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Ross Jackson | New Orleans Saints Insider, Locked On Saints Podcast

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March 9, 2023 6:09 am

Ross Jackson | New Orleans Saints Insider, Locked On Saints Podcast

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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March 9, 2023 6:09 am

 New Orleans Saints insider Ross Jackson joins the show to talk the signing of Derek Carr, other offseason roster moves, and how the Saints stack-up in the NFC South.


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Subscribe to NerdWallet's Smart Money Podcast. We're pleased to welcome Ross Jackson from the Crescent City. He's got the Locked on Saints Podcast as well as the Saints Wire for USA Today. Ross, I'd love to start with your reaction to Derek Carr's signing with the New Orleans Saints. I think this is one that the New Orleans Saints needed because simply it's the move that the New Orleans Saints wanted. I mean, I can tell you throughout the entire offseason that Derek Carr was the quarterback that the Saints had their eyes on. And I think that was pretty indicative from their visit with him when he could have potentially been traded. Saints, of course, were the only team that he visited there and then just the continued communication there as well. And so, when the trade finally happened, I think it was one that I looked at and said, okay, that's what the New Orleans Saints wanted. They were able to get it done because they had gotten down the road several times with a bunch of different free agents in previous seasons that ended up signing elsewhere. Genevion Clowney, a long time ago, Josh Norman, there's a name that'll bring you back a little bit.

And then guys like Ndamukong Suh and Odell Beckham Jr. as well. So, you know, that was the move that they were looking for, the move that they were able to get done and it certainly gives, you know, Dennis Allen here in his second year as head coach in New Orleans the opportunity to fully say, okay, he's put together his team and now we get to see what he's able to do as a head coach with his guys. Why is Derek Carr, the quarterback the Saints desired? Yeah, I think Derek Carr and Dennis Allen have a bit of a connection, right? Dennis Allen was the head coach back in Oakland in 2014, drafted Derek Carr, made the decision to start him as a rookie.

They've maintained their connection ever since. The Saints really want to be able to run this offense that's still pretty familiar to what it is that Sean Payton had in place with Pete Carmichael in an offensive coordinator that really attacks defenses laterally. So they want to be able to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline attacking in the short, which would be 0 to 9 yards or intermediate 10 to 19 yards from the line of scrimmage. And Carr is really, really solid in those two areas. It's probably where he is most sound in terms of his fundamentals, good decision making, things like that. That complements the New Orleans Saints really well. Dennis Allen, of course, thinks very highly of Derek Carr having gone out and drafted him in 2014 as he was coming into the league.

And so I think just kind of the combination of those things. And I'll tell you as well, Dennis Allen told us that two qualities that they loved in Derek Carr when they were still pursuing him actually was his work ethic and his ability as a leader. Those are two things that they absolutely very much value at the quarterback position.

Well, those two things can't be questioned. We'll see whether or not the offense can find a rhythm, but definitely Carr has proven himself in those two arenas. Ross, what have you heard from fans or even from inside the Saints organization, I guess not including Dennis Allen? This was kind of an interesting signing because the moment that the signing was done and the news had broke, Alante Taylor, second year cornerback, Cameron Jordan, of course, who had actually been campaigning for Derek Carr or in favor of Derek Carr throughout the offseason at Super Bowl Radio Row and other places, veteran defensive end and one of the big emotional leaders and veteran leaders of this team.

He chimed off about being very excited about it. DeMario Davis had campaigned in Derek Carr's favor. Carr and Davis have a close personal relationship.

But here's a big key one. Michael Thomas even took to social media. New Orleans Saints wide receiver has been embattled over the course of the past couple of years dealing with injuries, 10 games played over the last three years.

Even he took it took to social media and showed how excited that he was. And so that could be a big key thing to watch because the Saints and Michael Thomas look like they were on their way to parting ways with the contract restructure after week 18 of the NFL season. Now, with Derek Carr in the building, there's a chance here that the Saints could use Derek Carr as a leverage ship to get Michael Thomas back on a very, you know, incentive based deal that capitalizes in terms of his availability, production, things like that, and actually have him back in New Orleans in 2023, which we weren't sure was going to be the case. So when it comes to the organization players, general manager Mickey Loomis is very excited about this. Coach is all very excited about this as well.

So lots of excitement there. Fan base is a little bit split because I don't think that the perception of the NFL fan versus the perception of the NFL personnel and player when it comes to Derek Carr is the same. But I will say that a lot of fans are happy that at least the New Orleans Saints landed a free agent that they were pursuing and have their quarterback in there for a direction and vision for what their 2023 should be here ahead of free agency. We're excited to spend a few minutes with Ross Jackson, who has the locked on Saints podcast and also writes for the Saints Wire in USA Today.

It's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. What does this mean, Ross, for Taysom Hill? Look, Taysom Hill is not going to be going anywhere, I can tell you that much. I know Sean Payton was making all of his quips about potentially trading for Taysom Hill before he had landed over in Denver. But the Saints have restructured his contract, pushing some of his money down the road to open up some salary cap space here in 2023.

