Jean-Rene Ella of Canal Street Chronicles was nice enough to answer 5 questions about his New Orleans Saints for us. You know I had to ask him about the rumors that Sean Payton is unhappy in New Orleans now that the Titans are in the market for a coach. How awesome would it be to have a shot at him?
See his answer to that question and everything else below.
The Saints offense blew up last week. What was holding them back early in the season? Are they back?
I've been a non-believer in the Saints all year long but even I have to admit, that the past three weeks, the Saints' offense has finally started looking like...well, the Saints' offense. In their first five games (1-4), the Saints averaged 20.6 points-per-game. In their last three (3-0) they've scored 36.7 ppg. The reason that stat is very important is the simple fact that the Saints' defense gives up 29.3 ppg. In other words, the Saints have better score 30 or more points when facing a decent-to-capable offense, otherwise their likelihood of winning is slim. Now, are they back? Wide receiver Willie Snead and tight end Ben Watson have been awesome for New Orleans all year. However, in the last game vs. the Giants, we finally saw Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston get involved and produce for Drew Brees. If those two guys can have a repeat of their performance from last Sunday against this very good Titans' defense in this upcoming game, maybe then I'll believe that the Saints' offense is truly back.
How do you see the running back rotation playing out with Khiry Robinson being out for the year?
The Saints re-signed Tim Hightower, who was with the team throughout training camp and preseason. Hightower hasn't played meaningful football in over two years, after knee injuries derailed his career. However, he looked decent in camp and could have a shot to play this Sunday.
Mark Ingram is going to be the starter as usual and C.J. Spiller will be the number two back. Payton however hinted at the possibility of rookie running back Marcus Murphy to have an increased role in the regular offense. Murphy has been the punt and kickoff return specialist, but he is a running back by trade. It is thus possible that Hightower will not even be active right away, if Murphy plays well. Payton would still prefer to keep Spiller as the "change of pace" back, the guy who gets the screen plays and wheel routes and only occasionally runs between the tackles.
Who is one player on the Saints that is going to have an impact on this game that we have never heard of?
I'm not sure whether you still haven't heard of him, but my eyes are squarely on wide receiver Willie Snead. He is the new "Lance Moore" in New Orleans. An undrafted free agent gem, he was first signed then let go by the Cleveland Browns. The Saints signed him this offseason and Snead immediately gelled with Brees in Sean Payton's offense. On the season, Snead has 35 receptions (on 53 targets) for 531 yards and three touchdowns. By comparison, the Saints' receptions leader right now is Brandin Cooks, with 41 receptions (on 66 targets), 532 yards and three touchdowns. Snead is the quintessential possession receiver. He doesn't have blazing speed and won't wow anyone physically, but he has good hands and runs routes like a veteran. You will likely hear is name often this Sunday when the Saints drop back to pass.
There has been some talk that Sean Payton could be looking to move on after the season. Any truth to that (fingers crossed the answer is yes)?
Here's what I think: the idea that Payton will be gone from New Orleans after this season is a bunch of Mularkey! (Sorry, I couldn't help!)
No coach ever stays in one place forever (unless you're Bill Belichick) and Payton will eventually leave New Orleans. However, I don't think it'll happen as long as Drew Brees has the ability to lead a team to the Super Bowl. I think Brees has two to three years where he absolutely has the ability to win another championship and I believe that Payton will have the Saints restructure his franchise quarterback's contract until Brees decides to retire. Once Brees is gone, all bets are off, unless the Saints are lucky enough to have found their Steve Young to Joe Montana by then.
So, and it is nothing more than my opinion, I think Sean Payton and Drew Brees' bromance in New Orleans will last for another two to three years. Sorry Titans, but hands off.
Write the headline in Sunday's Tennessean.
Well as you know, in print they usually have several headlines ready in case the outcome of the game is in doubt late. I think the Saints will play sloppily on Sunday, after winning an emotional game against the Giants. On the other hand, the Titans' defense will give Brees fits. So the game will be close until late and the Tennessean will have a
few headlines by outcome.
If the Titans win:
Headline One: "All Hail Marcus, Emperor of New Orleans" (Written by an intern)
Headline Two: "Titans Turn Season Around in New Orleans" (Written by a serious journalist)
If the Titans lose:
Headline One: "Captain Mularkey Sinks with the Titanic" (Written by the same intern)
Headline Two: "Mularkey, Mariota Can't Turn Titans' Fortunes" (Written by the same serious journalist)
Thanks Jean-Rene for taking the time to answer the questions.