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What should the Saints do with Eli Apple?by Andrew_Bell on January 23, 2020 at 2:00 pm
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports After an up-and-down season, Eli Apple’s future with the Saints hangs in the balance heading into free agency. About eight weeks into the 2019 season, the question “Should the Saints re-sign Eli Apple?” would’ve likely resulted in more yea’s than nay’s from Saints fans. So much can change in another half of a season. After ending the year on a sour note, including poor performances combined with a late-season injury, Apple’s future with New Orleans is pretty clouded at the moment. At the beginning of the year, the Saints decided to decline the fifth-year option for over $13 million on his rookie contract, leaving him in a contract year. The thought process at the time was seemingly to let him prove himself and possibly offer him a more long-term contract in 2020. Inconsistency and a lack of confidence overshadowed some of the positives from the season, but did the positives out-weigh the negatives? The argument for bringing him back I know Saints fans aren’t the highest on Apple as of now, after his woeful performances against the 49ers and Falcons late in the season, but let’s not completely succumb to recency bias. He had some good stretches of play this year. From Weeks 1-12, Apple was targeted 46 times and only allowed 25 catches, for a 54.3 percent catch rate allowed. That was a top 20 figure among corners who were targeted at least 30 times in that span. His three lone pass break-ups in 2019 were in that 12-game stretch, as well. He showed that he’s capable of playing at, not a great, but an above-average level in these 12 games. And an above-average second corner is a luxury, to say the least. When Marshon Lattimore missed Weeks 11 and 12 with an injury, Apple stepped into the no. 1 corner role and played admirably. In those two games combined, he was targeted 10 times and only allowed three catches. He allowed 9.3 yards per catch, zero touchdowns, a 39.6 passer rating when targeted and he broke up two passes. An undervalued aspect of Apple’s game is his strong tackling. He only missed three tackles in coverage this season, which was one of the lowest marks among corners in the league. At a position as valuable as corner, it’s never a bad idea to keep depth there with guys who have shown the ability to play at a starting-caliber level. With the way the season ended, I can’t see Apple asking for that large of a contract. Not only that, but teams may consider his drama-filled past with the Giants a red flag, despite having a rather smooth tenure in New Orleans. Combined with the fact that his replacement (Janoris Jenkins) will be 31 next season and his cap hit will be $11.25 million, keeping Apple is not out completely of the question. The argument against bringing him back Despite starting the season off well, Apple put some downright bad film on display in the second half of the season. His Week 10-16 numbers aren’t that terrible as a whole, but it seemed as if he was getting worse as the season went along, which is discouraging. In Weeks 10-16, he was targeted 40 times and allowed 27 catches, for a 67.5 percent catch rate. He also committed six penalties, which was tied for the fourth-most among corners in that span. But if you shorten the sample size to Weeks 13-16, it gets worse. He allowed an 81.8 percent catch rate on 22 targets and allowed a passer rating of 113.3 when targeted in this span, while committing four penalties (second-most). While I would usually recommend valuing the larger sample size in most cases, this split displays the avalanche effect of Apple’s play in 2019, getting progressively worse as the season went on. Another area of concern for Apple in these seven games was the amount of yards after catch receivers were racking up against him. Of the 174 yards after the catch he allowed on the season, 119 of them came in the latter half of the year. His worst game in this aspect came against the Niners, when he allowed 46 yards after the catch. Apple’s poor coverage numbers in the second half of the season are particularly discouraging considering the amount of help he’s gotten from opposing quarterbacks. Apple had 20 targets thrown his way that ended in an incompletion due to a receiver drop or opposing quarterback error. That was tied for the 15th most incompletions not forced by the corner targeted in the league. The thing about Apple is that his highs are solid-to-good, but his lows are very low. You could say this about a ton of corners, but for a guy fighting for a second contract, you’d rather see more high-end stuff to neutralize the low-end. My two cents If I were in the Saints’ front office, I’d set a low price for Apple and not budge. If he doesn’t quite get the suitors he expects in free agency, maybe he’ll settle. Anywhere in the range of $4-6 million per year would be what I think Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton should offer Apple, with not much of an annual commitment. This send the message that they want him back, but aren’t going to splurge by any means. Think of it like a prove-it deal. If he’s not interested, let him walk. While he plays an extremely high-valued position, he didn’t produce enough high-end performances to justify looking past the poor stretches he put on tape. Whether it’s through free agency or the draft, the Saints can most likely match Apple’s production for cheaper, and with less commitment, than he’ll probably require.
