New Orleans Saints offensive guard Senio Kelemete (65) and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) and battle as the Saints get physical in the trenches during Saints training camp at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Monday, July 28, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
- 58 minutes ago
- 1 hour ago
Rob Ryan has Saints defense thinking big
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is already a cult hero in in the Big Easy after just one season. In 2013, he transformed a unit that was historically awful in 2012 under Steve Spagnuolo into the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense.
Now imagine how much of a rock star/hot head-coaching candidate Ryan will be if he helps the Saints win a second Super Bowl.
He is the free spirit who after the Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons in last season’s opener bought the house a round of drinks at a popular bar near his Uptown home in New Orleans.
Ryan walks with a star player’s swagger despite that wide body lineman’s size.
With his flowing gray-white beard and mane, he resembles a character from the film, “Braveheart.” Or as former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert puts it, “Rob looks like a pirate who just hit the port of New Orleans and strutted into Jean Lafitte’s bar.”
"I’d rather be a hero than a goat,” Ryan said. "Hell, I just want to make sure we do the right things. And I love New Orleans.
"This happens to be an awesome city. I want to reward Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis for hiring me. Then, after that, I love these people, too.”
The twin brother of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is entering his 17th season as an NFL assistant, including from 2000 to 2003 when he helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII as coach Bill Belichick’s linebackers coach.
His players love playing for Ryan because he’s one of them.
"We respond to his personality, his coaching style,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks. "You can list a million things. But it’s the way he takes over a room when he comes in and delivers his message and allows us to receive it.
"He makes it your choice whether you’re going to be successful or not.
"You do what you’re supposed to do for the team. That’s the message he preaches, something we hold on to.”
Cornerback Keenan Lewis said Ryan showed his defense the road map to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
"Coach showed us some great statistics that the team that won the Super Bowl the last five years led the league in turnovers,” Lewis said.
The Saints’ 19 takeaways in 2013 weren’t near enough.
The signing of former Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd and his 22 career interceptions figure to make a huge difference, especially with Byrd paired along with talented second-year strong safety Kenny Vaccaro.
"Jairus has always been that magnet where the ball just finds him,” Ryan said. "He and Kenny Vaccaro are going to be a special duo. They work hard. They’re smart. They’re friends already. So it’s a great thing.”
Then, there’s that chip on Ryan’s shoulder to follow in his brother’s and his father, Buddy’s footsteps.
"I want to be like Rex,” Ryan said. "I’ve been an assistant a long time. I’ve never been a head coach. So when people want to give me that opportunity that will be great. Until then, I want to work hard and be a great assistant.”
The Saints get physical in the trenches during Saints training camp at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Monday, July 28, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (28) scoops up a loose ball during Saints training camp at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Monday, July 28, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. — Don’t throw at New Orleans Saints cornerbackKeenan Lewis. Not in walkthrough. Not in practice. Not in games.
The Algiers native, whom defensive coordinator Rob Ryan refers to as “West Bank,” continues to show why he’s becoming one of the better cover cornerbacks in the NFL. He came up with two pass breakups on Drew Brees during team drills in Monday’s padded training camp session at The Greenbrier.
Lewis closed in on an out route intended forAndy Tanner and knocked the pass away with a diving stab at the ball. Only a few plays later, Lewis hovered over just in time, leaping to bat away a pass to Joe Morgan where it appeared Brees found a window to drop the pass into Morgan.
We’ve come to expect these plays from Lewis.
Even in Sunday’s afternoon walkthrough where the plays are moving at about 30 percent speed, Lewis couldn’t help himself from deflecting a Brees pass away from the intended receiver. Lewis looked back at Brees with a smile and shook his head. Lewis laughed back at Brees.
Lewis led the Saints last season with four interceptions and arguably could have made the Pro Bowl last year. I know it ate him last year, but he’s undoubtedly looking for a bigger Bowl.
"That isn’t my goal to worry about the Pro Bowl," Lewis said. "If it comes, it comes. My goal is to get to Arizona, so whatever I can do to help my team get there I’m willing to do. … It definitely would be a great opportunity to have the opportunity to play with the best and the elite, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to get to the Super Bowl."
2. Play of the day: Undrafted rookie safety Pierre Warren has to be catching the eyes of the Saints coaching staff.
Luke McCown lofted a pass over the middle to wideout Brandon Coleman during team drills. The ball skipped through Coleman’s hands and Warren dove in for the interception just as the ball looked like it would hit the turf.
The former Jacksonville State defensive back participates in walkthroughs on the first-team field and has consistently played on the second-team defense at safety throughout camp. Both are goods signs for Warren.
3. Well-rounded Robinson: Budding tailback Khiry Robinson stonewalled Kenny Vaccaro on a blitz pickup during team drills. This may not sound like much, but if Robinson can master pass protection it’s another step into becoming a more valuable piece to the offense.
Robinson has already become a fixture with the first-team offense as he’s splitting time with Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. We already know how hard he runs. Plus, the Saints liked what they saw from him catching the football on a few occasions late last season.
A well-rounded Robinson would fit very well with the Saints with the futures of Thomas and Ingram in New Orleans a question after this season.
4. Morgan-Meachem battle: Morgan essentially took over all of Robert Meachem’s practice reps at wide receiver the past two days with Meachem missing practice with a back ailment. This could be the time for Morgan to show some early flashes.
Monday wasn’t that day for Morgan. Brees and Morgan miscommunicated on a deep ball during team drills causing an incompletion, then Morgan slipped and fell in the middle of the field on a deep crossing pattern to cause another incomplete pass.
5. Foster feasting: Second-year defensive lineman Glenn Foster posted another good day in one-on-one drills. He has consistently bull-rushed his way through his matchups during those drills the past two days once the Saints threw the pads on.
He shined last preseason to force his way onto the 53-man roster. He’s told me his goal is to earn more playing time in 2015. He’s off to a solid start through four days of camp.
6. Lagniappe: Jonathan Goodwin and Tim Lelito rotated first-team reps during practice at center. That’s a change from the typical routine as each player would normally take snaps with either unit for the duration of practice. … As for the battle, I’m giving the early edge to Goodwin. … Defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker batted down aRyan Griffin offering during team drills. … Patrick Robinson nearly came up with another nice play during team drills. Robinson nearly came up with a diving interception on a Brees pass which looked like a bit of a miscommunication, but the ball squirted away as Robinson hit the turf.
- 20 hours ago
The four New Orleans Saints quarterbacks have created an extra competition during training camp.
Drew Brees, Luke McCown, Ryan Griffin and Logan Kilgore participate in a set of challenges with the winner taking home bragging rights for the day.
Former Tulane quarterback Griffin won Monday’s challenge which involved throwing at moving targets.
Monday’s competition went to McCown and, in the words of Brees, was inspired by “American Gladiators.”
Saints coach Sean Payton even joined in on Monday’s action.
- 21 hours ago
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Seantavius Jones (15) makes a leaping catch during the third day of training camp at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)