That's a wrap on Saints training camp for this season. While the coaches and players will tell you the team is still in a training camp mindset, camp is, by all intents and purposes, over.
The team will now turn their attention Friday night's preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Superdome. Coach Sean Payton promised this camp would be tougher than the ones in the past, and it was, according to safety Kenny Vaccaro. "The toughest camp - we've had so many live periods, we had so many long days. We went through all the situation and competed really hard. Coach didn't cut any practices short." The work seems to have paid off in particular on the defensive side of the football, where that unit looks much improved.
Observations from camp: While it's important to note we can't draw conclusions about any team in the preseason, we can begin to shape some opinions and thoughts. My early thoughts are this - the defense should be better and the reason is there is an upgrade in talent but also a much more sound defense under Dennis Allen. The players will execute this defense better just because they are comfortable with what is being asked of them.
I have some concerns about what looks to be a very young cornerback group with Keenan Lewis out of the picture. However, I think the Saints have some pretty solid depth on that side of the football. On offense my concern is simple; it's the offensive line. Right now, by my estimations, the Saints have three starters on that O-line (Terron Armstead at left tackle, Max Unger at center, and Zach Strief at right tackle) and two massive holes to fill at the guard position. Drew Brees came to the defense of his offensive line on the last practice in Metairie. "Don't mess with those guys, those guys are grinding. We played a great pass rush team last week against Houston." I expected him to say that, but it doesn't ease my concern about that group. Look for the Saints to explore a trade or the waiver wire to fill a need at left guard.
Bold Prediction: Based on training camp here is my bold prediction; the Saints offense will take a slight dip in production and the story of the season will be about the improved play of the defense and the slide on offense will be as a result of poor offensive line play. With that said, I also think WR Michael Thomas is going to be in the mix for rookie of the year in the NFC and the Saints will finish second in the NFC South with an 8 and 8 record. Yep, another year watching the playoffs from home for the Black and Gold.
Kicking competition: The kicking competition has been extremely tight during camp with Connor Barth and Kai Forbath. While it might not be that fun to talk about, it's a position the Saints have lacked stability in for a long time. Last training camp the Saints chose Zach Hocker over Dustin Hopkins on the final roster, and that proved to be yet another costly kicking decision. The Saints released Hocker early in the season and brought in the incumbent in this camp in Forbath. The Saints have to get this one right this year, or we'll be talking about it again next training camp. It could be worse, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up to draft a kicker in the 2nd round this year and he's been awful in training camp and has to see a specialist to get his head right. See, it's not all bad for the Saints kicking situation!
Surprise Cut: The Saints and the rest of the NFL are required to trim their rosters down to 75 players by next Tuesday. Typically these moves are with players that are relatively unknown or players that didn't have a shot of making the roster anyway, but occasionally there is a big name in the first round of cuts. One name to keep in mind under the 'surprise' category could be defensive back Damian Swann. Swann was slowed in camp because of a groin injury and rookies Ken Crawley & De'Vante Harris have leapfrogged him on the depth chart. Swann had a promising rookie season, but was beset by three concussions that could be too much to overcome. Just keep an eye on that name.
See what Deuce and Bobby had to say about the Saints' 2016 camp in the video below.
Offensive concern: The narrative quickly shifted after two preseason games from concern about the defense to the offense after mustering just 9 points in the loss to Houston last week. In particular, the concern focuses around the offensive line at guard, with Tim Lelito and Andrus Peat. "I'd say it's a work in progress right now, but we'll get it right, we'll get em ready," Sean Payton explained following practice.
Peat has bounced around from right tackle to left tackle and right guard in training camp but has started to settle in a little bit more at right guard. I'm not as concerned about Peat as I am Lelito if I'm being completely honest. Senio Kelemete and Lelito rotated at left guard today in practice and it's still very much an open competition. With that said I still think the Saints will want to explore a trade or the waiver wire for a new guard to play in week one.
