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MOORE notes: Dysfunctional Saints dismantled

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

 
   
 
Defensive tackle La'Roi Glover isn't one to look back. You don't collect 43.5 sacks over a four-year period unless you're focused on what lies ahead. But the collapse of the New Orleans Saints at the end of last season was so thorough, the humiliation so severe, that the ramifications have extended well into this off-season. Glover is too politic to provide specifics. He refuses to blame coach Jim Haslett and his staff for losing control or point the finger at a front office that decided the Saints needed to disband their Pro Bowl nucleus to move forward. In Glover's mind, the fault for last season lies with himself and every other player in the club's fractured locker room.
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  • "I don't really like to talk about it," said Glover, who managed to keep his reputation intact and land in Dallas with one of the most lucrative free-agent contracts signed this off-season. "But I think the last four games were just a breakdown with team chemistry. When we were supposed to be playing our best ball and trying to get ourselves into the playoffs and a chance for the postseason, we were doing just the opposite. "If you have problems with the team chemistry. ... That can break down a program quicker than anything, if you're locker room isn't the way it's supposed to be." The New Orleans locker room was a dysfunctional mess at the end of last season. Video cameras captured receiver Albert Connell lifting money from the locker of rookie Deuce McAllister. Left tackle Willie Roaf charged that receiver Joe Horn had impregnated his wife, an accusation that became so divisive that Horn was compelled to stand in front of the team moments before they took the field in the final regular-season game and deny Roaf's suspicions. The Saints were outscored by an average of 40-13 in losing their final four games. This did more than expose the team's flaws in talent. It exposed a flaw in character. Running back Ricky Williams and Roaf were traded. Glover was allowed to walk in free agency so the club could concentrate on re-signing defensive end Joe Johnson, then lost Johnson to Green Bay. Starting guard Chris Naeole has moved on, receiver Willie Jackson no longer appears to have a spot despite catching 81 passes for 1,046 yards last season, and linebacker Keith Mitchell has been told he'll be released after June 1. Glover said he doesn't feel the club has tried to scapegoat him or the other players who have left in the purge. "You've got to realize this is a business," Glover said. "First and foremost, it is a business. From their standpoint, if the team is not stopping the run, they've got to do something about it. If you're not running the ball well or you're having problems on special teams, then guys have got to go. That's just the way the NFL is. "I think Jim Haslett is a great coach. I have nothing negative to say about the coaching staff or the front office or anything like that in New Orleans. They made a professional decision and everyone has to live with it. "I think every individual player has to take responsibility for what happened. Once again, my goal was to be in double-digit sacks, and I fell (two) short. I need to look at myself in the mirror." Haslett and general manager Randy Mueller looked at their team in the mirror and didn't like what they saw. There are no guarantees that a roster stripped of the majority of its high-profile players will improve on a 7-9 record. But the feel in the Saints locker room should be much different. "Whenever you're not winning, I guess the mentality is that something isn't right," Glover said. "Maybe something wasn't right with the players we had there. "They had to make a move."

    Colts defensive makeover

    Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy has one of the more respected defensive minds in the league. That's why the Colts turned to him to reassemble a historically bad bunch. But Dungy will tell you the key to any improvement the Colts show this season is more about attitude and effort than scheme. "I don't think you improve with scheme per se," Dungy said. "You improve by running to the ball, being in the right place, playing with great effort and intensity. I think we've got good enough players that if we do that, we're going to be pretty good." Indianapolis let some dead weight go and signed cornerback Walt Harris and defensive tackle James Cannida. Seven of the team's eight draft picks were spent on defense, with four of those selections in the defensive line. The desire to take full advantage of the club's swift, indoor surface was reflected in first-round pick Dwight Freeney, a quick but undersized defensive end who will initially line up behind Chad Bratzke on the right side. How much can a defense that allowed an average of 30.4 points and ranked 29th in the league improve? Indianapolis fans hope what happened in St. Louis is a barometer. The Rams defense jumped to No. 3 from No. 23 in the span of 12 months with an overhaul in talent and the scheme defensive coordinator Lovie Smith imported from Tampa Bay. Smith was on Dungy's Buccaneers staff. "I think the nucleus is there," Dungy said of the Colts. "It's not going to be a magic theme that, 'Hey, we've got the Tampa Bay system and all of a sudden we're going to play well.' "St. Louis played well because they ran to the ball and played hard, Lovie did a great job. But it wasn't the system. It wasn't his playbook. It was an attitude. "That's what we've got to hope to bring."

    Spurrier wings it

    Quarterback Shane Matthews was reunited with Washington coach Steve Spurrier earlier this week. Matthews set 50 school records and 19 Southeastern Conference marks while starting for Spurrier at the University of Florida in the early 1990s. He remembers standing in the tunnel moments before his first college start against Oklahoma State when Spurrier ran up and asked what he wanted to do with the first play. "How about we throw a screen, just get a completion and get the drive going," Matthews said. "Nah," Spurrier replied. "Let's throw it down the field." Matthews opened the game with a 30-yard corner route. This is just another example of how Spurrier's offensive brilliance doesn't stem from an analytical approach or excessive hours digesting an opponent's defensive tendencies. "It's instinctive," Matthews marveled. "Every coach I've been with in the NFL, even in practice, they have a script. "In a game, he draws stuff up in the dirt sometimes. A lot of coaches, if you don't practice it they won't run it. He's not scared to try anything."

    Quick kicks

  • Colts running back Edgerrin James called owner Jim Irsay earlier this week to let him know his absence from the team's mandatory minicamp was not motivated by a desire for a new contract. James said he simply didn't want to disrupt his rehabilitation and promised to report with everyone else when training camp starts July 28. That's the good news. The bad news is the Colts have another minicamp and a quarterback school scheduled before training camp opens. James is a wonderful player. But it's clear he has a long way to go before he's considered a leader.
  • A lot of people have asked why the NFL Draft was so long. One of them was Houston coach Dom Capers, who waited more than eight minutes before the Texans announced they would select David Carr. Why wait eight minutes to draft a player you announced several weeks earlier you would take? Capers said ESPN told the Texans the network needed at least that long to broadcast its feature on Carr and to break for the commercial it sold in that spot.
  • Here's a subtle move that could make a big difference. Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden has switched Keyshawn Johnson back to split end, the position he played with the New York Jets. Johnson has lobbied for the move, believing it improves his ability to make big plays because the defense normally rotates away from the split end toward the strong side. Even if the move doesn't generate much of a statistical improvement, it will pay dividends by helping Gruden forge a positive relationship with Johnson. Don't underestimate what listening to a player's input can do for chemistry and team morale. David Moore can be reached at his e-mail address: dmoore@foxsports.com.
  • Tagged: Bears, Colts, Rams, Saints, Buccaneers, Texans, Shane Matthews, Edgerrin James, Joe Horn, Deuce McAllister, Ricky Williams

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