NFL Nation: Greg Romeus

Saints down another QB

June, 13, 2012
New Orleans head coach Joe Vitt just met with the media and explained why quarterback Chase Daniel didn’t practice Wednesday and cleared up the mystery that surfaced when Daniel showed up at a charity event with his right (throwing) hand in some sort of brace.

Vitt said Daniel has a hairline fracture on his thumb. Vitt said the injury happened when Daniel hit the thumb on a helmet.

Daniel had been getting all of the first-team work this offseason because starter Drew Brees has been away from the team while trying to work out a long-term contract. Vitt said Daniel will be fine for training camp, but won’t be allowed to throw for the next few weeks. Sean Canfield and recently signed Luke McCown ran the offense in Wednesday’s session.

I don’t think Daniel’s situation adds any urgency to getting the Brees deal done. The Saints can finish their offseason program with Canfield and McCown. I’m still expecting Brees will get a new deal shortly before the July 16 deadline for franchise players to sign long-term contracts.

Vitt also announced that defensive end Greg Romeus recently suffered a torn ACL. The Saints had high hopes for Romeus, who sat out his rookie season after tearing his other ACL while still in college. Without Romeus, the chances of converted linebacker Martez Wilson and Junior Galette getting more playing time at defensive end will increase.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints went through two minicamp practices Tuesday. I'm working on several columns and other items for the future, but let me share some quick notes and observations from the first day of minicamp.
  • At times, quarterback Chase Daniel looked very good while working with the first team. Same for Sean Canfield, but it’s pretty obvious these guys aren’t quite on Drew Brees’ level. I’m pretty sure Tuesday was the first time I’ve seen the Saints practice and witnessed back-to-back incompletions. That basically doesn’t happen with Brees.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said it’s too early to talk about defensive linemen because they’re not hitting and they’re not in pads. But it’s pretty obvious Vitt is high on young defensive ends Greg Romeus, Junior Galette and Martez Wilson.
  • Vitt said he’s not ready to say that Wilson’s move from linebacker to defensive end is permanent. But Vitt said Wilson’s past as a linebacker gives him an advantage on the other defensive ends as they sometimes are being asked to drop into pass coverage in the new defensive scheme.
  • Although the Saints had only five draft picks this year, Vitt said he views the class as having six members. Romeus had to sit out his rookie season with a knee injury and Vitt said he’s being treated as a rookie.
  • Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo expressed the same precaution about judging defensive linemen before full contact, but he sounded very high on defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, who joined the Saints during the offseason. Spagnuolo raved about Bunkley’s fundamentals and attention to detail.
  • Tight end Jimmy Graham appears to have added some muscle in the offseason. I asked him about it and Graham said his weight is still 265, but said he’s spent a little more time in the weight room and has added some muscle.
  • The Saints added a little secondary depth just before minicamp. They signed former Tampa Bay cornerback Elbert Mack.
  • The Saints lost guard Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay in free agency, but quickly replaced him with Ben Grubbs. Nicks may be the best guard in the NFL, but Grubbs isn’t bad. In fact, he may be better than Nicks in some ways. “I think that he is probably a little better communicator on the line of scrimmage than Carl Nicks,’’ Vitt said.
  • The Saints clearly are in the experimental stages at linebacker. They opened the morning session with Curtis Lofton, Scott Shanle and David Hawthorne working with the first team. In the afternoon session, they shook things up and had free-agent pickup Chris Chamberlain working with the first team in Shanle's spot.
  • Zach Strief worked with the first team at right tackle in the morning session, but Strief wasn’t on the field in the afternoon. It wasn’t clear if Strief was injured or if there was another reason for his absence. Rookie Marcel Jones worked with the first team in the afternoon. I’m not sure that bodes well for the future of Charles Brown, who Vitt previously said was competing for a starting job.
  • Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was rehabbing an injury through the early part of organized team activities, was back on the field and practicing with the first team Tuesday.
  • Former Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson, now the head coach at Tulane, brought his staff out to watch practice. Vitt said Johnson offered a critique after the morning session.
  • I know a lot of New Orleans fans like to criticize strong safety Roman Harper’s pass- coverage skills. But I did see Haprer coming through with a nice breakup on a deep pass in the morning session.
I’m scheduled to make the trek to New Orleans later Monday, to cover the Saints’ minicamp that starts Tuesday.

I’ll be watching for all sorts of stuff, but let’s pick a few of the more important things I’ll be keeping an eye on.