Offensive spark: At times, the Saints offense has looked off, and frankly, not too good in training camp. Some of that has to do with the transition on the offensive line, and also new addtions like Mike Thomas and Coby Fleener. Today the Saints offense showed some explosive playmaking ability on a deep seam route to Fleener down the middle of the field. Sure it was a busted coverage, but it's a positive sign. I'm still concerned about the Saints' inability to run the football. In practice, the offensive line isn't getting a lot of push and that makes it even more difficult to protect Brees. However today was much more balanced across the board in practice, with the defense winning some reps and the offense getting some shots in down field.
Byrd's Impact: What does a healthy Byrd look like? I think we've all wondered that in the first two years that safety Jairus Byrd has been in a Saints uniform. For the first time since signing with the Saints two years ago it looks like Byrd might finally be back to what he was with the Buffalo Bills. In the last week, Byrd has recorded two interceptions and got his hands on a number of footballs in pass defense. "I think he's healthy now, and that's why you're seeing some plays. I'm very encouraged by his play so far," explained Sean Payton. Early in camp, Byrd looked like he was on a bit of a pitch count, but he looks like he's moving well and playing fast. In two seasons with the Saints Byrd has forced just one turnover. I think that's going to change this season.
Kasim Edebali: He's in line for a really good season and gives the Saints some good juice as a pass rusher. Edebali left practice early today with a calf cramp, but no real concern. Offensive lineman Max Unger and Tim Lelito also left practice early, but both seem to have been dealing with cramping from the heat.
Camp fights: They're a good thing... some coaches don't like them, but I've heard that sometimes the skirmishes that sometimes break out during practice are a pre-planned, and as long as they don't last long and nobody gets injured it has no negative effect on the team building. LB Craig Robertson and FB Austin Johnson got into it a little bit today but once again the two were seperated pretty quickly by coaches and players. I love it! Just competitive guys out their fighting for jobs - what do you expect them to do? These are all alpha males you're dealing with. This stuff is so overblown sometimes.
Ohhhhh-Line: Did you watch or listen to the Saints vs Texans preseason game on Saturday night? If you did you would walk away questioning the offense, not the defense. The offensive line in particular struggled in the running the football and protecting the quarterback. The narrative headed into camp was 'will the defense improve enough for the Saints to return to the playoffs.' The question I'm asking today is will the offensive line be good enough to protect Drew Brees and continue to be an effective and explosive offense?
I'm not so sure I'm feeling good about the answer to that question. Forget about the defense, they will be OK. The offensive line is what I'm concerned with. "I'm telling you, right now the starting left guard is not even on this team. The Saints are going to have to explore a trade at that position or hope that a player better from another team gets cut," said Bobby Hebert. Left Guard Tim Lelito took a step back against Houston and Andrus Peat struggled at left tackle after starting the game at right guard. I still am not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to Peat. The Saints need to let Peat settle in at one position, and that is guard.
Stephone Anthony: Returned to practice today after suffering a leg injury in week one of the preseason against New England. This is good news for the Saints second year linebacker after the injury was feared to be much worse. Anthony didn't appear any worse for the wear and was moving around pretty well. WR Brandin Cooks also returned to the practice field after sitting out Saturday's exhibition match up with Houston. WR Willie Snead who also missed the Houston game was back on the field as well.
Thin Crowd: The Saints returned to Metairie for their final phase of training camp, and with an afternoon practice I figured we see an overflow of fans trying to take a first look at the Saints. That wasn't the case. The crowd was rather thin on Airline drive. The light crowd could also be a result of back to back 7 and 9 seasons and the interest being a little low from the fan base.
Jairus Byrd: Picked off Quarterback Drew Brees in team drills on a leaping interception that reminded me of the Byrd Man before he arrived in New Orleans playing for the Bills. I think he might still work out for the Saints if he stays healthy. I like the Safety position group the Saints will have on the field this season with Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Roman Harper, Erik Harris and rookie Vonn Bell. The Saints have to get some return on the Byrd investment this season, or the team might have no choice but to move on from him and go in another direction.
