NFL Nation: Billy Miller

'Mortgage the ranch' for top pick?

April, 16, 2010
4/16/10
4:01
PM ET
Ricky Williams and Desmond Clark are the only active players remaining from the 1999 blockbuster trade that featured Mike Ditka trading the Saints' entire draft, plus two high future choices, for one pick.

The trade came to mind after suggestions that Cleveland could have interest in acquiring the first overall pick from the Rams. I'd be surprised if the Browns gave up what it would take to land the top pick. Their entire draft is worth 2,692 points on the draft value chart. The chart probably overvalues the top choice by assigning a 3,000-point value, but even if the top pick were discounted to 2,000 points, the Browns would be giving up the seventh and 38th overall picks.

The Saints gave up 1,575 points worth of 1999 picks, plus first- and third-round choices in 2000, to get the fifth overall choice in the 1999 draft from the Bears. The chart values the fifth choice at 1,700 points.

The deal drew initial criticism, but the players drafted with the Saints' old picks -- Clark, LaVar Arrington, D'Wayne Bates, Cade McNown, Khari Samuel, Lloyd Harrison, Billy Miller, Nate Stimson -- didn't meet expectations in most cases.

Browns president Mike Holmgren on moving up to draft quarterback Sam Bradford: "'Look it, he's a coveted young man. To be able to go up and change somebody's mind ahead of us, you'd have to mortgage the ranch. You remember when coach Ditka did that with his picks and then he went and played golf.' Absolutely, we love the player, as do a lot of people. But in the real world, we're probably going to go in a different direction there.''
 
 Crystal LoGiudice/US Presswire
 Drew Brees torched the Packers for 323 passing yards and four touchdown passes in a 51-29 drubbing of the Packers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

NEW ORLEANS -- Atari Bigby sat at his locker with his head buried in his hands. Al Harris spoke as if in a daze. Nick Collins admitted he was "embarrassed" and questioned whether his team was ready to play.

And Charles Woodson might have said it the best of anyone when asked to describe Green Bay's 51-29 loss Monday night at New Orleans.

"We got our [tail] whupped in front of the whole country," Woodson said. "When you see the backup quarterback come in, you know you got your [tail] whupped. It was a rough day."

The Packers' revered pass defense didn't just have a down day on "Monday Night Football." It was on the short end of perhaps the best passing day of the season, a near-perfect performance from Saints quarterback Drew Brees that made the Packers look like a bunch of bullfighters.

Olé, Bigby said as Saints receiver Lance Moore ran around him for a 70-yard scoring pass in the first quarter.

Olé, Woodson and safety Aaron Rouse said as the Saints' Marques Colston ran past them for another 70-yard score in the third.

Olé, the Packers said as tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Billy Miller combined for nine receptions and 93 yards.

"We got embarrassed, we got whupped, however you want to put it," Collins said. "It was an old fashioned butt-whupping. We know we're better than that, and we can't ever let that happen again."

Collins wasn't sure why, but he nevertheless seemed convinced the Packers arrived in New Orleans unprepared for their task.

 
 NFL.com Video
 Watch highlights from the Saints' 51-29 win over the Packers.

"You can't explain it," he said. "We just weren't ready to play today. That's just all it was. We knew it was going to be a shootout. We just weren't ready. We just didn't have the fire tonight."

That's a disturbing admission from a prominent player on a team that needed a victory to keep pace in a mediocre division. Could the Packers have been overconfident, motivated by last week's now-distant thrashing of Chicago and the national attention on their pass defense? It's not like the Saints snuck up on anybody Monday night. Brees entered the game with more yards in his first 10 games than any quarterback in league history.

"We felt we could come in and have a better showing against this team," Woodson said. "But they turned out to be everything that everyone thought they were."

The Packers' defensive scheme relies on a certain level of physical superiority from the secondary -- the idea that Woodson and especially Harris can handle receivers in man coverage. Perhaps the Packers thought they could disrupt Brees' timing with his receivers, but the Saints clearly had them outmatched.

"They're a good secondary," Brees said. "They're a very good secondary. Arguably one of the better secondaries in this league, if not the best. [But] we felt like, with all the man-to-man matchups we would get, that if we could get the ball in the hands of our receivers, we could break a tackle and make some big plays."

Consider it mission accomplished for the Saints, whose own defense performed the way the Packers' defense hoped to. New Orleans intercepted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times and knocked down 11 other passes, leaving the Packers unable to keep up.

The Packers' offense had entered the game ready for a shootout.

"We thought we could score on them," Rodgers said.

But no one counted on the defense giving up the fifth-most points in team history.

"Just no excuses," Harris said. "If our offense scores 29 points, we have to hold them to 28. We didn't hold up our end of the bargain."

