NFL Nation: Jahri Evans

A pair of New Orleans Saints Pro Bowlers got even more recognition on Monday, cracking the ESPN #NFLRank top 50 on offense and defense.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan ranked 45th on the list of the league's top defensive players. Guard Jahri Evans ranked 48th on the offensive list.

Both rankings seem about right to me. I'm sure a good argument could be made to bump Jordan up a little higher based on last season's performance and the fact he's just now entering his prime. But these lists are always tough, mixing rising young stars with longtime studs such as Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who ranks 46th.

The important thing is Jordan has started to gain the attention he deserves after playing a huge role in the Saints' defensive revival last season, both as a pass-rusher and relentless run defender. ESPN Stats & Information also dug up an interesting note on Jordan that further shows off his versatility. Since his rookie season in 2011, Jordan has 11 batted passes, more than twice as many as any other Saints player during that span.

Evans, meanwhile, has been a mainstay on lists like these for half a decade. The five-time Pro Bowler actually dropped four spots from last year, which is probably fair since he started slow in 2013 while battling injuries. But Evans once again finished strong, playing his best in the playoffs. And he had a strong performance in his preseason debut Saturday night after missing two weeks with a minor back issue.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Evans has played 6,170 snaps during his first eight seasons, the fourth most in the NFL during that span.
As long as the training camp injuries are minor enough, teams can always find a silver lining to them. They mean more opportunities for the backups to develop and be evaluated.

That’s been the case with the New Orleans Saints this summer at a few positions -- namely quarterback, guard and safety. With Drew Brees missing the past two weeks with a strained oblique, the Saints have been able to see how backups Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown fit in with the first-string offense against the first-string defense.

[+] EnlargeSenio Kelemete and Marcel Jones
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsMarcel Jones, No. 70, and Senio Kelemete have benefited from getting first-team reps in camp.
Likewise, they’ve gotten a long look at backup guards Senio Kelemete and Marcel Jones, who by all accounts have stepped up big-time while starting guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have been nursing injuries. And young safeties like Vinnie Sunseri, Marcus Ball and Pierre Warren have all taken advantage of increased opportunities while starter Jairus Byrd is recovering from back surgery.

“That can only help us,” Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief said, specifically referring to the situation at guard. “Look, Jahri’s gonna need some reps to get ready and play, and we’ve got time to get him healthy. [In the meantime], I still can’t say ‘Cel or Marcel.’ I’m still calling him Jah. Me and Jah kind of have our own language that we speak, and it’s not in our playbook. And yet it’s hard for me not to speak that language. So I think the cohesiveness between us will be there, and the same on the other side.

“But to get these guys in, give them a chance, you talk about guys that have grown in this camp, Marcel Jones, Senio Kelemete, really tons of growth. I mean, they really have played well and have gotten a lot of good reps against good players.”

Saints coach Sean Payton pointed out that the same thing happened at the receiver position last year when Kenny Stills and Nick Toon got a ton of experience with the first-string offense because of injuries -- something that obviously gave Stills a huge boost in his rookie season.

“You don’t know what position group it is going to be, but it’s somewhat typical of training camp,” Payton said. “And it’s important for the next guy up to know what to do and take advantage of the opportunity.”

The starting units should play a little more in Friday’s second preseason game against the Tennessee Titans -- possibly into the second quarter, or longer at thinner positions. Here’s a look at how the snap counts were divided in the Saints’ preseason opener last week at the St. Louis Rams:

OFFENSE (67 Snaps)
Quarterback – Ryan Griffin 38, Luke McCown 17, Logan Kilgore 12
Receiver – Brandin Cooks 37, Joe Morgan 36, Nick Toon 23, Robert Meachem 18, Marques Colston 14, Seantavius Jones 13, Brandon Coleman 12, Charles Hawkins 4
Tight end – Josh Hill 32, Nic Jacobs 21, Jimmy Graham 17, Benjamin Watson 12
Running back – Travaris Cadet 25, Mark Ingram 15, Khiry Robinson 14, Derrick Strozier 10, Timothy Flanders 4
Fullback – Austin Johnson 28
Center – Tim Lelito 39, Jonathan Goodwin 16, Matt Armstrong 12
Tackle – Bryce Harris 44, Thomas Welch 44, Zach Strief 17, Terron Armstead 17, Tavon Rooks 12
Guard – Jason Weaver 50, Senio Kelemete 40, Marcel Jones 32, Manase Foketi 12

