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Saints Nation Mailbag: You’ve got questions, I have answers (sometimes)

Thanks for some of the questions you sent over the weekend. Some good things to discuss for sure. Let’s dive right into it.

From Facebook: Chad Koelling Assuming Pierre Thomas is the starter next season, do you prefer Ingram or Robinson next in the rotation or can you see Robinson filling in the hole Sproles will likely leave in the screen game the Saints have been so accustomed to?

Chad, I’m glad you asked this question because I’ve been wondering about the running back rotation a lot lately. Sean Payton did say we could expect to see Travaris Cadet in Sproles’ role more this season, so I don’t think you can rule him out as being a bigger part of the offense. Cadet has some skill, but I’ve never viewed him as good enough to see the kind of snaps Sproles got. Cadet is probably the best receiving back of the bunch and he’s the closest to Sproles by far in terms of playing style. But while I think he may see some action, I agree with you that the departure of Sproles will mostly mean more snaps for Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram. I agree that Thomas is still the guy that can do everything well, so he’ll be the “starter” and get his usual ~10 touches a game. Beyond that I think the Saints will use Ingram and Robinson liberally with the hot hand getting more reps. I think health and form will have a lot to do with who sees the ball, I think there’s a lot less certainty going into a season than ever on who is “the guy”. I could easily see PT seeing less snaps if Ingram and Robinson are both killing it. I do think losing Sproles means the Saints will run the ball more in 2014 than they have in recent years. I think Payton feels the shift of a strong running attack and defense being the anchors of the team and hopes to be less reliant on Drew Brees having to throw for 5,000 yards.

From twitter:

No chance. For two reasons: one, this regime has been steadfast about only adding high character players in the locker room. That’s been a successful business model and they will not compromise it for someone that has a questionable track record, regardless of talent. Two, with the cap situation they are in the Saints have to be VERY picky about the additions they make. For what it’s worth I wouldn’t touch DJ either if I were the Saints. I view the risk of a major money investment in an NFL player as always high due to injury. When a guy is either an addict or he has a character flaw on top of it, you’re just making the risk even more significant. When you’re investing millions in a win or lose your job business, you have to be careful. I’m not saying people don’t deserve a second chance, but this Saints offense will be plenty exciting with the baggage and locker room issues he creates.

I’m feeling real good about defensive tackle. Really it’s “nose tackle” with the kinda sorta 3-4 the Saints play. Brodrick Bunkley is a solid veteran that’s still playing at a high level, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Jenkins take over in 2015 as the full time starter. As far as Jenkins’ ceiling, assuming he keeps his weight down and stays healthy, is extremely high. Like Vince Wilfork high. I’ve never seen a guy so big have such interior quickness. He’s nowhere near polished yet, but raw talent wise he is exceptional. Then you’ve got Akiem Hicks and Tyrunn Walker who are both very good players that have the size to move inside when necessary. The Saints are very deep along the defensive line and they have a lot of versatile players that can move around. It’s a great position to be in. I don’t see Jenkins being a double digit sack guy, but I see him being a dominant run defender that eats space and still has the quickness to create pocket pressure. He’s a rare blend of size and speed that every team is desperate to find.

@SaintsNationBlg how soon will we know if Mark Ingram’s resurgence was a turning of the corner or a slight detour in his old course?

I think we’ll know after 4 games in 2014. I honestly believe the slow start in 2013 was due to the toe injury. After it became clear he wasn’t producing the Saints shelved him until he was healthy enough to play again, and once he came back he was very good for the rest of the season including the playoffs. This may seem simple but the key for him is to always play pissed off. When he runs with anger I feel like he’s always so much better. My faith is renewed in Ingram, that playoff run was impressive. But I have higher aspirations for Khiry long term, if I’m being honest.

Right now there’s 58 people on the roster if you include Jimmy Graham (franchised) and Rafael Bush (tendered). The 51st contract is a rookie minimum deal of $420,000, so any veteran they sign to a 1 year deal for the minimum would count against the top 51 contracts. So the only players that can be signed cap free are undrafted rookies and maybe low draft picks.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThere’s still about a month of free agency before the draft hits, so part of their plan with that pick will depend on how things play out. For me it has to either be a cornerback, a receiver or a pass rusher. Don’t rule out an offensive lineman, either. My preference would be the first two positions I listed. The receiver thing is interesting because the draft is VERY deep at that position. So there’s one view that at 27 you can get an impact receiver, and another that you can pass on a receiver in the 1st round because you will still get a very good one in the 2nd or even 3rd round. So there’s two schools of thought there. If the right corner falls to 27 it’s an easy decision, but the bottom line is there’s no way to predict how the draft will play out. When you pick 27th you have to be prepared for many possibilities and you can’t go in with a specific plan because there are so many unknowns. The draft always takes a turn no one expects. I have a feeling there will be a player the Saints will be shocked fell to them.

Never rule out the possibility. I don’t think the Saints have that much ammo, but like with Jairus Byrd in free agency if they see a guy they want they will do whatever is necessary to get him. I have a weird gut feeling they really want/like Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. If they get intel someone might draft him before they go (like Philadelphia to replace DeSean Jackson) they may try to jump ahead so they can make sure they secure him. I have a feeling they really like Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State, too.