New Orleans Saints

Tight end Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints had been at odds for months over contract disputes, to the point where the NFL had to step in. Graham was attempting to cash in after his phenomenal season by claiming himself as a wide receiver as opposed to a tight end. Why? How about a salary difference of roughly five million dollars.

A franchise tag for wide receivers would allow a player to get paid around $12 million a year, while a tight end would get just $7 million. So there was reasoning behind Graham’s frustration and the 27-year-old tight end also had a valid argument.

Graham lined up as a wide receiver on two thirds of the Saints offensive snaps. On average, NFL tight ends lined up wide just 28 percent of the time. Those stats alone explain why Graham could be considered a wide receiver.

Saints head coach, Sean Payton and owner Mickey Loomis both argued against Graham during the hearings in court. This could very well have led to bad blood between Graham and New Orleans. But, with the ruling being that Graham is a tight end and the deadline fast approaching, the two sides came to an agreement. The team signed Graham to a record-breaking tight end deal that left both sides happy.

Graham’s four year, $40 million dollar deal, with $21 million guaranteed, will make him the highest paid tight end in the league's history. The contract surpasses Dallas Clark’s 2008 agreement with the Indianapolis Colts. It will also make the New Orleans Saints a legitimate contender to dethrone the Seahawks.

This signing shows great of maturity from the young tight end. Graham could have very easily dragged this thing out longer, until he got the wide receiver monye he wanted. However, this signing will leave no lingering animosity, and the franchise can now set its sights on making another Super Bowl run. 

Giving up 432 yards in an NFL game is considered bad, but being outgained by 432 yards in an NFL game is, well, atrocious. 

The Dallas Cowboys managed to be atrocious and all its synonyms Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as they were torched by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints 49-17.

Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was fired by the Cowboys in the offseason, is in laughter after this one. Meanwhile, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones might want to file a complaint to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell accusing Ryan and the Saints of bullying. Here are five reasons why.


1. The Saints set an NFL record by gaining 40 first downs. The Cowboys, on the other hand, ended up with 43 total plays to go with just nine first downs. In other words, the Cowboys made the Saints look like the Baylor Bears out there.

2. Sunday night’s game marked the fourth time this season the Cowboys defense has allowed more than 500 yards, one game away from an NFL single-season record.

3. The Cowboys defense allowed running back Mark Ingram to rush for his first 100-yard performance in his pro career.

4. The Cowboys defense allowed 626 total yards, which set a franchise record, breaking the mark set two weeks ago against the Detroit Lions when it gave up 623.

5. The first pass attempt to Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant didn’t come until 33 minutes into the game, and the first and only catch by Bryant occurred a long 44 minutes into the game. The Saints shut Bryant and the passing game down, as quarterback Tony Romo only threw for 128 yards.



Don’t the Cowboys watch the “NFL GameDay Morning” show like I do when they wake up on Sunday? Marshall Faulk, a pro football hall of famer and current NFL Network analyst, said Sunday morning that the Saints would throw for 400 yards, rush for 150 yards and score 50 points against the Cowboys. Clearly, the Cowboys wanted to make Faulk look like a psychic, as they almost fulfilled his bold prediction.

It gets worse.

The Cowboys lost linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant to hamstring injuries during the game. The banged-up defense is already without defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, defensive end Anthony Spencer and defensive backs J.J. Wilcox and Morris Claiborne. Moreover, defensive end DeMarcus Ware is in and out of games.

To add insult to injury for the Cowboys, their former defensive coordinator has turned the Saints defense around, a unit that is the one of the most improved in the league. 

Maybe Ryan wasn’t so bad after all.

In the meantime, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and his defense are one of the least feared in the entire league, especially with all of the injuries it is suffering.

I was never one to question the hire of Kiffin because of how dominant his Tampa Bay defense was back in the early 2000s with Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and others. After this loss, though, it is starting to make me scratch my head.

Kiffin’s Cowboys defense this season has now allowed a record-breaking amount of yards twice in three games, and in 2012, his USC defense allowed a school record 730 yards to Oregon.

The Cowboys could be in trouble.

And now for the good news. Cowboys fans can save some heartache because they do not have to watch their team next week.