In a stunning story, the Saints have decided the team will release veteran Cornerback Keenan Lewis. Lewis was guaranteed the final three years of his contract last offseason by the Saints, and missed all but six games last year with a hip injury. He started training camp on PUP and practiced just one day with the team in training camp before today's decision to release him.
I'm told the decision to release CB Keenan Lewis boiled down to a difference in the teams assessment of his hip injury compared to Lewis's injury assessment. In essence the team felt like he was ready to play, Lewis thought he wasn't ready yet, after what he claims is a strained adductor muscle in his hip. The bottom line is the Saints wanted him on the field, and he felt he wasn't ready for that.
Lewis is scheduled to make $6.3 million this season. Lewis will also make $9.1 million dollars as a part of his guaranteed final three year contract restructure last season.
Saints rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins will have surgery today to repair a broken left fibula. The surgery will be done by Dr Bob Anderson in Charlotte NC, and the expected recovery time is six weeks.
Rankins suffered the injury in goal line drills during practice yesterday. I'm told the injury is a clean break, with no ligament damage. The six week recovery process starts today for Rankins, who the Saints grabbed with the 12th overall pick in the draft back in April.
Saints rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins was carted off the field during practice today. Rankins suffered a broken fibula that will require surgery and he's expected to miss about six weeks. The initial tests indicate that as the time table for a return; I would look for him to return after the Saints' bye week in October.
How does this impact the defensive line? "It now forces guys like Matt Shaughnessy and John Jenkins to step up, and puts players like C.J. Wilson or Ashad Mabry on the final roster at least for the start of the season," explained Saints color analyst Deuce McAllister. Rankins will likely have surgery today and more information could come out about his prognosis. This is a pretty significant blow for a defensive line that looked pretty solid in camp with Rankins, Nick Fairley, and Tyeler Davison in the mix.
Drew Brees: Since that four-interception day over a week ago, Drew Brees has been outstanding in practice, with pinpoint accuracy and great zip on the ball. "He's had an edge to him over the last 8 practices or so. You can tell he's much more dialed in at this point in camp and getting on the same page with his receivers and tight ends," said Bobby Hebert. If you were worried about a drop off from Brees, there's nothing to see on that front.
Looking ahead: The Saints will be off tomorrow, and then practice again on Wednesday at the Greenbrier before traveling to Houston to practice against the Texans on Thursday and Friday. "I want to see them up against the Texans defense. That's a defense that has a reputation for being tough up front, and I want to see how we can handle that. I know J.J. Watt isn't back yet but it will still be a really good test against Houston" explained Bobby Hebert.
Michael Thomas: The Saints' rookie wide receiver continues to be a force in training camp practices. Today he came up with a huge over the shoulder one handed catch today in the team portion of practice. The ball was perfectly placed by Quarterback Garrett Grayson. Thomas has made it a habit during camp to come up with the seemingly impossible catch. "He's a guy that is comfortable going up for contested catches. He competes for the ball, and high points the ball. We've seen that in this camp and that is encouraging," explained coach Sean Payton. Thomas has done nothing to take me off my original feeling this guy is going to contend for rookie of the year in the NFC.
The front four: While it looks improved, from what we can see, I still have some questions about the Saints ability to stop the run. However, second year defensive tackle Tyeler Davison is having a heck of a camp and would be the starter at nose tackle if the Saints were playing a real game this week. Nick Fairley looks like his motor is running hot and continues to be a player to focus on during camp with really good push up the middle in passing situations. Rookie Sheldon Rankins has been playing with tremendous effort and effectiveness in camp. He's only going to get better as time goes on. I like the front four more so this year than the past three years. Oh, and let's not forget Cameron Jordan who just looks like he's even better this year than he was last year.
