Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans Saints’

Lights Out is heading to Wembley - Pic by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images North America

Lights Out is heading to Wembley - Pic by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images North America

The San Diego Chargers have officially announced this afternoon that Shawne ‘Lights Out’ Merriman, their outstanding linebacker will ‘forego surgery on his knee’ to play in the 2008 NFL season.

This is fantastic news for all the NFL fans in England (and other parts of the UK and in Europe) who will make the annual pilgrimage to Wembley Stadium to see the Chargers take on the New Orleans Saints in London on October 26, in only the second NFL regular season game to take place in Europe.

Lights Out is a beast, a human wrecking machine, and 39.5 sacks in 42 career games is proof that he is a true superstar.

Only Merriman will know if he is kidding himself by saying that he will play through the pain. He does risk blowing his entire career, but with the 2008 NFL season just over a week away, its just too appetising for Shawne to not want to taste success.

The Chargers have a realistic shot at the Superbowl this season, and Merriman is one of the keys to victory, with his high adrenaline play and his ability to frighten the heck out of opposing teams.

It’s no coincidence that Merriman wears #56 after the Hall of Fame stud and former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. It was Taylor who redefined the game, making left offensive tackles get much bigger salaries.

Look at the #1 pick in the NFL draft this year – offensive lineman Jake Long. He was drafted to protect the quarterback from the likes of Merriman, as much as to clear the lanes for Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.

Having the NFL circus come to England in 2008 will again be special, waving a torch because Merriman will be looking to turn Drew Brees lights out makes it just that bit more special.

Merriman you are a brave man and NFLFANINENGLAND salutes your decision.

Good or bad idea – let me know……

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With under three months to go until the San Diego Chargers take on the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium, in the second regular season NFL game to take place in Europe, I felt now is a good time to look at the prospects of the Saints and the Chargers first round 2008 rookie picks.

Both teams sensibly went for defensive upgrades in areas of need – all goos so far, so lets look in some more detail;

Saints – Pick Number 7 overall – Selection – Sedrick Ellis – Defensive Tackle – College – USC Trojans – Contract status – 5 year contract signed – 6ft 1 – 307lbs – Shirt #98

Sedrick Ellis - Saints #1 pick

Sedrick Ellis - Saints #1 pick

Lawrence Vos’s Position analysis

Ellis comes into a Saints defensive that was 13th overall in the NFL against the run in 2007, but its the pass defense that was awful last season finishing 30th out of 32 teams, giving up a league worst 7.9 yards a pass. The defensive tackles clogging up the running lanes for the Saints in 07 included old warhorse Hollis Thomas (5o tackles and 3 sacks), Brian Young (who made just 18 tackles in 8 starts) and Antwan Lake (whoooo ? – well he started 7 games and had 18 tackles). Not exactly an all-star lineup you must agree. Ellis will be an immediate upgrade and will be pushing to get in the starting lineup from the opening snap of pre-season. Ellis was a monster at USC in 07, with 8.5 sacks and a reinforced shelf full of awards. Whilst his height and weight are not prototypical of a dominating defensive tackle Ellis has the motor of a transatlantic cruise liner, and is an excellent fit for the Saints. I’m not convinced that every fan inside Wembley Stadium in October will fully appreciate the skills of Ellis in the middle of a mud filled trench war, but I will be straining my eyeballs towards number #98 when the game begins. 3 tackles and a sack would be a fantastic day out for Ellis in London.

Chargers – Pick Number 27 overall – Selection – Antoine Cason – Cornerback – College – Arizona Wildcats – Contract status – 5 year contract signed – 6 ft 0 – 191lbs – Shirt #20

Antoine Cason - Chargers #1 pick

Antoine Cason - Chargers #1 pick

Lawrence Vos’s Position analysis

The Chargers were just one game away from the Superbowl, but two Tom Brady touchdown passes were enough to kill San Diego’s prospects of a second Superbowl appearance. What does Coach Norv Turner do to immediately address the problem – he got rid of Drayton Florence and upgraded to Antoine Cason, to go alongside 2007 All World corner Antonio Cromartie. Cason had 253 tackles and 15 interceptions as a Wildcat in the desert, quite impressive stats for a cornerback. At Wembley in October Cason will be going up against the likes of Devery Henderson, David Patten, Robert Meachem or even Jeremy Shockey, which will be a stern test for Cason. Rookie cornerbacks can often be picked on and by mid-season it will become apparent if Cason is going to sink or swim. With a father and two cousins that have already played in the NFL Cason will have the bonus of years of advice and guidance about being a professional athlete. Being a first round pick there will be expectations by coaches and fans that Cason will be game ready from game one. My prediction for his game in London – 2 tackles and one pass defended, and one huge mistake. 