DEFENSE (75 snaps)
Safety – Marcus Ball 43, Vinnie Sunseri 35, Pierre Warren 35, Ty Zimmerman 27, Rafael Bush 13, Kenny Vaccaro 13
Cornerback – Corey White 40, Stanley Jean-Baptiste 35, Trevin Wade 35, Brian Dixon 27, Derrius Brooks 20, Patrick Robinson 13, Keenan Lewis 13, Rod Sweeting 10
Outside linebacker – Keyunta Dawson 27, Khairi Fortt 26, Kasim Edebali 25, Ronald Powell 21, Junior Galette 13, Chidera Uzo-Diribe 10, Parys Haralson 6
Inside linebacker – Kevin Reddick 39, Todd Davis 27, Ramon Humber 23, Kyle Knox 21, David Hawthorne 13, Curtis Lofton 13
Defensive end – Glenn Foster 35, Tyrunn Walker 32, Rufus Jonson 24, George Uko 21, Akiem Hicks 13, Cameron Jordan 13
Defensive tackle – Lawrence Virgil 27, Brandon Deaderick 26, Brodrick Bunkley 11

SPECIAL TEAMS (31 snaps)
Ball 14, Sunseri 14, Dawson 13, Reddick 13, Edebali 12, Fortt 12, Jean-Baptiste 12, Knox 12, Powell 12, Davis 11, Hill 11, Zimmerman 11, R.Johnson 10, Wade 10, Justin Drescher 9, S.Jones 9, Cadet 8, Bush 7, Derek Dimke 7, Dixon 7, Humber 7, Thomas Morstead 7, Uzo-Diribe 7, Coleman 6, Harris 6, Jacobs 6, Sweeting 6, White 5, Cooks 4, Shayne Graham 4, Hawthorne 4, Warren 4, Armstead 3, Bunkley 3, Goodwin 3, Hicks 3, Jordan 3, Kelemete 3, Lelito 3, K.Robinson 3, P.Robinson 3, Strief 3, Vaccaro 3, Virgil 3, Watson 3, Welch 3, Armstrong 2, Brooks 2, Foketi 2, Griffin 2, M.Jones 2, Robert Quinn 2, Rooks 2, Weaver 2, Flanders 1, Lofton 1, Strozier 1
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Drew Brees' strained oblique must have been one of those balance-in-the-universe things.

Although the New Orleans Saints quarterback is expected to be healed in plenty of time for the start of the regular season, the injury that has kept him sidelined for the past two weeks feels like one of those yin-and-yang type of deals. Like something had to go wrong to keep the Saints' training camp from going too smoothly.

Because aside from a handful of injury issues that have crept up this summer, the Saints' camp has been as idyllic as the cool mountain air in their new West Virginia training camp site.

Breakout young talents such as rookie receiver Brandin Cooks and second-year left tackle Terron Armstead have injected some new life into an offense that needed a boost in those two position groups. Meanwhile, the Saints' defense appears to be in better shape than ever during the Sean Payton-Brees era, with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan heading into his second season with even more talent at his disposal.

No, the image of Brees throwing passes to prized free-agent safety Jairus Byrd in street clothes before the start of the preseason opener wasn't exactly an awe-inspiring sight. But if they're both back to 100 percent by the start of the real opener, this team indeed has the feel of a bona fide Super Bowl contender.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Cooks has been everything that was advertised and then some. The first-round draft pick from Oregon State has repeatedly flashed his dynamic speed in practices, in the scrimmage and in the preseason opener, when he embarrassed two St. Louis Rams defensive backs with a wicked stop-and-go move. Cooks has also caught almost every pass thrown his way, including some trickier back-shoulder throws and some balls he had to go up and get behind safeties and corners. And he has remained humble and hardworking, demonstrating that the hype isn't going to his head. Although you never want to put too much on any rookie's plate, Cooks really looks like a guy who will help fill that big-play void that started to show up for the Saints last season.