So he's pretty solidly here this season. And what I can say for sure is that the Saints really feel like they found something last season, particularly games like the Los Angeles Rams game, the Cleveland Browns game, of course, where they kind of packaged him later on in the game and utilized him big time in the second half to help put the game away, the Seattle Seahawks game. So I would look for Taysom Hill to still potentially see six, seven, ten snaps at quarterback per game, particularly in short yardage situations like third and one, fourth and one, and of course in the red zone as well. But still being able to play all of those other multiple roles that he does over in the offense also. Even though that they have Derek Carr and their big ticket free agent, their big ticket quarterback in the building, I don't think that we've seen the end of Taysom Hill still getting some of those quarterback snaps in the right situations, but expecting to be much more selective about it. I love the fact that he will do anything the team asks of him in order to get a W. He'll do anything! I'm surprised we didn't see him kick a field goal last year, honestly. We thought Will Lutz had some big time struggles last year and I thought it's only a matter of time before Taysom Hill is out there either kicking field goals or potentially, I was waiting to see if they were going to throw them out on defense before.

I know they've cracked jokes about that. I don't think we'll be seeing that this year, but certainly all the things that he does over in the offense is an absolute spectacle and obviously one that works in their favor when it gets the rolling. Oh yes, and he does like to tackle, at least the offensive version, which is to throw the block.

He definitely enjoys the contact to be sure. Well let's talk about Alvin Kamara then. What's the latest with him, his status with the team, but also what we know about the legal situation? Yeah, so the legal situation will start there first. He pled not guilty, so this trial is set now. It had been continued and continued and continued all throughout the 2022 season, but now the trial is finally set for July 31st. Whenever the legal process wraps up, the NFL will do its independent investigation and then eventually hand down its discipline. So whether this thing gets settled out of court, whether there's a guilty verdict, whether there's whatever kind of verdict that's reached in this trial, the NFL would look at this separately.

What we know for sure is that the NFL code of conduct policy specifically refers to violent acts as being subject to the suspension of six games or more. It's reasonable to expect that Alvin Kamara could possibly see, and very well may see, at least a six game suspension in 2023. So that leaves the New Orleans Saints in a situation where they should be expecting to not have Alvin Kamara for a pretty good chunk of 2023 if this case doesn't continue to get pushed and continued on and on and on. So that means that running back becomes a big time need for them. And it kind of already was, if I'm being honest with you, Amy, because outside of Alvin Kamara, they got one other running back on the roster. So I would very much expect them to be aggressive in this running back market and looking for somebody that can work in place of Alvin Kamara, work in tandem with Alvin Kamara and potentially be the future after Alvin Kamara as well. Because we are looking at the potential end of Alvin Kamara's prime as a running back. That 30 year old mark, unfortunately for folks like me, is what people are looking at and saying, uh oh, that's a little bit too old.

And so I think that, you know, as we look at it, that's something that they should be looking at as a future of that position as well. You mentioned the question marks around Michael Thomas. Who would you say are their top offensive weapons to go with Derek Carr? Well, I think you got to look at Chris Olave, who is now second year wide receiver who just came out of the draft. He was the Saints 11th overall selection last year out of Ohio State University. He was a thousand yard receiver his rookie season, despite missing a couple of games, had a concussion and a couple of other little things that he was dealing with throughout the season.

But incredibly talented. He came into the NFL not necessarily feeling like he was going to have to bulk up or anything that he was fine in terms of his playing weight. Played the 2022 season and said, hmm, about that. And now decided that he's going to spend a lot of time this offseason trying to bulk up, add a little bit of muscle, add a little bit of weight, but not compromise his speed. If he's able to do that, then obviously he becomes, I think the Saints potentially top weapon in terms of most consistent guy that we've seen before.

I don't want to leave out though. Undrafted free agent guy that came in that was supposed to just be a return specialist effectively out of Weber State comes in Rashid Shaheed and was just an absolute phenom. First time he touches the ball is a 44 yard jet sweep for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. Second time he touches the ball is a 57 yard bomb from Andy Dalton against the Arizona Cardinals for a touchdown. So two touches, two touchdowns to start off his career. Targeted seven times, 20 plus yards downfield last year, caught six of those for a pair of touchdowns.

That's just an incredible conversion rate. Perfect passer rating when targeted down the field. So look for him and Chris Olave to be these versatile weapons that can impact the game in the short and intermediate areas to each have their own strengths there, but also be able to take the tops off of the defenses. And that would become a big part of what the New Orleans Saints offensive identity would be running through those two guys. We're spending a few minutes looking at the Saints and what is this project of the offseason with Ross Jackson, who hosts the Locked on Saints podcast.

It's After Hours with Amy Lawrence on CBS Sports Radio. What else does the team need as they address other positions on the field? Yeah, big thing to watch is going to be over on the defensive side, particularly rebuilding their defensive line. I could start an offensive line, but that's mostly kind of filling in depth in things like that. They've got their starters pretty well locked in, but on the defensive side right now, as we speak, at least there are no defensive tackles on contract in 2023.

