Time for 5 Questions with the enemy. This week, with the Cowboys playing the Saints on Sunday night, we talk to Canal Street Chronicles.
Blogging The Boys: So is Drew Brees going to play, what's the latest you are hearing? If not, what's the confidence level in Luke McCown?
Canal Street Chronicles: Brees and Payton are using a lot of misdirection with this injury, like most NFL quarterbacks and head coaches do when talking to the media. Prior to the Panthers game last week, you would have thought Brees was a lock to play. He didn't. Right now, we're hearing pretty much the same things we heard last week: Brees is practicing on a limited basis and he is getting better. However, I think the Saints will keep us (along with the Cowboys coaching staff) guessing until the last minute.
If Luke "Verizon" McCown has to start, the confidence level is fairly high (as high as it can get for a seldom-used backup) after his pretty admirable performance on the road in Carolina last Sunday. Somehow, I get the feeling that Brees will play though.
BTB: The Saints just traded away a defensive end (Akiem Hicks), how does that affect the team for this upcoming game with Dallas?
CSC: Hicks is yet another example of the crumbling dictatorial Payton regime in New Orleans. Right now the Saints are the "Republic of Zamunda." If you misspeak about King "Shona Paytunda," you will be shipped out of town, if not thrown to the crocodiles.
I jest, but this is actually fairly close to what is going on right now with the New Orleans Saints. Hicks had been underachieving and was demoted to the role of backup in favor of rookie Bobby Richardson. However, Hicks had the audacity to tell the media that "he was benched." Next thing we know he's getting traded. The same thing happened this offseason to malcontents Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. Rumors have it that former middle linebacker Curtis Lofton was also released in part for speaking against Payton. Will Hicks' departure really affect the defense? No, because he had become a backup and wasn't playing a crucial role. Of course, everyone in New Orleans expects him to now become a perennial Pro-Bowler in New England.
BTB: The Saints defense has struggled under Rob Ryan, as did the Cowboys defense when he was here. How much does the fanbase see it as a Ryan problem and how much a player problem?
CSC: In 2013, during Ryan's first year in New Orleans, the Saints were 4th in total defense (this feels like 10 years ago, by the way). However, with pretty much the same personnel, Ryan's defense plummeted to 31st in 2014. Now after three games in 2015, they're 31st again, albeit with a lot of injuries, notably to the secondary. So there's somewhat of a 50-50 split in the fanbase: some think that Payton gave Ryan some turkey and proceeded to ask him to make some chicken salad, while others think that Ryan should have already been fired.
Payton clearly sees it as a Ryan problem though, as he is routinely seen barking at Ryan on the sidelines after every big play given up by the Saints' defense. I fully expect Ryan to be gone after this year and I think that defensive assistant Dennis Allen will take over as the defensive coordinator.
BTB: Though the Saints are 0-3, what are the bright spots on the team so far, where do Saints fans see hope for the season?
CSC: It's going to sound insane, but the bright spots are actually on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints decided to go young this year. They are rebuilding, even though a lot of Saints fans are just in denial of that fact. On defense alone this season, New Orleans has started middle linebacker Stephone Anthony, linebacker/defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha, cornerback Damian Swann, defensive ends Bobby Richardson and Tyeler Davison. All of them are rookies! We can even include cornerback Delvin Breaux, a former CFL player making his NFL debut this season. So hope for the future lies in the fact that some of these guys have shown great promise, despite their youth, especially Kikaha and Anthony. Swann also looks like a guy who won't take very long before he's in the starting lineup. Now is there any hope for the 2015 season? Not much, to be honest. Some have even ushered the accursed "T" word, when talking about this year for the Saints. Of course there are still those who think New Orleans will go 13-3.
BTB: If you were Sean Payton on Sunday night, what would be your game plan for the Cowboys?
CSC: Saints' defense: First, I would do some kind of dance because of the fact that Dez Bryant isn't playing. He has wiped the floor with the Saints in recent meetings between the two teams, even when the Saints have won. Thus, defensively, the first thing I'll try to do is put eight men in the box and force Brandon Weeden to beat the Saints' secondary. That might not be too hard, but if cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Jairus Byrd return as is somewhat expected, the Saints' secondary suddenly looks a little better. And even if those two don't play, I'd still take my chances with Weeden rather than letting Joseph Randle run wild.
Saints' offense: On the other side of the ball, I think New Orleans has to run the ball and run it again and again. If Brees returns, there is no doubt that his shoulder will still be somewhat tender, so limiting the number of his throws and making sure that the Cowboys creep up their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage should give him some man-coverage downfield and a better chance to succeed against Dallas' secondary.
Thanks to Canal Street Chronicles!