Chat with Mike Triplett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN NFL Nation New Orleans Saints reporter Mike Triplett drops by to chat and answer all of your Saints questions.
Triplett joined ESPN in 2013 after covering the Saints for eight years at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate also previously covered LSU football and the San Francisco 49ers.
Send your questions now and join Triplett Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Tatum (New Orleans)
After the bye week do you think we will have any clarity on the run game? More Robinson and PT or does Ingram get back into the equation?
Mike Triplett (1:04 PM)
I do think we'll get clarity this week, but I don't know what to expect exactly. I think Ingram should definitely be healthy enough to return after practicing on a limited basis for two weeks before the bye. And I think the Saints will give him a chance to prove his worth now that the run game is starting to show improvement overall. ... But it will be hard to bench Khiry Robinson, who's had such a hot hand lately.It's very similar to their conundrum from last year when they had Chris Ivory. And there are no easy answers -- especially since the Saints don't run the ball enough to distribute regular carries to so many backs.Guess it's a good problem to have, though.
Corren Jimerson (Houston)
Will the Saints let go of Ingram this year?
Mike Triplett (1:06 PM)
Just a quick follow-up to the last one. No, I don't think they'll get rid of him midseason. They value the depth, especially at that position where injuries are so frequent.Down the road, they may consider yet another trade since they have such good depth at running back. But keep in mind, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas are getting older. So the Saints would still love for the investment in Ingram to pan out long-term.
Tatum (New Orleans)
Who must step up the most if Jimmy Graham doesn't play this week?
Mike Triplett (1:10 PM)
First of all, an update on Graham. As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this morning, he'll probably be questionable all week with the foot injury. It sounds like Graham avoided anything major, but it's still unclear if he'll be ready to return by Sunday.If he doesn't play, obviously backup TE Benjamin Watson will play a greater role in the offense. And he's definitely a capable pass-catcher. But he won't run all of Graham's routes, obviously. He would be a supporting cast member. The Saints would rely more on their receivers and running backs with Graham out (like most NFL teams who don't have the luxury of a superstar tight end).That means Marques Colston as the go-to guy, and I do think he can deliver in that role despite a slow two weeks. ... Not sure if receiver Lance Moore is close to returning from his hand injury yet. Another injury we'll be curious to learn more about starting on Wednesday.
Ulrik Gorm Jensen (Copenhagen, Denmark)
What's Victor Butlers status, is he going to make his Saints debut this season?
Mike Triplett (1:13 PM)
I don't expect any answers coming soon on Butler's status. Although he is now eligible to come off the PUP list and begin practicing based on NFL rules, I'm sure he's not ready yet after tearing his ACL in June.The new PUP rules allow the Saints to wait all the way until the start of Week 12 to bring Butler back to practice, plus another three weeks after that to decide whether to activate him. ... I have to think he's a long shot to return this year, but the Saints don't have to rush that decision.
CJ (West Lafayette, IN)
What is wrong with the Saints receivers? Are they not getting open or is Drew not getting the ball to them?
Mike Triplett (1:19 PM)
This has been a popular question lately. There are several factors. 1. Jimmy Graham was a monster for the first 5 weeks, so it made sense to keep featuring and feeding him. 2. Lance Moore has been out for three weeks with a hand injury. And 3. The last two opponents, the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots are two of the toughest defensive matchups in the NFL for wide receivers (Chicago's zone defense and New England's physical man-to-man coverage).Obviously the Saints are suddenly thinner and less experienced at WR than ever before, with rookies Kenny Stills and Nick Toon on the field along with Colston and Robert Meachem. So it makes sense for the Saints to lean heavily on Graham and the running backs in the passing game.But I think Colston will still be a strength all season (he looked perfectly fine in the first 4 weeks, when he was on pace for 1,200 yards). And I think Stills and Toon will keep developing as complementary players. ... The big question mark is Moore. Even when he comes back, a hand injury is no joke for a receiver, obviously.I just looked up some stats for my weekend mailbag. Over the last two years, wide receivers caught exactly 44 percent of Brees' passes. They're at 27 percent this year, but it's not like that's WAY down from years past.
Ed (Queens Village)
Were the Saints D playing not to lose at end of Pats game?
Mike Triplett (1:21 PM)
Not necessarily. They blitzed once on that drive and mixed between 3- and 4-man pass rushes for the rest of the drive. New England was very patient, settling for mid-range passes in the middle of the field. The first play might have been the costliest when Brady still completed a 23-yard pass even while being hit as he threw.In hindsight, maybe you could say the Saints should have attacked more, but the last thing they wanted to do was give up a deep bomb. There's always room for second guessing when things like that happen.
