Eagles spend No. 3 pick on draft’s best pass rusher, Saints get QB5 in 2023 mock draft

The latest 2023 mock draft brought next year’s best pass rusher to the Eagles, while the Saints had to wait until the second round to pick QB5:

Learning from your mistakes can be painful. That’s the case for the New Orleans Saints in the latest 2023 NFL mock draft from Luke Easterling over at Draft Wire; projected to make their first selection at No. 3 overall, the Saints instead have to send that pick to the Philadelphia Eagles a part of a 2022 trade that bought the team another first-round choice.

And the Eagles, arguably the best team in pro football right now, used that opportunity to selection star pass rusher Will Anderson out of the Alabama Crimson Tide. The rich get richer at New Orleans’ expense. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis shouldn’t take another phone call from a 215 area code ever again.

This means the Saints must wait until the second round to make their first pick on draft day — and in Easterling’s projection, they went with Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward at No. 34 overall. A highly-decorated transfer from the NAIA’s Incarnate Word Cardinals, Ward is the fifth passer to go off the board in Easterling’s mock draft: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (No. 1), Alabama’s Bryce Young (No. 2), Kentucky’s Will Levis (No. 16), and Florida’s Anthony Richardson (No. 18) were all off the board ahead of him.

As for Ward: he’s completed 68.4% of his passes while averaging 288 yards per game for the Cougs, scoring 13 touchdown passes but throwing 7 interceptions. He’ll clear any prototype thresholds New Orleans maintains for the position at a listed 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. Ward plays with a quick release and a live arm, threatening defenses at every level of the field, and he put himself on the map in Washington State’s road upset at then-No. 19 Wisconsin earlier this season. If he can better protect the football as the year marches on, he’ll be in great position come draft day. Fans interested in a closer look at him can tune in for a national-broadcast game against the USC Trojans on FOX this Saturday, Oct. 8, at 6:30 p.m. CT.

There’s a realistic chance the Saints will be looking for a quarterback in 2023. Jameis Winston turned in several hard-to-watch games to start the year, committing too many turnovers while dealing with a variety of different injuries, and his backup Andy Dalton isn’t a sure thing as a viable replacement in the short- or long-term. While there are plenty of options headed for free agency right now, that list will be whittled down as teams issue franchise tags, sign players to extensions, and others retire to go home and be a family man. Let’s hope Winston enjoys a return to health and plays the best football of his career to keep New Orleans from scouting potential replacements.

[pickup_prop id=”26064″]

[listicle id=116717]

Kyle Shanahan: We definitely want to get George Kittle the ball more

49ers HC Kyle Shanahan wants TE George Kittle to get the ball more.

It’s been a quiet 2022 for 49ers star tight end George Kittle. A groin injury forced him out of the first two games, but his impact as a pass catcher hasn’t been felt since his Week 3 return. Head coach Kyle Shanahan would like to change that.

Kittle in two games has just six catches for 52 yards on nine targets. Last season he had four games with nine-plus targets. While Kittle is a valuable blocker in the run game, and now in the pass game with injuries on the offensive line, Shanahan said he’d prefer to give Kittle more looks in the passing game.

“Yeah, the more Kittle is out there and healthy, the more he practices, the more he can get back in the routine,” Shanahan told reporters Wednesday. “I think that stuff will take care of itself. The plays that went to him, I thought he did a good job on in the game. Kittle affects the game in so many ways, the run and the pass. We definitely want to get him the ball more, but it’s something we’re not that concerned about. We think it’ll take care of itself as we get going.”

There are a handful of factors that could be limiting Kittle’s production. The injury and a lack of preseason snaps could certainly be leading to some early-season hiccups where the team doesn’t want to force-feed him the ball.

He also stayed in as an extra blocker for a handful of plays against the Rams. Even when he holds a block for a moment before heading out into a route it’s hard to earn targets in a quick passing game like the one the 49ers tend to employ.