Fleur-de-Links, January 23: Drew Brees needs to “decompress,” Mickey Loomis wants to keep him, and Lamar Jackson meets Brees’s sonsby Adam Dunnells on January 23, 2020 at 11:00 am
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images Here are you daily New Orleans Saints links New Orleans Saints: Saints QB Drew Brees taking time to ‘decompress’ with family before making 2020 decision - NOLA Drew Brees says there is no time table for an announcement on if he will return or not, saying that he needs to take time to “decompress.” Saints GM Mickey Loomis: Drew Brees can play for New Orleans as long as he wants - Bleacher Report Mickey Loomis makes no secret of the fact that he would like Drew Brees to return in 2020. Saints GM Mickey Loomis reflects on ‘high expectations’ for 2020: ‘we’re starting from ground zero’ - NOLA Loomis says that the Saints are starting over and “nothing that we did last season is going to carry over to next season.” Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees’ Son Share Cool Moment At Pro Bowl - The Spun Lamar Jackson played catch with all 3 of Brees’s sons. Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV win ranked 17th-best of all time - Saints Wire/USA Today USA Today names Saints’s Super Bowl victory in 2010 the 17th best Super Bowl of all time. Who are the New Orleans Saints rooting for in Super Bowl LIV? - Who Dat Dish/Fansided Who Dat Dish suggest that Saints fans should root for the 49ers to win, as they are part of the NFC. Report: Saints met with Michigan QB Shea Patterson, other prospects at Senior Bowl - Saints Wire/USA Today Saints reportedly met with Shea Patterson, Larrell Murchison, Quartney Davis, Zack Baun, Collin Johnson, and Josiah Coatney at the 2020 Senior Bowl. Mickey Loomis on the 2019 season #Saints pic.twitter.com/KiNXPFWpQF— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 22, 2020 Mickey Loomis made two things clear when talking about Drew Brees' potential return in 2020:1. The answer could only come from Drew. 2. The Saints "obviously" want him back if that's what he decides. MORE https://t.co/ADyoXWwf6G— SaintsNOW (@SaintsNOW) January 23, 2020 Saints GM Mickey Loomis on '19 season: First of all it was a successful season. We were 13 and three won the division, made the playoffs. Those are difficult goals to achieve. It was dissatisfying in that we had a home playoff game and didn’t win.— Sean FazendeFOX8 (@SeanFazendeFOX8) January 23, 2020
Saints 2019 Year in Review: Latavius Murrayby Don Kellum on January 22, 2020 at 5:00 pm
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports A look at Murray’s first year in New Orleans. Latavius Murray signed a four-year $14.4 million contract this past offseason to help fill the role of departing fan favorite Mark Ingram. While no one expected Murray to replace Ingram, his inconsistent usage left many fans frustrated and wanting to see more. The numbers: Approximate Value: 7 Pro Football Focus Rank: 18 out of 58 Overall Grade: 74.2 Rushing Grade: 73.9 Total Offensive Snaps: 449 It seemed to take awhile for Murray to find his footing in the running game as he only averaged 5.3 carries per game through the first six games. It wasn’t until week 7 when Alvin Kamara was forced to miss the game against the Chicago Bears that we finally saw the former Minnesota Viking be a focal point of the offense. Against the stout Bears’ defense, Murray rushed 27 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns while adding five receptions for 31 yards. Kamara would miss the next game as well against the Arizona Cardinals and once again Murray had an impressive day rushing for 102 yards on 21 rushes and scoring one touchdown. This was also the first game back for Drew Brees who targeted the running back 12 times, completing 9 passes for 55 yards and one touchdown which would be Murray’s first receiving score of his career. Once Kamara returned however, Murray was back to his light duty charting only one game with double digit carries (10 against Tampa Bay) until week 17 in a blowout win over the Carolina Panthers. . For the season Murray’s stats were: The season may have seemed a disappointment when compared to the numbers the Saints’ running backs have put up in previous years, yet the offense was still able to finish in the top ten and average 108.6 rushing yards per game (16th in the league). Murray proved to be a back that can be integral to a gameplan like in weeks 7 and 8, even if he didn’t get the touches many fans believed he should have throughout the season.
