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Ask JD: Our writer tackles your New Orleans Saints questions

John DeShazier answers your questions

You have questions, I have answers (well, some answers).

Thanks to all who submitted and don't worry if your specific question wasn't used; some were duplicate questions and I believe almost all of them will be answered in some form right here. So, I appreciate the submissions and hopefully, we'll make a habit of this.
Now, on to it:

Do you think our WRs are struggling to get open, or is it that their number isn't being called, especially last game?

Receivers combined for five catches, 82 yards and a touchdown against New England. Not bad, but I see where you're coming from. I don't think they were struggling to get open, as much as this offense usually just looks for the open man in the passing game. Now, the exceptions to that rule have been Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston; they're big and athletic enough to even when they're covered, they can be trusted to outjump or outmuscle opponents to the ball the vast majority of the time. New England is one of the few teams that can take away what you do best (remember, the Patriots were allowing only 14 points per game until the Saints scored 27). So sometimes, I think you just have to tip the helmet to the opposition and say that his best was better than your best on that day. Meanwhile, distribution in the passing game probably will remain the same; doesn't matter who's on the route, Drew Brees is going to throw it to the guy who's open, with an exception or two sprinkled in.

Can you clear up whether the Pats got four timeouts in the second half?

You probably already have an answer by now, but if not … no, the Patriots didn't. My understanding is that an incorrect graphic on television credited New England with having one more timeout than it actually owned. However, the Patriots weren't awarded an extra T.O. and they didn't benefit from anything like that.

What can the Saints do to gain balance in the offense? I've seen too many runs up the gut for three quarters in a row.

The balance you seek already is there, just not in the traditional sense. Much of the Saints' running game this season has been accomplished via short passes to Darren Sproles (32 catches for 366 yards and a touchdown) and Pierre Thomas (29 for 195 and two touchdowns). Those "long" handoffs get Sproles and Thomas in space and they've been extremely effective. Now, would the team like to average more than 3.4 yards per rush on traditional handoffs? Of course. But if the traditional method is being taken away, there's nothing wrong with getting production by other means. Also, keep in mind that there may yet be some life in the running game – 26 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. Plus, be encouraged that the Saints refuse to give up on it; they're averaging 25.3 rushing attempts per game and have run 37.7 percent of the time on offense. Last year, the team ran 34.7 percent of the time.

Was the missed holding call the reason for the loss, or nah?

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Nah. Too many plays happen during the course of the game to pin a loss on just one. Sure, it would've helped if the Patriots had been penalized for holding on Tom Brady's game-winning touchdown pass. But you seem like a pretty knowledgeable fan; you know that more often than not, whistles are swallowed on those plays and the players simply are allowed to play through. So a jersey tug or subtle shove in the small of the back often falls through the cracks. Teams generally worry more about what they didn't do than what the opponent did. Hence, Drew Brees was lamenting after the game that the offense didn't gain a first down and either run out the clock, or leave New England too little time to score.

After a tough loss, how do you move ahead? Is it hard not to relive the loss over and over? Love my Saints!!!

Actually, Coach Sean Payton said players were relatively upbeat on Monday. Rehashing a loss and beating yourself up over it for an extended period of time doesn't serve much purpose. That's how one loss can morph into two, or three. So teams try not to wallow in defeat or bask in victory too long, because it can affect preparation for the next opponent. And the next opponent usually doesn't care how heartbreaking your loss was, or how emotional your victory was. It just wants to win and improve its standing.

Do you think the Saints can take anything from this road loss to use against Seattle later in the year?

Absolutely. First, if a similar scenario presents itself, the team knows it doesn't have to panic or abandon the gameplan; trailing by 10 points at halftime is manageable. The team ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in the second half. Second, if an opponent somehow is able to take away a couple of top options (Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston), other players are capable of stepping up (Kenny Stills, Khiry Robinson). Third, coaches will take into account what worked and didn't work in the first half, when the Saints fell behind, and in the second half, when the Patriots rallied to win, and learn from it, too. Likely, in the self-evaluation process, they found a few things they'd have done differently.

Are we trading Ingram?

I don't know, but I doubt it. There's no reason to. He's kind of a popular target to be dumped on but the running game hasn't totally excelled in his absence. The coaches, who see him every day, believe he has value to the Saints.

When are Harper, Moore, and Vilma expected to return?

At the risk of sounding uniformed, I have no idea. Really, we're provided injury reports but not with a timetable as to when injured players might or might not return to the field. We'll get a better indication depending on what's listed on the injury report, in terms of a player's practice participation. As you probably know, Vilma had surgery during training camp and was placed on the Reserve/Injured; Designated for Return list. There's still time to determine whether he will be added to the active roster.

Do you see an increased role for @TravarisCadet39 in the upcoming weeks? He has a lot of potential.

Fact is, snaps will be hard to come by, given that he has Sproles, Thomas and Robinson ahead of him right now. That doesn't mean he won't be used, only that it's difficult to take playing time away from those three. New England obviously wasn't expecting him to be a threat on his 3-yard touchdown reception, so that was good use of the element of surprise. But Robinson, especially, has emerged as a solid running threat and Thomas and Sproles are trusted veterans. Cadet has to be ready in case of injury but right now, his main contribution probably will be on special teams.

What was happening to Graham's feet in last Sunday's game?

I don't know for certain exactly what the injury was, only that he was injured and it likely limited his effectiveness. He tried to play through it but not with much success. No official injury report will be available until Wednesday; then, we'll get a better indication of whether he'll be available to play against Buffalo.

What is the most memorable victory?

For my money, I'd say the 26-18 win in Chicago. I thought it was the most complete game the Saints have played and it probably was especially sweet in that it was a road win, not in a dome, beating a team at its own game (being physical, controlling the line of scrimmage, pressuring the quarterback, winning the turnover battle). The Saints have suffered a few setbacks in Chicago since 2006, too, so it didn't hurt to exorcise a demon or two. And the Bears are pretty good – 4-2 overall, 3-1 at home. All those factors give it a little more weight, in my opinion.

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