It's a little bit of a problem. So David on Yamada, their big star that they brought in, forgive me, I think it was the 2016 season in the third round when they brought him in. He's already been resigned for a contract. His contract expires on March 15th. They'd certainly love to get a second extension done with him.

So that's going to be a big one to watch over the course of that negotiating period, the quote-unquote legal tampering period, if you will, the 13th and 14th. But then after that, look for them to continue to try to add bodies there. Guys like Larry Ogunjobi, another free agent like Ashawn Robinson, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams. They could go for a big fish like a Super Bowl contender and Javon Hargrave or the Philadelphia Eagles. There's a lot of different guys out there in terms of that defensive tackle class that they can bring in that can have an impact for them.

And it's an incredibly talented defensive tackle class in this year's draft too. So I think that's a big place where they start. I think it's very much believed that games are won and lost in the trenches. Right now they've got a trench, but I wouldn't call them trenches just yet.

That's a big thing that they don't need to build out. Sean Payton you referenced now with the Denver Broncos. I think it's hard for fans to see him now somewhere else. There's kind of two schools of thought on that. I mean, there's a lot of fans that feel like Sean Payton was somebody that kind of walked away from the team.

And kind of are upset about that. And so what they look forward to is next year, the Saints have the AFC West on the schedule. And so they're looking at, you know, when's the chance that the team gets to go up against Sean Payton and see what they're able to do. By the way, with them having the AFC West on the schedule, that means the Raiders are on the schedule too.

Yes. And so that's going to be, that's one part of it. But I truly think that for the majority of fans, and certainly for me as somebody that got to cover this team when Sean Payton was a part of it.

And now we'll cover beyond. There's just such an appreciation of what Sean Payton did for the city of New Orleans. What Sean Payton did for, you know, Louisiana, did for the team. That I think there's still something there to where people are more than willing to say, hey, all the best to you in the AFC Sean.

Hope that everything goes very well. And obviously, you know, he's brought in a bunch of guys that have been a part of this New Orleans Things organization. Joe Lombardi, Zach Strieff, Bo Lowry, and a few others that he added to that coaching staff and to that organization. And there's a ton of respect, obviously, still between the organization and Sean Payton. And there's a ton of respect between Sean Payton and the organization in the city of New Orleans. So I do think that there is something that to where people, when they see him and his visor, but it's orange and blue and it's not black and gold, that there's going to be a little bit of a tug at the heartstrings there for sure. So before I let you go, let's talk about this NFC South, which was very odd and underperforming, underwhelming.

That's one way to say it. In 2022, besides the Buccaneers, who ended up winning the division at eight and nine, you had three teams at seven and ten. All four teams are going to end up with different starting quarterbacks.

What else comes to mind when I bring up the South division? I think the other thing that you're probably looking at here is that you've also got relatively new coaches. Todd Bowles going into his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dennis Allen going into his second year. You've got a new head coach in Carolina with Frank Reich.

Arthur Smith is still relatively new and it kind of becomes a little bit more refreshed for Arthur Smith too with the Atlanta Falcons because he's very likely going to be rolling with Desmond Ritter. So he'll have a new starting quarterback there, as you mentioned. I think that just as much as we're looking at the new quarterbacks in the division, there's still relatively new coaches in each organization as well.

So I think that's one of the things that the Saints really were trying to bank on going into 2023. They hadn't planned to make a change at offensive coordinator. Ryan Nielsen, the Saints' co-defensive coordinator, ends up getting hired by the Atlanta Falcons. But I'm curious, had that hire not happened, if the Saints would have ended up keeping Ryan Nielsen, they eventually parted with the other co-defensive coordinator, parted ways with Chris Richard.

But I'm curious if they would have kept Ryan Nielsen there because that would have made the Saints the only team in the division to not have to make a change at two of their three big positions. Head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator. Now it's still true for them because they didn't have to make a change at offensive coordinator. But the Carolina Panthers had a change at head coach and on defense. The Atlanta Falcons had a change at their defensive coordinator spot. And then you saw the changes that took place as well at the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay with Byron Leftwich being moved on from it. So the things we're kind of trying to see if maybe they could be the one team in the division to keep their big three, their triumphant together, didn't work out. So there's just these big coaching changes and big quarterback changes all over the division here that maybe don't make it as clear cut as I think people are already looking at it, which is that the Saints should be the favorite in the NFC South. I kind of pump the brakes on that just a little bit and say, OK, they have the best quarterback in the NFC South, but they have a lot of work here still left to do because they're still effectively set back in the same way that the rest of these teams are across the division with a generally new coaching staff.

So in other words, it's a crapshoot in twenty three as well. It should be a ton of fun to watch. Never a dull moment for sure. So find Ross on Twitter at Ross Jackson NOLA. He's got the Locked on Saints podcast, also writes The Saints Wire for USA Today. We're glad to have you on the show for the first time.

I hope it's not the last time. Ross, thank you so much for a couple of minutes. Hey, absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on. Look forward to being back as well. Y'all take care. Stay safe and have a good one. And as always, we'll see you on the podcast.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-09 08:51:17 / 2023-03-09 08:59:20 / 8

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