Chuck (New Orleans)
Who do you coming into their own and contributing in a greater way during the rest of season. Offense and defense.
Mike Triplett (1:24 PM)
Great question. But it's hard to answer since the young guys have already stepped up so big this season.I think we'll see more consistent involvement from WR Kenny Stills. I think we've started to see improved play from veteran Gs Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, which I expect to continue. ... Not sure who's really capable of stepping up and playing much better on defense. But I think what we've seen so far from newcomers and young risers like Cam Jordan, Junior Galette, Akiem Hicks, John Jenkins, Glenn Foster, Tyrunn Walker, Kenny Vaccaro, Keenan Lewis, etc., is legitimate.
what kind of.impact, if any, do you think Jonathan vilma's return will have on the saints defense?
Mike Triplett (1:26 PM)
I don't think there's any rush to throw him quickly or heavily into the mix since David Hawthorne has played well in his absence. ... The Saints have the luxury of going very slowly with Vilma, getting him back close to 100 percent. Remember, this is essentially his training camp just starting now.if Vilma does come back strong and the Saints like what they see, I could see a package of plays as a rotational player -- similar to the way Ramon Humber was used for a total of 48 snaps against the Patriots maybe?
BhamSaint (Birmingham, AL)
I'm not sure there's really a spot for Vilma on this team...He's got experience but he's older, slower, shorter and recovering from injuries again. He couldn't cover Sproles or Graham ever. Does he still fit???
Mike Triplett (1:28 PM)
That's also a possibility. ... I'm not sure even the Saints know exactly what to expect out of Vilma, since that knee injury has hampered him on and off for three straight years now. ... My answer was "IF" they like what they see.if Vilma looks close to 100 percent, he could be comparable to David Hawthorne and Ramon Humber, who they have been using. So he could fit in that regard. But they certainly don't need to force him onto the field if they don't feel he'll help.
Brian (Lake view)
How would you grade the acquisition of Grubbs over Nicks and what grade do you give next since he's been a Saint?
Mike Triplett (1:32 PM)
There has obviously been a drop-off in production from what NICKS WAS before 2012 to what Grubbs has been the last two years (though it's hard to fault the Saints for not investing in Nicks since he's been plagued by various ailments, including this unfortunate staph infection).As for Grubbs himself, I don't think he has consistently lived up to the big contract they gave him. But I understand why the Saints wanted him, since they value those guard positions so much in their offense. I think Grubbs played well during the second half of last season and has played very well the last two games. So I still think he's a solid asset, even if he's not quite playing at a Pro Bowl level or a "Carl Nicks 2011" level.
Corey (Columbus GA)
Would you say the Saints have the East on lock down at this point, given how bad the Falcons are playing?
Mike Triplett (1:35 PM)
Was this question asked on Saturday or today? Suddenly while the Saints were off, Carolina (3-3) and Atlanta (2-4) closed the gap slightly with Week 7 victories. ... I still think the NFC South is the Saints' to lose. but one or both of those teams could easily sneak up and make things interesting if the Saints don't win 11-plus games.And the head-to-head matchups could be great equalizers. the Saints have to play at Atlanta on a Thursday night. Then in December, they host Carolina on a short week after a Monday night game across the country in Seattle. Then they have to play at Carolina in late December.The Saints will have to win at least one of those games.
Sebastian (Munich, Germany)
Considering their good performance against the patriots do you think that the O-line is gonna get better in both pass and run blocking as the season progresses?
Mike Triplett (1:36 PM)
Definitely. I was never really worried about the pass protection (and think a lot of it had to do with Jahri Evans' hamstring injury, which has been healing).I still think the run game will be up and down all season. But I don't expect it to be routinely as bad as it was in September. They had their two best run-blocking games these last two weeks.
Mike, miss your work at The T-P but really enjoy the more in-depth coverage at ESPN. Am curious if you saw Sean's 'rusty' skills present at the end of teh New Eng. game when it seemed as if the Saints felt they had it won? A coaching moment?
Mike Triplett (1:40 PM)
Thanks -- and no, I'm not one of the people who has been critical of Payton's play-calling late at New England. ... I think he would have taken even more criticism if the Saints had thrown incomplete passes and given the Patriots more time to work with.Maybe I would have suggested calling a screen pass, since that's a high percentage throw with the potential for a big gain. But the Saints were running the ball well in the second half. It was bad execution on a second-and-6 run that really set them back. (then great defense by NE on a third-and-7 pass break-up).Plus, Payton had faith in his defense, and I don't blame him with the way that game was playing out. Tom Brady wasn't dominant that day (he had less than 200 yards passing before that final drive).Obviously it didn't work out in the end. But I know I wasn't second-guessing the play-calling at the time.
