Advocate sportswriter Joel A. Erickson had a live chat with online readers on Thursday about the New Orleans Saints as they head into training camp at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WVa. Here are some of the highlights:
Q: Which positions will have the most competition during camp?
A: Wide receiver, nickel cornerback, inside linebacker and kicker are the ones that jump to mind first. ... All four are interesting, but I like linebackers in general, so I'll probably be focused there.
Q: Are Andrus Peat and Stephone Anthony gonna start week 1?
A: If I had to venture a guess right now, I think Anthony's got a better chance to start right away than Peat. In coach speak, "the game's not too fast for him" means a guy's already moving at the pace they want, and that's what they've said about Anthony. As far as Peat goes, I think he has a tougher road. Zach Strief is obviously a guy that has played well recently.
Q: Who'll be the Saints stiffest competition in the (NFC) south this season?
A: I'm going to stick with Carolina. Tampa Bay has a rookie quarterback and had a long way to go, and I'm still not sold on Atlanta's defensive personnel. The Panthers' defense gives them a chance to stay in games, so I'd say Carolina's probably the biggest threat again.
Q: If the Saints get off to a bad start on defense again, could you see them canning (defensive coordinator) Rob Ryan midseason?
A: Here's where being a newbie costs me a little bit. Off the top of my head, I can't remember if Sean Payton has any history of letting go of coaches midseason, which is usually a pretty good indicator. If the defense is struggling, I think there's probably more of a chance that the Saints shift some power to Dennis Allen behind the scenes and then take care of it at the end of the season, but that's just a guess.
Q: Do you think (Mark) Ingram is the long-term answer at running back? I'm skeptical.
A: I'm a little skeptical on Ingram myself, but the mitigating factor here is that the Saints really don't need to have a true long-term answer. As far back as I can remember, Payton's been good about getting multiple guys the ball, and the Saints seem to really like Khiry Robinson. I think, under Payton, New Orleans is always going to have something of a by-committee approach,and that makes any one individual a little bit less of a big deal at the position.