The New Orleans Saints took a calculated risk this week to prove their intent is to win another Super Bowl. It was something other teams considered, but ultimately passed on because of its possible ramifications.
The Saints signed veteran free agent Dez Bryant to pair with Michael Thomas, giving Drew Brees another weapon at wideout. But before Bryant could participate in one play Sunday in Cincinnati, the plan shattered when he suffered an apparent Achilles tendon during Friday’s practice.
Bryant was having an MRI on Friday to confirm the injury and is expected to get a second opinion once the results are in. But the Saints are apparently expecting the worst.
Byrant, 30, who had signed a one-year deal with the Saints on Wednesday, had practiced with the team for the first time Thursday. Tweets from practice said Bryant was running a simple pattern when the injured occurred.
Bryant had been waiting for an opportunity play again the Dallas Cowboys cut him in April. He had visits with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens which didn’t amount to anything.
After signing his deal, he expressed happiness with being with the Saints.
“Ah man I’m extremely excited,” said Bryant. “I get to play with that baby GOAT Mike Thomas, that baby GOAT Alvin Kamara and the big GOAT Drew Brees. Mark Ingram, (Marshon) Lattimore, you know, just excited to play with these guys. You know, who wouldn’t want to play with Drew Brees?”
It now appears Bryant’s career may be over. The Cowboys first-round pick in 2010, he strung together three seasons (2012-14) with at least 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns. He left the team with 73 TD catches (a franchise record) and 531 receptions for 7,459 yards. He had 69 receptions and six TDs in 2017.
But the Cowboys felt his skills had eroded, particularly his ability to separate from coverage. Combined with his often combustible personality, they felt it was time to say goodbye.
Saints coach Sean Payton said earlier this week there was a good chance Bryant would be used on third-down and red zone situations.
Despite their success this season, the Saints (7-1) have needed a strong second option for Brees, aside from halfback Alvin Kamara, one of the league’s best receivers at his position.
They originally thought Ted Ginn Jr. would again be the guy, but a knee injury sent him to injured reserve in October after he made 12 catches. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith also has a dozen catches and two TDs this season, one in their win over the Los Angeles Rams last week.
But the Saints wanted more, even though they have scored on 58 percent of their drives this season. ESPN said that’s the highest of any team in the last 15 years.
They thought they had the answer in Bryant. But now we’ll never know what contributions he could have made
Butler Set To Serve Patriots Revenge
One of the lingering questions following the New England Patriots’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in last season’s Super Bowl was why Bill Belichick kept Malcolm Butler, one of his top cornerbacks, on the bench after he played nearly every snap during the season.
The question still hasn’t fully been answered by the Patriots, but Butler speculated his benching was a response to him falling ill and ending up in a hospital prior to the game. He believes Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia felt that left him unprepared.
Butler became a free agent after the Super Bowl and its wasn’t long before the Tennessee Titans reached out with a mammoth five-year, $61.25 million deal and anchored him to their secondary.
The Titans (4-4) and Patriots (7-2) play Sunday in Tennessee, which means Butler will have his chance to prove Belichick wrong. But Butler’s play has been less than exemplary and he knows it. He has already been the main coverage guy on seven of the 11 TD passes the Titans have allowed.
“Not too good,” Butler told The Athletic. “I wish it could be better, hope to get better. I know it’s going to get better. I just take it for what it is. It’s only up to me to change it. Nobody else can do it. I’ve always been the underdog, always been at the bottom coming out of slumps, so I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
Tennessee’s defense will be under intense pressure this week, something rookie coach Mike Vrabel, a former Belichick player and assistant, understands. His defense leads the league in fewest points allowed (17.6).
New England has scored 22 TDs on 34 trips into the red zone. But the Titans have allowed only in 22 red zone possessions, the best success rate (31.8) in the league.
Fournette Back To Save The Season
The clock has not expired on the Jacksonville Jaguars, who lost to the Patriots in last season’s 2017 AFC Championship Game. But it is quickly ticking away.
They hope things will drastically improve Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts when halfback Leonard Fournette returns to fortify a diminished offense. The Jags (3-5) have lost four straight.
Fournette has been on the field for only 45 plays this season because of a hamstring injury. Without him, Jacksonville is averaging only 95 yards rushing this season, which is tied for 26th in the league. Last season, it led the NFL (141.4).
T.J. Yeldon leads with 334 yards, but QB Blake Bortles is second (261).
Traditionally, the Jags have run the ball well against the Colts (3-5), who have won two straight. They have gained at least 136 yards in four of their last five meetings.
Rams Face First Bounce Back Scenario
The Saints ended the Rams’ chance for an unbeaten season and now the NFC West leaders have the opportunity to make amends against the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle almost beat the Rams a few weeks ago with 190 yards rushing. But they come into this game with both Chris Carson and D.J. Fluker nursing injuries. That might hurt Seattle’s ability to kill the clock, which will give Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, the league leader in rushing and TDs, more time to pierce its defense.
It will be interesting to monitor the Seahawks approach to the Rams defense, which allowed a number of big plays against the Saints. None was bigger that Brees’ 72-yard TD pass to Thomas that iced the 45-35 win. Thomas set a franchise record in the game with 211 receiving yards on 12 receptions.
Thomas was guarded by Marcus Peters and he didn’t care much for things Payton said after the game was over.
“They were going to travel Marcus to him (Thomas) and that was fine by us,” said Payton. “We thought we really liked that matchup – a lot.”
On Thursday, Peters offered a response.
“Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that s—. We going to see him soon, you feel me?” said Peters. “Because I like what he was saying on the sidelines, too. So tell him to keep talking that s—. I hope he see me soon, you feel me? Then we going to have a good li’l, nice li’l bowl of gumbo together.”
Peters definitely doesn’t want to look that bad again. You feel us?
Cowboys Facing Last Roundup
So last week, Troy Aikman, the Hall of Fame QB who won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, had some things to say about the status of his former team. His main talking point: The franchise needs an overhaul.
That ringing criticism provides the storyline for the Cowboys game in Philadelphia. Another loss likely will end any chance Dallas (3-5) has to win the NFC East or contend for a wildcard.
The Cowboys are a mess, exemplified by the fact Zeke Elliott has not been able to gain even 80 yards in five of their eight games. Remember, the Cowboys offensive line had been considered one of the most stellar in the league. And now they face the second-ranked defense against the run this season.
The Eagles are coming off their bye week, the Cowboys off a 28-14 loss to the Titans. After the loss, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked again about Jason Garrett’s job security and he did not back down from his contention that Garrett, 70-58 in his eight seasons as coach, was in no danger.
Later in the week, Jones used his radio show to also support Prescott, who has faced significant criticism.
“Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys,” said Jones. “He’s young and he’s going to get (his contract) extended.”
In his last 10 games, Prescott has completed 62.1 just as many turnovers (11) as TD passes. He has thrown seven interceptions and his passer rating is a pedestrian 84.3.