Tommylee Lewis Jersey

Missed pass-interference penalties can be challenged in the Canadian Football League. Those plays might be reviewable in the NFL next season, too, after the worst missed call in recent memory likely cost the Saints a Super Bowl berth.

With just under two minutes remaining in Sunday’s NFC championship game and the score tied at 20, the Saints were well within field goal range after Ted Ginn Jr. caught a ball over safety Lamarcus Joyner at the Rams’ 13-yard line. Three plays later the Saints faced a third-and-10, and a conversion would’ve meant that they’d be able to bleed the clock to near double zeros and attempt a chip-shot field goal that would’ve likely sent them to the Super Bowl. Brees looked for receiver Tommylee Lewis, but Lewis got creamed by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman NFL Street–style before the ball came in.

It’s as obvious a pass-interference penalty as you’ll see. There was only one problem: A flag never came.

The refs had been reluctant to call pass interference earlier in the game, including this noncall on Robey-Coleman on the first play of the fourth quarter.

But the hit on Lewis took it to another level. It was a mauling, and it looked like the rule-book definition of pass interference: He hit the receiver before the pass got there and didn’t play the ball. But it went uncalled in the biggest moment of the NFC championship game.

After the game Robey-Coleman told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry that a referee said that the play was not called a penalty because the ball was tipped, making contact between him and Lewis legal. Looking at the video, it doesn’t seem like the ball was tipped by anyone.

When showed the replay by The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore, the cornerback agreed it looked like pass interference.

Saints coach Sean Payton said at his postgame press conference that the refs blew the call, and he had already contacted the league office.

New Orleans was forced to kick the field goal, leaving the Rams 1:41 to come back down the field.

And come back they did. The Rams set up kicker Greg Zuerlein in field goal range in nine plays in under 90 seconds. Zuerlein’s 48-yard kick faded in line for a make and then back out for the miss, seemingly confirming the edict “ball don’t lie.” But the ball swerved back through the uprights at the last second.

The game went to overtime, and it didn’t take long for “ball don’t lie” to fail the Saints again. Three plays into the opening drive of OT, Brees was hit while throwing by Dante Fowler Jr., and the wounded-duck pass ended up in the arms of Rams safety John Johnson III.

Five plays, two minutes, and nearly 75,000 broken hearts in the Superdome later, Zuerlein nailed the game-winning 57-yard field goal. From Payton to Mark Ingram to Cam Jordan, the Saints struggled to put the feeling into words in the locker room after the game. One year after the Minneapolis Miracle, the Saints were felled by perhaps the worst officiating mistake of the decade. Sometimes, the ball does lie. Perhaps we should consult the Canadians.

Tommylee Lewis, the Saints’ receiver involved in the controversial play in the NFC championship game, has signed with the Detroit Lions.

The Lions announced the signing Tuesday.

Lewis spent three seasons with the Saints, playing both receiver and on special teams.

He caught 20 passes for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns in New Orleans. He also averaged 9.3 yards on punt returns and 22 yards on kickoff returns.

But the 5-foot-7 Lewis will be remembered most for being involved in the play that helped end the Saints season. Drew Brees was throwing to Lewis in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Lewis before the ball arrived. Robey-Coleman should have been flagged for pass interference on the play, as well as helmet-to-helmet contact. No flag was thrown and the Saints had to settle for a field goal and ended up losing 26-23 in overtime, sending the Rams to the Super Bowl.

Lewis was set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, which would have allowed the Saints to match any team’s offer. But the Saints did not tender Lewis a contract before the start of the new league year, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.

If Lions fans have heard of Tommylee Lewis, it’s likely from the NFC championship game. He was the Saints receiver who was interfered with by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman in the red zone on the infamous play where no penalty was called, allowing the Rams to beat New Orleans and advance to the Super Bowl.

Now Lewis is a Lion. The 26-year-old signed with Detroit after not being tendered as a restricted free agent by the Saints.

What are the Lions getting with the uniquely named Lewis?

The first thing anyone notices about Lewis is his size … or lack thereof. He’s listed at 5-foot-7 and 168 pounds, but both of those seem generous when you meet him in person. When he stands next to former Northern Illinois teammate Kenny Golladay, it might look like Schwarzenegger and DeVito in “Twins”.

That interplay with Golladay that impressed in the MAC back in 2015 offers a hint of what can happen in Detroit, too.

Lewis is almost exclusively a slot receiver. Aside from the obvious size issue, he’s also not incredibly fast in open space. He thrives on quickness, having smaller steps and turn radius than those guarding him.

In New Orleans, he caught just 20 passes in three seasons as a part-time reserve. He’s such a small target and his routes don’t have the precision of fellow Detroit newcomer Danny Amendola, who is both bigger and more physical in the slot.

Where Lewis earned his roster spot in New Orleans was on special teams, primarily as a punt returner. It’s there where his ability to accelerate and operate in space really shine. He does have that “chase” gear with the ball in his hands, making his timed 4.45-second 40-yard dash seem oddly slow.

Durability will be an issue, too. He missed more than half of 2018 on IR. I attended two Northern Illinois games during his college career, in separate seasons. He missed both with different injuries.

Lewis figures to take over the No. 2 slot receiver role behind Amendola and emerge as Detroit’s primary punt returner and perhaps kick returner. He’ll battle Brandon Powell for the receiving reps, though Lewis is both faster and quicker out of breaks. It’s a low-risk, low-expectations signing that builds some depth with NFL experience at what is perhaps the Lions’ weakest position.

Manti Te’o Jersey

COSTA MESA, Calif. — As practice nears its end, set up shop in the sun-soaked end zone of this gorgeous, if unfamiliar, Orange County practice field and watch the Chargers and Saints walk off the field together.

Players mingle for half an hour, chopping it up with college teammates, professional contemporaries and family members close enough to see their sons pursue an NFL dream.

Watch the Chargers closely. This could have been Manti Te’o’s team.

Chargers old and young, established stars and little-known backups, make a point to stop and talk with Te’o. So do trainers, equipment managers, security guys and public-relations specialists.

Te’o, one of the nicest, most approachable linebackers in the NFL, talks to everyone, lingering in deep conversation for 10 minutes or more with a few old teammates.

“I know everybody, and they know me,” Te’o said. “It was like I had 200 teammates out there — teammates I have with the Saints, teammates I have with the Chargers.”

If a step he took in the first half of a game at Indianapolis last year had been a simple plant and release, like thousands of others he has taken, Te’o might still be wearing Chargers purple.

“When I suffered my Achilles injury, it just so happened to be during a huge season,” Te’o said. “That was my contract year; I came in in great shape. I was playing at a high level. I was a captain of my team, everything was working in my favor and then that happened. It kind of sends you down a spiral. You’re on this fall, and you’re trying to grab onto anything as you’re descending.”

Te’o has been through far more than the average NFL player.

The darling of college football during a brilliant senior season at Notre Dame in 2012, Te’o’s world was ripped apart when he found out that Lennay Kekua, the long-distance girlfriend from Stanford who he believed had been in a car accident and died of leukemia, was actually an online hoax, a “catfishing” scheme perpetrated by a man.

Three months later, the Chargers drafted Te’o in the second round, and he tried to focus on his NFL future, but the story was too big. Opponents used it as fodder for trash talk; reporters kept asking about the fallout.

“That was something I had to get over,” Te’o said. “And it lingered for years.”

On the field, Te’o’s development kept getting interrupted. A fractured foot in his first preseason game limited him to 13 games as a rookie; a stress fracture in the other foot held him to 10 the next year.

The Chargers hired Mike Nolan as linebackers coach in 2015, and Te’o started to take off. Under Nolan, Te’o turned in his best season in the NFL, racking up 83 tackles in 12 games, although a high ankle sprain cost him a quarter of a season.

