Archive for July, 2007

Injury Update
July 27, 2007

After going through wind sprints on day one … a few of the Saints players are a little gimpy. Here’s who may miss some work this week. Brian Young: Fractured Foot. Usama Young: Strained Left Quad. Jon Stinchcomb: Strained Left Groin. Jamie Nesbit: Stomach Virus. Will Smith: Right Hamstring. None of the injuries are considered serious.

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"Earn It"
July 27, 2007

Day one at Saints Camp in the lovely Belhaven area of Jackson, Mississippi was great. Player arrived, the media from around the gulf coast also flocked here and we took in the sites. Realize one thing … Deuce McAllister is a god in this town.
Late Thursday Sean Payton held a brief news conference … he wore a t-shirt with the slogan “Earn It” emblazzoned on it. That is the new catch phrase for the team this year. Payton says he doesn’t want his guys sitting back and resting on their achievements from last year. He says they have to earn everything as they are the hunted this year.

A Scouts Take On The Saints
July 21, 2007

Saints camp preview

By Matt WilliamsonScouts Inc.(Archive)

Updated: July 20, 2007

New Orleans Saints training camp

Site: Millsaps CollegeLocation: Jackson, Miss.First practice: July 262006 Record: 10-6
Three Burning Questions

1. Will the defense be better than last year?Probably, but that isn’t saying much. The Saints brought in cornerback Jason David, safety Kevin Kaesviharn and linebacker Brian Simmons, and all three will compete for starting spots on a defense that really didn’t lose anything from last year. They should help, but none of the three is a game-changing, high-impact player. New Orleans will have better depth and should be able to generate more turnovers, but this is not a championship-caliber defense.
Camp battle to watchWR Devery Henderson vs. WR Robert MeachemThe Saints drafted Meachem in the first round and envision him as a future starter. He has a lot going for him, including size, strength and great speed, but he is a raw prospect who needs to improve his work ethic. The 2007 season will be a learning year for Meachem. In the meantime, Henderson made a lot of big plays last season and is one of the fastest players in the league. He improved on the finer points of the position, and we expect him to begin the season as a starter opposite Marques Colston. The Saints use a lot of multiple-receiver sets, so both Henderson and Meachem should see the field, but expect Henderson to see more playing time and make big plays.

2. Can the offense repeat its performance from last year?Maybe not, but the Saints will still be very good on offense. Drew Brees is a great quarterback and a perfect fit in head coach Sean Payton’s offensive system. Deuce McAllister is an outstanding running back who can handle a big workload, and fellow running back Reggie Bush is just scratching the surface of his immense abilities. The receiving options are plentiful and should provide big plays. The offensive line may have overachieved a bit last season, but Payton doesn’t force his linemen to do more than they are capable of, and they should remain very effective. There is plenty to like about what this offense brings to the table, and New Orleans will definitely score a lot of points.

3. Is this an elite team?The Saints are one of the better teams in the NFC and are the favorite in the NFC South, but that doesn’t make them an elite team. Nothing will come easy this year, and the defense just isn’t good enough to put this team on par with AFC powers like Indianapolis, New England and San Diego. We love Brees, Payton and the offense as a whole, but the defense doesn’t have enough playmakers and isn’t overly physical.

The player under the microscopeWR Marques Colston. Injuries forced Colson into a lead role last season as a rookie, and the young receiver responded extremely well. But we still question his ability to be a true No. 1 wideout. He will not sneak up on anyone this season and a lot will be asked of him. He has fantastic hands, impressive body control, and the size and physicality to fight defenders for the ball and catch passes over the middle. But he is not sudden in his movements and has ordinary speed. While he is a good player, we are not yet sold on him as a superstar.

Fantasy takeThere’s little doubt Reggie Bush is an exciting player with a fine future in the NFL, but as long as Deuce McAllister is handling the bulk of the rushes, the Saints must be creative in how they use Bush. Listen to what the Saints say about Bush in camp, since his usage is the big key.– Eric Karabell• Complete ESPN.com fantasy coverage

Breakout playerRB Reggie Bush. Yes, he was good as a rookie and became more and more comfortable with the NFL game as 2006 progressed. But just wait for this season. Bush needs to be more decisive hitting the hole, particularly between the tackles, but Payton is exceptional at creating mismatches and Bush is an extremely difficult player to game plan against. Comparing any second-year player to Marshall Faulk is extreme, but Bush is capable of having that type of impact even if he isn’t the Saints’ primary ballcarrier. He has rare physical abilities, and the Saints are is in the perfect situation to get everything they can out of this young phenom.

Comeback player of the yearTE Eric Johnson. Johnson caught 82 passes for the 49ers in 2004 but then struggled with injuries, missing all of 2005 and playing in only 12 games last season. Still, the talent around Johnson in San Francisco was not even close to what the Saints have, and Brees does a fine job of spreading the ball around and utilizing his tight ends. Johnson will establish himself as a reliable veteran Brees can count on to move the chains when it matters most.

Offensive philosophyPayton is a brilliant offensive mind. He takes calculated risks and utilizes
everything his offensive personnel have to offer. New Orleans’ passing game is based on timing and rhythm, which is perfect for Brees. He is an excellent decision-maker and a quick thinker, and he possesses great accuracy, plus the ability to get rid of the ball quickly. He is the ideal quarterback for what Payton wants to do. McAlister doesn’t get the attention that he once did, but he is a key cog in the attack and a much better overall player than he is given credit for. The physical style he brings is invaluable and makes everything else the Saints do work that much smoother. Because of McAlister’s presence, play-action passing has become a staple of this versatile offense. The Saints are as good as any team in the league on that side of the ball.

Defensive philosophyThe Saints’ defense returns every starter from last season and has added a few key players who will challenge some incumbents. The Saints rely on outstanding defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant to generate a pass rush, and they are clearly the strength of a unit that lacks star power. New Orleans is not very aggressive with its defensive play calling but forces opponents to sustain long drives. The Saints favor man-to-man coverage in the secondary but give their cornerbacks a good bit of help. They also did a poor job of forcing turnovers last season and must improve in that area if they hope to move even into the middle of the pack overall.

Matt Williamson was a scout for the Cleveland Browns in 2004. Previously, he was director of football operations at Akron and spent three years as a recruiting assistant at Pittsburgh.

Fletcher Goes Hollywood
July 18, 2007

FLETCHER GOES HOLLYWOOD!

On Sunday and Monday (July 15th-16th) I traveled to Hollywood to take part in an NBC media junket.

NBC sports anchors from around the country were invited to the west coast and given the opportunity to interview the stars of “NBC Football Night In America.”

Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis.

I was allowed to do in-depth sit down interviews with each member of the team and pose for promotional photos with the guys.

The interview segments will air later this year during several of our Saints pre-game shows.

To say I had a great time is an absolute understatement.

Fly to Los Angeles, catch up with some sports anchors from other NFL cities I haven’t seen in some time, meet some new friends, talk Saints football with a few of the best experts anywhere, and eat at great restaurants. Not a bad 48 hours. I even got to visit some friends from college who now live in L.A.

I of course had the digital camera and the camera phone.

Enjoy the pictures:

REMEMBER VIA SIKAHEMA?

The former Philadelphia Eagles special teams demon who famously boxed with the end zone padding around the goal post in celebration after a score?

He’s now the Sports Director at NBC 10 in Philly….and I decided to box on him!

Hey, Vai, just one more thing. The Saints are going to make it a perfect 3-0 against the Eagles when they wax Philly this December! Sean Payton’s black & gold beat your team last year during the regular season then again in the playoffs….you guys are becoming our whipping boys!

BOB, CRIS & JEROME SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS

NOT JUST SPORTS…..IT’S SCRUBS!

This NBC media junket was at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and it wasn’t just the ‘Football Night In America’ guys. Stars from every NBC show airing this fall were also there talking with members of the media from around the world.

Zack Braff, star of NBC’s Scrubs and a very talented and lucky guy. If you saw the movie “Garden State” which he wrote, directed and starred in you’ll know why I say talented. And lucky because he’s reportedly dating Drew Barrymore. He’s also supposedly a huge sports fan.

THE SET

Each show on NBC was set up in a ballroom at the Beverly Hilton. Our shoot was in the Wilshire Room.

Here’s what it looked like behind the scenes.

FREE STUFF

Free stuff, like shirts or caps are usually given away at junkets like this. Not this time. Very professional and fast paced.
But, a fellow NBC sports anchor who’ll remain nameless talked his way into some free goodies from the NBC Olympics guys taping down the hall way.
He was then gracious enough to pass them out to the troops. So, I now own a new ball cap…my 1 free item from my trip to la-la land.

HAIR & MAKE-UP

Yes, yes, yes….all of us on TV have to wear make-up! I hate it and feel silly wearing it but it is part of the job.

That said, I did enjoy working with NBC make-up artist Allyson Joyner.

A smart, witty, pretty little fire cracker who I very much enjoyed meeting and hanging out with.
And yes, if you’re reading between the lines here…..I might have a little crush on her!

(How shamless and pathetic am I to write something like that last sentence???)

A LION IN L.A.!

Come on, did you really think that as a 32 year old single guy I was going to go to L.A. and not take in the night life?

I think I got a grand total of 4 hours of shut eye.