Other notable items from the Packers' postgame locker room:

  • Both Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy suitably noted the urgency Green Bay now faces. The Packers, of course, trail Chicago (6-5) and Minnesota (6-5) in the NFC North and will need help to make a move in the division over the final five games of the season. "We just need to win football games," McCarthy said. "It's November. It's time." Said Rodgers: "Every game for us is a must-win."
  • The Packers played all but two plays without right tackle Mark Tauscher, who strained a hamstring and did not return. Tony Moll replaced him and Tauscher's status for Sunday's game against Carolina is uncertain. Tauscher blew out his knee at the Superdome in 2002 and missed 14 games.
  • Rodgers used his previously injured right shoulder to knock Saints cornerback Jason David out of bounds after an interception in the third quarter. "I was pretty upset," Rodgers said. "And I gave it all I had."
  • The Saints had 416 yards on only 54 plays, an average of 7.7 yards per play. "We expected more from our defense," McCarthy said.
  • The Packers got away from their running game in the second half as the deficit grew. Tailback Ryan Grant had 64 yards in the first half and 3 yards in the second. The Saints "peeled back their ears" and rushed Rodgers with renewed v
    igor, McCarthy said. It's no surprise that all three of Rodgers' interceptions and both of his sacks came after halftime.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

NEW ORLEANS -- You just saw one of the first plays where Green Bay obviously missed middle linebacker Nick Barnett.

Saints tight end Billy Miller easily beat Barnett's replacement, A.J. Hawk, on a seam pattern for a 16-yard touchdown pass here midway through the third quarter. Hawk has been arguably better than Barnett against the run, but Barnett was definitely his superior in pass coverage before suffering a season-ending knee injury Nov. 9 against Minnesota.

The Saints ate up the first 6:26 of the third quarter on the scoring drive and now lead 31-21. More important for New Orleans, they got their running game going on the drive. Pierre Thomas had 29 yards, including four on a fourth-and-1 conversion on New Orleans' 45-yard line.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

NEW ORLEANS -- Random halftime thoughts from New Orleans where the Saints lead, 10-3.

  • Drew Brees' completion streak is over. He completed his first 16 pass attempts.
  • Oakland is airing it out. Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell has thrown the ball 16 times. Oakland has rushed the ball 11 times and hasn't gotten much going on the ground at all.
  • Oakland return man Johnnie Lee Higgins is underrated. He always seems to come up with something nice. He had a 35-yard punt return in the first quarter.
  • Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed field goal attempts of 57 and 59 yards late in the first half. However, both kicks were much closer than that 76-yard attempt at the end of the first half in Oakland's last game.
  • New Saints kicker Taylor Mehlhaff has struggled. In his first game in New Orleans, he missed a 31-yard field goal and he booted a kickoff out of bounds. He did redeem himself with a 44-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining in the first half.
  • There was some controversy at the end of the first half when Brees hit Billy Miller at the Oakland 26. Television replays showed there was one second remaining but the officials said time expired in the half. Brees and Saints coach Sean Payton passionately argued to no avail.
  • The New Orleans defense dropped three easy interceptions in the first half.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We've engaged in plenty of discussion the past two weeks about the youth of Green Bay's defense, especially when it comes to some of the replacements the Packers have used in response to a series of injuries.

On Wednesday, Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette casts a critical eye toward one of the team's top veterans -- defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who hasn't produced so much as a quarterback pressure since Sept. 14 at Detroit. Overall, Gbaja-Biamila has a half-sack to his credit and isn't a viable option as a situational pass rusher.

Gbaja-Biamila has been dealing with knee and ankle injuries, but last week the Packers removed him from their injury report. Defensive ends coach Carl Hairston said: "He's not as explosive as he used to be. It's going to take a little time and repetitions to get that back."

Gbaja-Biamila is 32, however, and Demovsky questions whether he is simply done as a feared pass rusher. If so, it appears unlikely the Packers would bring him back next season; already, they're paying him a base salary of $6.15 for 2008 that was guaranteed when he was a part of the roster on opening weekend.

Continuing our be-bop around the NFC North:

  • The Packers promoted linebacker Danny Lansanah from the practice squad Tuesday when the Miami Dolphins tried to sign him, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Veteran linebacker Tracy White was released to create a roster spot.
  • Mike O'Hara of the Detroit News wonders if the Lions could finish 0-16 and places odds on the chances of them winning each of their remaining games. Their chances of defeating Minnesota this Sunday at the Metrodome: Six percent. (They haven't won in Minnesota since 1997).
  • At this point, Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com doesn't see the Lions paying cornerback Leigh Bodden a roster bonus of $8.6 million due this offseason.
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune offers a Bears primer for Chicago sports fans who have been distracted by the city's baseball teams. Among the points: The Bears' offensive line has performed better than expected.
  • "We're headed to the Super Bowl." That's what Bears defensive end Mark Anderson believes, according to Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune details the Vikings' system-wide special teams failure Monday night. Overall, the Vikings rank last in the NFL in punt coverage and 30th in kickoff coverage.
  • During our chat Tuesday over at SportsNation, a few people asked about Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin's violent hit on New Orleans tight end Billy Miller. The league won't fine Griffin, according to Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, because Miller had established himself as a runner and thus was in position to defend himself.

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