[+] EnlargeCooks
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesIn the preseason opener, Saints rookie Brandin Cooks had five receptions for 55 yards and a TD.
2. The Saints' run game looks as if it could be a legitimate strength -- or at least a decent complement to the passing game. The blockers and runners alike have hit the ground running this summer after finishing strong last season. Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson thrived in the preseason opener -- and that was without Pro Bowl guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs in the lineup because of undisclosed injuries. Armstead is emerging as a tremendous young asset. And more than anything, you can tell there is a confidence among all the players and coaches after they figured out what worked (and what didn't) last season when they transitioned to more of a zone-blocking scheme under new line coach Bret Ingalls.

3. The simple law of averages says the Saints have to force more turnovers than in 2013, when they had only four takeaways over their last 11 games, including zero in the playoffs. But they're not just counting on a change in fortune. It's been a huge point of emphasis this offseason, starting with the Byrd signing. You constantly hear players and coaches cheering turnovers on the field or chattering about the opportunities they missed. One of the highlight moments in camp came early, when the entire secondary wildly celebrated after a great team effort by Champ Bailey and Rafael Bush to force, save and recover a fumble.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. Brees' injury isn't expected to linger into the start of the regular season. And, in his 14th NFL season, he of all people should be able to handle missing preseason games. But it's obviously not ideal for him to be thrown off his routine. And it's a sobering reminder of how fragile the Saints' title chances are if anything happens to their future Hall of Fame quarterback.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
AP Photo/Chris TilleyThe Saints' offense is in good hands -- as long as QB Drew Brees is healthy and ready to lead the charge.
2. Another future Hall of Famer, cornerback Bailey, has been dealing with an undisclosed injury that leaves his future -- and the Saints' No. 2 cornerback job -- in limbo. The good news is the Saints have some other decent options, including former starters Patrick Robinson and Corey White. And Robinson, especially, has looked good in his return from a 2013 knee injury. But in general, that No. 2 cornerback job remains as big of a question mark as it was to start the offseason.

3. Let's go with injuries one more time. It was unsettling to see both Evans and Grubbs out of the lineup for much of the past two weeks. Ideally, neither of their ailments will affect the regular season. But it's another reminder the Saints are getting older across the line -- and this coming on the heels of an inconsistent performance across the board in 2013, in part because of Evans' injuries. I still consider the Saints' line a strength. But they are counting on a healthy line since they don't have much proven depth to fall back on beyond their five starters.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Jimmy Graham remains the Saints' most potent playmaker, even though he missed all of the organized team activities and minicamp in a contract dispute. Graham had the fastest time of any player in the team's conditioning test at the start of camp. And safety Kenny Vaccaro said he thinks Graham looks faster and stronger on the field. Don't forget, Graham is now healthier after dealing with a painful foot injury for the second half of last season. Another monster season could be on the way.
  • The Saints have a lot of young defensive stars still on the rise who could be talked about in similar terms to Graham (end Cameron Jordan, cornerback Keenan Lewis, outside linebacker Junior Galette, Vaccaro and end Akiem Hicks among them). Lewis and Galette seem to be off to the hottest starts so far among that group. But I wouldn't be surprised to see any one of them in the Pro Bowl.
  • None of the Saints' other draft picks has stood out yet. Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, linebackers Khairi Fortt and Ronald Powell, and safety Vinnie Sunseri have all had their moments in practice and have shown some flashes of long-term potential. But they're also still in that "thinking too much to play at full speed" mode. If I had to pick a first-year player to make an early impact other than Cooks, I might go with Canadian Football League transplant Marcus Ball, a safety/special-teams asset.
  • The center battle between Jonathan Goodwin and second-year pro Tim Lelito is still too close to call. But both players have looked good, for the most part, so the winner should be worthy. This doesn't feel like a significant area of concern.
  • The Saints were hoping the kicker battle wouldn't be a tough call. But veteran Shayne Graham hasn't locked down the job yet in his battle with younger hopeful Derek Dimke, thanks in part to a missed 33-yard extra point in the preseason opener.
  • Second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin has looked great so far, giving him the early edge over veteran Luke McCown in the battle to become Brees' backup. Ideally, neither one of them will see the field this season. But either should be capable of keeping the Saints' loaded offense competitive if needed in a pinch.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Drew Brees took one small step closer to getting back to work on Tuesday when he dressed in full pads for the New Orleans Saints' practice.

