INDIANAPOLIS — The Saints are the only NFL team not scheduled to meet with the media at an organized news conference during the scouting combine this week, but there certainly was no shortage of people talking about New Orleans on Thursday — for both good and bad.
Among the good Saints topics covered at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the combine: the qualities of Joe Lombardi, who recently left New Orleans to become Detroit’s offensive coordinator, and how punter Thomas Morstead has been mentoring a combine prospect.
And then the bad: how shocked Raiders head coach/former Saints assistant Dennis Allen was when he learned about the rape allegations against former New Orleans safety Darren Sharper.
First, here’s one of the good. Lions coach Jim Caldwell mentioned Lombardi early in his news conference, expressing his belief that Lombardi knows “what it takes to be successful” on offense after working in close proximity with Sean Payton and Drew Brees for several years in New Orleans as the quarterbacks coach there.
With Lombardi at that position, Brees produced three of his four 5,000-yard passing seasons, and the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV.
“You can see by his track record he has done a tremendous job in terms of working with quarterbacks,” said Caldwell, whose signal-caller is Matthew Stafford. “We knew that (Lombardi) would be very good at not only ... running the offense ... but also working with that position, because I think that synergy is important.
Morstead the teacher
After relying on a traditional punting style during his junior year in 2012, Auburn punter Steven Clark said he unleashed a new weapon in 2013: his “Aussie-style” kick.
And that’s thanks to Morstead, who was All-Pro for the Saints in 2012.
Clark’s Aussie punt rebounds back in his direction when it hits the ground, especially useful when trying to pin opponents deep in their territory. Clark said Morstead taught him the technique, which he then modified to his liking.
Clark said he was coming out of high school when he met Morstead at a football camp. Morstead was Clark’s group leader.
“He confided in me and told me that if I ever needed anything to let him know,” said Clark, one of five punters at the combine. “He’s a great punter, and I just had to figure out my own way to do it and get the same results in sort of my own fashion.”
Allen: Sharper case ‘shocking’
Now, the bad. Allen, the Raiders coach, was in charge of the Saints secondary from 2008 to 2010, and he worked two seasons with Sharper, who arrived in New Orleans in 2009 and helped the Black and Gold win its lone Super Bowl title.
Unsurprisingly, a reporter asked Allen about his reaction to news that Sharper is suspected of drugging and raping women in New Orleans; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Tempe, Ariz.; and Miami. Sharper has only been charged in L.A.
Allen said, “That was a shocking thing to me.” He also said he was fortunate to work with Sharper and called the experience “nothing but the best.”
Jacobs needed ‘next step’
McNeese State tight end junior Nic Jacobs, who has declared for the draft and is skipping his senior season, knows many of his school’s supporters think another year of playing ball in Lake Charles would’ve benefitted him.
He wants them to know he had no issue going back to McNeese — he just didn’t think he could afford to delay his dream of playing in the pros any longer.
“I feel like I just couldn’t support my family financially,” Jacobs, who grabbed 32 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns for McNeese in 2013, said at the combine. “I needed to take a new step in life, whether it was getting a job or going to the NFL draft.”
Jacobs said his college experience adequately prepared him for his decision. He spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at LSU, catching only five passes because he was primarily used as a blocker.
He missed the last three games of his second year at LSU for violating team rules and transferred to McNeese, a Division I-AA school. There, he developed — and impressively utilized — his skills as a receiver.
“I really feel like I got better at my route-running and better at my catching at McNeese,” Jacobs said. “But at LSU, I really polished my blocking game.”
Jacobs realizes the competition at McNeese was less stiff than it was in the Southeastern Conference. Yet he insists his college career illustrates that he can “be a mismatch in coverage as well as block ... on the line.”
“When I get in the game, no one’s going to know what I’m going to do,” he said.
NFL Draft Scout ranks Jacobs as No. 23 of 50 rated tight ends. He’s not projected to be drafted.
Redshirt sophomore LSU guard Trai Turner was not made available to the media at the combine Thursday. ... Falcons coach Mike Smith, on whether Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham should be paid like an elite receiver because he lines up out wide so often: “This is a very competitive league, and as a player you should try to get paid as much money as you possibly can.”
Ron Clements contributed to this report.