Many thanks to Dave Cariello of Canal Street Chronicles for organizing this Q&A, having me on his podcast this week, and last but certainly not least, giving me some legitimate sounding food suggestions while I'm here in New Orleans. My questions to him follows, and if I stay coherent enough, my answers to his questions might make a cameo here on BTSC before tomorrow night's game between the Steelers and Saints.
1) Is Reggie Bush still schedule to return to the Saints' lineup this Sunday? What about Pierre Thomas? What's his status. Do you think the Saints will even try to establish the run against the Steelers' top flight rush defense or do you see Drew Brees airing it out 40-50 times?
CSC: I wouldn't expect either Reggie or Pierre to be playing this week. Reggie is very close but judging from Sean Payton's cryptic press conference answers, I think they will wait another week just to be sure. Pierre's injury has taken a frustratingly long time to heal. Doesn't look like he will be ready this week either.
I could see the Saints testing the waters of the ground attack with Chris Ivory early in the game but if it's not working, I fully expect Payton to make the necessary adjustments and rely on his go-to guy, Drew Brees. It's certainly this teams strong suit so I'm glad to see that the Saints match up well against the Steelers in this area.
2) I liked your question about the birth of Brees' second child so much, I'll turn it right back around at you...(basically, the question was what my opinion was on the births of Brees's and Polamalu's children on their play.)
CSC: Drew Brees has not been himself lately and many fans think it's because his mind has been wrapped up in the birth of a new baby. Troy Polamalu's wife gave birth on September 16th and since right about that time, he hasn't had the same impact. Are babies causing our Pro-Bowler's to suck? If not, to what do you attribute Polamalu's slump?
I mean, it would make sense. It's certainly plausible. But I just don't think that's really to blame. If it were Drew's first child then maybe I could understand that perhaps the excitement of this new life change might be a distraction but this isn't his first rodeo. I certainly don't think he's up at 3am changing diapers. Of course, I don't have children of my own so I speak having absolutely no experience or first-hand knowledge.
I'm not really sure why Drew hasn't been as magical as usual. The offensive line hasn't been as reliable as usual and his receivers weren't helping much either with dropped passes. He was nursing a knee injury earlier this season so perhaps it's still lingering and having an affect on his throwing. At this point, we really don't know.
3) Can you tell us a little bit about the draft picks New Orleans has had the past two seasons? Are any making an impact?
CSC: Last year (2009) the Saints had only four draft picks. First round pick Malcolm Jenkins is still developing but things are looking very good. Last year he played cornerback but this season he made the switch to safety and has actually be starting at free safety in place of Darren Sharper. Punter Thomas Morstead was a late round pick that had everyone up in arms at the time. Now he's a hero known for his onside kick in Super Bowl and is looking like a genius pick. Morstead is currently one of the better punters in the league.
This years picks have been a little disappointing thus far. Cornerback Patrick Robinson was drafted in the first round and is coming along slowly. He's seen some significant playing time, mostly because the Saints secondary has been riddled with injury this season. He's definitely improving though. Former basketball player turned tight end Jimmy Graham is thought by some to be the steal of the entire draft. He has made a name for himself more on special teams at this point. No one else drafted in 2010 has yet to really contribute significantly.
4) Have there been any signs of discord in the locker room? Guys pointing fingers, feeling sorry for themselves? Or are the Saints simply a 4-3 football team that's not played its best football, missed out on a few opportunities, but generally still positioned nicely to improve and make a run towards the playoffs?
CSC: The short answer is no. The Saints have never been a team to have a lot of drama in the locker room. Not among players anyway. There are unconfirmed rumors of some tension between Sean Payton and Pierre Thomas regarding his slow ankle injury recovery but on the whole, this team is a family.
I really think you provide an excellent answer in your question. The Saints certainly have not played their best football. We know the Saints have what it takes to go all the way and even this season we've seen them play well, it's really just a matter of gaining consistency playing at that level. Fortunately, the NFC is wide open and looking good, even at 4-3.
5) Most pleasantly surprising part of the Saints' season so far? Most disappointing development?
CSC: The discovery of undrafted free agent Chris Ivory has been a pleasant surprise. It's unfortunate that it took injuries to quite a few other running backs ahead of him to be found but he's stepped up when the Saints have needed him. I'm excited to see what the offense can do when Thomas and Bush are finally healthy and all three are together.
The most disappointing development has definitely been the offensive struggles. Call me spoiled but as a Saints fan, I've gotten very used to the Saints having a machine-like juggernaut offense the past four years. That seems to have disappeared this season and made extra disappointing given the defense has been playing pretty well and upholding their end of the bargain.
CSC: I think this will be a defensive battle. I'm gonna go with a low score of Saints 17 - Steelers 13.