Anyone else got any thoughts on Ellis or Cason ? Feel free to comment……

Shockey warming up at Wembley, London in 2007

Shockey warming up at Wembley, London in 2007

Some people think tight-end Jeremy Shockey was traded to the New Orleans Saints from the New York Giants earlier this week because he wants to start afresh in the Superdome.

Some say he could not cope with the fact Kevin Boss (spot him in the picture above Shockey) was one of the New York Giants stars in the Superbowl (XLII) in February, whilst Shockey sat injured and unable to play.

I can however reveal the real reason that Jeremy Shockey has signed for the Saints – he wants to COME BACK to England and strutt his stuff at the second ever NFL International game in Europe.

Taking place again at Wembley Stadium on October 26 2008 Shockey will be once again crossing the pond and getting changed in the London locker room for an England based NFL regular season encounter, this time the Saints against the San Diego Chargers.

it can be exclusively revealed on NFLFANINENGLAND that Shockey asked to be traded to the Saints so he could come back to London, for the following reasons…..

1) Shockey is addicted to the English delicacy of Fish ‘n’ Chips, with mushy peas, a pickled onion, a small pot of curry sauce and a can of Tizer (which is available to buy in England despite Scottish people thinking it is exclusively their drink), this after his first visit to London in 2007 as a New York Giant

2) Shockey in fact likes English women, citing that he has the hots for Elizabeth Hurley, Kate Moss and after 10 pints of Spitfire Ale a bit of Amy Winehouse

3) Shockey’s family insist that young Jeremy brings back at least four boxes of PG Tips tea, so the Shockey family can experience the full English tea drinking experience back in the land of Uncle Sam

I for one already have my tickets paid for and on their way for the Saints v Chargers game in October.

Maybe this time Shockey can punch one in the end-zone himself, after all just because we had a bit of rain does not excuse the Giants and Dolphins from only managing a total of 23 combined points in 60 minutes.

PS – Shockey is in my BBFL fantasy team roster so I wish him all the best and hope he has a 60 catch 750 yard season in New Orleans, which I think is not beyond the realms of possibility.

So what do YOU think Shockey’s stats will be in 08 as a Saint ? Please post a response

Fred Dean en-route to one of his Superbowl rings as a 49er

Fred Dean en-route to one of his Superbowl rings as a 49er

He may have won his two Superbowl rings in the red and gold kit of the San Francisco 49ers but for many thousands of NFL fans Fred Dean was the San Diego Charger’s original sackmaster, ploughing his furrows through the likes of the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs offensive lines in the late 1970s.

It has been announced today that Dean joins thirty-three other former Bolts as the 34th member of theSan DIego Chargers Hall of Fame.

2008 is turning out to be a glorious year for Dean, as back in February he was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

I do wonder why it took so long for Dean to get elected into the ChargersHall of Fame, but with the likes of Lance Alworth, Charlie Joiner, Sid Luckman, Kellen Winslow (the original not his bad boy son), Dan Fouts and the man nicknamed the intellectual assassin offensive tackle Ron Mix already in the Californian Hall then it really isn’t that surprising.

In 2004 I had the absolute pleasure and honour to watch the San Diego Chargers play against the New York Jets at  Stadium. What made the day one of the most memorable sporting events I have ever been to however was that my wife and I watched the game from the 50 yard line with none other than Charger Hall of Fame inductee Ron Mix.

My wife worked with a professor (Speedy Rice) who studied law in California with Mr Mix – hence his nickname – the intellectualal assassin. Mr Mix also is in the NFL Hall of Fame and took great pleasure in flashing his Hall of Fame ring to our party as many times as he could. Aside from his rather dark sense of humour Mr Mix was a real gent, and it was a day I’ll never forget.

Whilst Ron Mix and Fred Dean’s paths never crossed in uniform, I am confident they have got together at Chargers reunions, and even Charger Hall of Fame events.

The Chargers press office said  “The NFL did not make sacks an official statistic until 1982, but numbers kept by teams indicate that he recorded nearly 100 sacks during his 11-year career. In 1978, Dean unofficially posted 15.5 sacks, which would be the third-highest single-season mark in Chargers history were it official. He unofficially logged nine sacks in 1979 and 10.5 in 1980.”