The clouds finally seemed to be clearing. When the 2016 season opened, the Chargers voted Te’o a team captain, and he played like one.

“When I looked at last year’s three games, I thought he made a good jump from the year before when I coached him,” said Nolan, now linebackers coach with the Saints. “His stance and his patience, attacking the run, not over-running things, his path to the ball. All the technical things that a player wants to do to make a lot of plays.”

Then his left Achilles tendon popped.

“It was just tough seeing him not be able to be out there and be healthy,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Every year, he was really playing well, and then he couldn’t stay healthy.”
‘Why?’

For the first hour after the injury, sitting in the Chargers’ locker room in Indianapolis, Te’o was devastated. He bounced back emotionally to get ready for surgery, then felt reality hit again in the hospital after the operation.

He felt himself drifting.

“You just ask — everybody — whenever anything like that happens, that big question: ‘Why? Why did this happen?’ ” Te’o said. “You kind of start thinking, ‘What did you do wrong?’ “

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, the stories said, played this season under a terrible burden. A Mormon linebacker who led his Catholic school’s football program back to glory, Te’o was whipsawed between personal tragedies along the way. In the span of six hours in September, as Sports Illustrated told it, Te’o learned first of the death of his grandmother, Annette Santiago, and then of the death of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.

Kekua, 22 years old, had been in a serious car accident in California, and then had been diagnosed with leukemia. SI’s Pete Thamel described how Te’o would phone her in her hospital room and stay on the line with her as he slept through the night. “Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice,” Thamel wrote.

Upon receiving the news of the two deaths, Te’o went out and led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset of Michigan State, racking up 12 tackles. It was heartbreaking and inspirational. Te’o would appear on ESPN’s College GameDay to talk about the letters Kekua had written him during her illness. He would send a heartfelt letter to the parents of a sick child, discussing his experience with disease and grief. The South Bend Tribune wrote an article describing the young couple’s fairytale meeting—she, a Stanford student; he, a Notre Dame star—after a football game outside Palo Alto.

Did you enjoy the uplifiting story, the tale of a man who responded to adversity by becoming one of the top players of the game? If so, stop reading.

Manti Te’o did lose his grandmother this past fall. Annette Santiago died on Sept. 11, 2012, at the age of 72, according to Social Security Administration records in Nexis. But there is no SSA record there of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, that day or any other. Her passing, recounted so many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.

Nor is there any report of a severe auto accident involving a Lennay Kekua. Background checks turn up nothing. The Stanford registrar’s office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news. Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.

The photographs identified as Kekua—in online tributes and on TV news reports—are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua. She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te’o.

Here is what we know about Manti Te’o: He is an exceptional football player. He’s a projected first-round NFL pick. He finished second in the Heisman voting, and he won a haul of other trophies: the Walter Camp, the Chuck Bednarik, the Butkus, the Bronko Nagurski. In each of his three seasons as a full-time starter, he racked up at least 100 tackles.

We also know that Te’o is a devout Mormon. When asked why he picked Notre Dame over Southern California, the school he had supported while growing up in Hawaii, he said he prayed on it. “Faith,” he told ESPN, “is believing in something that you most likely can’t see, but you believe to be true. You feel in your heart, and in your soul, that it’s true, but you still take that leap.”

We know, further, that Te’o adores his family. Te’o’s father said that Manti had revered his grandfather, who died in January 2012, since the day he was born. He ran his sister’s post-graduation luau. And he loved his late maternal grandmother, Annette Santiago. (Here’s her obituary.)

But that’s where the definite ends. From here, the rest of Te’o’s public story begins to grade into fantasy, in the tradition of so much of Notre Dame’s mythmaking and with the help of a compliant press.

Assembling a timeline of the Kekua-Te’o relationship is difficult. As Te’o’s celebrity swelled, so did the pile of inspirational stories about his triumph over loss. Each ensuing story seemed to add yet another wrinkle to the narrative, and details ran athwart one another. Here is the general shape of things, based on occasionally contradictory media accounts:

Nov. 28, 2009: Te’o and Kekua meet after Stanford’s 45-38 victory over Notre Dame in Palo Alto, according to the South Bend Tribune: “Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.” Kekua, a Stanford student, swaps phone numbers with Te’o.

2010-2011: Te’o and Kekua are friends. “She was gifted in music, multi-lingual, had dreams grounded in reality and the talent to catch up to them” (South Bend Tribune). “They started out as just friends,” Te’o’s father, Brian, told the Tribune in October 2012. “Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there.”

As Kekua recovers from her injuries, doctors discover she has leukemia. She has a bone-marrow transplant. (“That was just in June,” Brian Te’o told the South Bend Tribune in October of 2012. “I remember Manti telling me later she was going to have a bone marrow transplant and, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. From all I knew, she was doing really, really well.”)Her condition improves. Kekua “eventually” graduates from Stanford, according to the South Bend Tribune. (A New York Times story, published Oct. 13, identifies her as a “Stanford alumnus.”) She soon takes a turn for the worse. At some point, she enters treatment, apparently at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. (In a letter obtained by Fox Sports published Oct. 25, Te’o writes to the parents of a girl dying of cancer: “My girlfriend, when she was at St. Jude’s in LA, she had a little friend.”)

Te’o talks to Lennay nightly, “going to sleep while on the phone with her,” according to Sports Illustrated. “When he woke up in the morning his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line.”

Ted Ginn Jersey

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn is fast. So fast that he’s willing to bet $10,000 on himself in a sprint against all comers.

High school track sensation Matthew Boling thinks he can take Ginn down. Boling tweeted out an acceptance of Ginn’s $10,000 challenge Friday:

Ginn initially laid out the terms on Bleacher Report’s The Lefkoe Show:

Boling, who is committed to the University of Georgia, set the national and Texas state records for the 100-meter dash with a 10.13-second time earlier this month. He previously ran a 9.98-second time, though that was wind-aided.

Ginn was clocked at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash coming into the NFL. There are 109.361 yards in 100 meters. If we assume Ginn carries the exact same rate of speed from his 40 (not a perfect assumption), he would run the 100 meters in approximately 11.7 seconds.

Boling could run that time backwards.

Of course, that’s a little unfair to Ginn. The high school track star was timed at 21.16 seconds in the 200 meters and 46.57 seconds in the 400 meters in high school. Those times are behind Boling’s paces, but those are strong enough times that Ginn could have at least made it a race…back in the peak of his athletic prime.

Ginn is now 34 years old and 15 years removed from running those times. He’s spent the bulk of that time getting hit consistently at the collegiate and professional football levels.

So, what we’re saying is this would be the easiest $10,000 Boling would ever make.

Ted Ginn Jr. may have spoken too, uh, fast.

The longtime speedy NFL wide receiver, now with the Saints, issued a challenge last week. On Bleacher Report’s “The Lefkoe Show,” he dared any challengers to meet him for a race, “pole to pole,” with $10,000 on the line.

The wrong runner accepted.

“Bet,” came the response from Matthew Boling, the viral Texas high school track star who recently set a national high school record with a 10.13-second 100-meter dash.

“White Lightning” is not afraid of Ginn, who ran a 4.37 40-yard dash before the 2007 draft, in which he drafted ninth overall by the Dolphins.

Ginn said he made these bets all the time in high school, collecting $200 or $300 from cocky opponents. But if this race comes to fruition, his bottom line may go in the red.

Back in late April, Boling set the high school record for fastest 100 meter sprint in all conditions.

We are awaiting Ginn’s response. This is a race that needs to happen.

Ted Ginn Jr. is known for his speed.

Always has been.

And at 34-years-old, the Saints receiver says he’s still got it.

Ginn, in a radio interview with Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report on Thursday, said he is the fastest player in the NFL.

