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John DeShazier: New Orleans Saints Twitter mailbag

Posted Jan 15, 2016

Senior writer for NewOrleansSaints.com tackles your questions

You asked, I answered (I hope).

Welcome to another edition of the mailbag on NewOrleansSaints.com and, as always, we appreciate the participation. Some questions essentially were the same, but from several entrants, so even though we may not have chosen your personal question, we have addressed your specific answer.

Oh, and a personal aside for future reference: If you can’t ask a question without using profanity, it’s a good bet that we won’t be using that one; I’m not here to clean mouths and minds, just to answer some questions and have a little fun along the way.

So, here we go:

@SaintsKid32xx: What position do the Saints address first in the draft and who do you think they'll take at that position?

JD: That’s always a good question, but the answer always remains the same – it’s difficult to say until we see what areas the team addresses in free agency. For instance, let’s say the Saints are looking for cornerback help this offseason. Well, if they’re able to land a starting nickel or dime corner in free agency – assuming Keenan Lewis returns to form and Delvin Breaux continues his upward trajectory – that would mitigate the need to seek a corner early in the draft, and it possibly could erase the need to pick a corner at all. So that question better can be answered (guessed at?) after the Saints finish addressing the needs that they can in free agency.

‏@UncleWreckum: Do you have insight as to whether the Saints will retain Dennis Allen as defensive coordinator next year or look elsewhere?

JD: Unc, I’m assuming you know now that Allen is the preference by Coach Sean Payton. I’m assuming he’ll accept the position full time, after serving as defensive coordinator for the last six games of the 2015 season. Allen, from what Payton and players said, was able to eliminate some of the communication issues and allow the players to play a bit faster and more instinctually. The hope is that with an entire offseason under Allen, there will be an even better understanding of his system and he’ll have a better grasp of how to employ the parts that he has in the system.

‏@thegutsysleeper: Do you see Drew Brees remaining a Saint? Also, who would you like to see us get in free agency?

JD: To the first question: Uh, yeah. Brees had one of his best NFL seasons – and he has had a decorated career – last year, leading the league in passing yards and finishing with 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. Winning in today’s NFL without an elite quarterback is just about impossible, Brees has said (several times) that he doesn’t want to go anywhere and that he’s willing to do a contract extension (which would lower his salary cap number), and no one should want him to go anywhere because he’s still playing at a high, high level. Now, the second question is trickier, so I’ll try to tackle the “what” and let the Saints decide on the “who.” We know the team has defensive needs (defensive back, rush end, maybe weakside linebacker if Dannell Ellerbe can’t stay healthy). Salary-cap wise, the Saints probably can’t be high-end shoppers but a value pickup or two can be made.

‏@LoSafarii: What are the odds we get Robert Griffin III?

JD: All due respect to the former Heisman Trophy winner who was born in New Orleans – and still has relatives living in the city – but would he be a guy you’d want on this roster right now? That’s not to say he isn’t talented, or that he doesn’t have good football remaining in him. But his injury history has to be concerning, as well as how his production plummeted in Washington. His reputation with teammates took a hit in Washington, too, and the Saints are trying to avoid locker room discord after the 2014 season. This coach (Payton) picked a quarterback (Garrett Grayson) in the third round of the draft in ’15. Let’s assume the belief is that Grayson is a better fit for this offense than would be Griffin, and roll with that.

‏@k2music09: What do you think our moves are going to be for our cornerbacks?

JD: First, New Orleans will have to see how Keenan Lewis comes back from his injury-interrupted, surgery-ended season. Lewis never had been injured to the extent he was last season in his NFL career, so if he returns to form that will fill a significant void. He’s a proven starter and was the Saints’ top cornerback in his first two seasons with the team. But there are more serious questions beyond Lewis: Will Damian Swann be OK to return after three concussions suffered during his rookie season? Can P.J. Williams, who missed his rookie season with an injury, be counted on to help? What can the role be for Kyle Wilson? Can defensive coordinator Dennis Allen find an effective role for Brandon Browner? We have a decent guess of who the top four corners will be if they’re healthy (Delvin Breaux, Lewis, Browner, Swann) but there are a ton of variables that will come into play, including potential free agent additions. Couldn’t you have asked something simple, like where Bigfoot lives?

‏@thnikaman89: All those running backs on the roster: Who stays and who goes next season? Great performances from all of them this year.

Who do you think will bounce back from injured reserve the most next season?

How do you think this season would've gone if Rob Ryan’s and Dennis Allen’s jobs were swapped before it all began?

Brandin Cooks shoots arrows every touchdown. Why?

JD: Bro, I usually wouldn’t four questions from one person, but you caught me on the right day. So…

A.)   You’re right about the running backs, it’ll be a difficult decision on who stays and goes. Mark Ingram had a career year in yards from scrimmage, Khiry Robinson is tough and effective, Tim Hightower is one of the best ever comeback stories and C.J. Spiller should be a different player once he’s healthy. One thing we’ve learned is that the position has to be stacked because of injury potential (Ingram, Robinson and Spiller finished the season on injured reserve). All four merited a roster spot after training camp last year, but Hightower had to be released in order for the Saints to beef up depth at another position. Ingram isn’t going anywhere, and Robinson has the right kind of production and price to stay around if he’s healthy. Spiller could be the wild card, but he adds a different dimension and, again, depth at the position is critical. I thought all four would be kept after training camp last year, and the same could apply again.