It may also be a product of Shanahan’s evolution as a play caller. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thrives in the middle of the field, and defenses are going to give plenty of attention to the tight end when he’s a threat in the passing game. Shanahan could be getting creative and using Kittle to pull defenders away from the middle to open things up for other playmakers.

Monday night when he was running routes there were times he was running quick outs off the line and pulling LBs away from the middle. There were also some longer-developing deep routes where he wasn’t open, Garoppolo didn’t throw it, or Garoppolo didn’t have time to throw it.

Shanahan has never been a coach that forces the ball to his playmakers, but Kittle is too valuable to be as absent as he’s been from the passing game. The 49ers offense is better when he’s involved. The head coach surely knows that and it sounds like there could be a handful of plays designed specifically for the TE when they visit Carolina on Sunday.

[mm-video type=playlist id=01eqbxacb60r3mr0ac player_id=none image=https://ninerswire.usatoday.com/wp-content/plugins/mm-video/images/playlist-icon.png]

[listicle id=679861]

Statistical breakdown: How Georgia and Auburn stack up ahead of Week 6 game

How Georgia and Auburn stack up statistically

This Saturday, No. 2 Georgia (5-0, 2-0) hosts Auburn (3-2, 1-1) in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. The game is slated for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Athens, Georgia and will be broadcasted on CBS.

The Bulldogs are a -29.5 point favorite to beat the Tigers, per BetMGM. The over/under is set at 50.5 and the Georgia moneyline reads -10,000 while Auburn is +1,600.

Georgia leads the series 62-56-8, but lately it hasn’t felt like much of a rivalry. Auburn’s still Auburn, so Georgia fans always have a slight concern in the back of their heads on game day. But the results speak for themselves: UGA has won 14 of the last 17 games against the Tigers and 8 of the last 10.

Here’s a look at how the two teams stack up statistically ahead of the Week 6 showdown:

Where Alabama football ranks nationally in key stats through five games

Key stats tell the story of the Tide’s 2022 success

Through the first five weeks of the college football season, the Crimson Tide are exactly where they are supposed to be, undefeated and ranked No. 1.

The Tide started the season a little slow with a scare in Austin, Texas, but since then they have found their rhythm. Alabama is off to a fast 2-0 start in the SEC outscoring Arkansas and Vanderbilt by a combined 104-29. However, Texas A&M comes to town this weekend for arguably the most anticipated matchup of the season.

While the solid start is great, Alabama now enters the most daunting stretch of their season with ranked Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State on the horizon.

What advanced stats like DVOA, EPA say about the Saints going into Week 5

What advanced stats like DVOA, EPA, and ANY/A say about the Saints going into Week 5:

It’s too soon to say the New Orleans Saints have figured anything out or fixed their problems, and we won’t be able to say that until they’ve leveled out the win-loss column. But what we can do is acknowledge the growth they’re making in some areas while continuing to focus on where they can improve. And though they did lose Week 4’s game with the Minnesota Vikings, there are some positive takeaways when you look through the advanced stats like DVOA, EPA, ANY/A, SCIA, and XLRA (okay, those last two were made up). Here’s what we’ve learned:

10 important stats to know from Packers’ first 4 games of 2022

Some stats to know after the Packers finished the first four games of the 2022 season at 3-1.

The Green Bay Packers are 3-1 after four games and prepping for what could be a tricky four-game stretch coming up. Matt LaFleur’s team will go to London to play the Giants this week, travel home to play the New York Jets next Sunday, go to Washington in Week 7 and then to Buffalo to play the Bills in Week 8.

The numbers, for the most part, look pretty good for Green Bay to start this season.

The Packers are getting yards after the catch (628, first in NFL), running the football efficiently (5.0 yards per carry, eighth), consistently winning with four pass-rushers on defense (fifth-best pressure rate) and capturing the important situational downs (first on third down).

Here are some of the other important stats to know from the Packers’ first four games of 2022:

 

Where Georgia football ranks nationally in key stats through five games

Where Georgia’s offense and defense rank nationally in these key stats so far

Through five games, the Georgia Bulldogs are a perfect 5-0 and sit at No. 2 in the nation with a game against the Auburn Tigers looming in Week 6.

