Rob Ryan adding swagger to Saints’ defense

Saints linebacker Vilma to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery

Joseph, Mo., Aug. 1. Orlin Wagner, AP Redskins QB Kirk Cousins gets outrun by someone in an RG3 jersey, though obviously not Robert Griffin III himself, Aug. 1 in Richmond, Va. Steve Helber, AP 49ers linemen Lawrence Okoye, left, and Mike Purcell lock horns in Santa Clara, Calif., Aug. 1. Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Cecil Shorts IV, 2, dons the helmet of his father, Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts III in Jacksonville. Bob Self, AP Jags WR Tobais Palmer offers another way to read Psalms 26. Phil Sears, USA TODAY Sports All eyes were on Browns TE Jordan Cameron as he made this catch in Berea, Ohio, July 31. David Richard, AP Steelers rookie RB Le’Veon Bell hits a blocking dummy in Latrobe, Pa., on July 31. Keith Srakocic, AP TE Martellus Bennett gets a grip at Bears camp. Nam Y. Huh, AP Jets WR Vidal Hazelton (18) snares a pass in front of CB Ellis Lankster (21) in Cortland, N.Y., July 31. Richard Barnes, USA TODAY Sports Redskins QB Robert Griffin III greets fans in Richmond, Va., July 30. Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports Meanwhile, RG3’s teammates did some serious hitting. Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports Cardinals QBs Carson Palmer (3) and Drew Stanton fire away July 30 in Glendale, Ariz. Ross D. Franklin, AP Packers TE Andrew Quarless takes a bike ride to practice in Green Bay on July 30. Morry Gash, AP Raiders WR Conner Vernon snares a pass in Napa, Calif., July 30. Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports The Silver & Black were also busy with conditioning work. Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports Lions CB Chris Houston (23) works on his footwork in Allen Park, Mich., July 30. Andrew Weber, USA TODAY Sports Colts LT Anthony Castonzo (74) works on blocking technique in Anderson, Ind., July 30. Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports Patriots backup QB Tim Tebow unloads a pass July 30. Stew Milne, USA TODAY Sports Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass during the Indianapolis Colts training camp at Anderson University. Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) runs with the ball as Redskins linebacker Bryan Kehl (53) attempts the tackle during afternoon practice as part of the 2013 NFL training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton with quarterback Drew Brees (9) during a morning training camp practice at the team facility. Derick E.

Now healthy, Saints’ Jimmy Graham could cash in during contract year

San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler (56) celebrates an interception of a pass from Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (not pictured) during the first quarter at Soldier Field.

His 184 receptions over that span rank second among tight ends behind the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten (189) while Graham’s 20 TD catches in the same period are second only to the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski (28). But coming off back and forearm surgeries, Gronkowski’s status for the 2013 season is in limbo. His former running mate, Aaron Hernandez, sits in a Massachusetts jail cell charged with first-degree murder. Graybeards Witten, Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons and Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers appear to be in the twilight of their record-setting careers. At 27, Graham is healthy coming off a perceived down year despite leading the Saints with 85 receptions. He also piled up 982 receiving yards and nine touchdowns despite playing through a debilitating left wrist injury that required surgery after the season.

‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ offers new take on American outlaw films

Vilma is 31 years old and hasn’t been fully healthy since the start of the 2011 season, when his knee problems began. As a result, he wasn’t nearly as effective as usual in either 2011 or 2012. Back when we ranked him 18th on our top-25 ranking of the Saints roster this summer, we wrote that Vilma “might be the hardest player to rank” on the entire list. I didn’t expect Vilma to return to Pro Bowl form this year, but I was cautiously optimistic that he could show significant improvement after being healthy for a full year. And I took it as a great sign that the Saints plugged him into the starting lineup on the first day of OTAs and kept him there all summer. Now, Vilma has one more hurdle that he has to overcome, since he’s expected to miss the remainder of the preseason at the very least. The bright side is that the Saints will get an extended look at their backup candidates over the next three weeks – though it hasn’t been a very inspiring field of contenders up to this point. Saints inside linebacker David Hawthorne (57) picks off a pass intended for tight end Josh Hill (89) during Saints Camp practice in Metairie, Monday, August 12, 2013.


21, 2012 file photo shows New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma on the bench at an NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Florida. Vilma is to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery according to New Orleans coach Sean Payton. (Scott Iskowitz/AP) This Oct. 21, 2012 file photo shows New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma on the bench at an NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Florida. Vilma is to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery according to New Orleans coach Sean Payton. (Scott Iskowitz/AP)

Inside linebacker was one of New Orleans Saints’ biggest question marks even before Jonathan Vilma’s surgery

I am always trying to figure out ways to capture intangible, abstract things like that and turn them into movies,” the 32-year-old director said in an interview. With its beautifully filmed landscapes, rustic sets and melodic, hand-clapping original score, the film starring Academy Award nominees Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as doomed lovers has a graceful ease and a nostalgic, reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s 1973 crime drama “Badlands.” It is also a nod to Robert Altman’s 1971 Western “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” right down to the inclusion of actor Keith Carradine, who appears in both films. At the Sundance Film Festival, where “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” debuted earlier this year, critics praised its singular quality and panache, as well as its director. “Lowery is hardly the first filmmaker to crib Malick’s poetic aesthetic, but his clear confidence in aspiring to the same sort of enrapturing experience is undeniably impressive,” said the film magazine Screen International. Britain’s Guardian newspaper chimed in saying, “His is truly a fresh voice, exhilarating to hear,” while New York’s Village Voice newspaper described Lowery, an adopted Texan and the eldest of nine children, as “a filmmaker to watch.” EMOTIONAL CONNECTION “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” stars Affleck, 38, as Bob Muldoon, a man who takes the blame when his pregnant wife wounds a local sheriff during a showdown with police. On the run after escaping from prison, he is determined to reunite with his wife and the four-year-old daughter he has never met. It is familiar territory for Affleck, who received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Mara, the 28-year-old actress best known for her starring role in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in 2011, plays his wife and struggling single mother. Ben Foster, who appeared in 2012’s “Contraband,” is the wounded sheriff who falls in love with her.


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