3-4 defense: The Saints are going to have multiple looks on defense and likely go back and forth with alignments out of the 4-3 and 3-4. I think the 3-4 defense might be the best look for them. Kasim Edebali is going to be really fun to watch this season. We know he can get after the passer, he's going to be able to provide some rush snaps for this defense, but he looks like he's pretty sturdy standing up to the run. Obum Gwachem had two would be sacks today in training camp team practices. He's another situational guy that could find his way into certain sub package looks on defense.
Roster Moves: The Saints officially announced they are signing veteran cornerback Courtland Finnegan and releasing offensive lineman Jordan Walsh. Finnegan hauled in an interception in team drills from QB Luke McCown in his first practice with the team. Cornerback Keenan Lewis is back in West Virginia with the team, but did not practice today, and told WWLTV that he's not going to rush his rehab and plans to return to the field by week 1 of the regular season. Lewis also says he's trying to avoid being placed on the short term or long term Injured Reserve.
Stephone Anthony: The Saints second year linebacker was carted off the field at half time against New England with a lower leg injury. Coach Sean Payton didn't get specific as to the injury with Anthony but did say it's not as serious as they originally thought, and they hope to have him (Anthony) back sooner rather than later. "That's a positive sign with Anthony, now it's all about how his body responds to treatment, and let's see him on the field and back at practice before we can feel totally out of the woods with him," explained Saints color analyst Deuce McAllister.
Cannon Ball: The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert watched practice today, and pointed out some of the good and bad from today's work. "I just think the team offense had continuity to it. Drew was really sharp today, in fact I think Garret Grayson had perhaps his best practice this training camp, he was on target with several throws. I didn't like how the defense got gashed at times in the running game during practice, that is something that looks like it might carry over from last season into this season."
Armstead: After starting training camp on the PUP list, left tackle Terron Armstead returned to practice today with the Black and Gold, and participated in team portions of practice. Armstead worked at his usual spot at Left Tackle and Andrus Peat kicked inside to right guard. Tim Lelito ran with the first team unit at the other guard spot.
Peter Finney, longtime sports columnist passed away today at the age of 88. He worked at the Times Picayune as sports columnist for 68 years.
Finney is an iconic figure in New Orleans professionally and personally. As current Times Picayune sports columnist Jeff Duncan describes him, "he was totally self deprecating and very humble. Pete reminded me very much of my father. That's how I felt about him."
When the Saints were born on November 1, 1966, Pete Finney wrote the story. He covered the Saints inception into the NFL. He was able to see their birth and their biggest triumph in New Orleans sports history when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV. "He was a gentleman above everything else. That's what stood out more than anything else, even more so than his writing. He didn't want attention, and actually shied away from the attention. He was a rare breed when it comes to a sports columnist where you are paid to thump your chest and give your opinion," Duncan added.
Finney, along with the late Buddy D, were among the pioneers of sports writing in New Orleans - those two were the voice of the city and the fan base in New Orleans. "They had a unique platform. They had unprecedented influence on their audience. He understood the power and the importance of his platform. There will never be another like Pete Finney," said Duncan, who worked with Finney at the Times Picayune for 15 years. Duncan says he was a tremendous mentor for him, and for that matter, every writer on the sports staff. "He took all the writers on our staff under his wing. He would give you advice all day long if you asked for it."
Pete Finney is described as a great family man. He lived in the French Quarter, he was a great sports writer and awesome New Orleanian. "That allowed him to really keep his finger on the pulse of the city and the fan base by living down there," Duncan added. I grew up reading Finney's columns in the newspaper and interacted with him from time to time when I first started at WWL and I was always amazed how humble he was. He didn't seek the attention that some might as a columnist with his platform. Another New Orleans legend leaves us, and left a profound impact on the industry.
Soggy practice: Rain moved into the Foxboro area this morning for practice. The Saints and Patriots were already scheduled to have what we would consider a scaled-back practice the day before a game, and it really was just a glorified walk through in many cases. Saints Coach Sean Payton said following practice today, "Today was a little more mental in terms of situations. I thought the two days were real beneficial. Our guys got a chance to get into what's going to be a little bit of what it's like to be in a game mode." Now the Saints turn their attention to evaluating some of the younger players in tomorrow night's pre-season opener against the Patriots.
