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Training Camp 2008: Breakdown of the Saints Safties

#27 David Roach

2007 Summary:

Josh Bullocks has been the starting free safety for the Saints since he was picked by the Saints in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. But in three years, Bullocks has yet to fulfill his potential. Fast, with quick hips and great athleticism, Bullocks, again in 2007, seemed out of position often. Many blame some of the long pass plays on Bullocks not being in the right place, making the cornerbacks look worse than they actually have performed.

Bullocks was injured for a couple of games late in the season, being replaced by the much less athletic, but smart and hard working Kevin Kaesviharn. Kaesviharn played well, but was not overly spectacular.

2008 Offseason:

The Saints did not sign any big name free safeties in free agency, but did pick up a second year practice squad player, Tuff Harris, from the Miami Dolphins. If nothing else, his name sounds cool. ? Not drafting any free safeties, the Saints got lucky and picked up David Roach, one of the top 10 safeties in the class of 2008 as an UDFA. Many were surprised Roach was not picked up in the late rounds of the draft.

Player summary:

Tuff Harris (35)
Chris Reis (39)
David Roach (37)
Kevin Kaesviharn (43)
Josh Bullocks (29)

It has to be mentioned that more than likely, one of these players will end up being the backup strong safety behind rising star Roman Harper. Chris Reis filled that spot on the 2007 roster, but that could mean nothing as both Tuff Harris and David Roach have the size and speed to fill both the free and strong safety roles. But, with that in mind, let’s focus first on the starting free safety role.

As mentioned before, Josh Bullocks was supposed to be the answer for the Saints at Free Safety. Drafted in the second round means that he was expected to at least be a solid starter for several years. Instead, Bullocks seems to either be confused, or just have bad instincts. Either way, Bullocks seems to be in the wrong place often. One can make a case for bad instincts as it was often said in his first and second year that Bullocks was hesitant to make a decision in the midst of a play. In 2007 it wasn’t as clear cut that Bullocks was hesitant, yet he was still out of position a lot.

It could have been bad schemes by Gary Gibbs, who knows, but in the end, Josh Bullocks is not shining brightly.

First a bit about Chris Reis. Reis was a stand out NFL Europa player in his final season, earning defensive player of the week and making some big plays to help his team. He is decently fast for a safety, running a 4.52 at the 2006 combine (Bullocks ran a 4.49 in 2005), but Reis is problem is general athleticism. His hips seem stiff and he has a hard time keeping with faster receivers. He does have good instincts, and can hit, so he probably has to make it at backup strong safety to make the team.

Kevin Kaesviharn is an interesting story. Kaesviharn graduated from Division II Augustana in San Diego in 1997. Determined to play professional football, he bounced around NFL training camp, the XFL and Arena Football League, until finally getting a real chance to play in Cincinnati when he played 10 games in 2001. Since that year, he was always the fan favorite in a “Rudy” sort of way. The player with a great heart for playing, but considered to have a low ceiling of potential. Keasvisharn would get replaced by rookies or free agents in Cincinnati, but kept performing well enough to get out on the field and make plays. He was in and out of the line up as the organization kept trying to replace him, until 2006 when he had a team leading 6 interceptions in 14 games. The Saints picked him up as a free agent in 2007, presumably to push Bullocks and give him someone he could learn from.

Kaesviharn started a couple of games in 2007 and played admirably (some would say better than Bullocks), but at 32 is not the long term answer to free safety. In order for him to win the starting job, he would really have to shine brightly, as he has to be thought of as short term stop gap at best. More than likely Kaesviharn will make the team if healthy, however a starting role by one of the young guys, not named Bullocks, could push him off the roster.

So, now Tuff Harris and David Roach enter the picture. Tuff Harris was on the Dolphins practice squad for most of the 2007 season. He did make it on the real roster, but was not active, but for one game, with no stats. Considering that the Dolphins were 1-15 and have no big names at safety, one has to wonder if he is just a camp body. Harris did post a 4.53 40 at the 2007 combine, so his speed is decent, but until camp starts, his abilities are going to be a mystery.

David Roach has a little more promise, mainly because he is a rookie and didn’t sit on a bad team’s practice squad last year. On top of that Roach has chip on his shoulder after not being drafted. Roach was expected to be picked in the draft, even having a late second round draft, early third round rating by some. He has publicly expressed a desire to make every team that passed on him (which would be every team) wish they hadn’t. The problem many thought they saw was stiff hips and a change of direction problem, both important to the free safety position. If true, this is a similar to the description of Chris Reis and considering that Roach is listed at 6’-2” and 215 lbs, he may end up kicking Reis out of the backup strong safety position.

So watch for a battle between Tuff Harris, Kevin Kaesviharn and Josh Bullocks, with a possibility that David Roach could play his way into the fight if he proves the scouts wrong about his hips and change of direction abilities.

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