Some remarkable statistics when you look at it – above alcongratulations Fred, and maybe to celebrate you will come over to England in October and watch the NFL International game between the Chargers andthe New Orleans Saints on 26 October at Wembley.

If you come Fred I’ll buy you a cold one !

If anyone has any memories of Fred Dean playing please feel free to post…………

389 tackles in three NFL seasons is quite a respectable output for a linebacker, averaging almost 130 tackles a season. Problem is it wasn’t enough for the New York Jets to keep Jonathan Vilmaon their roster, and in February this year he was traded to the Wembley bound New Orleans Saints.

The Saints starting linebackers from 2007 were hardly the same class as the great Saints ‘backers of the late 1980s (the Dome Patrol of Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, Ricky Jackson and Vaughan Johnson) with Mark Simoneau, Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle all performing to their best ability, but lets be frank, not at a Pro Bowl standard.

Vilma on the other hand is already a Pro-Bowl veteran, having made the game as an alternate in 2006, following on from his outstanding 2005 season, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The big debate as far as Vilma goes is that he was playing in the wrong defensive scheme as a New York Jet, in a 3-4 defense, but has found a true calling with the Saints as the star inside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

Vilma’s 2007 season was a write-off after just 7 games, with  a bone defect. This means the Saints were taking somewhat of a gamble by picking up his tab.

I will be really looking forward to seeing Jonathan Vilma roam the hallowed Wembley turf for the NFL International game against the San Diego Chargers on October 26.

Vilma is no Ray Lewis, and he is certainly not the same type of defender as the Chargers 2006 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Shawne ‘Lights Out’ Merriman, as he is disciplined as a tackler, and does not spend his time trying to crush quarterbacks.

He has the opportunity with the Saints to become an instant fan favourite, and get around 110 to 120 tackles and maybe even three or four turnovers.

Lets hope Vilma’s road to recovery from his disappointing 2007 campaign runs through London, and over 80,000 fans get to see Vilma wrapping up the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates in the Red Zone of a most likely soggy Wembley Stadium.

I think Vilma will make a solid comeback and help propel the Saints to a wild-card and a record of 10-6.

How far the Saints can go if they make the playoff party is anyones guess after the Giants shocked the NFL world to lift the Lombardi Trophy in 2008 (via Wembley of course !!!) .

Will Vilma be a stud or a bust – give me your views…………

Guess who’s back, Deuce is back, lalala(to the tune of that Eminem song). Question is how much of a difference will running back Deuce McAllister make to the win column of the New Orleans Saints in 2008?

By the time the Saints come over the play the San Diego Chargers in England on October 26 we will already know if Deuce has had the desired effect, or if his season will be yet another write-off ?

McAllister when fit is an imposing figure, a big old-fashioned bruiser who is capable of dominating a game with some good ol’ ‘school of hard knocks’ football.

He also has the perfect foil in the form of tailback Reggie Bush. The Heisman Trophy winner of 2006, Bush, has shown that whilst he has incredible hands (161 catches in just 28 career games) he is not the answer as the starting running back for the Saints, with a not so hot 3.7 yards a carry career average.

In 2006, with Deuce and Bush both fit, and performing using their different backfield styles, the Saints shocked the world and found themselves just a single game away from the Superbowl.

In 2007, with Deuce missing 13 games due to injury, and Bush again making an impact as a dumpoff/screen pass receiver, but not as a starting running back, the Saints regressed to 7-9, and missed out on a playoff spot.

Saints backup running backs Aaron Stecker, the former Scottish Claymores NFL Europe legend, and rookie Pierre Thomas both performed admirably, with Brees using his backs to dumpoff more passes than a fleet of dumptrucks dumping rubbish. Stecker in fact started 6 games, and had an extremely respectable 2007 output, but neither however have the intimidating presence of Deuce.

The Saints are a better team with Deuce McAllister in the backfield, but with 25 games missed in the last three seasons there is no guarantee that Deuce will even make it to Wembley.

I for one hope when I turn up at the Venue of Legends on a wet and windy October sunday night for the NFL International game between the Saints and the San Diego Chargers that number #26 is in the backfield.

Good Luck to Deuce to keep fit, the Saints add a big ol’ weapon to their arsenal with McAllister in the backfield, and I think he makes a 3-5 game difference in the win column.

With Brees able to find quality wideouts such as Colston and Patten (again when fit – boy did he suck as a Redskin) and being able to offer a bruising running game and a finesse running game in addition means the Saints can mix and match better than a 4 year old with a big box of Lego.

Do you think Deuce is a difference maker or am I talking a lot of hot air ? Comments below all welcome….