Injuries: I wouldn't expect to see the headliners play much if at all against the Patriots. You certainly won't see CB Keenan Lewis against New England; Lewis hasn't practiced since he came off the PUP list over a week ago. Sean Payton didn't give any update on his status or situation. Defensive end Cameron Jordan wasn't at practice with the Patriots yesterday or today, after going back home for the birth of his second child. CB Damian Swann, FB Austin Johnson, and DT John Jenkins were among the notables that didn't practice this week.
New England and New Orleans have held collective practices for the fourth season, and much like the previous three, the fourth one was full of ups and downs for both squads. First, let me just say the fan experience for the Patriot Nation is second to none. The crowd was thick, and boisterous with a few Who Dats sprinkled into the largely partisan Patriot crowd.
The Good: On the very first play of 7 on 7 drills, LB Dannell Ellerbe stepped in front of a Tom Brady pass and couldn't make the interception after it hit him in the hands. How is this in the good category? Because it immediately set the tone for the period of practice. It will also find it's way into the bad category because Ellerbe couldn't catch it. File Tommylee Lewis in the good category, he's been the dark horse favorite so far in camp. Lewis continued his strong camp in 7 on 7 drills with a few nice catches. Rookie nose tackle Sheldon Rankins stepped in front of a screen pass and intercepted Tom Brady and took it to the house - nifty running by the rookie big man. Defensive lineman Nick Fairley looks like he's serious about this year. Fairley was impressive against the Patriots, getting really good push on passing downs in the team portion of practice. The Saints defense forced two Patriot interceptions today, and produced multiple sacks.
Brees looks dialed in today against #Patriots. He's been really sharp today.
The Bad: As I mentioned above, Ellerbe's pass deflection in 7 on 7 against Brady should have been an interception. The play prompted a fist pump from Bobby Hebert, but it was quickly followed by "Man, he's got to catch that and intercept it! If the Saints improve on defense, those are the things that make a difference!" Hebert said. The Patriots ran the football effectively against the Saints defense. That was a problem area for the Saints last season giving up 4.9 yards per rush in 2015. I don't know if it was the plan or the scheme that prevented the Saints offense from pushing the ball down the field in the passing game, but you didn't see much of it today. Wonder why? The Saints looked like they bogged down at times in the red zone on offense against the Patriots in team portion of practice. Red Zone scoring efficiency was an issue for the Saints last season.
Looked like the Dallas game all over, Brees to Spiller on a wheel route, for the score.
The Ugly: There wasn't too much that I would describe as ugly today for the Saints. Last year when the Patriots came to West Virgnia for practice against the Saints, Tom Brady had his way with the Saints defense. That didn't happen this year. The ugly could be a part of the Patriots WR group. New England had chances to make several plays today, but the receivers and Tight End (Yes I'm talking about Rob Gronkowski) were plagued by dropped passes. Tim Hightower's fumble in the red zone during team drills is a double 'no-no' in Sean Payton's book. Those are the things that will get you off a roster - you can definitely file this one under the ugly category. Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Damian Swann haven't practiced since last week. Lewis is coming off hip surgery, and Swann has a history of concussion issues from his rookie season.
See what our resident pros Bobby and Deuce had to say about it in the video below:
The Saints have terminated WR Hakeem Nicks' contract. He was signed on the eve of training camp just a wek and a half ago.
You could see this coming a mile away, he wasn't making any plays and really struggled in camp. I think the Saints did it now because he's a veteran and they wanted to give him a chance to get on with another team. The Saints have a young group of wide receivers that they can get better value out of, like Tommylee Lewis, RJ Harris and Jared Dangerfield. Those guys can succeed on special teams, too, which Nicks cannot.
Longsnapper Chris Highland is repacing Nicks on the roster. Terron Armstead is coming off the PUP list and is expected to get individual work against the Patriots, but Coach Payton said he wont play.
