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NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Week 4 | NFL: Superbowl

Saints' first offseason work sharpens focus on new faces

Thu May 24 8:29pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton walks on the field during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sophia Germer)


New Orleans Saints quarterback J.T. Barrett (5) stands by as running back Trey Edmunds is handed the ball by quarterback Tom Savage (12) during NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sophia Germer)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is handed the ball during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sophia Germer)


METAIRIE, La. (AP) Patrick Robinson spied Drew Brees stepping up to throw deep down the middle, sprinted back toward his own end zone and made an outstretched interception of a ball that initially looked to be thrown beyond anyone's reach.

''Impressive,'' was how Saints coach Sean Payton described the play by Robinson, a cornerback who is one of several recent additions aimed at strengthening a club that nearly advanced to the NFC title game last season.

The onset of offseason practices this week has provided Payton and his staff a chance to begin forging roles for players such as Robinson, as well as fellow newcomers such as linebacker Demario Davis, safety Kurt Coleman, receiver Cameron Meredith and first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport.

It's also a chance to see if any of the club's younger running backs - such as rookie Boston Scott - might fill the void created by Pro Bowl rusher Mark Ingram's four-game suspension for use of a banned substance.

''Obviously, we hate to miss a guy like that. He's such huge part of what we do and such a great teammate, too,'' Brees said of Ingram after Thursday's non-padded practice, the first open to reporters this offseason. ''We'll manage.''

Alvin Kamara is on track to emerge as New Orleans' top running back after being selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season.

But while Kamara played a more versatile running and receiving role that Payton calls a ''Joker back,'' Ingram was a force on more traditional runs.

At only 5-foot-7, Scott is smaller than Ingram, but Payton won't discount the rookie's ability to compete for snaps Ingram might otherwise have gotten.

''He's shorter, but he's built pretty well. He is someone who has good instincts,'' Payton said.

''It's early, but he's done some really good things. There's a running ability he has as well. I wouldn't look at him as a ''Joker'' back, if you will. He's got some of those traits, but he does a pretty good job with some of the in-line runs.''

The preseason performance of Scott, a sixth-round draft choice out of Louisiana Tech, as well as that of Trey Edmunds, a second-year pro out of Maryland, could determine how the Saints cope with Ingram's suspension.

''I'm going to work, do everything I can to learn the playbook and just grind,'' Scott said. ''By the time preseason rolls around, I'll be ready.''

The Saints hope they've bolstered the passing game by adding receiver Cameron Meredith during free agency. Meredith led Chicago in receiving two seasons ago, but is coming back from a major knee injury that wiped out his 2017 season.

Meredith did some route-running and catching on Thursday, after which Payton pronounced him ''way ahead of schedule.''

''He's going to factor in this year,'' Payton said.

Meredith, meanwhile, discussed his motivation to regain his 2016 form.

''It was a major injury. I'm not going to downplay it,'' Meredith said. ''I'm excited to go out there and prove people wrong.''

On defense, the Saints cannot yet be sure how well 2017 starting end Alex Okafor will come back from his torn Achilles.

In the meantime, Davenport is expected to get a lot of offseason work as the Saints try to refine his pass-rushing skills in time for the fall.

''He's a tremendous worker,'' Payton said. ''He's coming along really well. There's a strength element you feel.''

The Saints expect the linebacker group to be strengthened by Davis, a former defensive leader with the New York Jets, as well as the return of second-year pro Alex Anzalone, who started four games as a rookie before the rest of his season was cut short by a shoulder injury.

Both can play multiple roles.

''I'm down with whatever my coaches want me to do,'' Davis said. ''I'm here to win.''

Robinson, Payton said, has returned to the club that drafted him in 2010 a more confident and capable player after winning a Super Bowl with Philadelphia last season.

Robinson ''has played on the biggest stages and had success,'' Payton said. ''It's good seeing him back in our building.''