Mark (Denver, CO)
The Saints D allowed the most points they have all season to the Patriots. Jabari Greer also seemed to have a pretty tough day, overall. Do you see the defense getting back to the stingier ways of the first 5 games, or is there cause for concern going forward?
Mike Triplett (1:42 PM)
I think the Saints defense was pretty solid at New England after the first 20 minutes. They held New England without a touchdown on eight straight possessions (until that last one). they sacked Brady five times, made a big red-zone stands after Brees' fourth quarter interception. They intercepted a pass with less than three minutes remaining.In other words, they definitely gave the Saints a chance to win. ... They won't be perfect all season. Performances like that one will be good enough to win most weeks. And they're obviously capable of playing even better.
Frank (Brother Martin HS)
In your opinion has Keenan Lewis been a solid addition thus far?
Mike Triplett (1:44 PM)
Absolutely. i think the play of the corners (both Lewis and Greer) has been one of the more underrated reasons for their success. I think the new defense suits them, and Lewis in particular is a physical, long-armed corner suited for man and press coverage.The Saints haven't been burned much by deep balls this year -- especially in 1-on-1 matchups against corners. That's a huge improvement over last year.
Chris Williams (Somewhere on the Practice Squad)
When will I be able to return kicks for this team and show what I did in the CFL?
Mike Triplett (1:47 PM)
A good question. Remember, Williams hasn't had any training camp or OTAs or anything this year until he joined the Saints a few weeks ago. So I didn't expect him to be in the mix quickly (and I'm really not sure if he'll be in the mix this season at all if they're treating it like a redshirt year on the practice squad).But the Saints' return game could use a spark. And the Saints would love to keep Darren Sproles fresh for their offense. So if they think Williams is ready, I wouldn't be shocked to see him get a look as a return man -- where he did thrive in Canada.
Do you think that the Saints have a good chance to get to the superbowl?
Mike Triplett (1:51 PM)
Yeah, they have a pretty good chance. I expect them to win the NFC South and contend for a top-two seed. And once that tournament starts, 4 or 5 NFC teams will be capable of getting hot at the right time (look at the last three Super Bowl winners -- the Ravens, Giants and Packers).I think when the Saints passing offense is clicking, they have a chance to beat anybody. And the way their defense is playing this year, I think they can remain competitive in every game. I wouldn't be shocked to see them go something like 13-3 (or something like 10-6, really). There were probably be five or six more games this year that come down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Frank (Brother Martin HS)
How much attention (chips,doubles, roll outs, etc) will Mario Williams get this Sunday?
Mike Triplett (1:52 PM)
Not sure what the exact game plan will be. But you're right that he's the No. 1 player on the entire Bills roster to identify and have a plan for. He's been outstanding this year, with 10 sacks already. He and the rest of the Bills' pass rush are the main reason why they've been so surprisingly competitive. They're 3-4 but all but one game has been decided by seven points or less.
Brandon (Columbus Ga)
How is Cam healing up
Mike Triplett (1:54 PM)
Saints won't give out any practice reports until Wednesday. But he expected to be fine after the Patriots game. He may be limited in practice, but I think he'll be OK for the Bills game.
Frank (Brother Martin HS)
Is Colston struggling or is he just not being targeted as much as in the past?
Mike Triplett (1:58 PM)
Probably the most popular question of the past week (other than Jimmy Graham injury updates). ... Like I said earlier, I think the last two defenses caused unique matchup problems. The Saints used a very patient attack with a ton of check-down passes against Chicago's zone defense. Then the Patriots did an excellent job in physical, man-to-man coverage (Colston was blanketed by CB Alfonzo Dennard most of the game).I don't think other defenses will easily be able to replicate those defenses. And in the first four weeks, Colston was playing well and on pace for nearly 1,200 yards.Obviously Colston is probably beginning the slow decline of his career now that he's 30. But I still think he'll be a big part of the offense going forward, with a few more 100-yard games sprinkled in this year.
Mike Triplett (2:01 PM)
Thanks for all the questions everyone. We'll do it again soon. ... In the meantime, feel free to send me questions anytime for my Saints mailbag on Twitter @MikeTriplett.