The Cowboys face a much-needed bye week, as they need the rest and, more importantly, to figure out how to be consistent. One week, the Cowboys could look great and click on all cylinders. The other week, the team may look like one of the worst in the league. 

Despite all of the bad the Cowboys are dealing with to go along with a mediocre 5-5 record, they are still tied for first place in the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

However, this team looked defeated after crawling out of New Orleans on Sunday night. 

We will just have to see if the Cowboys can get it together during their time off this week and bounce back in Week 12 when they head to the MetLife Stadium to face the division foe New York Giants. 

The NFC East is wide open, from top to bottom. Even the Giants and Washington Redskins still have a shot at being crowned the division champion by the end of the regular season.

The Cowboys have six games remaining on the schedule, three of which are against division teams the Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. The last two games of the season are on the road against the Redskins, ending with a finale at home against the Eagles. 

It looks like this could come down to the last game of the season for the Cowboys, yet again. An 8-8 record seems likely to get a playoff spot to represent the division, but the Cowboys are no longer the only team that has a shot at achieving that record. Simply put, the Cowboys are going to struggle to try and make the playoffs for another year.

Former Longhorn quarterback Vince Young is now the likely backup quar- terback for the Packers after the team released quarterback Gra- ham Harrell on Friday evening. Young has been out of the NFL since 2011. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Kenny Vaccaro
New Orleans Saints

After an impressive career in burnt orange, Kenny Vaccaro joined New Orleans in the first of the 2013 NFL Draft — the first time in franchise history the Saints drafted a safety that early. The 15th overall pick will strengthen the Saints’ defensive backfield, which was the second-worst in the league last season. The hard-hitting Vaccaro recorded 92 tackles in his final season at Texas and tallied two interceptions. He’s already created a buzz around the Saints’ organization after starting a few on-field skirmishes, most notably with veteran tight end Jimmy Graham. 


Marquise Goodwin
Buffalo Bills
Wide Receiver

Former Olympian and Longhorn Marquise Goodwin established himself as an impact player early on for the Bills this preseason. Goodwin, a third-round pick in 2013, returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown in his first preseason game. 

Goodwin will add needed speed and quickness to the Bills’ return game. 


Alex Okafor
Arizona Cardinals
Outside Linebacker

The Arizona Cardinals selected Alex Okafor in third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The defensive lineman set a number of records during his senior season, which included a 4.5 sack effort in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Okafor, who played defensive end at Texas, is listed as an outside linebacker on the Cardinals’ roster. Either way, expect Okafor to find a way to the quarterback.


Vince Young
Green Bay Packers

Young is back in the NFL after sitting out the 2012 season, after the Bills released him at the end of the preseason. The Packers released Graham Harrell on Saturday evening, making it likely that Young will be the backup to Aaron Rodgers to start the season. Although he is firmly entrenched behind Rodgers on the depth chart, Young impressed in his preseason debut, throwing for 41 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 39 yards on three carries in Friday’s 17-10 loss to Seattle. 


Brian Orakpo
Outside Linebacker

Orakpo returns to the Redskins’ starting lineup in Week 1 after a torn pectoral muscle forced him out of the final 14 games of 2012. The Redskins hope that Orakpo, who has recorded 29.5 sacks in 49 career games, can return to form as a pass-rusher. If he can, it would be a huge aid to the 30th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Now in a contract season, the 27-year-old outside linebacker is healthy and primed for a productive year in Washington.


Aaron Ross

Ross will play a significant role in the Giants secondary, especially after cornerback Jayron Hosley left Saturday’s preseason game with an ankle injury. If Hosley is unable to return for the season opener, Ross could slot as the Giants’ third cornerback behind Prince Amukamara and Corey Webster. In the pass-happy NFC East, look for Ross to see plenty of time in New York’s secondary.

Former Longhorns wide receiver Marquise Goodwin runs after the catch during the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State. Goodwin was drafted to the Buffalo Bills over the weekend with the 78th pick. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Three former Longhorns will boast new jerseys, new teams and new cities after being selected during the 2013 NFL Draft this past week.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro was selected in the first round of the draft as the 15th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was picked 78th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the third round while defensive end Alex Okafor was chosen as the 103rd overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals.