The atmosphere. Normally, there’s not much difference, other than faces and names, from one NFL minicamp to another. But this isn’t a normal year for the Saints. In fact, they’re going through one of the most unique periods any franchise in any sport has faced. The Saints are without suspended head coach Sean Payton. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, the guy standing in Payton’s place right now, will be suspended for the first six games of the season. General manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games. Unless they win appeals, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma will be suspended for the entire season and defensive end Will Smith will be suspended for the first four games.

Oh, and throw in the fact that quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t reached a long-term deal or signed his franchise tag. Unless something changes dramatically and rapidly, Brees won’t be at this minicamp. It’s going to be weird to see the Saints without Payton and Brees.

The Saints are doing the only logical and smart thing. They’re just following Payton’s system. That makes sense because it’s been successful and this is an experienced coaching staff and there are plenty of veteran players. The Saints are trying to carry on with business as usual, but I’m curious to see if it looks like anything close to normal.

The defensive line. The word out of the early organized team activities is that the Saints are trying all sorts of different things up front. They’ve moved linebacker Martez Wilson to defensive end and they’re using some formations where they’re moving defensive ends to defensive tackle. That might not be a bad idea because the Saints have to get better with their pass rush up front.

Smith is New Orleans’ only proven pass rusher and the Saints have to pressure quarterbacks while he’s suspended and he can’t do it all by himself. I’m curious to see what Wilson looks like as a defensive end. I’m also looking forward to watching Junior Galette and Greg Romeus. Those are two young defensive ends with plenty of upside and this could be the year they get to play a lot.

Steve Spagnuolo. The new defensive coordinator is putting in a whole new defensive system. Previous coordinator Gregg Williams was noted for his exotic blitz packages. Spagnuolo is known for taking a more conventional approach. He likes to get most of his pressure from the front four and let the back seven focus on pass coverage.

I think the Saints have made some very nice moves adding linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne and there’s some talent in the secondary with Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins. But strong safety Roman Harper isn’t known for his coverage skills. Harper’s had a lot of success as a blitzer. I’m curious to see if Spaguolo will try to make Harper fit into his scheme or if he’ll allow Harper to continue to do what he does best.

I’m thinking Spagnuolo might be wise to bend on this one a little bit because Harper’s ability on the blitz could help a front four that needs plenty of help.
For the most part, the New Orleans Saints are keeping things status quo while coach Sean Payton is suspended.

But interim coach Joe Vitt revealed a few tweaks when he met with the media after Thursday’s practice. There are changes coming on defense, which isn’t Payton’s side of the ball. But you can bet Payton signed off on the changes before he began his suspension. He already had brought in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to improve a defense that struggled at times the past two seasons.

Vitt said the Saints gave up too many big plays last season and the defense will look to include more zone schemes. It appears that also means there will be some personnel changes. Linebacker Martez Wilson, who showed some promise last year, has been moved to defensive end. He was lining up Thursday opposite Greg Romeus, another 2011 draft pick who missed last season with an injury.

"We've got a lot of zone pressures now and it's going to call for a defensive end to drop into coverage," Vitt said. "And Martez has got a pretty good foundation from being here a year ago with coverage and coverage aspects. So we've been very encouraged for the first week of what he's done. He'll be our right end. He does a pretty good job with pattern recognition. This is a time to experiment and we'll see what he can do."

Wilson has some quickness and that should help him at defensive end in a Spagnuolo defense. Spagnuolo likes to generate most of his pressure from the front four, but Wilson’s ability to drop into coverage could give the Saints some flexibility. Wilson’s quickness also could help him as a pass-rusher. Romeus also has potential as a pass-rusher.

Cameron Jordan, a first-round pick last year, is set to start at one defensive end spot. The Saints could have three players from the 2011 draft as their top three ends on opening day. Will Smith is New Orleans’ top end, but the NFL has suspended him for the first four games. Smith is appealing the suspension, but it looks like the Saints are coming up with alternatives.
We still don’t know exactly what the Saints will be getting from the Dolphins in exchange for Reggie Bush. But we do know that safety Jonathon Amaya is at least part of the package, according to ESPN’s John Clayton.

Although veteran safeties Roman Harper and Darren Sharper are free agents, I wouldn’t go reading too much into the Amaya acquisition. He might have some upside, but he appeared in only 10 games as a backup last season. At best, he can begin his time with the Saints as a backup safety and special-teams player.

In other Saints news, defensive tackle Remi Ayodele has agreed to terms with the Vikings. Ayodele became expendable with the signing of Shaun Rogers prior to the lockout

The Saints also reportedly have agreed to terms with seventh-round draft picks Greg Romeus and Nate Bussey.