How confident is he?

Ginn, entering his 13th season in the NFL, is willing to race any player in the NFL for $10,000.

Ginn, who played collegiately at Ohio State, ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2007 and was the ninth overall pick in the draft. He was also a standout athlete in track at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ginn is heading into his third season with the Saints. He has caught 70 passes for 996 yards and six touchdowns in his two seasons in New Orleans.

When the New Orleans Saints finally found their rhythm, they marched one step closer to the Super Bowl.

Using a dominant ball-control offense and a few gambles that paid off, the Saints got two touchdown passes from Drew Brees and two interceptions from Marcus Lattimore in a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Brees took the Saints on scoring drives of 92, 79 and 67 yards after falling behind 14-0. Lattimore clinched it when Nick Foles’ pass from the Saints 27 deflected off usually sure-handed receiver Alshon Jeffery with about two minutes remaining. A few dozen Saints players surged off the sideline toward the end zone in celebration, while Jeffery fell face-first…

Ted Ginn has made a long, productive NFL career out of being one of the fastest players in the game.

Ginn is so confident in his abilities, in fact, he told Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe that he was willing to race anybody pole to pole for “$10,000 or better.”

He never thought a high schooler who actually stands a chance would take him up on it.

Matthew Boling, a senior at Houston’s Strake Jesuit who has earned the nickname “White Lightning” as he breaks track and field records, responded to a Pro Football Talk tweet about Ginn’s wager with one word.

Boling is best known for breaking 10 seconds on the 100-meter dash with a wind-aided time and then breaking the official national high school record for the same race last week, but he’s more than just a short sprinter.

The day after breaking the official record, he anchored the 1600-meter dash. He started back by about 20 meters but still pulled out the victory.

But Ginn is no slouch either. He was a track phenom in high school, winning the national championship and two state titles on the 110-meter high hurdles, a third state title in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, and a state title in the 200-meter run, according to Ohio State.

In the Bleacher Report video, Ginn told Lefkoe he missed out on qualifying for the Olympics by one second — which he said was the only loss he took on the track.

A knee injury suffered in Week 4 put New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on Injured Reserved Week 7 through Week 15, before returning to action Dec. 23 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through five games, Ginn caught 17 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 12 yards per catch. The Saints also used Ginn in the run game a few times, rushing for 26 yards on three attempts.
Ginn was a spark right out of the gates for the Saints, with his best game coming in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Quarterback Drew Brees targeted Ginn six times, with Ginn catching five of those for 68 yards and one touchdown. Ginn averaged 13.60 yards per reception and rushed once for five yards. Despite losing to the Buccaneers 48-40, Ginn’s strong performance gave the Saints offense another offensive weapon to use moving forward.“It was tough, not being out there to fight with your brothers,” Ginn said upon returning from IR. “I watched it. I enjoyed (seeing the team win), but I didn’t enjoy (not being able to contribute). It shows a lot about what this game means to me and my family, what brotherhood stands for. Just eager to get back and help my team.”

A.J. Klein Jersey

After finishing the 2017 season on injured reserved due to a sports hernia, New Orleans Saints linebacker A.J. Klein spent the off season at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center rehabbing and preparing for his second season with the Saints. Klein played all 16 games for New Orleans in 2018 and continued to be a strong force for the team’s second line of defense. In his sixth year in the NFL, Klein had his best season with a career-high 70 tackles, one interception for six yards, three pass deflections, a career-high two fumble recoveries for 17 yards and two sacks. Though the impact isn’t always shown in statistics, Klein also played a major role on special teams for the Saints, seeing 172 snaps.

BEST GAME: On the road against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Nov. 29 when the Saints traveled to AT&T Stadium. Despite the 13-10 loss, Klein had a strong performance, sacking Dak Prescott once and coming up with five tackles.

BEST QUOTE: “But this year is definitely special, it has that feel, and I think the best part is that we’re working on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, on not getting too far ahead of ourselves and just taking every week as it comes,” Klein said following the Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers. “We have high goals, but (Coach) Sean (Payton) and all the coaches have done a great job of keeping us focused on the task at hand, week to week.”

A.J. Klein spent the last three years at Iowa State making a name for himself as a consistent middle linebacker. Whichever team ends up drafting him in the 2013 NFL draft certainly won't be disappointed with what it gets.

While Klein isn't the most athletic linebacker prospect available this year, he has great instincts and the ability to play all three downs for an NFL team. Here are five things you need to know about Klein.

AJ Klein’s ability to lead and make big plays is unquestioned. He even tested out well at the combine and pro day, but his film tells the story of a player who might not have the athleticism to start in the NFL. Wisconsin overlooked this native son, and instead Klein went on to be a star for Iowa State. Will a pro team benefit from the tendency to underrate this playmaker?

Klein is an instinctive, versatile, high-energy linebacker who is often in the right place at the right time. He recognizes where the play is going very quickly and gets after the ball with conviction once he spots it. Klein is comfortable dropping and moving in space and reacts well to passes in his zone. He plays high effort and leads by example. Klein also has terrific hands for the interception and knack for the pick-six.

Klein has a lot of trouble with ball-carriers in space. He can be eluded by moves with average quickness and this happens too often and too easily on his film. He lacks sideline-to-sideline range and probably can’t hang in man coverage at the next level. Klein is not a stout linebacker, and he lacks ability to consistently take on and defeat blocks.

At 6’1″ 250 with 32-7/8″ arms and big 10-1/4″ hands, Klein is a formidable presence in the middle and well-proportioned for NFL play. His 4.66 40 at the combine is faster than his speed on tape, as are his 4.35 short shuttle and 7.09 three-cone times from his pro day. Klein looks like an average NFL athlete at linebacker at best.

A team captain and hustle player on the field, Klein also made plays all over the field and returned four interceptions for touchdowns during his career. He has a high football IQ, and Klein is clearly a quick-thinker when the bullets are flying.

Klein played all three linebacker positions in Iowa State’s 4-3 defense and spent a lot of time dropping into coverage. He also was an outstanding special teams contributor on coverage units early in his career.
With good deep drops into coverage and instinctive movement that usually puts him in the right place, Klein is an asset in a zone pass defense. Klein is aware of players passing through his zone and reacts very quickly to their presence. He drives on the receiver in front of him very well, but he can be eluded with an adequate move.

Klein has excellent hands for the interception and he is able to spot a good lane and take off without hesitation once he secures the pick. Klein is not as good at mirroring offensive players in man coverage, where his speed and change of direction limitations are exposed.

Once again, Klein has the smarts and urgency to put pressure on the quarterback, but he is too easily eluded when he is closing in for the sack. His best efforts as a pass-rusher come when he is able to flush the quarterback from the pocket or force an early throw.

Klein’s reads against the run are very good and they can put him a step ahead of the action. He does have sometimes trouble getting through trash or off a block, but Klein is outstanding at flowing to the play and doesn’t get off course very often. While he puts himself in position to make the tackle in the open field, Klein can be shaken by a running back with average quickness and creativity.

Few linebacker in this class are as good at diagnosing and reacting to a play as Klein. Against both the pass and the run, he has clarity reading his keys and is usually in the area of the play when it goes anywhere near him. He is also good at peels off of his designated responsibility to make a play elsewhere once the offense commits.

When Klein corrals his quarry, he is a good form tackler who wraps up and stops the forward momentum of his opponent by driving through them, but he doesn’t hit with a jolt or otherwise knock around the ball-carrier. He can struggle to get his hands on a relatively quick and elusive back in space and this will be a bigger problem at the next level.

Klein can play on passing downs as long as he isn’t asked to cover one-on-one, and he can also defend the run well as long as he is given some room to roam. He might fit best at SLB in a 4-3 or ILB in a 3-4. He’ll also be a core special teams player from day one.