First off the board for the Longhorns was Vaccaro, who had made it his goal to be the first safety chosen. Without waiting too long on Thursday at Radio City Music Hall, his wish was granted.

“This is just the beginning,” Vaccaro said. “Now I have to keep working hard to get to New Orleans and make an impact.”

Vaccaro was a strong prospect heading into the draft after leading the Longhorns in tackles in 2012. 

“I have been grinding my whole life, literally since I was four years old, for this opportunity,” Vaccaro said. “The Saints were my last visit, and I had a good feeling about it.”

Goodwin, well aware of the other talented players still up for grabs, didn’t pay much attention to the draft Friday night, during which he got the call from the Buffalo Bills.

“I was just sitting out there throwing the football with my brothers and sitting on the back of the truck talking,” Goodwin said. “I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t even think I’m going to go today. There are still receivers ranked ahead of me on the board.’ I got the call while I was on the back of the truck.”

Being chosen as a new member of an NFL team came after a whirlwind eight months for Goodwin, during which he competed at the Olympics in London and finished out his senior year of football, forgoing his last season of track to prepare for the draft. 

“[My time at Texas] really taught me patience and how to persevere through thick and thin,” Goodwin said. “I went off the board before guys that had a lot more catches and yards than I did. But I’ve got a wonderful opportunity in front of me, and I’m just going to make the most of it.”

For Goodwin, Buffalo comes with some familiar ties. Former Longhorn and current Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams is a close friend while men’s head track coach Bubba Thornton also played as a wide receiver for the Bills. 

Okafor said he couldn’t stop smiling after the call he received from the Arizona Cardinals.

“It’s just a blessing,” Okafor said. “No matter what team you go to, when you get that call on draft day you’re already in love with the team. Really, that is all you can ask for.”

Two other former Longhorns, defensive end Sam Acho and center Lyle Sendlein, are already on the Cardinals roster. 

For Okafor, who many analysts predicted would be chosen in the second round, the phone call that came upon his selection was a welcomed end to the waiting game.

“I expected to be called yesterday,” Okafor said on Saturday. “It was a long wait yesterday. But God has a plan for me. Today I couldn’t be any happier.”  

Former Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro poses for the ceremonial picture with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Vaccaro appeared in 51 games for Texas in his four year career.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

All Kenny Vaccaro wanted out of the NFL draft was to be the first safety chosen.

In a brightly lit Radio City Music Hall packed full of fans sporting jerseys of their favorite teams, he got his wish.  

Hopefully he’s partial to gumbo. 

The New Orleans Saints chose Vaccaro as the 15th pick during the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. Vaccaro follows a line of six other Texas players drafted in the first round since 2006. He also makes his place among a group of 12 other Texas defensive backs chosen in the past 12 drafts. 

“I got chills when I looked at my mom after my name was called,” Vaccaro said. “We’ve been through so much, and she’s been there for me all the way. It was special to share the moment with her and my family. Having [defensive backs] coach [Duane] Akina there, also, was extra special. He’s coached so many great DBs.”

Smiling and holding a black and gold jersey and wearing his Saints hat, Vaccaro looked poised to join his new team. LSU’s Eric Reid was the second safety selected at No. 18.

“I think he’s got very good football intelligence,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “Part of being a pressure guy from the back end is anticipation, snap count and disguise. I think he’s an instinctive player, and you see that on tape.”

Vaccaro started every game for the Longhorns in 2012 and led the team in tackles, earning lauds for his power, speed and hard hits. He was a first team All-American by Pro Football Weekly and a first-team 2012 All-Big 12 by the conference’s coaches. Vaccaro had 51 games and 32 starts under his belt by the end of his collegiate career and was one of the top safety prospects heading into the draft.

“He is very passionate about football,” head coach Mack Brown said. “He brings leadership and he brings toughness.”

He was also part of a select group of players invited to New York for the event. 