Although it was a light practice today, the Saints went through 2 minute offense moving the football and in the red zone. Quarterback Drew Brees rebounded with three touchdown passes to Willie Snead, Brandin Cooks, and Brandon Coleman. Saturday, Brees had what he called his worst training camp practice of his career with 4 interceptions.
The catch of the day belongs to Willie Snead with an over the shoulder one-handed grab in team drills. Snead is proving he's ready to build on a solid first season with the Saints. Mike Thomas and Brandin Cooks were the early show stoppers in camp, but Snead has come on with a solid few days of practice.
Tommylee Lewis arrived to the Saints as undrafted rookie free agent out of Northern Illinois, and wouldn't have landed on the Saints radar if not for Sean Payton's coaching confidant Bill Parcells. Parcells watched some pre-draft workouts of Lewis and sent a tip to Payton about him. Two teams expressed interest in Lewis after the draft, one being the Saints and the other the Atlanta Falcons. He's a player to watch Thursday night as the Saints open the preseason against New England. He's little but he can absolutely run.
The Saints have signed veteran FB John Kuhn. The Black and Gold were getting thin at the position with an injury to Austin Johnson earlier this week.
Kuhn is a versatile fullback that brings experience to the Saints offense. He'll be able to contribute in the passing game, as well as the running game as a blocker. "I might even argue he could be an upgrade over Austin Johnson, he was with the Packers for years, and we know how effective that offense was. I think it's a pretty solid find at this point in camp for the Saints," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.
Kuhn is entering his 10th season in the NFL, and will compete with Sione Houma for what will likely be the same roster spot. "You could see a move like this coming a mile away. When you watched practice today, Houma isn't the answer at FB," explained Saints Color analyst Deuce McAllister.
Kuhn is already in West Virginia for training camp and expected to be on the practice field
Injury Update: Saints WR Brandin Cooks and CB Keenan Lewis missed practice for the second consecutive day. Lewis came off the PUP list on Wendesday and practiced, but has since missed two straight days of work. Keenan is coming off a hip injury last season, and while Sean Payton doesn't talk about injuries, his absence makes you wonder if something is up. Lewis has two years remaining on a restructured deal that guarantees the final two seasons' (2016 & 2017) salary. As for Cooks, his injury occurred two days ago but he should be fine and back on the field pretty soon. Cornerback Damian Swann also is among the players that were held out of practice. Swann suffered three concussions last season as a rookie.
Marcus Murphy: Clearly had his best day of practice. Murphy is in a real fight for a roster spot with the addition of Daniel Lasco added to the mix. Murphy was pretty solid as a return man last season but didn't factor into the offense. He broke off several nice runs today. "Murphy has stood out the last couple of days. He's done a good job of finishing runs," explained coach Sean Payton. The issue Murphy faces is ball security on punt returns. If can fix that issue from last season, he will likely make the team.
Kasim Edebali: Has the early edge for the top pass rusher position opposite of Cameron Jordan. Edebali is working the first team defense after Obum Gwachum opened training camp with the one's. I don't look at it as a promotion or demotion for either of the two, but Edebali is the better pass rusher at this point. However, Gwachem has showed the ability to pressure the passer in team drills with Davis Tull also getting in the sack mix.
Grayson vs McCown: I get asked this question all the time: How is Garrett Grayson coming along? I will answer it like this.. sometimes he looks really good, and other times he looks like a second year quarterback that is still learning the position at he NFL. Grayson has moments where you say 'wow pretty good throw' and other moments where you would say 'Yikes, what was he doing?' The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert doesn't think Grayson has made significant strides from year one to year two, and is not the quarterback of the future. I think that's a little too early to draw that conclusion just yet. As far as any kind of competition or threat to McCown as the primary backup to Brees, I wouldn't be ready to legitimize that notion either.