B.)   We’re going to say Keenan Lewis will be the bounce-back kid. The cornerback never seriously had been injured in his NFL career before last season, and I’m guessing he’ll be fine after an offseason of rehab.

C.)   I don’t know how the season would’ve gone if Ryan had been fired and Allen hired as defensive coordinator before the season, but I do know this: After a standout first season as coordinator in 2013, it wasn’t illogical to retain Ryan after a bad ’14. It was reasonable to see if his defense could improve and bear a resemblance to the ’13 unit. Allen will have an offseason to clean up the communication issues and determine how the parts on hand jibe with what he wants to do, and to figure out how best to design a scheme to play to the players’ strengths.

D.)   Cooks’ bow-and-arrow celebration is biblically-based (he often references his faith). It is tied to a Bible verse in which a boy named Ishmael used his archery skill to survive in the desert after he nearly died there without water. "That was just one of my things giving my glory to God for blessing me to do what I do," Cooks said.

‏@panda72098: Will the Saints ever go to the Super Bowl again?

JD: Ever? Why not? When Payton said in his postseason news conference that there’s never been a better time to be competitive in the NFL, he essentially was saying that the rise from 7-9 to 11-5 was winning the four games that the Saints lost this season by eight or less points. The offense seemed to find its stride near the end of the season and the defense doesn’t have to post shutouts, just cut down from 30 points and 400 yards allowed per game to, maybe, 21 and 350. It won’t be easy; if it was, every team would improve by leaps and bounds every season. But the Saints aren’t irreparable, either.

‏@realcolehughes: Do you see the Saints trading up for anyone this year, maybe an edge rusher, wide receiver or offensive lineman?

JD: Trading up carries a cost, and I’m not sure the Saints want to pay it – in terms of possibly losing draft picks – in order to make the move. Draft picks are a way to acquire effective, salary-friendly talent and there’s the possibility that the Saints could address one, or each, of those concerns in free agency. Maybe “the” guy they want will be available at a reasonable cost, but it’s always pricey to jump into the top 10.

‏@Milissa34: What’s the chance of Marques Colston coming back to finish out his contract?

JD: Good question, and I just don’t have a good answer. Colston had the least productive season of his 10-year career in 2015, and couldn’t play the last two games because of a chest injury. He’s quiet, but prideful, and I can’t imagine he wants to go out like that. But there isn’t much sentimentality in this sport, and the franchise may choose to move on without him. He’s an all-time great for the franchise and a personal favorite, and my guess is that he’ll give it a try, see if he wants to go through the grind again, before a decision is made. But that’s a shot in the dark; wish I had some true insight on it.

@Yubes_: Do you think our receiving corps is set for next season. I’m impressed by Willie Snead.

JD: It’s not set, but Brandin Cooks and Snead are excellent starting points. Cooks surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and Snead fell 16 yards short of 1,000, and both are second-year players, so they should have several productive years ahead of them. Brandon Coleman should make a leap from his first year to his second, so that’s a solid three. The wild card may be what happens with Marques Colston; does the franchise want its all-time leading receiver to return, and does he want to give it a go? And a reliable fifth receiver has to emerge, too, someone who can play special teams (will Seantavious Jones seize the role?). So, the top of the rotation looks set; the bottom, not nearly as settled.

‏@BadGirlRe: Can I get some Saints tickets for my birthday?

JD: Well, if you’re asking me to buy ‘em, um, ah…there’s an absolute likelihood, in the 99.9999999999th percentile, that, it won’t happen. But that .00000000001th of a chance is always worth the risk…

‏@uptwngrl2008: Are we going to be making big changes offensively during the offseason?

JD: The scheme and execution look fine, so I’m not sure if any drastic changes are needed. The Saints finished in the top six in total offense for the 10th time in as many seasons since Payton became head coach in 2006. There will be tweaks, of course, that come with seasoning. Drew Brees will have better comradery with Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, etc. But there’s no reason to reinvent a wheel that’s rolling along pretty smoothly.

‏@Whodatwarlord1: Do you think Brandon Browner would be a better fit as a cornerback/safety hybrid?

JD: There seemed to be some benefits to Browner playing in the box a bit more; he’s big, physical and doesn’t have an issue with tackling. Some of New Orleans’ best success in recent seasons was with a three-safety alignment and Browner may be able to fill that role when the scheme calls for it. I’ll leave it to Dennis Allen to figure out how best to employ Browner’s talents but if he’s on the team, he’s going to be on the field.

‏@CockyCamNewton1: Why does your franchise suck and why does it live off the past so much?

Dude, you’re not a grown man who’s using another grown man’s name as your handle, are you? Really?

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