For the Brownwood native, a pick by the Saints means a move outside of the state he’s grown up in, but Vaccaro has said he is open to going to any team he has the chance to play for.
“This was such a great night, and I’m so excited to be a Saint. New Orleans is a great franchise with passionate fans like Texas, and it’s still close to my family,” Vaccaro said. “The Saints were my last visit, and I had a good feeling about it. I am ready to do whatever the Saints want me to do.”

Vaccaro joins Earl Thomas, Michael Griffin and Michael Huff as Longhorns safeties to be selected in the first round since Akina was hired at Texas in 2001.

“I have been grinding my whole life, literally since I was four years old for this opportunity, and it is finally here,” Vaccaro said. “Earl Thomas told me to come in, have a chip on my shoulder and put an impact on this league. [He said], ‘Don’t just sit around and wait for someone else to take your job.’” 

The Kansas City Chiefs chose Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher with the No. 1 pick of the draft, followed by the Jacksonville Jaguars snagging another offensive tackle, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 pick. 

2013 marked the first year since 1968 that two offensive linemen were selected as the first and second overall picks.

Texas defensive end Alex Okafor was not selected in the first round but stands a good chance to hear his name called Friday, when the NFL draft will continue with the second and third rounds.

For many fantasy owners, this past week determined playoff seeding and even playoff spots.  In need of some breakout performances, many owners were let down by these players when they needed it most:

1) Julio Jones & Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons

White and Jones, Atlanta’s fearsome wide receiver duo, were expected to have an explosive outing on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, whose pass defense is amongst the worst in the league.  Instead, both struggled to get much of anything going, combining for a paltry six passes for 68 yards.  Although White and Jones have feasted on opposing defenses and fantasy owners for most of the season, the roles were reversed this week.

2) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Over the past three weeks, Fitzgerald has hauled in a mere five passes for 65 yards, his lone catch this past week going for twenty three yards. To be fair, he can’t be blamed much for this lack of production, as the Cardinals’ rotating carousel at the quarterback position has failed to provide any kind of offensive spark and has led to eight straight losses.

3) Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

For those who started Sanchez on Sunday against the Cardinals, I feel for you.  Marky Mark registered negative fantasy points in his latest outing, passing for 97 yards and tossing three interceptions before being benched in the first half to make way for former ‘Bama QB Greg McElroy.

Trent Richardson’s strong play this season should continue into this week. He is among a group of rookies that are making big contributions to their teams this season, and could be gold mines for fantasy owners.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Fall is upon us, and so are the early rounds of bye weeks for players. Shuffling a roster to adjust for a key fantasy player’s off week is always difficult, so here are a few suggestions for players who are sure to be taking the field this weekend:


1) Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
RG3! RG3! In case you haven’t heard, this Griffin guy is pretty good. Despite being a rookie, he has put up the most fantasy points of any quarterback through four games this season. The key to his success is versatility in the running and passing game. Coincidentally, this week Griffin will face the Falcons, a team that had a ton of problems containing dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton. Expect RG3 to continue playing at a high level.

2) Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
The rookie trend continues with Richardson looking like a strong starting option this week against the Giants. Despite playing alongside rookie QB Brandon Weeden, who has struggled mightily, Richardson has managed to score in the Browns’ last three contests. Whether or not the Browns have a good day in the Meadowlands Sunday, Richardson should produce.

3) Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints
Holy cow, no one saw the Saints stumbling out of the gate to a 0-4 start. Despite his team’s struggles, Sproles remains a consistent fantasy threat. Thanks to his ability to run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield in the Saints’ creative screen game, Sproles is a versatile weapon for QB Drew Brees. With the Saints in desperation mode and his former team, the San Diego Chargers, coming into town for a Sunday Night Football showdown, Sproles should be in store for a big game.


1) Michael Bush, RB, Chicago Bears
With starting running back Matt Forte out with an ankle injury for the past several weeks, Bush became a fantasy starter. However, with Forte healthy and back in the starting lineup, Bush’s workload is sure to decrease this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although he remains a viable threat in deep fantasy leagues because of his potential for goal-line touches, avoid Bush if you can.

2) Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots
Bolden exploded onto the scene in week four against the Buffalo Bills, racking up 137 rushing yards and a touchdown. However, New England players are always risky fantasy starts due to the Patriots’ propensity to spread the ball around. Considering he is behind RB Stevan Ridley on the depth chart and the Patriots are facing the Denver Broncos’ top 10 rushing defense, don’t expect Bolden to have a similar outing this week.

3) Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
You know a quarterback is struggling when fans are already calling for him to be replaced by the fifth game. You really know he’s struggling when his backup and sudden fan-favorite is Brady Quinn, who has not started an NFL game since 2009. With the Ravens coming to town and the pressure mounting, Cassel could be in store for more boos from his home crowd.

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Richardson among rookie fantasy locks

As we approach October and cap off the first month of NFL action, there is little certainty in the fantasy football world. Here are a few pointers that should help fantasy owners piece the puzzle together and make sense of it all:

1) Cedric Benson, RB, Green Bay Packers

Benson must be salivating as he looks forward to Sunday, when the New Orleans Saints come Lambeau Field. The Saints haven’t been able to stop anybody this season, allowing Jamaal Charles to rack up 288 total yards of offense last week. Benson has established himself as the primary ball carrier in the Packers’ backfield. Aaron Rodgers will be airing it out against the Saints, but Benson should get valuable touches near the goal line.

2) Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson has been anything but consistent this season, sandwiching a monster game against the Giants in Week 2 between two lackluster performances in Weeks 1 and 3. However, with the Bucs facing the Washington Redskins and their dreadful secondary, Jackson should be able put up big numbers.

3) Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England Patriots
Given Tom Brady’s ability to spread the ball around, relying on New England receivers is a gamble. However, Lloyd and Brady’s chemistry seems to increase every week, which was most evident in Lloyd’s nine-catch, 108-yard performance against the Ravens last week. Lloyd will remain a consistent threat as long as he keeps getting looks from Brady.

1) Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

Tannehill couldn’t get anything going against the Jets in Week 3, completing less than half of his passes for 196 yards and an interception. Things will not be easier for him against a stout, opportunistic Cardinals defense. He may also be without running back Reggie Bush, who left last game with a knee injury.

2) Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Boldin stumbled out of the gate this season, posting single-digit fantasy point totals in twice this year. With Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco relying heavily on his tight ends and running back Ray Rice, Boldin’s presence has been vastly reduced. He could break out as Flacco’s red zone threat, but Boldin is not a reliable fantasy player.

3) Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
The question is always whether “good Jay” or “bad Jay” will show up on game day. Cutler showed his bad side the past two games, tossing five interceptions and one touchdown. Bears fans and fantasy owners hope Cutler can bounce back Monday night against an improved Dallas Cowboys’ defense,  but that may be asking too much.

Printed on Thursday, September 27, 2012 as: Benson a shrewd fantasy choice

1. Saintly Struggles
The effects of Bountygate have already impacted the New Orleans Saints, as they fell to 0-3 after an overtime loss to Kansas City. The defense, which was a liability in 2011, has faced even more challenges, allowing 102 points through three games. The Saints run defense ranks last in the league following a 233-yard performance from Jamaal Charles. Although Drew Brees and company can still put up points on offense, the Saints will not only miss the playoffs but struggle to break .500 this year if the defense does not rapidly improve.

2. The Renaissance of Reggie Bush
It’s hard to believe Reggie Bush is entering his seventh year in the league. The one-time phenom who never found a consistent role in New Orleans is now the feature back with the Dolphins. He’s rushed for over 300 yards in the young season and a staggering 6.0 yards per carry, giving Miami a dependable running back to take some pressure off rookie Ryan Tannehill. Concerns about Bush’s durability have followed him throughout his career so it’s not surprising that he is dealing with a knee injury this week.

3. Ref-pocalypse continues
Last week I mentioned the replacement referees hadn’t cost a team a game yet. That claim was quickly brought to rest on the last play of the Green Bay-Seattle game Monday. The debacle, caught on prime-time national television, could not have come at a worse time for the league. The blatantly missed call, Seattle wideout Golden Tate’s postgame comments, the Packers’ response and the public outcry will make for an interesting week at the league offices in New York. If the commissioner has any integrity left for his game, he’ll strike a deal with the referees’ union tomorrow. Until then, chaos will continue on the field. And yes, you will still watch.