Defensive hype: Is it genuine? Are they improved? Time will tell but you can't help but get a little excited about how the defense has practiced and come along during camp. I have to see it in a regular season game or two before I'm on board but i've seen some signs of encouragment. The defense is getting after the passer with more regularity, the defensive backs are making plays on the ball, and you can certainly see a renewed sense of energy and swagger with the defense. The success the defense is having will go a long way for their confidence, but I think a big test will be next week when they practice against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Westbank: Saints defensive back Keenan Lewis is of the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. Lewis is coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season and the Saints are easing him back into the mix; he was on a bit of a pitch count in the early part of his return but he was moving around pretty well in his first day back. "He looked rusty, but that's understandable. "The good thing is it looks like it is just rust, and not anything to do with the hip injury," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.
Fairley & Harris: Safety Erik Harris and DT Nick Fairley returned to practice today for the first time since last week. The Saints didn't comment on the injury for either player, but obviously it wasn't anything signficant. Fairley and Harris will both have significant roles in the Saints defense this year.
Tyeler Davison: The second year defensive lineman has been impressive during camp to far, playing with pretty good power. "He wins at the line of scrimmage, you can see that he's strong. He's an under the radar player right now in camp," explained Hebert. Davison is working with the 1s & 2s in training camp, in the rotation with Sheldon Rankins and Nick Fairley.
R.J. Harris: He's starting to separate himself from the group of three or four players that are fighting for the 4th and 5th wide reciever spots. R.J. had his best practice of camp today, and built off another good practice back on Monday. Harris provides the Saints with some depth and the ability to play special teams which is coveted as the fourth Wide Out on game day. Brandon Coleman and Hakeem Nicks are fighting for essentially the same roster spot, and neither one can give you snaps on special teams. Harris looks like he has the early lead in the race.
Roster Moves: The Saints tweaked the roster today, officially removing Keenan Lewis from the PUP list and signing S Jamal Golden, LB Matt Shaughnessy, and OL Jordan Walsh. The team also released WR Kyle Prater, DB Alden Darby DL Lawrence Virgil.
We are keeping score at training camp, and throughout the first ive days the defense was getting the best of Drew Brees and the Saints offense. That wasn't the case today, the offense clearly had the upper hand.
There could be several reasons for this. The offense could be getting wise to the scheme the defense is running, and it could be just the fact that the offense just takes time to get into a groove. The defense however, continued to remain aggressive in trying to strip the ball out from running backs and ball carriers.
Roman Harper: The man can still play, there is no doubt about that. He and Kenny Vaccaro matched up well with the tight ends today during practice with a couple of pass break ups in team and individual drills. Harper wasn't just brought in for leadership, the team is still counting on him to make plays in order to make the roster. So far in camp Harper has done just that. The Saints feel like Harper can still be effective in the box in certain situations close to the line of scrimmage. "You can see how experienced he is, and how that gives him such an advantage in diagnosing plays early. That allows him to still react and make plays even if he's not as fast," explained Bobby Hebert.
Willie Snead: The first handful of practices during camp have been a show from either Michael Thomas or Brandin Cooks. Today was Willie Snead's best practice. "His best route is the slant route. He creates so much seperation because of how percise he runs his routes," said Hebert. I'm really excited to see this retooled receiving corps with Snead, Cooks, and Thomas. Now the pressure really turns up for Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Coleman, and R.J. Harris who are competing for two spots behind the top three. Coleman might end up being in trouble here because he doesn't play special teams well.
Andrus Peat: Be careful about rushing to judgement based on his rookie season. Peat has looked more comfortable at left tackle during camp, but has played well at right guard as well. Peat's in noticeably better shape this year. The pre-draft process for rookie offensive linemen is tough; traveling and eating right is hard to do. I've watched him throughout camp and he's lighter on his feet playing with better pad level with a greater degree of consistency in his second NFL camp.
Roster Update: The Saints made a couple of roster moves today, signing veteran tackle Tony Hills (he was with the team late last year) and waive/injured rookie Ryker Mathews. The Saints were getting a little thin along the offensive line so currently the roster sits at 90 players.