The Bulldogs got off to a hot start, winning its first three games by a combined score of 130-10. Since then, things have not been quite as smooth with back-to-back struggles against inferior competition, Kent State and Missouri.

There’s no doubt that there’s elite talent on both sides of the ball, but it is quite possible these Dawgs were slightly overhyped after the strong start to the season. Offensively and defensively, UGA has been struggling lately. But it’s not time to hit the panic button – your defending national champs are 5-0 and No. 2 in America.

Here’s a look at how UGA ranks nationally in key stats through five weeks:

Dennis Allen says no permanent QB change on the way, prioritizes Jameis Winston’s health

Dennis Allen says no permanent QB change on the way and that Jameis Winston’s health is a priority:

Is there a quarterback controversy in New Orleans? Not if you ask Saints coach Dennis Allen, who downplayed any speculation that his change under center is going to be permanent after Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Andy Dalton stepped in for Jameis Winston after the starter was dealt a series of injuries to open the season, and the results weren’t quite enough to force a call either way.

While the Saints offense did pick up the pace in the second half against the Vikings, that’s been the story of their season. They were just as clumsy and mistake-prone in the first half as we’ve seen all year with Winston at the helm. Dalton choked in a couple of high-stakes situations inside the two-minute warning, but he did reestablish some rhythm later in the game. Still, it wasn’t enough for Allen to name him his starter moving forward.

Allen acknowledged that while Winston felt some improvement as the week continued closer to kickoff, “I think there was a point in time where we felt like we have to get Andy ready and have him ready to go.” Dalton received first-team reps on offense throughout the week, backed up by Taysom Hill (who also practiced at tight end at times) and Jake Luton (who was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad the day before the game).

So Winston’s health remains a priority. He’s managing four fractured vertebrae, an aggravated ankle injury he suffered in training camp, and some recent hip flexor issues that have required rehab work with the team’s medical staff. It’s a lot to deal with for a 28-year old who is already facing greater scrutiny than many of his peers. When asked how the Saints planned to take things next with Winston, Allen replied that “We’ll see where his health is when he gets back (to New Orleans).”

It’s something to look out for on Wednesday’s first injury report, along with updates to star wide receiver Michael Thomas (foot) and running back Alvin Kamara (rib), neither of whom suited up against Minnesota. For now, Allen is sticking to his guns and keeping Winston on top of the depth chart, citing injuries and the advice of the team’s training staff as the reason for his inactivity rather than any concerns about performance. Dalton needs to do a lot to ignite any quarterback controversy here. Maybe he has it in him if Thomas and Kamara are seeing a full workload, but at this point in time it’s still Winston’s team.

[mm-video type=playlist id=01eqbyahgz6p2j3xp7 player_id=none image=https://saintswire.usatoday.com/wp-content/plugins/mm-video/images/playlist-icon.png]

[listicle id=116661]

10 takeaways about the New Orleans Saints through their first 4 weeks

For better or worse, we’ve learned a lot about the Saints through the first four weeks of the season. 10 takeaways via @RossJacksonNOLA:

Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, the New Orleans Saints aren’t where many expected them to be. At just 1-3 coming off of three-straight losses, it wouldn’t be unwarranted to focus on the negatives. The penalties, turnovers and special teams blunders are at the forefront. But the truth is that there are positives to take away from how the team has responded and continued to fight as well. Good or bad, here are ten things we’ve learned about the Saints through their first four weeks.

Highest and lowest Saints PFF grades from Week 4 vs. Vikings

Highest and lowest Saints PFF grades from Week 4 vs. Vikings: Latavius Murray leads the offense, Demario Davis paces the defense

The New Orleans Saints took the Minnesota Vikings down to the wire in a game that looked lost early on, rallying in the second half off of some really strong performances. But we can’t overlook the negative plays and low moments that created the situation to begin with. To help illustrate this, let’s explore the Saints player grades from Pro Football Focus after Week 4’s loss, filtering out those who didn’t play at least 33% of snaps on offense or defense: