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SCOUT'S NOTEBOOK: Saints make high-risk, high-reward moves
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Updated Apr 17, 2002 8:23 PM ET
The New Orleans Saints continue to retool their roster as draft day nears with the additions of wide receiver Jerome Pathon and defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Both players found their stock lower than expected this spring as teams around the league had questions about Pathon's foot injury and Jackson's work habits. But the Saints weren't afraid to pick up players in this class, similar to their approach two years ago when they signed several players while jump-starting the Randy Mueller-Jim Haslett regime. Quarterback Aaron Brooks is very pleased with the Pathon addition. Last season, the Saints didn't have much help behind Joe Horn other than Willie Jackson, an intermediate receiver who is unsigned. Pathon is a good athlete who can make some plays downfield, but some injuries and inconsistency stunted his development with Indianapolis. But last season, Pathon looked like he was beginning to emerge into a legitimate playmaker before going down with a foot injury. If Pathon can bounce back, the Saints will have another target that will draw some attention away from Horn. Despite this move, don't be surprised if the Saints draft another wide receiver in the first round this weekend as they attempt to bolster their passing game with speed and athleticism. With Jackson, the Saints get a coveted big body to anchor the middle of their defense with Norman Hand. Jackson, Hand, and Martin Chase could give the Saints a very strong interior rotation. Jackson is a massive guy with natural power against the run. He excels at clogging up gaps and giving linebackers room to work, but he also was known for taking plays off in Oakland and doesn't have very good work habits. He was also slowed by injuries last season, and with his poor work ethic, he could begin breaking down physically more often. The combination of Jackson and Hand could be very intriguing if both play hard. They could overpower opposing offensive lines and give their perimeter guys and linebackers a chance to make a lot of plays. But Hand must also rebound from an off year. He returned to his lazy work habits and wasn't as effective last season like he was in 2000.
Brian DeLucia is a respected college and pro personnel consultant around the NFL. Formerly a consultant with Rivals.com and Pro Football Digest.com, Brian enjoys his second season with FOXSports.com providing commentary around the NFL and NFL Draft.
Pairing these two guys together could be a boom or bust for the Saints in 2002.
The Cowboys made another nice addition to their defense with linebacker Kevin Hardy. Hardy never reached star status in Jacksonville due to the way he was utilized, but he's a skillful defender who upgrades their talent level on defense. Hardy can be a productive upfield player at times, which he'll have an opportunity to prove on the weakside in Dallas. He can also play over the tight end, but has been inconsistent in that area.
The 49ers' acquisition of veteran guard Ron Stone will be an interesting move to watch. Stone can be a very strong run blocker at times, but also has underachieved throughout his years with the Giants. Stone also has some lingering shoulder problems and will be 31 years old when training camp begins in late July. Hopefully, they can get two effective seasons from him while they start developing some younger lineman. But don't expect him to be as reliable as Ray Brown was during his tenure with the club.
The Bears addition of quarterback Chris Chandler has raised some eyebrows around the league. Chandler is a talented, yet injury-prone, passer who could create a controversy with starter Jim Miller. The fact that Chandler could be more talented than Miller isn't the big issue, but how Chandler handles being in a backup role certainly draws interest. Chandler isn't known as the most loyal teammate toward fellow quarterbacks and likely won't be a shoulder for Miller to lean on.
Mike Shanahan doesn't want a repeat of last season when the Broncos didn't have enough diversity in the passing game to overcome injuries. The return of veteran tight end Shannon Sharpe should boost their passing game due to his savvy feel for getting open and making clutch grabs. After injuries ravaged Denver's offense last season, the passing game looked flat and lacked the presence Sharpe provides. Sharpe's acquisition does take repetitions away from a developing Desmond Clark, but Clark will pick up some little tips playing behind Sharpe.
The Raiders have begun their annual stretch to add insurance throughout their roster. Brad Badger, a smart guy who knows all the blocking angles, is a nice addition for the offensive line. He isn't quick enough at tackle and not powerful enough inside, but can be effective at left guard and offers solid depth. Gerald Dixon provides the experience they lost when William Thomas retired. Dixon started on the strong side in San Diego for a couple seasons, but will challenge Eric Barton on the weak side. Dixon can be a decent pass rusher, although he's beginning to slow down a bit. He can be decent in coverage and against the run, but could wear down by the end of the season if asked to do too much.
The Rams made an interesting move by acquiring Terrence Wilkins from the Colts. Wilkins addresses one area that has been a weakness for the Rams, the return game. Wilkins scoring potential, and he also shows good quickness out of the slot to produce adequate numbers. But he hasn't been quite as productive like he was during his rookie season as a receiver or return man. His lack of size wears him down at times and he doesn't have true natural speed. But overall, he should be a fine addition to the Rams.
The Broncos added former Falcons right tackle Ephraim Salaam to their roster. Salaam had a disappointing career in Atlanta because he has been plagued by injuries and lacks ideal strength. But he did play much better last season when he was healthy in the Falcons' new blocking scheme, which is a replica of Denver's. He has the feet to develop into a competent starter at right tackle for the Broncos as Matt Lepsis moves to the left side. But the question with Salaam is whether he can stay on the field. Denver also signed Rams fullback James Hodgins to an offer sheet. Hodgins has quietly developed into one of the league's more powerful lead blockers.
Give the Chiefs a lot of credit for signing Bears linebacker Warrick Holdman to an offer sheet. He's a solid weakside linebacker who has good pop, can play in coverage, and also get upfield. He had an excellent year in Chicago after coming off a subpar 2000 season when he was out of shape and later suffered a knee injury. If he doesn't revert back to his poor work habits, Holdman will be a solid weakside linebacker for many years.
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