance on one of these guys.
Receiver Devery Henderson, who struggled with drops through much of his career, suddenly started catching the ball last season. But the drops have resurfaced during camp and that's not a good sign. With Colston healthy and third-year pro Robert Meachem showing some signs he might live up to his status as a first-round pick in 2007, Henderson could end up as the fourth receiver.
Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Rod Coleman ended a one-year retirement to make a comeback with the Saints. Coleman hasn't stood out in camp so far, but the Saints will use the preseason games to determine if Coleman has anything left. They'd like to use him as a part-time player on passing downs because he used to be one of the league's top interior rushers.
Newcomer to watch
|Crystal LoGiudice/US Presswire|
|Rookie Malcolm Jenkins has to make up for lost time now that he has agreed to terms on a contract.|
Top draft pick Malcolm Jenkins ended his holdout late Sunday night. Jenkins is a unique talent, but the holdout could have cost him a shot at a starting cornerback spot. The Saints paid big money to Jabari Greer in free agency and he's set at one starting spot. Tracy Porter has picked up where he left off when an injury ended a promising rookie season and has the edge for the other starting role. Jenkins isn't even guaranteed to land as the nickelback because veterans Randall Gay and Jason David have been playing well in camp.
There still are a lot of fans calling for the Saints to bring in veteran Edgerrin James to be the short-yardage running back, but that doesn't appear likely. First off, James isn't the prototypical short-yardage runner. Second, the Saints might already have their answer. They've been letting undrafted free agents P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson compete with Mike Bell for this role. All three are true power backs and all three have looked good at times. ... Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis showed some promise as a rookie, but injuries kept him from being on the field all the time. Ellis is quietly having a very nice camp and the Saints believe he's ready to really become a force in the middle. ... The Saints used a fifth-round draft pick on punter Thomas Morstead, but there's no guarantee he'll win the job. He's in a battle with Glenn Pakulak and, so far, it's a dead heat. ... Williams' base defense is the 4-3, but he started installing a 3-4 package last week. Don't look for the Saints to use the 3-4 a lot. But you could see a fair amount of it early in the season when Smith and Grant are out and the Saints will deal with a shortage of quality defensive linemen.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The San Diego Chargers jumped into free agency by signing Dallas linebacker Kevin Burnett.
Burnett, who hails from Southern California, chose San Diego over several teams including Oakland and Green Bay. Burnett will likely be given a chance to win a starting job at inside linebacker.
He has four career starts and he started two games for Dallas last season. Burnett is considered an interesting prospect because he is young and he has shown promise. The Chargers had hoped Anthony Waters would blossom into a starter but he was cut this offseason.
The Chargers had been very quiet in free agency as they have been concentrating on restructuring the contract of running back LaDainian Tomlinson. San Diego did visit with safety Jermaine Phillips but he re-signed with Tampa Bay.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
San Diego general manager A.J. Smith held a 45-minute press conference to address the team's status heading into free agency. There were several interesting developments. Of course, the most important part of the press conference centered around a situation that is still unresolved.
Smith said talks on restructuring LaDainian Tomlinson's contract were ongoing, but he wouldn't go into specifics about the situation. If Tomlinson, who is due more than $6.7 million this season, doesn't take a restructured deal to reduce his 2009 pay, he will likely be cut.
The talks could last several days. There is no hard deadline. The fact that the talks, which began in earnest Sunday, are taking this long could be a sign of difficulty. However, both sides want Tomlinson to remain in San Diego so the talks will continue.
Meanwhile, San Diego cut linebacker Anthony Waters, who was a third-round pick in 2007. The team had high hopes for Waters last season but he was injured and never made an impact when he was healthy. Still, it is a bit surprising the team gave up on him so early in his career.
Smith said the team will not pursue any of its four remaining unrestricted free agents: defensive lineman Igor Olshansky, guard Mike Goff, linebacker Marques Harris and center Jeremy Newberry. That proclamation is not surprising.
The team wasn't pleased with Olshansky's and Goff's play last season and Harris and Newberry are role players. The Chargers re-signed guard Kynan Forney on Wednesday and he could take Goff's place. Smith said the team would monitor movement in free agency but wouldn't say how much of a player the team would be. The Chargers will likely sign one or two players but not be particularly busy.
Also, Smith said left tackle Marcus McNeill had knee surgery three weeks ago but he is expected to be ready for training camp. McNeill was hampered by a neck problem last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
San Diego -- Here are the inactive lists for both Carolina and San Diego.
No major surprises here. As expected, the Chargers will be without two standout offensive linemen: center Nick Hardwick (foot) and left tackle Marcus McNeill (neck). Jeremy Newbery will play center and L.J. Shelton will play for McNeill and try to keep Panthers sack master Julius Peppers away from San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers.
1:00 PM ET New Orleans Atlanta 1:00 PM ET Minnesota St. Louis 1:00 PM ET Cleveland Pittsburgh 1:00 PM ET Jacksonville Philadelphia 1:00 PM ET Oakland New York 1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Baltimore 1:00 PM ET Buffalo Chicago 1:00 PM ET Washington Houston 1:00 PM ET Tennessee Kansas City 1:00 PM ET New England Miami 4:25 PM ET Carolina Tampa Bay 4:25 PM ET San Francisco Dallas 8:30 PM ET Indianapolis Denver