BAYHAM: Previewing The Saints’ Season With Mike Detillier

With the kickoff of the 2014 NFL season this week, college football expert and WWL 870 AM commentator fielded some questions about what the Black and Gold’s chances of winning the division after coming so close last year, which Saints players are going to have a breakout season, his take on the Champ Bailey cut and the future of the Saints’ training camp.

1. New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is known for being an innovator and this season he really pulled something out of the trickbag by moving the team’s training camp from Airline Drive to West Virginia. What is your take on the relocation to the Greenbrier?

It was a very good move. They will be back for quite some time. This is the healthiest this team has ever started a regular season under Sean Payton. The weather conditions, lack of humidity and the work factor you can get in is perfect and there is a bonding issue about being on the road and not having a lot of distractions. This is a business and you want everyone focused. They have that and Greenbrier played a part in getting not only the physical work and your body recovery time is aided, but also the mental part of the game too.

2. Were you surprised by any of the Saints moves when they narrowed the roster down to 53 men?

The surprise early was the release of LB Kevin Reddick, who had played on all 4 special team units. But to be honest the rest of the moves were not a surprise at all. I was hoping outside linebacker Victor Butler could get healthy, but he just couldn’t stay healthy. His lack of impact due to injuries was the biggest surprise.

3. Bobby Hebert decried the team’s decision to part ways with future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey. Do you agree with the Cajun Cannon?

Just as I told you in the spring when they signed him, Champ was not going to beat Father-Time. For every Darren Sharper-2009 season, there are 25 who can’t do it. Injuries and age catch up to every athlete. Champ will go down as one of the greatest cornerbacks of his era and he is a sure fire NFL Hall of Fame player, but this is the 36 year old Champ, not the 26-year old.

Playing cornerback, left tackle and halfback, those positions are unforgiving when you lose a step. God Bless him, he was a super player, but those days have long passed. I really think the Saints thought maybe he could be the nickel/dime cover cornerback, but he just could not hold up physically. He broke down physically over a year ago. The Saints were just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. It was the right decision to release him.

4. Do you believe quarterback Drew Brees has a better offensive line this year compared to the protection he received last year?

Yes. It is the biggest thing I noticed in the OTA’s, training camp and pre-season games just how good the offensive line was in run blocking and also in protecting the QB.nOther than Drew Brees, the most important piece of the Saints puzzle to get back to Super Bowl Sunday is the play of the offensive line. I really like the addition of veteran center Jonathan Goodwin-who had a great off-season and he played well in the pre-season games and left tackle Terron Armstead is a future Pro-Bowler at left tackle. He has a chance to be the best left tackle in the NFC outside of the NFC East guys of Jason Peters (Eagles), Trent Williams (Washington) and Tyron Smith (Cowboys). Now the middle has to play better this season. Way too much leakage right up the gut last year. I did 8 off-season camps and every D-Line coach, defensive coordinator, linebacker coach talked about attacking teams more and more right up the middle. They want to “blow-up” the QB’s launch pad.

5. How big of a year do you think rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks will have?

I think he will have a huge year. He is just such a smart player, football intelligence at the highest level and he has played the X,Y and Z positions and in the slot. He is one step fast and he has superb make you miss skills in the openfield. I wrote it in my draft book and I believe it today like I did when I wrote it that he looks like a young Steve Smith when he was with the Carolina Panthers. His speed will help open up the running game, you have to keep that safety deep to help the cornerback and it also helps out Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. He, along with Joe Morgan gives this team that “nuclear” threat. You have the threat to use and others have to respect that deep ball ability from the Saints in 2014.

6. Two previous Saints first round draft picks, running back Mark Ingram and cornerback Patrick Robinson are playing in their final contract year with the team: what kind of season do you think they will have and should the Who Dat Nation expect to see them in a Saints uniform next year?

I strongly believe that Mark Ingram was the biggest upgrade player the Saints had this off-season and preseason on offense. He runs with better field vision, has much more confidence in finishing off his runs and with power and he is trusting his rushing instincts better. Mark is also a pretty good receiver coming out of the backfield. He runs with a low center of gravity and he is hard to knock off his pegs today. I think the Saints will try and keep him, based off what he does this year and if they decide to keep him, I think they part ways with Pierre Thomas in 2015. Sort of like what they did with Darren Sproles this spring.

Patrick Robinson will get picked on early and often. He is a very inconsistent player and that will not change. But he is the best you have opposite Keenan Lewis. I will be honest I think Keenan is the most important defensive player they have today. He goes down and it is a Mount Everest drop to the reserves. The Saints will have to look for a replacement for Robinson next year.

You hope Stanley Jean Baptiste can be that player, but he is as green as grass today. To be honest rookie free agent Brian Dixon in camp and in preseason games looked like the 2nd round pick and Baptiste looked like the free agent. Stanley has great physical tools, but he is a “reps” guy and he needs to do this over and over and get his techniques down.

7. Were you surprised by the team’s decision to keep Shayne Graham?

No, I think coaches like Sean Payton, for the most part , always like the veteran guy over an unknown. Graham is one of the top 5 most accurate kickers in NFL history. He is getting up in age, but there is a certain trust factor with the veteran. But Shayne will be on a short string all season long. No surprise.

8. Which LSU rookie do you believe will have the best season in 2014?

I will go with WR Jarvis Landry. I thought a little about Jeremy Hill, but I will go with Landry and his impact with the Miami Dolphins. He is one really good football player.

9. Which NFC South team do you believe will be the biggest threat to the Saints?

Still the Carolina Panthers. The have the best defensive line in pro football and their linebacker unit is outstanding also. They will win a lot of games due to their front-7 and their rushing attack and that rushing attack includes their QB Cam Newton.

10. How do you see the Saints finishing the 2014 season?

12-4 and they win the division.

11. Which Saints players do you foresee truly breaking out this year?

Mark Ingram and Terron Armstead on offense and Akiem Hicks on defense. He plays the defensive end spot that doesn’t get a lot of sacks, but he is a “Big Hoss” on the edge in run support. And he is a good pass rusher. Physically can dominate in one-on-one spots.

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