This week's mailbag is a light one; I'm assuming Santa is carrying the heavy load. Here we go:
@texashunnygirl: Do Saints players hang out together like friends off the field?
JD: Yes. They make dinner plans together, bowl together, participate in charitable events together, hang out at each other's house. There's comradery within the locker room and outside of it.
@dannydeakle: When will we get a running back and a defense?
JD: Already have two running backs and an improving defense. The offense seems to be functioning just fine with the combination of Mark Ingram(167 carries for 850 yards and three touchdowns, and 38 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns) and Tim Hightower(122-490-3 rushing, 21-189-1 receiving). That's a combined for 1,816 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns rushing and receiving in 14 games, and an average of 4.6 yards per carry. If those were the numbers produced by one running back, my guess is that you'd be ecstatic. So why not be pleased when they're produced by two? As for the defense, it allowed 18 touchdowns and 31 points per game in the first five games, then 15 touchdowns and 21 points per game in the next eight, prior to last Sunday. And it had a stretch of four games in which three opponents had 270 yards or less. That's not Dome Patrol-level or Steel Curtain-like, but it's pretty significant improvement.
@chris_tassin: Should the Saints draft a defensive back in the first round? It's obvious we need improvement at corner and safety.
JD: If a defensive back is the highest-graded player at their draft position, sure. But, for example, do you bypass the best linebacker or defensive end in the draft in order to take a defensive back who's graded significantly lower on your board? Whatever problems the secondary has experienced this season, it has played decidedly better than last season (45 touchdown passes surrendered last season, with nine interceptions, versus 21 touchdown passes allowed this season, with seven interceptions; a 116.2 passer rating allowed last year, versus 96.1 this year). And it pretty much has done so without Delvin Breauxand P.J. Williams, the opening-day starters at cornerback, because of their respective injuries. Also, safety Kenny Vaccarowill miss the final four games due to his suspension. Can the Saints use some secondary help? Every NFL team can use some secondary help. But the Saints' secondary steadily has improved this season while missing key components, and the additions of cornerbacks Sterling Mooreand B.W. Webbhave proven to be good adds. Bottom line: I think the Saints will add secondary help, but I don't know that it has to be in the first round based on where they pick and on the grades they have assigned to the players in that draft grouping.