October 31, 2007

Three defensive starters, Faine sit; none ruled out yet

Injury Update: Defensive starters Brian Young (knee), Charles Grant (ankle) and Scott Shanle (hamstring) sat on Wednesday. Joining them out of practice was also center Jeff Faine (pectoral).

All but Faine played in San Francisco.

"We’ll see where they’re at tomorrow," Payton said today.

Reserve linebacker Alfred Fincher also sat out after the effects of a concussion.

Young has had his knee drained of fluid twice in the past two weeks and needs to recover from those minor procedures before practicing. Grant and Shanle were injured in San Francisco.

Josh Cooper stepped in at left defensive end and Troy Evans stepped in for Shanle at weakside linebacker. Jonathan Goodwin started for Faine. Young was missed in the rotation that still featured Hollis Thomas, Kendrick Clancy and Antwan Lake.

Jason David returned to action in San Francisco, missing time since the Monday night loss to Tennessee when he suffered a broken forearm. David still has the only Saint defensive touchdown and one of three interceptions for the team, the lowest total in the NFL. David also has the defense's only touchdown of the year.

Bush Back: RB Reggie Bush is 24th in the NFL with an average of 85.1 yards per game. But he's averaging 109.0 yards per game in the three Saint victories, averaged 6.4 yards per carry last week, leads NFL runningbacks with 43 catches and also racked up one marketing agent lawsuit this week.

Bush practiced despite bruised ribs that limited him in the second half of Sunday's game, and afterwards was asked questions about football - other topics were banned.

""I'm focused on football and this game with the Jacksonville Jaguars as well as our team," Bush said. "The team is first and foremost and that's it."

Positive Stat Line: In four losses, Drew Brees attempted more than 40 passes, thrown nine interceptions to one touchdown for a 57.38 passer rating.

In three victories, Brees has attempted no more than 39 passes, thrown one interception to eight touchdowns for a 112.98 passer rating.

The short passing game has been the focus all season long, as Brees' passes per attempt went for 5.25 yards in the four losses but 7.35 yards in the three victories. Dallas QB Tony Romo is averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, New England QB Tom Brady is averaging 9.1 yards per attempt.

Still a Long Ways To Go: The Saints are 25th in the league in pass yards per game (234.4), 25th in sacks (11), 24th in passing touchdowns allowed (12).

Even in three wins, the Saints are giving up 275 yards passing per game. Their nine sacks in three victories is a big improvement over two in four victories, but Matt Hasselbeck still hung up 362 and the Falcons' two quarterbacks rung up 273. Alex Smith, without a throwing shoulders and missing his top receiver, found 190 yards in the air against the Saints. The Colts, on the other hand, are giving up only 165.4 yards in the game per game.

Quite simply, the secondary is still not making plays. Five out of seven opponents have converted better than 45% of third downs. The Saints' past two opponents have converted 50% or better of their third down conversions.

Since averaging 4.1 yards per rush in the opener, the Saints have yet to average more than four yards a rush since, including twice averaging less than three yards.

The Saints must try to be more balanced in their attack. Despite the blowout, Payton had Brees throw the ball 39 times in San Francisco, though in the second half the Saints ran 16 conventional rushing plays against 13 passes.

Draft Picks So Far: Of the Saints' seven draft picks, five made the team, and of them, two have played: third round pick CB Usama Young and seventh rounder LB Marvin Mitchell. Additionally, third round pick G Andy Alleman was active against the 49ers because of Faine's injury. First rounder WR Robert Meachem and fourth rounder OL Jermon Bushrod have yet to be active.

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