Brees didn’t participate in any drills, though, as he continued to throw and exercise off to the side with the training staff as he recovers from a strained oblique.

Once again, it appears extremely unlikely that Brees will play in Friday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. But he still appears on schedule to be back in plenty of time for the regular season.

“He's progressing well,” Saints coach Sean Payton said after practice. “So all those things are good signs. Each day he does a little bit more with the training room and then out here. And we just keep working on the rehab and making sure, functionally, that we're not stressing it where it sets him back."

When asked if it’s difficult to keep Brees patient, Payton said: “Well, he has that nature in him. But I also think he’s smart and he understands that the type of strain he has is something that can reoccur if you’re not careful and you don’t let it heal properly.”

The Saints had a number of positive developments Tuesday with their injury list.

Cornerback Champ Bailey returned to the practice field for the first time in nearly two weeks after suffering an undisclosed injury -- though he was limited to walk-through and individual work.

“He’s progressing well, feeling better, and it’s encouraging,” Payton said.

And guard Jahri Evans was spotted on the sideline for the first time in a week, although he wasn’t dressed in pads and only did some light exercises with the trainers off to the side as he recovers from an undisclosed injury.

Other injury updates:

Saints Camp Report: Day 5

July, 29, 2014
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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Another day, another "wow" moment for rookie Saints receiver Brandin Cooks. At some point, I'm going to have to borrow a Sean Payton term and start "de-recruiting" Cooks instead of continuing to pump him up. But that's hard to do when he keeps making eye-popping plays. This time Cooks took a screen pass from Drew Brees and shot past a couple hapless defenders for a touchdown. Cooks also showed off some receiving skills on a nifty back-shoulder catch from Brees, among other highlights. "That was awesome. ... I think that just gives you a taste of what we have in him," Brees said of the screen play. "(Some people) are straight-line fast but not real quick or they have long strides or short-area quickness but not long speed. This guy has it all. He's got short-area quickness, great transition ability and phenomenal straight-line speed."
  • Fellow receiver Nick Toon has also continued to impress throughout training camp. The third-year pro sprung free for one deep ball and went up high to pluck another pass out of the air. It was just another typical practice for Toon this summer as he has probably racked up more catches in team drills than any receiver in camp. ... Of course Toon has looked good in training camps past, and his job this year will be to prove that it can translate onto the field. But Brees, for one, sees Toon playing more "natural" with more "confidence."
  • I've said over the past couple days that 1-on-1 pass-rush drills are my favorite individual segment in camp. But I specifically like watching the daily battles between guard Jahri Evans and defensive end Akiem Hicks. They're both so strong, it's like the irresistible force vs. the immovable object. Credit Evans for holding his own so far in a drill that's designed to favor the defense, but they both look good.
  • Safety Jairus Byrd wasn't the only one back from injury Tuesday. Receiver Robert Meachem (back) and offensive tackle Tavon Rooks (back) also returned from injuries. … Among other highlights from Wednesday's session: an interception by cornerback Terrence Frederick on an overthrown deep ball by Luke McCown; a huge run block by right tackle Thomas Welch that upended safety Vinnie Sunseri; and a great pass break-up deep down the field by Corey White against QB Ryan Griffin at the end of practice.
  • No practice Wednesday. Players will have their first off-day of camp after five straight days of practice. They'll be back on the field Thursday morning.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ debut as a general manager went smoothly Tuesday night as he helped select his own Pro Bowl roster as a co-captain of “Team Rice,” led by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Brees selected Saints guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs to join his team as part of the new format for the annual All-Star game, which chooses sides based on a “schoolyard draft.”

The draft, which began Tuesday night and will conclude on Wednesday night, was broken up by positions. When it came time to select the guards, Team Rice had the first choice, and fellow captains Rice and St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn deferred to Brees to make the pick.

Brees said it was a coin flip for him, but he naturally went with Evans, a five-time Pro Bowler who has been his teammate since 2006. After “Team Sanders” chose Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda, Brees quickly selected Grubbs, calling it the “quickest [decision] yet.” Grubbs, a two-time Pro Bowler, has been with the Saints since 2012.

On Wednesday night, Brees will have the chance to select two more teammates – tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive end Cameron Jordan. Those choices will be more interesting, since it would be odd for Brees to see his favorite target, Graham, playing for the opposition, and it would be even more unusual to see Jordan lined up across from Brees, trying to hit him – at least half-heartedly. The game will be played in Hawaii on Sunday night.
SEATTLE -- There were no surprises on the New Orleans Saints' official injury report Friday. Running back Pierre Thomas (chest) and defensive end Akiem Hicks (ankle) are listed as questionable after participating in Friday’s walk-through practice on a limited basis.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis (head/neck), guard Jahri Evans (ankle) and offensive tackle Terron Armstead (knee) are listed as probable after practicing fully on Friday.

It’s hard to predict whether Thomas and Hicks will play Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. Thomas returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis for the first time since he suffered an unspecified chest injury in Week 17. Conventional wisdom would suggest the Saints won't rush him back since they have so much depth at the running back position -- and since running backs Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Khiry Robinson performed so well in Thomas' absence last week at Philadelphia. But when healthy, Thomas is a central part of the Saints' offense as a runner, receiver and pass protector.

Hicks was new to the injury report this week after playing at Philadelphia, so the severity of his injury is unknown. He was limited in practice all week. Hicks is a lot like Thomas, in that he has been an underrated part of the Saints' resurgence in the middle of the defense. But the Saints do have some trusted depth at all their line positions if Hicks is out or limited.

All of the guys listed as probable should play. Lewis and Armstead practiced fully all week. Evans was limited Wednesday before practicing fully Thursday and Friday.

Graham named first-team All-Pro

January, 3, 2014
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New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press on Friday in a nearly-unanimous vote. He received 49 of 50 votes. Guard Jahri Evans was named to the second team.

Graham
There was no second-team quarterback since first-teamer Peyton Manning received all 50 votes. Otherwise, Saints quarterback Drew Brees would have had a great shot at that honor.

I don’t have any real quibbles with the Saints’ representation on the team. Defensive end Cameron Jordan would have been a worthy top-four choice, but there is a ton of talent at his position (J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Mario Williams and Greg Hardy).

Graham was an obvious selection, leading all NFL players with 16 touchdown receptions this year and leading all tight ends with 86 receptions and 1,215 receiving yards.

Evans’ name recognition probably helped him secure a spot on the second team, after he was a first-teamer in each of the past four years. But he also earned his spot with a strong second half of the season after battling injuries early in the year. Although the Saints’ line had some overall pass protection issues, Evans continued to be solid in that area, as well as versatile in his run blocking and getting out in front of screen passes.
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Just like it played out in the NFC South standings this season, it was a neck-and-neck battle for supremacy between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers when it came to ESPN.com’s All-NFC South team. Ultimately, the Panthers edged the Saints with 10 representatives, compared to New Orleans’ nine.