The linebacking corps was absolutely the weakest link of the New Orleans Saints defense in 2017. In 2018, the group as a whole became one of the better-performing aspects of the defense. Granted, this was due in no small part to the addition of Demario Davis from the New York Jets and return of a healthy Alex Anzalone.

Based on the grades you see above, Klein struggled more in defending the run than he did against the pass. Even on run plays, though, Klein was able to make plays when the team needed him.

Klein is a smart football player, and he uses his football IQ to make up for a lack of elite speed or play-making ability. In pass coverage, he can has just enough speed to stick with most running back. Klein makes it a point to leave himself in good position to make plays on either the ball or the ball-carrier, as evidenced by this “right place at the right time” interception against the Atlanta Falcons.

With Klein’s 2019 $5 million cap hit in 2019, even with his increased productivity in 2018, it’s hard to say Klein provides value at his cost. Klein is definitely a candidate to be a cap casualty in 2019, but it’s more likely he would simply be restructured to reduce his cap hit rather than be outright cut altogether.

Still, the improvement of AJ Klein in his second year as a member of the Saints was definitely noticeable. Klein, playing in all 16 games (starting 15), matched or set career highs in interceptions (1), tackles (42), tackles for loss (7), QB hits (4), and fumble recoveries (2). Without Klein, the Saints linebackers would not have been nearly a productive unit in 2018.

Bleacher Report came out with a piece on Wednesday, Nov. 14, listing each NFL teams’ most improved player. Of course, the conditions for this list would be that they had played for the same team in 2017. For the Saints, the piece names defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins as most improved. While Rankins is certainly playing better in 2018 than he did last year, the biggest improvement is what we’re seeing out of linebacker A.J. Klein.

This is certainly not to take anything away from Sheldon Rankins. His game does look considerably better this year. Nine games into the 2018 Season, the third year player has 23 tackles and five sacks and is an anchor in the league’s best run defense.

But, subjective as it is, looking into Pro Football Focus’ analysis of Rankins’ game is a little more illuminating. He’s definitely improved as a pass rusher and that’s a big reason the Saints took him in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He was meant to be a Warren Sapp type player. And he’s developing in that style well.

His overall statistics against the run and pass though aren’t dramatically different from where they were last year. He’s just taking better advantage of his opportunities. And part of our breakdown here is that he was already doing pretty well as a defensive lineman.

A.J. Klein, on the other hand, was miserable last year. He was one of the worst rated linebackers in the league by Pro Football Focus and we talked about that a lot on Who Dat Dish. Maybe too much. Or, maybe A.J. Klein said “Screw you guys, watch this!” and came out this year a completely revitalized version of himself.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Saints went out and got Demario Davis to help out with the linebacker corps. Having Davis in the line-up along with a healthy Alex Anzalone means that Klein has less of the field to cover this year, less responsibility. He’s not always the guy being given the responsibility to calling the defensive alignments. Those duties are being shared with Davis and Anzalone as well.

Larry Warford Jersey

Larry Warford knew exactly what sized vacancy he was stepping into when he signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent last year.

As a right guard, he was taking over the position previously manned by Jahri Evans, one of the best players in franchise history, the second-most decorated offensive lineman in franchise history and a cornerstone for the Coach Sean Payton-era offense that has been one of the most productive in NFL history.

In one season, Warford didn’t make people forget Evans. But he certainly made strides to force them to remember him, by earning a Pro Bowl position and helping to anchor one of New Orleans’ most balanced offensive outputs in years.

The Saints posted 2,070 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on 444 carries in 2017, a combination that hadn’t been approached since the Saints of ‘11 ran for 2,127 yards and 16 scores on 431 carries.

“He played well last year,” Coach Sean Payton said. “He’s a great teammate, he’s got great respect in the locker room and in the offensive line room. He comes to work every day. He was a great addition for us.

“He’s strong, he’s powerful, he helped us a bunch in our run game and in pass protection. We felt like when we watched his tape from Detroit, those were the traits we saw and I would say all of that, and more, is what we got. And I still think he’s improving.”

Warford believes he’s improving, too, partly because he has a level of familiarity now that didn’t exist at this same time last year.

“I’m pretty comfortable,” he said. “Just the versatility of all the guys that we have in the room makes it real easy for me to step in. The coaching is top-notch, they make it really easy for the guys – anybody – to just come in to this offense and pick it up extremely fast.

“The chemistry that we have now, we mesh together so much better compared to the beginning of last year. We’ve really figured each other out. We have a good thing going right now.”

Really good, if first-year results are any indication.

In Warford’s first four NFL seasons, with Detroit, the Lions twice had a winning record and advanced to the playoffs, and lost their wild card game each time. In his first season in New Orleans, he helped win the NFC South Division and the wild card game.

“I think we had the right pieces, the right people, the right coaches,” Warford said. “And after our 0-2 start I think we really just took a look in the mirror and got the thing going. I was very happy to be a part of that, for sure.”

That, he hopes, is just the beginning – the winning, more so than the honors.

“All that stuff, I’m not really too focused on,” Warford said. “I just want to do my part for my team. So I’m not looking at Pro Bowls, I’m not looking at personal accolades. I’m looking to make my team better. I got recognized for what I did and it was all just because I was trying to help out my team. So that’s just kind of an afterthought.”

Saints 

Saints’ offensive line nerds Zach Strief and Larry Warford quickly building chemistry
Updated Aug 1, 2017; Posted Aug 1, 2017

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Gallery: The New Orleans Saints mark their 5th day of training camp

By Josh Katzenstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Being a nerd in 2017 doesn’t carry the same negative connotation it once did.

People can be obsessed with comic books, sports, TV shows, movie series, rare collectibles or any number of things and feel comfortable doing so, especially because the Internet makes it easy to find like-minded people.

New Orleans Saints offensive linemen Zach Strief and Larry Warford are their own class of nerds. They’re obsessed with the intricacies of playing offensive line, and they don’t care who knows.

“We do nerd out in meetings all the time,” Strief said. “We get like real excited about a step. Like, you see that zone step? That’s good. He’s like, ‘That’s really nice.’

“It’s really weird. It’s a weird relationship, but we’re both really into it.”

Warford, who spent four years with the Detroit Lions, signed with the Saints in March to take over at right guard for Jahri Evans, and that means Warford will line up right next to Strief.

Evans and Strief played together for 11 seasons, including six as side-by-side starters, so the Saints hardly had to worry about cohesion on the right side of the line. But, so far, Strief and Warford have found it easy to adjust to playing with each other, and Strief thinks they’re ahead of schedule in the process.

Warford quickly discovered that Strief was a fellow offensive line nerd. After the realization, Warford gave the 33-year-old Strief the nickname “Yoda,” a nod to the veteran’s ability to impart wisdom on his teammates.

“I think he was talking to Landon (Turner) about something, about engaging his hips and how he should go about doing it,” Warford said. “And it was exactly how I’d been taught, and from there I was like, I’m going to go stand by this guy for a little bit.”

Knowing how Warford and Strief approach the position, it’s hardly a surprise they clicked quickly. Warford has been doing position-specific training with former Saints center LeCharles Bentley — who runs O-Line Performance in Arizona — since before he entered the NFL in 2013. Strief also does offensive line-focused training before training camp and invites his teammates.

“I think a lot of Larry’s excitement about playing offensive line comes from Lecharles and the way that he coaches and the details that he gets into,” Strief said.

So, the two players talk about some weird stuff as it relates to their position like body mechanics and which muscles are engaged with certain steps.

“It is kind of nerdy but I enjoy it,” Warford said.

Even after 11 years in the NFL with countless teammates, Strief said this nerd experience with Warford is unique.