Notes: Ingram was not at practice, even though the terms of his suspension allow him to participate in all offseason and preseason work. Payton said he disagreed with Ingram's decision, but respects it and has had friendly phone conversations with Ingram about it. Brees said he also has spoken with Ingram, adding, ''I know Mark's doing what he needs to do to get himself ready to play this season. He's doing what's best for him and therefor what's best for the team.''

Player Notes
Larry Fitzgerald Jan 23 12:10pm ET

The Arizona Cardinals signed veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to a one-year deal on Wednesday so that he can return for a 16th season. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Fitzgerald will turn 36 at the end of August but will remain the No. 1 wideout on the team because of his experience. His numbers took a hit in one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2018, but he still led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (734) and touchdowns (six). While Fitz can still make an impact on the field, he'll be returning to his third head coach in three years, but the addition of Kliff Kingsbury could improve the offense moving forward. We won't say for sure that Fitzgerald will return to the 1,000-yard mark, but he should be a serviceable WR3 at the very least.

From RotoBaller

Greg Schiano Jan 23 10:53am ET

Former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is expected to land with the New England Patriots in a top defensive role when linebackers coach Brian Flores heading to the Miami Dolphins.

Steve Spagnuolo Jan 23 10:43am ET

Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has emerged as the favorite to be hired as Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator, according to sources.

Larry Fitzgerald Jan 23 9:43am ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald announced Wednesday, Jan. 23, that he'll return for the 2019 season.

Fantasy Spin: Fitz had a 69-734-6 season, which was well below the 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons the three years previously. The rookie quarterback was part of the problem, but he doesn't have much more upside next season. He's still a PPR asset, but he'll be a mid-round option as a WR3.

Larry Fitzgerald Jan 23 9:43am ET

Updating an earlier report, Arizona Cardinals impending free-agent WR Larry Fitzgerald re-signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

Albert Wilson Jan 23 2:13am ET

Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson (hip) is on schedule with his recovery from an October hip injury that landed him on IR and could be at full speed when the team's offseason workout program begins in April.

Fantasy Spin: After four largely nondescript seasons in Kansas City, Wilson flashed some playmaking ability before getting injured against the Lions. There are far too many variables in Miami for an accurate read on Wilson's fantasy prospects for 2019, but he did enough last year to warrant your attention.

Nick Foles Jan 23 1:53am ET

Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles would be eligible to be franchise or transition tagged and then traded if the team decides not to pick up his option, which ESPN's Chris Mortensen believes is a possibility as doing so would allow the Eagles to influence Foles' destination.

Fantasy Spin: Mortensen indicates such a move would prevent Foles from going to a division rival, but it's all speculation at this point. While it's far from a sure thing, Foles could have some fantasy value in the right situation.

Daryl Worley Jan 23 1:03am ET

Oakland Raiders CB Daryl Worley (shoulder) had successful surgery on his ailing shoulder last week, according to head coach Jon Gruden.

Michael Crabtree Jan 22 11:53pm ET

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Crabtree is likely to be released in the offseason, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

Cole Beasley Jan 22 5:23pm ET

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent WR Cole Beasley claimed Tuesday, Jan. 22, that the Dallas front office encourages the coaching staff to get the football to certain players. 'I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure,' Beasley said.

Fantasy Spin: Beasley's frustrations are evident and understandable, although Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup are all bigger, more talented threats with the ball. Beasley does have a role to play and put together his second best season from a statistical standpoint. That being said, he's only a mid- to late-round PPR flier if he stays in Dallas.

Alex Smith Jan 22 4:50pm ET

Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said the team is "optimistic" that quarterback Alex Smith (leg) will be ready for the start of the 2019 season, but he also said "we'll see." In his first year with Washington, Smith was a disappointment, throwing for 2,108 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions with an 85.7 QB rating in 10 games before his gruesome leg injury. He'll be heading into his age-35 season and is unlikely to be ready for training camp or the regular season, so he's one to avoid for fantasy purposes. The 'Skins are in dire need of a long-term quarterback.