Saints 2019 Year in Review: Wil Lutzby Chris Dunnells on January 22, 2020 at 2:00 pm
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports It’s nice to not have to worry about your kicker. Maybe not since the days of John Carney’s first stint with the Saints have New Orleans fans been able to feel as confident in the quality of their place kicker as they do with Wil Lutz. By all accounts, Lutz had the best year of his four-year career, signing a five-year contract extension before the season and making his first Pro Bowl during the year. Lutz also set a career long mark with a 58-yard field goal that he drilled to beat the Houston Texans way back in Week 1. Wil Lutz with the 58-yard field goal for the GAME Saints put together the game-winning drive with 37 seconds left(via @NFL)pic.twitter.com/k383k2Sswe— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 10, 2019 Wil Lutz - At a Glance Approximate Value: 5 (tied for career high)John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports While Lutz had a great season with relative hiccups, he did have what ended up being a costly missed field goal in the post season against the Minnesota Vikings. It ultimately was not what determined the game, but it was still a shock to see Lutz miss the kick, and ultimately leave the points on the board. It’s actually back-to-back playoff misses for Lutz, after he missed a makeable field goal in the Saints loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game last year. Hopefully this isn’t a recurring trend for the 25-year-old. As you might know by now, I try to include at least one highlight of two of the player I’m reviewing at this stage in the article. With all of Lutz’s game-sealing or game-winning kicks, I’m instead choosing to focus on my favorite moment from Lutz’s 2019: You know @Wil_Lutz5 kicked a 58 yard walk off #ForTheBrand on #MNF but do you know why his name only has 1 L? pic.twitter.com/xO4oVp47dJ— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) September 10, 2019 Here’s to 2020 from Wil (with one “L”) Lutz.
Fleur-de-Links, January 22: One former Saints player joins XFL, another signs with the Patriots, and Marshon Lattimore out of the Pro Bowlby Adam Dunnells on January 22, 2020 at 11:00 am
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images Here are your daily New Orleans Saints links New Orleans Saints: Report: Former Saints kicker Garrett Hartley signs with XFL after tryout - Saints Wire/USA Today Though which team he will play for is unknown, former Saints kicker Garrett Hartley has signed a deal with the XFL. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore to not play in Pro Bowl, cites injury - NOLA Marshon Lattimore will not play in the 2020 Pro Bowl due to “an unspecified injury.” Report: Saints met with several wide receiver prospects at 2020 Shrine Bowl - Saints Wire/USA Today Saints met with Rico Dowdle, Binjimen Victor, Keith Gavin, and John Hightower at the Shrine Bowl practices. Drew Brees Sends Heartwarming Message To QB Lamar Jackson - The Spun Drew Brees shared a photo on Instagram of his son holding a Ravens jersey, saying that his son was excited to meet Lamar Jackson at the Pro Bowl. 99 players granted special eligibility for 2020 NFL Draft - New Orleans Saints A list of 99 players who have been granted “special eligibility,” with specific names of Louisiana players marked. Ex-Saints draft pick Vinnie Sunseri now working on Patriots staff - Saints Wire/USA Today Former New Orleans Saint Vinnie Sunseri signs a deal with the New England Patriots in a “support staff” role. Joe Burrow signs with same agency as Drew Brees, Zion Williamson, report says - WWLTV Joe Burrow signs a deal with Creative Arts Agency to represent him in the NFL, the same agency that represents Drew Brees. Wrapping up the first day of Senior Bowl practice with @JohnDeShazier pic.twitter.com/bqFxNusdAO— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 22, 2020 The Realist https://t.co/EA7zxJ34YF— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) January 21, 2020 The Saints have a long tradition of great running backs... who remembers Deuce? #Saints #NewOrleans #NFLPlayoffs #runningback #NFL100 #believe #ProBowl #profootball pic.twitter.com/mlYyJjCqWk— Gridiron Icon (@IconGridiron) January 22, 2020