“He’s probably an extreme case of it,” Strief said. “Max (Unger) is pretty good, but Max isn’t quite as nerdy about it. He’s very knowledgeable but less nerdy. … I think we’re very into the intricacies, and I think there’s a lot of guys that have beliefs on techniques and how to do things.

“We were legitimately excited (on Friday) because we took better first steps on a naked (bootleg). Legitimately like high-fived each other.”

Warford has to adjust to the Saints offense, but he has some experience with it having played in a similar scheme with the Lions under Joe Lombardi, the Saints’ quarterbacks coach who spent two years as offensive coordinator in Detroit.

Meanwhile, Strief has to adapt to Warford’s game quickly because he’s a different player than Evans.

“Larry is so explosive I feel like I’m behind him half the time,” Strief said. “So that’s pushed me a lot to get going, get out of the stance and get moving because he’s gone quicker than Jah was.”

Strief and Warford still have some time to learn to play with each other, and when Unger returns from his foot injury, Warford will have to build chemistry with him, too.

So far, Warford said his transition has gone “as smooth as I could’ve hoped.” Considering he and Strief are already comfortable being nerdy, that relationship should only improve with time.

“Just his vast understanding about our position from the ground up, in and out, it’s on another level and I love talking to him about it,” Warford said.

Teddy Bridgewater Jersey

The Dolphins are making a last-ditch attempt to lure quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to Miami before he signs a contract to return to the New Orleans Saints.

According to multiple reports, Bridgewater was set to visit the Dolphins’ practice facility Wednesday afternoon. ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported on air that Bridgewater is expected to join the Dolphins if the team adds a few million dollars to its offer.

The Dolphins would have to lure him. On Tuesday, Bridgewater reportedly was ready to turn down more money from the Dolphins to return to New Orleans and serve as the heir apparent to 40-year-old Drew Brees.

Bridgewater, 26, signed a free-agent contract with the Jets last spring. New Orleans traded a third-round pick to the Jets in August for Bridgewater, who proved during preseason he was healthy after a 2016 knee injury with the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints also received a sixth-round pick in the deal.

The Dolphins are in quarterback limbo with Ryan Tannehill’s future unclear under the new coach-GM combination of Brian Flores and Chris Grier. Tannehill is expected to be traded or released at some point.

It’s been over two years since impending free-agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed an NFL pass. He’s attempted two in garbage time, and one of those was intercepted.

A Pro Bowler at the age of 23, the 2014 first-round pick’s career was derailed by a devastating knee injury just prior to the 2016 regular season, and he spent well over a year recovering from surgery.

That’s what makes Bridgewater such an interesting case in free agency. As his rookie contract expires, the 25-year-old’s early-career accomplishments with the Minnesota Vikings have been clouded immensely by the fact he has taken just nine live snaps in a two-season period.

On one hand, he’s young and only two years removed from a season in which he completed 65.3 percent of his passes while helping the Vikings make the playoffs. He posted a 108.5 passer rating during the final quarter of his sophomore season. He’s a highly skilled player at the sport’s most important position.

On the other hand, Bridgewater’s situation is basically unprecedented. Three years ago, while researching for an article on Sam Bradford (who coincidentally went on to replace Bridgewater when he went down in Minnesota), I combed through the bowels of Pro Football Reference and couldn’t find a single regular starting quarterback under the age of 30 who had missed more than 25 games in a two-year span.

Even if you claim Bridgewater was technically healthy enough to play when he was active during the final eight games of the 2017 regular season, he missed 24 games in two seasons.

The closest comparisons to Bridgewater are Bradford (who missed a combined 25 games due to injury with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 and 2014) and Archie Manning (who missed the entire New Orleans Saints’ 1976 season and four games in 1977).

The good news is both of those quarterbacks got their careers back on track. Bradford started 14 games with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 before posting the highest completion rate in NFL history in 15 starts with the Vikings in place of Bridgewater in 2016. Meanwhile, Manning went on to start three consecutive full seasons between 1978 and 1980. Bridgewater is also younger than those two were at the time, and unlike them, he’s got a Pro Bowl nod under his belt.

The complicated news is Bridgewater missed all of that time getting over one career-threatening injury, while Bradford was sunk by two separate torn ACLs (in the same knee, less than a year apart) and Manning’s injuries were unrelated to each other.

Will open-market suitors view the glass as half-full and figure that Bridgewater should eventually get back to where he was before suffering an isolated injury?

Former Cleveland Browns general manager and Eagles player personnel consultant Phil Savage suggested in 2015 that the left knee that Bradford injured in back-to-back seasons “scared off 90 percent of the teams” on the market, per Randy Miller of NJ.com. And sure enough, another non-contact injury to said knee cost Bradford most of his 2017 season. There were clues that Bradford was injury-prone and experiencing something chronic, while Bridgewater hadn’t suffered a significant injury since high school before going down last August.

Open-market suitors could certainly be deterred by the possibility that Bridgewater will simply never be the same player he was before such a significant injury. Again, we don’t have a lot to go off here, and every injury is at least somewhat unique.

Breaking down a study conducted by the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, Ian McMahan of The Guardian wrote last year that “because their performance is less tied to lower-body speed and explosiveness, 12 out of the 13 NFL quarterbacks studied after ACL surgeries were able to resume playing at pre-injury levels.” However, as McMahan notes, “not all ACL injuries are created equal.”

And Bridgewater’s knee was damaged well beyond the ACL. It was also dislocated. Running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a similar injury at South Carolina in 2012, and it ultimately ended his career. But Lattimore played running back—a position that puts a lot more pressure on a player’s knees.

There’s little doubt this all jeopardized Bridgewater’s future, but he’s back on the field, and in November, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Louisville product was “throwing better than he was” before the catastrophic injury.

That’s why he’s about to become the ultimate boom-or-bust free agent.

When Aaron Rodgers was Bridgewater’s age, he was in his first year as a starter. Steve Young was in his first full season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kurt Warner was playing in the Arena Football League. Warren Moon had yet to take an NFL snap.

Time is on Bridgewater’s side, which might explain why he’s looking for a one- or two-year contract in hopes of landing a bigger deal down the line, per Newsday’s Calvin Watkins.

In this climate, he still has a great shot at breaking the bank. Last March, Mike Glennon landed a three-year, $45 million contract in free agency, even though he was coming off a two-season stretch in which he threw just 11 passes. Bridgewater is younger, more talented and has a higher ceiling. Look for him to sign a short-term deal worth at least $15 million per year, which is more than any backup quarterback in pro football but less than any veteran starter.

If the knee isn’t right, it’ll likely be his last contract. If it isn’t a problem, Bridgewater will be the steal of the 2018 NFL offseason.

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have agreed to terms on a deal with free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to keep him as Drew Brees’ main backup.

Bridgewater, a Miami native, had met with the Dolphins on Wednesday. Terms of the New Orleans deal was not released.

The Saints acquired the former first-round draft pick last August. Bridgewater played in five games for the Saints and started their regular-season finale against Carolina.

Bridgewater, 26, was the Minnesota Vikings’ starter his first two NFL seasons. He made the Pro Bowl and led the Vikings to an NFC North title in 2015 before suffering a knee injury the following year that kept him out until midway through the 2017 season.

He played with the New York Jets in 2018 before being traded to New Orleans.

Bridgewater has completed 64.6 percent of his career passes with 29 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He has made 29 career starts.

Cameron Meredith Jersey

Knee issues stopped Cameron Meredith from contributing much to the 2018 campaign, but he’s already helping out next season.

The wide receiver, who played in just six games due to knee issues, agreed to a pay cut that trims his base salary and frees up cap space, according to a report from ESPN’s Field Yates.

The new deal reduces his base salary form $3.4 million to $1.3 million.

