Usually a font of knowledge at an event where the free-flowing exchange of information is prevalent, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was brutally silent about what the team was thinking while attending the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
“Mum’s the word until training camp," said Ryan as reported by Bradley Handwerger of WWL-TV.
General manager Mickey Loomis talked with the media much longer than did Ryan but offered little more.
“I don’t know yet,” said Loomis about what kind of changes were coming to the Saints’ roster. “There’s always these moving parts, there’s always unexpected opportunities. We’re just not far enough along in the process for me to really comment specifically about offense of defense. We’re early in this process in terms of what might be available and who we might like in terms of free agency.”
Both Ryan and Loomis are holding back, and that’s their prerogative. But they are correct—it’s way too early to have a plan set in stone. That said, it’s never too early to hypothesize on which players might have improved their stock or declined while working out for the horde of people in Mobile this week.
In Ryan’s heavy-movement defense, the linebacker position is extremely important. Expect the Saints to address the middle of their defense both via free agency and in the draft.
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
According to Kristian Garic, the Saints sideline reporter for WWL 870 AM, Christian Jones met with the team after practice Tuesday.
Jones moved all over the Florida State defense during his four seasons with the Seminoles but settled in as an outside pass-rush specialist during the end of his senior season. He posted a career-best eight tackles for loss and led the team with six quarterback hurries.
According to Mark Inabinett, who was at the Senior Bowl practice sessions for AL.com, Jones picked off a David Fales pass in seven-on-seven drills Thursday at the goal line. He also showed off his coverage skills in 11-on-11 drills too, according to Mike Loyko of nepatriotsdraft.com.
Thursday was a good day for him. Got to showcase his coverage skills all practice in 7 on 7s and 11 on 11s. Had an and ruined at least two more plays by blanketing the TE in team drills. Coaches seemed happy with his improvement, especially when dropping into a deeper middle zone. Athletic LB that can play inside or outside depending on the scheme.
The WR Position
While not a glaring need for the Saints, the team spent some time in Mobile talking to wide receivers. Possibly because New Orleans didn’t have as much success as usual throwing the ball deep in 2013.
“We still dialed up our shots, we still called them, we still attempted them," Brees told Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. "But maybe for whatever reason we didn’t get as many as we normally have.”
According to Garic, the Saints spent time interviewing Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews. But unless the team wants to use a first-round pick on a receiver (which I doubt it would), Matthews is out of reach.
Garic also reported that New Orleans met with Tulane receiver Ryan Grant.
#Saints scouts met with Tulane WR Ryan Grant following senior bowl practice today.— Kristian Garic (@KristianGaric1) January 21, 2014
Grant led the Green Wave with 77 receptions last season for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns and was heralded all week from Mobile for great route running, catching just about everything thrown at him and, as Shane Hallam of DraftTV put it, a "sick" reception after torching a defensive back.
Ryan grant torches Westbrooks for a sick catch down the field— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 22, 2014
Grant is predicted as a mid- to late-round pick, but he drew a tremendous amount of praise at the Senior Bowl.
The Saints aren't sure what they want in the draft just yet, or more to the point, they aren't telling anyone. The contingent representing New Orleans interviewed players from multiple positions from both the offense and defense, and while there are some specific needs—like the offensive line and cornerback—New Orleans may be able, especially early in the draft, to really take the best player available.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.