Mailbag: New Orleans Saints edition

Matt in Miami writes: Hey Pat, what do you think about the Saints using a 3-4 a lot against the Vikings?

Pat Yasinskas: I thought it was interesting. We saw that at times last season, but it seemed more prevalent Thursday night. Not sure if that was just part of Gregg Williams’ game plan to throw the Vikings off or if it’s something we’ll see more of this season. I think it’s a nice thing to do in certain situations, but I don’t think the Saints have the personnel (particularly at linebacker) to really use the 3-4 on a regular basis.

Michael in Honolulu writes: Pat, how would you grade the job the New Orleans offensive line did against Minnesota? I know Bushrod got some help, but Jared Allen (one of the best DEs in the league) was basically a nonfactor. It also looked to me like Evans and Nicks were pushing the Williams Wall around, especially on the drive to start the third quarter and the clock-killing drive at the end.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think I could assign any other grade but an 'A' to the offensive line. That group did all the things you just mentioned and more. Jermon Bushrod had help at times, but I also saw several plays where he handled Allen one on one, and that’s a very good sign. Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks are the best guard tandem in the league. Evans already has been recognized as one of the game’s best linemen. But people are starting to realize Nicks isn’t far behind him. One personnel guy I talk to regularly claims that Nicks is a better run blocker than Evans.

Andy in Charleston, S.C., writes: I wanted to point out something that wasn't really mentioned about the Saints-Vikings game Thursday. Malcolm Jenkins made a couple of REALLY good plays. First he had a big hit (on Peterson, I think) that reminded me immediately of Darren Sharper's hit on Kevin Faulk last year, then later made an acrobatic near-interception that most receivers would have had trouble catching. He really is making a good case for taking Sharper's spot.

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I thought Jenkins had a very nice game in his first start as a free safety. We all knew he was athletic, but it looks like he’s already made a smooth transition to a new position. As far as making a case for taking Sharper’s spot, I think the case already was made. The Saints told Jenkins soon after the Super Bowl that he was moving to safety. They let Sharper test the free-agent waters and signed him back at a low price after he didn’t draw much interest elsewhere. Sharper’s out for at last the first six games as he recovers from a knee injury. If Sharper comes back – and that’s not a given – I think it will just be as insurance. If Jenkins keeps playing like he did in the opener, the job is his.