I don't do this often but a few of you were interested in getting my take on some questions you had about the team so I was happy to oblige below. This was fun, we will definitely do it again. I greatly appreciate the participation.
1. Judy Champagne asked: "What's going on with "Mr. Soretoe"??? That was supposed to have been fixed over the summer..."
That's funny, Mr. Soretoe. That might need to be my new nickname for him. Ingram has been practicing the last couple of weeks so my guess is he's close. He obviously has the dreaded "turf toe", though, and I can tell you that injury is EXTREMELY painful. People mock it but you just really can't push off or operate at the same speed with that kind of injury. And unfortunately, it doesn't really heal unless you keep off of it. Based on the amount he's been practicing, though, I think he will be ready to play come the Bills home game. The Saints will have a tough decision to make because Khiry Robinson has played well. Do they roll the dice and bring Ingram back or do they stick with Robinson and keep Ingram on the bench healthy? I do think the Saints will give Ingram another chance to prove himself if he gets healthy, but it will be his last opportunity to perform or he's done.
2. @DaBossJohn asked: is Jimmy graham's injury severe?
The MRI was negative and the national media is reporting the Saints are optimistic he'll be good to go for the Bills game after the bye week. I wouldn't sweat it, but cracking Sean Payton's injury code is a trick that even Houdini can't figure out.
3. @SaintsForecast asked: it seems Saints are throwing less to WRs than years past. If so why and is it a big concern going forward?
Hey it's my good buddy Ralph! I knew I could count on you to make this fun Ralphie! Because you took the time to ask a good question, I'm going to take the time to give you the numbers. Below is the Saints QB's year by year % of completions to WRs
2006: 45.4% of completions were to receivers
2007: 49.8% of completions to WRs
2008: 43.8% of completions to WRs
2009: 47.9% of completions to WRs
2010: 52.2% of completions to WRs
2011: 43.6% of completions to WRs
2012: 43.7% of completions to WRs
2013 through 6 games: 27.4% of completions to WRs
So yeah, I'd say it's not your imagination. We have 6 years of data that suggest that even in years were most balls are going to Graham and Sproles, Brees never dipped below 43.6% of his passes going to receivers. This is it's at 27.4%!!!! That is an astronomical drop. Clearly the majority of the balls are going to Graham, Sproles and Thomas. The major reason is the offensive line play, which has been poor. It does two things: 1. it forces the offense to use short passing as an extension of the running game more, which is why the backs are catching so much more. 2. The pass protection is poor so even on true passing plays Brees has to settle for the security throw as opposing to going downfield because he doesn't have the time to survey. So yes, I do think it's a major cause for concern, but the Patriots game was a step in the right direction. The Bills and Jets are both excellent defensively so these will be good measuring sticks for the o-line these next two weeks. Lastly, I think it's a trust factor. Lance Moore is hurt and Brees just doesn't have the chemistry and reps with Stills/Toon/Meachem yet. That will develop over time. Jeez, that response was basically an entire blog post.
4. @Sheri1120 asked: do we really even want/need Vilma back at this point?
Sure, if he's healthy and capable then why not have a smart player on your 53 man roster? I'm not saying he should start or even play a ton. I can't speak to what role he could have on this defense at this point. But even as a reserve I think he has some value. Keep in mind the Saints have a guy named Keyunta Dawson on their roster right now. Is he more worthy of a roster spot than Vilma? Is he more valuable? That's a question the Saints must answer based on Vilma's health, but the one thing I love about this Rob Ryan defense is it's constantly putting players in a position to do what they do best. Malcolm Jenkins has been around the line of scrimmage a lot more, for example, giving his back end duty to Rafael Bush who seems more suited for that. This has revitalized Jenkins' career and he's playing great. I'm not saying that will happen for Vilma, but I have a feeling that if JV has anything left to show on the field, Ryan will find a way to put him in a position to show it off.
5. @neershah9 asked: Has Hawthorne proved through 6 weeks to be worth the contract he received at the start of last year?
I'm glad you asked that because he was terrible last season and he's been a real unsung hero of the defense. He has played very well this season, both against the run and in coverage. I don't know that 6 promising games and a really poor previous season is nearly enough to justify the contract he received, but it's at least headed in the right direction. He's third on the team in tackles (behind Lofton and Vaccaro) and I currently have him graded as tied for fourth best on defense (behind Lofton, Jordan and Galette who are all playing exceptionally well). If he can stay healthy I think the Saints will feel good about him forming a tandem with Lofton for years to come.