The Saints signed the former Chicago Bears player to a two-year, $9.6 million deal last offseason. The Bears chose not to match the offer for Meredith, a restricted free agent, who was recovering from a torn ACL the season before.

Meredith contributed nine catches for 114 yards over the six games he played in 2018. He was placed on injured reserve after the Saints signed veteran Dez Bryant, who tore his Achilles shortly after.

Despite the continued knee issues, Payton gave an optimistic outlook for Meredith at the time.

“It’s not bad news,” Payton said. “He’s going to have a full recovery.”

It’s the second cash-saving measure for the upcoming year by the Saints this offseason. The team restructured Drew Brees contract last week, which opened up $10.8 million in cap space this season, pushing a portion of dead money to 2020.

The moves come as the Saints continue to be active in free agency. Since restructuring Brees’ deal, the team has inked Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal for $7.25 million and center Nick Easton to a 4-year, $24 million deal to replace retired Max Unger.

They’ve also hosted tight end Jared Cook and pass-rusher Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah on visits. The Saints are nearing a deal with the 31-year-old Cook, according to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Cook is coming off his best statistical season of his career, catching 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns with the Oakland Raiders. He’s also played with the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Green Bay Packers in his 10-year career.

The Saints have also signed defensive tackle Malcom Brown, running back Latavius Murray, and they inked kicker Wil Lutz to a new 5-year deal. They signed linebacker Craig Robertson and safety Chris Banjo, both key special teams contributors, to contract extensions.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Cameron Meredith (knee) will be placed on Injured Reserve and will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee, according to head coach Sean Payton. Meredith will have a “clean-up” surgery on the knee because he had been fighting through swelling each week. Payton said the wideout is expected to make a “full recovery.” He missed the entire 2017 season with the Bears after he tore his left ACL during the preseason. Meredith had zero targets in the last three games for the Saints. His injury partially explains why the Saints signed Dez Bryant this week. Meredith will finish the year with nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. While Bryant has the opportunity to become the No. 3 wideout in New Orleans with both Meredith and Ginn on IR, it’s not even a lock that he’ll play in Week 10 against the Bengals after signing on Wednesday. Bryant has WR3 upside to close out there year, but he’ll be a risk/reward fantasy commodity after a long layoff from playing.

Field Yates of ESPN reported the news Tuesday, noting the Chicago Bears still have the ability to match any offer Meredith receives as a restricted free agent. Meredith is only 25 years old and has flashed his potential in the past, but he missed the 2017 campaign after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

Meredith led the Bears with 66 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, proving to be a dangerous target at 6’3″ who can beat plenty of defensive backs.

Chicago struggled in the aerial attack without him in 2017, ranking dead last in the league in receiving yardage as rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky became accustomed to the NFL game with a depleted pass-catching group.
There would still figure to be room for a talent like Meredith’s, though, especially after he was one of the team’s bright spots in 2016.

As for Indianapolis, it was a mere 30th in the league in receiving yards in 2017. While that can largely be explained by the absence of quarterback Andrew Luck, a T.Y. Hilton and Meredith combination would be daunting to opposing secondaries.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Cameron Meredith could miss the rest of the season. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Saints will place Meredith on injured reserve, and he will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.

Schefter noted Meredith’s injury is one of the reasons why New Orleans signed Dez Bryant to a one-year deal Wednesday.

Under NFL rules, teams are allowed to bring back two players off injured reserve after they spend at least eight weeks on the inactive list. Meredith won’t be eligible to return until the playoffs.

An undrafted free agent out of Illinois State in 2015, Meredith spent the first three years of his career with the Chicago Bears. However, he tore his ACL in the third preseason game of 2017 and missed the whole season. He then signed a two-year, $9.6 million offer sheet with the Saints in April 2018, which the Bears declined to match.

Cameron Meredith burst onto the fantasy football scene in 2016. Injuries to Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery bumped him up the depth chart to WR2 and even WR1 for a few weeks. Two years later, he is on a new team looking to prove himself once again. The New Orleans Saints signed him to a two year, $9.5 million contract this offseason after the Chicago Bears declined to match that offer. Meredith missed the 2017 season because of a torn ACL and MCL, but he has since made a full recovery and has been practicing with seemingly no restrictions in training camp so far.

The role planned for Meredith is relatively clear with Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Ted Ginn, and Brandon Coleman all returning for the 2018 season. The Saints also invested a 3rd round pick in wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith. The Saints have options on offense and will likely decide to continue to use players in specialized roles. Meredith will be the slot receiver. Thomas will retain his spot as the WR1, while Ginn and Smith will compete for playing time as a deep threat on the other boundary. Meredith will essentially be replacing the role held by Willie Snead in 2016. That role was replaced by a committee in 2017 after a suspension and injuries derailed Willie Snead’s season.

The Saints offense does look incredibly crowded. This is still a good situation to buy into because the Saints have historically done well producing multiple fantasy relevant players every season. It isn’t unrealistic to believe that Meredith will be the 3rd receiving option in the Saints offense behind Thomas and Kamara. At worst, Meredith will compete with Ginn for the WR2 share of targets in the offense.

Meredith has an average ADP of about 150 and is roughly viewed as a WR5 in most drafts. To meet the expectations of that draft position, based on last year’s scoring, you would need 120-130 points out of Meredith in a standard scoring PPR league. Anything above that would be considered extra value. Let me explain why I believe that he will exceed those expectations this year.

In 2016, Meredith recorded 66 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns in just 14 games. This came with Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley throwing him the ball. Meredith’s 2016 campaign would have been the equivalent of a very solid WR3 last season. With Drew Brees now throwing him the ball, Meredith will be due for another impressive season if he can maintain the same level of performance that he showed in 2016.

DeMario Davis Jersey

Davis left the comfort of New York two years ago to sign with the Cleveland Browns after spending his first four seasons with the Jets. The Browns traded him back to the Jets after one season in Cleveland, and the 29-year-old set career highs with 135 tackles and five sacks in 2017.

Davis credited his high tackle numbers to increased attention to detail, according to Randy Lange of the Jets’ website.

“A lot of those years where I was getting 110, 120 tackles probably could’ve been up there at 140, 150 if I would’ve put in the detail in my work that I’m doing now,” Davis said. “So this season’s not really a surprise, but I thought this formula would work and it’s working and that’s good to see.”

Jets coach Todd Bowles said Davis showed up more motivated after his stint in Cleveland.

“Demario is out every day before practice a little bit ahead of time of everybody else, and he works on his craft,” Bowles told the Associated Press. “He studies better, he takes care of his body a lot better. He understands the scheme a lot better after coming back from Cleveland.”

The Saints will hope the improvement continues heading into 2018 now that they’re paying him like an elite linebacker.

METAIRIE, La. – This is the new world Demario Davis has spent a career trying to discover. He’s playing football in January, with legitimate expectations about February. His body clock, until now forced to transition to offseason mode at this point on the calendar, is not playing tricks on him.

Chasing Super Bowl glory is no longer a pipe dream.

“Man, if I can describe it in one word, I’d say ‘grateful,’ “ the ebullient linebacker declared in, well, late December, when a visitor stopped by his corner stall in the New Orleans Saints’ locker room.

It was two days before Davis pounced on Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s fumble in the closing seconds to secure the victory against Pittsburgh that clinched a 31-28 win and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs for the Saints. He was already in a playoff mode, sensing what’s ahead and how it contrasts with where he’s been.

Davis, who turned 30 on Friday, has never missed a game in his seven NFL seasons. And he’s never played in a playoff game. That last detail changes Sunday, when the Saints (13-3) host the Eagles in a divisional tilt. And he would argue that it’s about time. Last year, in his second tour of duty with the Jets, Davis played his heart out – leading the team in tackles and sacks, as a middle linebacker – for a 4-12 squad. Two seasons ago, he was all-in for a Browns unit that bottomed out with the NFL’s worst record at 1-15.

“If you were to flip our record here, I’d still have a better record than I had in Cleveland,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s been an amazing journey with God, with all the ups and downs I’ve had. It’s almost like I’m in paradise now. I don’t have a complaint in the world about work. There’s nothing I would change about our operation. Everything is right in place. And you can feel it. We are destined to do something special. So, I’m just enjoying the ride.”

Davis is a refreshing face for the playoffs, as good as anyone in representing what it means to be in the arena. Sure, the NFL is big business. But beyond the money and fame, so many are driven by the competitive pride of chasing championships – and some players never get that chance.

“I don’t know if I can say I appreciate it more than the next man, but there’s something that comes with not having something and then having it,” he said of the playoff run. “I appreciate being able to put together this many wins, because I know it’s hard to do. I’ve been in situations where it felt like we had the right recipe, but it wasn’t. So, this is special.”

He landed here in mid-March on a three-year, $24 million free agent contract ($18 million guaranteed) that came only after the Saints shook up his process for selecting a team by entering the fray in midstream. Divine intervention? The Saints weren’t in the picture originally, Davis said, after he and his agent, Tom Condon, whittled the list of potential teams from a half-dozen to three.

He remembers his reaction thusly when the Saints reached out: “Oh. If we can get the dollars right, you don’t even have to ask me a question.”

The playoff possibilities, the winning culture orchestrated by Sean Payton, and the proximity to his home state, Mississippi, were all factors in the no-brainer equation. Along with Drew Brees.

“To play with probably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game,” he maintained, “I couldn’t pass on that.”

See, complementary football can get you places, even when attached to the unpredictability of career spans in a brutal sport that chews up bodies and spits them out. Maybe Davis will wind up playing 15 years in the NFL. Maybe not. He agreed with the suggestion that if, by chance, this is his last stop, it had to include the purpose of playing for the biggest prize.

Take it from a man who, until this year, played on just one team with a winning record (Jets, 2015, 10-6).

“I needed to get it right,” he said. “You look at the landscape, and I had to go to a team that had a top quarterback. You can have the greatest defense in the league, but if your other side can’t score points, it don’t matter. Especially this time of year. It’s cool to have a great defense. But our offense can put the ball in the end zone when we need a touchdown. With the game on the line, with two minutes, I want our offense on the field last. Everybody doesn’t feel like that, so you can’t take that for granted.”

What a win-win deal it has been. Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen lauds Davis for the athleticism and physicality he’s added. He led an evolving defense (when last seen in the playoffs, yielding that “Minnesota Miracle” in last year’s stinging divisional-round loss to the Vikings) with 110 tackles. He also matched his career high set last season with five sacks and won an NFC defensive player of the week award.

On top of that, when the season began, his new teammates voted him as a team captain, an ultimate measure of respect as they witnessed his dedication to his craft during the offseason. They also couldn’t help but notice his hands-on work on social justice initiatives.

“Higher than any accolade you can achieve is the respect of your peers,” Davis said.

Or as Condon put it, “He has such a high character and a passion for the game, he’s going to be a fit in anybody’s locker room.”

Allen remembers Davis from way back, during the first trek with the Jets that spanned four years.

“When I was back in Oakland and we were getting ready to play the Jets, I’m like, ‘Who’s this 56?’ “ said Allen, previously the Raiders coach.

He knows all about No. 56 now and what Davis means to a defense that has become more cohesive and cut down the big plays on the back end as the season has progressed. Sometimes Allen will walk by the meeting room and notice one player, alone, studying videotape. Davis might not have been a marquee free agent signing, but the Saints seemingly secured one of the best value deals of the spring.

And now there’s this mission to seize the moment of a playoff run that he’s spent years preparing for.

“It’s working smarter, not harder,” he said. “I think I’ve figured that out the past couple of years. That’s what’s separated me and made the biggest difference in my game, to where it’s jumping off. Every part of the journey, I’ve learned a little bit along the way. It’s interesting now (with) the playoffs, but a lot of stuff about my process was stuff I was doing with the Browns and it was the end of the season. I was in there preparing like we were going to the playoffs. So, it’s not like I had to change anything to be ready for this moment. Those habits were already there.”

It’s just that with the win-or-go-home habit of January football, the stakes are a lot higher.

Thousands of conservatives gather right outside of Washington, D.C. for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis made an appearance talking about a key issue for the conservative party–criminal justice reform.

Davis told the crowd of enthusiastic attendees criminal justice reform is going in the right direction. Davis who hails from Brandon, Mississippi has first-hand experience with the system. As a teenager drugs, alcohol and violence sent him to jail. Today, Davis oversees the Devoted Dreamers Foundation which he created to help young kids stay on the right track and achieve their goals.

“What we’re trying to do at Devoted Dreamers Foundation is to connect those kids to resources to help them achieve those dreams because you can have those dreams, but if you don’t have those resources in the classroom, you don’t have the resources supporting you in the community that you’re going back to, you’ll never be able to reach those dreams,” he said.

Davis says he tells his teammates in the locker room to use their platforms in the N-F-L for good.

“You’re an influence first, you’re an athlete second,” Davis said.

The NFL player is headed back to Mississippi after CPAC.

Jermon Bushrod Jersey

NFL offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod was named the Saints’ Ed Block Courage Award winner in December, this after he and his wife endured the loss of their one-week-old daughter in October. The Ed Block Courage Award is given annually to a player from each NFL team who has preserved through adversity.

Bushrod’s wife, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Jordyn Lynn, who suffered from Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, which can cause delayed development and growth before birth. Jordan Lynn was born Oct. 11 and passed away Oct. 18.

Despite the loss, Bushrod, 34, remained with the Saints, helping them win four of their last five games to clinch their second straight NFC South title.

Bushrod dropped by The Zach Gelb Show to discuss his family’s emotional journey, thank the Saints for their support, and offer hope to listeners.

“God’s not going to put us through anything that we can’t handle,” Bushrod said. “We’re going to be better because of this.”

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported it’s a one-year deal.

Bushrod, 31, played the last three seasons with the Chicago Bears. The Bears cut him in February after he failed a physical. They saved $4.3 million and rid themselves of Bushrod’s onerous $6.3 million base salary, per Over the Cap.

“I’m very appreciative of the kind words of support from the family, friends and fans that have reached out to me,” Bushrod said in an Instagram post following his release. “Unfortunately my time in Chicago is up and it’s on to the next chapter in life. We will continue to grind. Thank you @chicagobears for giving me the opportunity to line up with that C on the side of my helmet.”

Bushrod started 30 games during his first two seasons in Chicago but saw injuries and ineffectiveness cost him his job in 2016. Charles Leno Jr., a former seventh-round choice, replaced Bushrod in the starting lineup amid concussion and shoulder problems for the veteran. Bushrod wound up getting on the field for 12 games but was listed as a starter only four times.

“It’s not easy,” Bushrod said in October, per Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. “It’s really tough. I try to keep all my thoughts as positive as I can. My mindset, I try to keep everything in perspective and really honing in on…what you have to do to get better. If you give it your all every single day, at the end of it, whatever happens, you have to be happy.”

Bushrod’s combination of injuries and ineffective play make it unlikely he’ll garner much more than a one-year contract. Top offensive tackles are signing ridiculous deals on the open market. The Oakland Raiders agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal with Kelechi Osemele, per ESPN.com, on the sheer idea he could be a long-term fit at left tackle.

Bushrod has two Pro Bowls under his belt and a decent history of success at the NFL level. The Dolphins are buying low in the hopes he has one more good year in him.

It has been quite a while since the New Orleans Saints have had their entire offensive line on the field together during practice.

The team hasn’t had everyone available since the week leading up to their Nov. 11 game at Cincinnati — a game during which Terron Armstead suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Jermon Bushrod then suffered a hamstring injury during a Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers.

Since then, Armstead came back and got hurt again against the Steelers in Week 16, and Andrus Peat suffered a hand injury that knocked him out of action during the regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers. Somewhere along the way, Larry Warford picked up a knee injury that he’s been fighting the last few weeks.

But the whole group was back on the field for Wednesday’s practice, which at least creates the possibility that some or all of the players will be available for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

In fact, nobody was missing from practice.

Bushrod, Armstead, tackle Ryan Ramczyk (should), defensive end Alex Okafor (knee), Warford and Peat were limited.

Armstead wasn’t willing to put a percentage on his health, but he did say he feels good. He said playing this week is the goal and that he will play if he is “functional and can produce.”

“It’s been a tricky injury,” he added. “Some things don’t bother me at all. Some things bother me more. It’s hard to put a percentage on it. I feel pretty good, though. I’m doing a lot better.”

In fact, nobody was missing from practice.

Bushrod, Armstead, tackle Ryan Ramczyk (should), defensive end Alex Okafor (knee), Warford and Peat were limited.

Armstead wasn’t willing to put a percentage on his health, but he did say he feels good. He said playing this week is the goal and that he will play if he is “functional and can produce.”

“It’s been a tricky injury,” he added. “Some things don’t bother me at all. Some things bother me more. It’s hard to put a percentage on it. I feel pretty good, though. I’m doing a lot better.”

New Orleans would probably be fine without him, or any of the other offensive linemen, this week against the Eagles. Singularly, the Saints have the depth to overcome just about any injury on the line.

The issues become more pronounced if multiple players are on the shelf and the team needs to go further down the depth chart to fill gaps.

Philadelphia blitzed on 33 percent of Brees’ dropbacks during the first meeting and still only managed to create pressure on five or six plays. He was never sacked and was hit only once.

If viewed without further context, that game severely alters the picture of a pass rush that tied for eighth in the league with 44 sacks. So, while it might be a hard sell in New Orleans, the Eagles’ do have a productive pass rush that can create problems even when everyone is healthy.

They still have to go out and execute and put that talent to use. Doing so will be a lot harder if New Orleans has most or all of its players back on the line this week. There is still a long way to go before Sunday arrives. The good news is, those guys are on the field. That at least opens up the possibility of them playing.

If nothing else, it is an essential first step.

Saints offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod was the only Saints player who didn’t practice on Thursday.

It was the second straight missed practice for Bushrod, who injured a hamstring in Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

Five other Saints, including four offensive linemen, were limited in practice. Those listed as “limited” were linemen Terron Armstead (pectoral/knee), Max Unger (concussion), Andrus Peat (shoulder) and Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder) and punter Thomas Morstead (left ankle).

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner didn’t practice on Thursday either. Conner, the Steelers’ leading rusher with 909 yards, has missed the past two games with an ankle injury.

Patrick Robinson Jersey

Cornerback Patrick Robinson is on the move again, as he is expected to sign a four-year contract with the New Orleans Saints, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Wednesday.

An eight-year NFL veteran, Robinson has played for four different teams in the past four seasons. He started his career with the Saints in 2010, spending five years with the organization, and has since played for the San Diego Chargers (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2016) and Philadelphia Eagles (2017).

The 30-year-old appeared in all 16 regular-season games and made eight starts for the Eagles last season. He tied his career high with four interceptions, led the team with 18 passes defensed and made three tackles in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots.
In November, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus offered this assessment of Robinson’s breakout 2017 season:

Even though Robinson never played at this level prior to last season, he was always effective whenever he managed to stay healthy. The Colts released him in March 2017 after he missed nine games the previous season with knee, hip and groin injuries.

In 2015 with the Chargers, Robinson finished second on the team with eight passes defensed.

Robinson, who will turn 31 in September, could begin to slow down soon. But nothing during his time with the Eagles suggests that time will come in 2018, making him a terrific addition to the Saints secondary alongside a budding star in Marshon Lattimore.

The New Orleans Saints are expected to place cornerback Patrick Robinson on injured reserve after he was diagnosed with a broken ankle.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the news.

Robinson went down in Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons. He did not record a defensive stat in the game.

A 2010 first-round pick of the Saints, Robinson returned to the franchise this offseason after bouncing around to three teams in three years. He played the 2017 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, recording 47 tackles and four interceptions as part of the Super Bowl-winning defense.

The 31-year-old was an integral part of the Saints’ defensive plan, serving as the third corner behind Ken Crawley and Marshon Lattimore. P.J. Williams and Justin Hardee will take more snaps with Robinson out of the lineup.

The Saints will also look to the open market or their practice squad for a replacement. Robinson’s injury leaves them with only four cornerbacks on their roster at the moment.

New Orleans’ pass defense has been the worst in football all season. The Saints are giving up an NFL-worst 11.2 yards per attempt and have picked off only one pass against 10 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have an astounding 141.7 rating against their secondary.

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Exactly 45 years ago, when five top American designers flew to Versailles to compete in a historic international fashion showcase that pitted US and French talent against each other on the runway, the American creatives garnered international respect and set a precedent for diversity. Ten of the models in the show were African American.

Bethann Hardison was one of those models. “We’ve had diversity, but then it disappeared,” she said on stage at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate. “Casting directors changed everything.”

The model, advocate and agency founder joined designers Patrick Robinson, founder of eco-friendly line Paskho and former chief designer at Gap; LaQuan Smith, who designs for his namesake brand; and Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder and creative director of Pyer Moss to discuss the barriers that black designers face and how they’ve found success outside the fashion system.

“Everything that I have done from the very beginning has been unconventional; it hasn’t been the proper formula for how to be successful in fashion,” said Smith.

“The white establishment is now starting to understand that there is this whole other thing that existed and thrived without them,” said Jean-Raymond, who recently won the 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, citing the success of Cross Colours, FUBU, Karl Kani and others. “We were the diffusion of the fashion industry for a long time, and now we are mainstream.”

Jean-Raymond said he recently walked out of a conference about diversity in fashion because the theme of the discussion primarily focused on how activism and inclusion are trends that are good for business.

“It’s not a trend,” he said. “I question everything, though. I’m cognisant of my place and … why I’m being asked to speak about my race versus my story.”

Robinson said he is aware of how he has been used by companies to demonstrate diversity when there were no people of colour in the executive suite. It’s reductive. “Don’t label me as a black designer,” he said. “I’m black, but I’m also a designer.”

The change Robinson is seeing in the industry now through Jean-Raymond and Smith, is that designers are in control of their own businesses and are catering to their own communities. “We are speaking directly to an audience that we understand and who we are,” he said.

Jean-Raymond added that while conversations about diversity and inclusion are often flawed, they aren’t happening outside of the American market. “There’s an active community of established people and unestablished people who are at least trying to speak to each other,” he said. “I love and hate my industry but I wouldn’t do it any other place than New York.”

To learn more about VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.

New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken ankle in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.

The loss comes at a very inopportune time as the Saints face the New York Giants and their loaded wide receiver corps in Week 4.

Sterling Shepard is coming off his biggest game of the season, a six-catch performance on seven targets for 80 yards and a touchdown. Now he’ll get this sparking matchup on Sunday. Not to mention, Shepard should see plenty of action over the middle while tight end Evan Engram recovers from an MCL injury.

According to the FanDuel Sportsbook, the Saints are 3.5-point favorites against the Giants, so we’ll have to see if this line moves with the Robinson news.

As for the Saints defense, they haven’t been good all season long and this is another big blow for them

Al Walsh is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Al Walsh also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username 14AdotWalsh. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.