But it was well worth it! Dinners at Asia De Cuba in the trendy Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood and a little night life at Winston’s.

My good friend from college Nina Kammer acted as my Los Angeles tour guide. Nina and I went to Loyola University together. She now works at mega-talent agency CAA.

Can’t really explain the pose. It was very very late!

As for the title of this picture “A lion in L.A.” No, it does not reference me being on the loose in California….how egotistical would that be???

Here’s your explanation.

Beautiful lil Nina is from Detroit. She’s a die hard Lions fan and thinks the selection of Calvin Johnson is sending her team to the playoffs…..try not to laugh!

MORE BEAUTIFUL BABIES

Most of my down time at the NBC shoot was spent making my friend Linsay Czarniak laugh…or trying to make her laugh. Czarniak is a sports anchor at NBC 4 in D.C. and although she may have won some local comedy show up in our nations capitol….I’m of course the more natural comedian! But who knows, one day maybe Lindsay will be the first sports anchor to host NBC’s Saturday Night Live!

Okay, that’s it. My trip to Hollywood.

Again, an amazing time.

I love my job!

The Year In Blog Pics Coming Soon
July 18, 2007

We’ll be celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the “Offsides With Fletcher Mackel” blog later this month.

Over the past 12 months I’ve snapped hundreds of pictures with my trusty T-Mobile blackberry camera phone.

But, since we changed blog services these pictures are no longer available at this site. But fear not, WDSU web editor Joe Rosemeyer and I will be clipping the best shots and doing a year in pictures blog review.

So, please, stay tuned.

If I Were Hornets General Manager
July 1, 2007

NBA free agency has started.
Players can sign with new teams the second week of July.
Last year the Hornets made a huge splash by signing Peja Stojakovic (5 years, 64 million dollars).
This year they’ve said they’ll be a little more tight with the purse strings.

If I were Hornets General Manager, here are the guys I’d go after:

First and foremost I’d try to bring back Devin Brown. He played well for Byron Scott last year.

#23 Devin Brown

New Orleans Hornets

Born: December 30, 1978
Salt Lake City, UT

Height: 6-5
Weight: 220 lbs.

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Now as for players from other teams:

#4 Luke Walton SF Unrestricted Free Agent

Los Angeles Lakers

Born: March 28, 1980
San Diego, CA
Height: 6-8
Weight: 235 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: Solid all around team player with tremendous basketball IQ. Coming off a career year. He really won’t fill a need for the Hornets but having him around makes your team better….much much better.

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#24 Jason Kapono GF Unrestricted Free Agent

Miami Heat

Born: February 4, 1981
Long Beach, CA
Height: 6-8
Weight 215 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: Dead eye shooter the Hornets could desperately use. Given Peja’s weak back and the fact that he played only 13 games last season, this guy is my #1 priority in free agency!
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#22 Matt Barnes SF Unrestricted Free Agent

Golden State

Born: March 9, 1980
Citrus Heights, CA
Height: 6-7
Weight: 235 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: Athletic wing who could help the team immediately. I love the way Nellie coaches Golden State and wish Byron Scott could do the same for the Hornets. Maybe stealing one of the Warriors players will help.

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#8 Monta Ellis G Restricted Free Agent (Limited Restriction)

Golden State

Born: October 26, 1985
Jackson, MS
Height: 6-3
Weight: 177 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: See Matt Barnes (above)
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#2 Mickael Pietrus GF Restricted Free Agent

Golden State

Born: February 7, 1982
Les Abymes, Guadeloupe
Height: 6-6
Weight: 215 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: See Matt Barnes & Monte Ellis (above)
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19 Ersan Ilyasova F Restricted Free Agent

Milwaukee Bucks

Born: May 15, 1987
Eskisehir, Turkey
Height: 6-9
Weight: 235 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: Loved the Turkish Sharp Shooter when he entered the draft. I feel this guy is on the verge of being a very solid NBA player. Byron Scott seems to have a certain disdain for Euro’s but I say…..SIGN HIM NOW!

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#34 Travis Diener G Restricted Free Agent

Orlando Magic

Born: March 1, 1982
Fond du Lac, WI
Height: 6-1
Weight: 175 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: Could fill a void left by Janero Pargo

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#3 Sasha Pavlovic GF Restricted Free Agent

Cleveland Cavaliers

Born: November 15, 1983
Bar, Yugoslavia
Height: 6-7
Weight: 210 lbs.

Fletcher’s Take: This was my pick in 2003 when the Hornets were picking 18th overall (Pavlovic went 1 slot later to Utah at #19). I was wrong, the Hornets went with David West and he’s emerged as a very solid player. Maybe now my wish can be granted and the Hornets will bring in this defensive minded shooter.