Saints injured players closer to return

Some of them have gotten a little playing time and some of them none at all.

Some of them have played a lot so far this season with questionable results.

MORE: Saints fans, get ready for a dose of false hope with a win over Carolina

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton provided some insight into many of the question-mark performers on the team’s roster as the 1-3 club prepares to meet the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers at noon Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

For starters, there’s the duo that hasn’t seen the field yet this season in outside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and tight end Josh Hill.

“(There has been) no setback and I am anxious to see what happens today (Thursday),” Payton said of Ellerbe. “We’re kind of pushing it and pushing it and he’s been real diligent. Those guys were all here the whole time during the bye week rehab. We’ll keep you posted.”

Technically, Hill did start the season opener against Oakland, but got injured in the first quarter and hasn’t returned.

“He’s an experienced, savvy tight end and is a guy that understands what we are doing and kind of gives you that ability to block and to get into routes, shoot he is a guy that will play in the special teams when he’s healthy, he does a lot of things well,” Payton said.

Then there’s the trio of players who have gotten playing time, but the production hasn’t followed in linebackers Stephone Anthony and James Laurinaitis.

Payton said the staff hasn’t lost faith in Anthony, despite his reduced playing time and results, after moving from middle linebacker to the edge this offseason.

“What does he do well and then let’s ask him to do that and I think that’s the process, but I think our thoughts and feelings on Stephone (Anthony) haven’t changed,” Payton said. “I still see this guy as someone that does a ton of things we like.

“I think for our defense as we go forward here you are going to see him in packages, you’re going to see him on the field in the kicking game as well and that’s an area that he ought to excel in as well.”

Payton likened Laurinaitis’ season to a roller coaster thus far.

“I thought up and down,” Payton said. “I think the week prior against (Atlanta), he was nicked up and it showed on film. He had one of this better games against the Giants.”

After some early struggles, Payton sounded encouraged in Fleener’s recent progress.

“Yeah, I think we’re seeing a lot of things that we were looking for and I think there is an element of him getting used to the specifics of what we do and an element of timing and yeah I think he’s progressing, absolutely,” he said.

Then there’s undrafted free agent edge rusher Kasim Edebali, who has performed well at times on defense and also in the kicking game.

“He’s doing well, he’s playing in rotational snaps in the sub and he’s playing in all the special teams,” Payton said. “He had an outstanding game against San Diego in the kicking game, he was the special teams gameball winner. I think he’s been real good.”

No one discussed, though, brought more rave reviews than wide receiver Willie Snead and his knowledge of the game.

“I would describe him as very smart, a player that is savvy that understands what he is trying to do within the framework of a scheme and oftentimes you can ask a player, well draw up the rest of the pattern,” Payton said, “not just what you have to do, you know what I mean and I think with a marker in his hand he would probably be one of the higher graded players on offense that would be able to do that.”
The quick-study Snead, according to Payton, understands all the receiver positions.

“Clearly, he is someone that knows all the roles,” Payton explained.

“This is what (Brandin) Cooks is doing over here, this is what Michael’s (Thomas) doing, this is what I’m doing, this is what the back does, you’d be surprised sometimes how players learn just what they do and you are always as a coach trying to teach the whole picture and then how it applies (to them).”


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