I don’t have many arguments with the list. The two Saints I would add are safety Kenny Vaccaro and guard Ben Grubbs, but I understand why it was a close call with both players. I think the safety position was the hardest to judge by far, with four candidates in a virtual deadlock for two spots (Vaccaro, Tampa Bay’s Mark Barron, Carolina’s Mike Mitchell and Atlanta’s William Moore). The outside linebacker position was also ridiculously stacked, with the Saints’ Junior Galette missing out only because Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David and Carolina’s Thomas Davis were so sensational. Galette was easily a top-10 defensive player in the division, but he played the wrong position.

I was glad to see that Saints end Cameron Jordan, cornerback Keenan Lewis and inside linebacker Curtis Lofton received proper recognition for the Saints’ remarkable defensive performance this year -- especially since the defense overall was much more stacked than the offense in the NFC South this year (with a total of 12 players to account for various fronts).

I was pretty stunned at the lack of dominant skill-position players this season. Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams was the division’s leading rusher with just 843 rushing yards. The Saints who made the list on offense -- quarterback Drew Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Marques Colston, right tackle Zach Strief and guard Jahri Evans -- were all worthy selections. The same for punter Thomas Morstead.

METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints were well represented with five Pro Bowl selections: quarterback Drew Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham, guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs and defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Jordan is the only first-timer of the bunch, and his selection was well-deserved during a breakout season. The third-year pro has 12.5 sacks, which ranks fourth in the NFL. And he has arguably been the MVP of the defense, which has undergone a remarkable makeover this year.

Earlier Friday, Jordan admitted he was excited about the idea of being selected to his first Pro Bowl – but said he’d rather skip it in favor of a trip to his first Super Bowl.

“To make it would be a pretty good thing -- I can't lie. It'd be a nice thing to say I popped into Hawaii,” Jordan said. “But the ideal situation is I'd rather be freezing in New York than being lei'd in Hawaii."

The biggest snub on the list, in my opinion, is cornerback Keenan Lewis, who has been every bit as important to the defensive resurgence as Jordan. Lewis, who arrived as a free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been a true No. 1 corner, being matched up weekly against the opponent’s top receiver in man coverage. And he’s a huge reason why the Saints have gone from 31st in the NFL in pass defense last year to second this year.

As I wrote earlier, however, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Lewis left out since he hasn’t gotten much national recognition this year, and since there are so many big names at the position. The same goes for outside linebacker Junior Galette, who also missed the cut despite 10 sacks this year.

Brees and Graham are no-brainer selections, putting up monster numbers as usual this season.

Evans and Grubbs were bigger question marks heading into Friday’s announcement, since they both battled some inconsistency during the first half of the season for an offensive line that is having a down year overall. But they are both well-established veterans and former Pro Bowlers who get to flash a lot of versatility for one of the NFL’s top offenses. They’re excellent in pass protection, athletic enough to get out in front of screen passes and solid as run blockers.

This year’s Pro Bowl was the first under a new format where players are selected regardless of their conference. And teams will be picked via a “schoolyard” draft by team captains in January. That means Jordan might be trying to get past Evans and Grubbs to sack Brees in the game -- assuming they’re not all in New York together that week.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.
METAIRIE, La. – Everybody on the New Orleans Saints’ roster participated fully in Thursday’s practice – including starters Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Terron Armstead, who were limited on Wednesday.

Saints coach Sean Payton explained that the team decided to limit Brees’ snaps on Wednesday on account of his bruised right knee because “we just felt like we had a day to do that.”

Apparently the team took the same approach with a handful of players following a physical 17-13 loss at Carolina last week. Brees, Colston (back), Evans (knee) and Armstead (shoulder) all played through the entire game at Carolina.

Also upgraded from limited to full participation on Thursday were backup safety Rafael Bush (ankle) and backup linebackers Keyunta Dawson (calf) and Kevin Reddick (shoulder).

Of that group, Bush is the most important since he could see several snaps in nickel packages now that starting safety Kenny Vaccaro is out for the season with an ankle injury. Bush has been sidelined for the past three games, but he said he is optimistic about his progress.
METAIRIE, La. -- Only two New Orleans Saints players are listed as questionable heading into Monday night's game at the Seattle Seahawks -- defensive end Glenn Foster (knee) and outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson (calf).

Everyone else practiced fully on Friday, including running back Darren Sproles (ankle), guard Jahri Evans (ankle) and cornerback Chris Carr (hip/hamstring) -- all three of whom are listed as probable.

I don't think there's any doubt that Sproles and Evans will play after practicing fully all week. Both players were held out of last Thursday's 17-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but the extra rest appeared to do them good.

Foster seems like a long shot to play Monday after missing practice all week with the injury he suffered against the Falcons. Dawson was new to the injury report on Friday, and the severity of his injury is unknown.

No changes to Saints' injury report

November, 29, 2013
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METAIRIE, La. -- There were no changes to the New Orleans Saints’ injury report on Friday. Running back Darren Sproles (ankle) and guard Jahri Evans (ankle) fully participated. Backup defensive end Glenn Foster (knee) was held out. And cornerback Chris Carr (hip, hamstring) was limited.

Sproles and Evans were both held out of last week’s Thursday night game against the Atlanta Falcons after suffering injuries two weeks ago. But obviously the Saints’ decision to rest them paid off. The Saints beat Atlanta 17-13. And now both Sproles and Evans have had extra time to heal up for Monday night’s critical NFC showdown on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s hard to (sit out). But that’s what they thought would be best,” Sproles said. “Knowing that we’ve got a big game coming up this week. And they thought it would’ve been too early for me to go back out there and play Thursday night, and then I mess around and hurt it worse than it was.”

Sproles could be a key weapon Monday for the Saints, who might want to rely on a short-range passing attack considering the possible weather conditions and the opponent. Seattle has one of the league’s top defenses when it comes to both rushing the passer and covering receivers down the field.

Saints' Sproles, Evans practice fully

November, 28, 2013
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METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints had an injury report to be thankful for on Thursday. Running back Darren Sproles (ankle) and guard Jahri Evans (ankle) practiced fully after missing last Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints' offense should be as healthy as it has been all season for Monday's critical NFC showdown at the Seattle Seahawks.

Obviously the extra time following a Thursday night game did the Saints some good. The only player who missed practice Thursday was backup defensive end Glenn Foster (knee). Backup cornerback Chris Carr was limited with hip and hamstring injuries. Everyone else practiced fully.

Foster has been one of the most pleasant surprises on the Saints this year, having a standout season with three sacks as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois. But the Saints will have plenty of depth on the defensive line even if Foster can’t play against the Seahawks. Starters Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks are having terrific seasons, and backup ends Tom Johnson and Tyrunn Walker have both been solid in small doses. Walker has been a healthy inactive the past couple weeks since recovering from his own knee injury.
METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (knee/ankle) and guard Jahri Evans (ankle) were held out of practice again Wednesday. Both players are listed as questionable for Thursday night’s game at the Atlanta Falcons.

It’s difficult to predict whether either player will play. Both were able to return and finish the game after suffering injuries during last Sunday’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers. But the quick turnaround between games could affect their ability to recover.

Seven other Saints players were listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis this week: guard Ben Grubbs (neck), tight end Benjamin Watson (concussion), safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion), defensive linemen Akiem Hicks (back) and Tyrunn Walker (knee) and cornerbacks Chris Carr (hip/back/hamstring) and Rod Sweeting (hip).

Vaccaro and Watson were held out of last week’s game with their concussions. It’s unclear if they’ll be ready to return, though their limited participation in practice this week has been a good sign.

Tight end Jimmy Graham (foot/ankle), defensive end Cameron Jordan (ankle) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (hamstring/ankle) were listed as probable after practicing on a limited basis this week. All three players should be good to go Thursday night. They all played a high volume of snaps last week while recovering from the nagging injuries.

Guard Tim Lelito missed practice Wednesday for non-football reasons. He is listed as probable.

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