The official NFL International Series Logo

Anyone who honestly expects Florida sunshine at the end of October in England is either a born optimist or slightly dillusional so I fully expect the second NFL regular season game to be played in London in yet more blustery gails and drizzling rain, falling from dark forboding clouds, hovvering menacingly above the new Wembley Stadium.

There is an argument that the New York Giants 13-10 win over the Miami Dolphins was a bit of a damp squib (or is that squid to keep the aquatic animal theme!). As one of the 81,176 fans at the game I frankly did note care if the game finished 2-0 with a long snap sailing over the Fins punter’s helmet before making a deafening squelch at the back of the endzone. The fact was we had a regular season NFL game in England – a game that COUNTS, a game that provided statistics that will be forever included in the summary of the 2007 NFL season, and above all a game where the winning teams big W and the losing teams big L counts in the real regular season standings.

I was there from 1988 right up to 1993 to watch NFL pre-season friendly games played at Wembley. As a teenager in love with the NFL I was in hog heaven being able to see the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Reggie White, Bruce Smith et al come and play in front of my very eyes, but by the time we got to 1993 the novelty had worn off. The ’93 game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions, if memory serves me right, ended with a 13-13 stalemate, and did more damage than good as far as exporting the NFL to a European audience. The starters played in one or two first quarter drives, then got changed and spend the remaining 50 game minutes just joking around like tourists visiting Windsor Castle. By 1993 the real NFL fans (eg – the ones who paid their hard earned money for their tickets and were not on some corporate freebie) were wise to the fact Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith were not going to play more than about 10 plays, and I for one trudged out of Wembley that day thinking 1) that was a waste of money 2) that’s the last time we will see NFL teams in England. Real English NFL fans maybe dreampt of seeing an NFL game at Wembley that really mattered, but even the most optimistic NFL lover could not even dream that almost 15 years later they would be seeing the future Superbowl champions playing a REGULAR SEASON NFL game in front of their very eyes.

Fast forward to 2008 and we are preparing for a game that has my pulse racing. This game – the San Diego Chargers against the New Orleans Saints is an outstanding job by the NFL in the USA and the NFL in the UK to provide a game that is a big thankyou to those fans who grumbled their way home from the American Bowl of 1993, thinking that they would never see an NFL team this side of the pond ever again. Its a perfect game for so many reasons, here are just a few ……..

  • This is an opportunity to create a new NFL fanbase in Europe for the Saints and the Chargers. The 2007 game involving the Giants and the Dolphins was involving two teams with ‘established’ or ‘safe’ UK and European fan bases (the safe teams I would classify as the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins)
  • This game is a ‘risk’ by the NFL as it involves teams that have never won a Superbowl ( and I severely doubt many fairweather fans know the Chargers even played in a Superbowl in the 1990s, let alone had ever heard of Chargers starting quarterback former Redskin Stan Humphries). Everyone loves a risk, and whilst 55,000 tickets have been sold the media coverage I feel will see a marked decline from 2007 by UK journalists
  • This game involves a plethora of incredibly exciting ‘gamebreaker’ type players. From the Saints we have gunslinger QB Drew Brees (add to the mix he is a former Charger dumped by his fomer team for a younger model), wide reciever Marques Colston, who has the same talent as Terrell Owens but less of a media profile and less of a cake hole, and running back Reggie Bush, a former Heisman Trophy winner (best college player in the whole of the country) who is capable of catching 15 passes a game. For the Chargers we have the number one player in his position for the entire NFL in tight end Antonion Gates, a man who can ‘slam dunk’ with the best of em, we also have LT II (the original and only real LT is 80s and 90s outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor – Giants drug abusing legend – and the man who helped left tackles get paid a lot more money than they did 20 years ago) running back Ladanian Tomlinson, the one man touchdown machine
  • Let’s be honest these teams have some defensive studs ( Jonathan Vilma ILB, Antonio Cromartie CB) but we will be expecting fireworks, with quality passing games exploiting weaknesses, and running games that are both innovative and explosive
  • There is the heartwarming New Orleans ‘recovering and rebuilding’ from Hurricane Katrina angle, which will likely see the the impartial fans cheering for a Saints victory
  • Both teams have genuine playoff ambitions in 2008 – The Chargers were just one game away from the Superbowl and the Saints will see the return of running back Deuce McAllister as an inspiring factor

I will now aim to get gossip, opinion and everything inbetween as we build up to the second, yes say it loud and say it proud, second regular season NFL game to be played in England.