Kristian: Defense gaining swagger and confidence
Stout D: You can really see the confidence of the Saints defense growing day by day, in every practice. The team ended today’s practice with a 2-minute drill, with the added incentive of whichever side won the drill, they wouldn’t have to do the post-practice conditioning drill. Well, safety Malcolm Jenkins settled things by picking off a Drew Brees pass and forcing a turnover. So, the defense got to rest and watch the offense do the half-field gassers.
It really underscored how well this defense is doing and what Rob Ryan has been emphasizing. Players tell me they want to force more turnovers against the Raiders this Friday night. That’s what I love about this defense – they’re always in ‘attack mode.’
As for the offense – It’s not that Drew Brees or anyone in his crew are doing anything particularly wrong, this defense is just getting better and has shown a lot of improvement.
Injuries: One encouraging thing was to see running back Pierre Thomas return to the field. He didn’t participate in team drills, but was still on the field working out. Linebacker Martez Wilson was also back in a limited fashion
And, with the good news comes the bad: Special teams Captain Courtney Roby left the field early with what Coach Payton later described as a toe injury. We’ll hopefully learn more about that soon. Given the fact that the Saints special teams really struggled vs. Kansas City, it may be an opportunity for some of these younger players to step up and be special teams demons.
Speaking of special teams problems: What’s the root of their problems? It’s a combination of a couple of things: It’s the fact that you have a lot of young players, plus the fact that they’re not really tested that often. I mean, Thomas Morstead is usually booming it out of the end zone. So when a return IS put on, those guys just haven’t had the reps because Morstead is usually just so efficient.
What’s next: On Wednesday, the final practice that is open to the public starts at 8:50. I expect Payton will start winding things down. They were in shorts and shoulder pads today inside, and tomorrow they’ll be back in full pads. Expect to see a little more 2-minute drill work, and some 3rd and long drills, which we have yet to see.