From RotoBaller

Chris Jones Jan 22 4:30pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs relieved defensive coordinator Bob Sutton of his duties on Tuesday. Sutton was head coach Andy Reid's defensive coordinator for all six of his years in KC, but the Chiefs defense continued to trend downward in 2018 and was their Achilles heel in the AFC Championship loss to the Patriots last weekend. Defensive end Chris Jones -- third in the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2018 -- and linebacker Dee Ford are the linchpins of this defense, but they must improve their talent in the secondary. The Chiefs ranked 31st in yards allowed per game (405.5), 31st in passing yards allowed (273.4), 27th in rushing yards allowed (132.1), 24th in points allowed (26.3) and tied for eighth in takeaways (27) in 2018.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 22 2:13pm ET

Oakland Raiders impending free-agent TE Jared Cook will be re-signed if head coach Jon Gruden has his way, but Gruden admitted that Cook will be a popular name on the free-agent market.

Fantasy Spin: Cook was one of the few bright spots for the Raiders this season, and maybe the lone bright spot. He's a top-five fantasy tight end candidate now after finishing 2018 as the TE5.

Julio Jones Jan 22 2:03pm ET

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones led all receivers with 24 receptions for first downs on 30 third-down targets this past season.

Fantasy Spin: Despite a slow start in the TD department (none in his first seven games) Jones also wound up leading the league in receiving yards (1,677) for the second time in the last four seasons. And even with Jones turning 30 this offseason (on Super Bowl Sunday), he remains an elite WR1 in all fantasy formats.

Marshawn Lynch Jan 22 2:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team is unsure if impending free-agent running back Marshawn Lynch plans to play in 2019. Gruden said "we'd love to have him back" if he decides to play another season. Beast Mode will turn 33 in April and is coming off a season in which he played in just six games due to injury. Lynch ran 90 times for 376 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and three scores. Even if Lynch returns, he'd be more of a low-upside, injury-risk RB2 for Oakland that is more attractive in standard-scoring leagues.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 22 2:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team would like to re-sign impending free-agent tight end Jared Cook, but he knows the market for his services will be competitive. He'll be in high demand after he set career highs across the board in catches (68), targets (101), yards (896) and touchdowns (six) for the Raiders. Given the sad state of the tight end position in fantasy, Cook was a strong TE1 this year and will likely be drafted as one again this year, depending on where he lands. Staying in Oakland might be the best for his value.

From RotoBaller

Andy Dalton Jan 22 1:50pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals are hiring former Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan as their next offensive coordinator. Callahan has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL but has been a QBs coach since 2015. He'll oversee an offense that could easily bounce back after serious injuries to quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green derailed them in 2018. Cincinnati finished 26th in yards per game (310.8), 24th in passing yards per game (205.6), 21st in rushing yards per game (105.1) and 17th in points per game (23.0) in 2018.

From RotoBaller

Marshawn Lynch Jan 22 1:43pm ET

Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch, an impending free agent this offseason, hasn't announced whether he plans on playing in 2019, but if he does, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Tuesday, Jan. 22, that 'we'd love to have him back.'

Fantasy Spin: Lynch will be 33 by the time next season rolls around, but he'd still be a fantasy RB2 consideration if were to be projected to be the primary RB in Oakland.

Jimmy Garoppolo Jan 22 12:53pm ET

San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo (knee) was throwing passes to RB Jerick McKinnon (knee) recently, 49ers general manager John Lynch said Tuesday, Jan. 22, in an interview.

Fantasy Spin: All appears to be going well in the recovery of Garoppolo, who was injured in Week 3. There are sure to be plenty of updates upcoming throughout the offseason, but expect Garoppolo to be ready for training camp.

Jerick McKinnon Jan 22 12:53pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Jerick McKinnon (knee) was recently seen catching passes from QB Jimmy Garoppolo, general manager John Lynch said Tuesday, Jan. 22, in an interview.

Fantasy Spin: A preseason knee injury shelved McKinnon for the season, but at least it happened earlier enough that McKinnon is expected to participate in training camp and be ready for the start of 2019 season. And that coupled with the Niners' strong productiveness with several different backs makes McKinnon an intriguing fantasy bounce-back candidate.