Under the new CBA from two years ago, they can't practice in full pads for more than three consecutive days. So, Sean Payton put them in shorts and helmets and shoulder pads today...so kind of a lighter practice, not nearly as much contact. They had their most physical training camp yesterday, and kind of backed off today. Then, two straight days in pads leading up to the Black and Gold Scrimmage this Saturday morning.
All in all, I thought Tulane QB Ryan Griffin probably had his best outing today, connected on three nice deep balls, and then right after that, he throws an interception. But I think he's making progress every day.
LT: Left tackle continues to be a concern...Talking to guys like Bobby and Hokie, we all noted that Jason Smith, who started out on the 2nd team LT behind Charles Brown, has been demoted to the third team, and Terron Armstead is now running with the 2's. Smith is getting pushed around by the 3rd team unit, and Hokie said he can't even play LT in shorts! I think that's the line of the day.
I just don't think Smith has it. It's obvious, when they move a veteran down like that from 2nd to 3rd, and they put in a rookie who has never had a snap with the NFL, that says something.
You just got to hope right now that Charles Brown can stay healthy, and he's the best LT on the roster. And he hasn't been able to stay healthy in his time through the NFL..but he says he's done a lot during the off-season to prepare, and he says he prepares better even before the game, than he did last year.
Standouts: I think the secondary continues to make strides. They are getting their hands on a number of footballs. For instance, Rafael Bush is a player who has contributed a lot on special teams, but he's now starting to make some plays defensively. I think there's some things to be encouraged about, especially on the secondary, on this D. I'm still concerned about the pass rush - will they generate it, who's going to be 'that guy?'
Notes: Curtis Lofton sat out again today with a sore back.
Practice closed: Thursday's practice has been moved indoors and will be closed to the public.
Martez Wilson down but not out: Obviously, Saints fans have been waiting with baited breath to find out the status of Martez Wilson, the OLB who was injured in practice yesterday. Today, Coach Payton told us Wilson dislocated his elbow and will be out for two to four weeks, and when he returns, he'll be fitted with a brace.
That still gives him enough time to get ready for week one. I think he's even got a shot to play in the Houston or Miami contests.
Also, Curtis Lofton was out of practice today. Payton said he had a sore back, and they just kind of rested him. That makes sense, because he's a veteran player and you know what you can get out of him, so why push him during training camp.
Jon Vilma has a new scar - He got a couple of stiches on the bridge of his nose due to a collision yesterday. Shouldn't slow him down.
Intensity: This was by far the most physical, intensity-driven practice. I really like what Kenny Vaccaro is doing. He's bringing a physical presence that this defense has lacked. I talked to him after practice, and he basically told me they have NOT asked him to dial it down, despite the fact that he's a rookie. You went 7-9 last year, why WOULD you dial it down? Jon Vilma said that he appreciates his intensity. They really needed it for this defense. Rob Ryan likes it, this guy has the attitude you like.
Also, Nick Toon really impressed today, he's having a solid camp. I thought Joe Morgan probably had his best practice of Camp so far. Along the line, they were doing some one-on-one pass rushing drills. From the looks of it, Charles Brown is going to be the starter, in all likelihood. His backup? I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be Terron Armstead, because Jason Smith has just been embarrassed at times by Saints defenders. That tells you that he's not very good, or that the pass rushers are better than they're getting credit for.
Cam Jordan looked really, really solid. A guy named Barraka Atkins (DE) looked really good, and LB Eric Martin, the undrafted rookie out of Nebraska, his stock also continues to rise.
Offense vs. defense: There wasn't an obvious disparity today in who won and who lost, but I'll give the edge to the offense. As we get closer to the Black and Gold scrimmage, you'll see the intensity ramp up a little more every day...and then he'll dial it back as we get closer to a preseason game.
Key injury: A big concern for me is Martez Wilson, the Saints OLB, who left the field a little early, and was favoring his left arm. They're already without Victor Butler, it would be a pretty significant blow.
However, after practice, it sounded like good news from the Coach, who said Wilson has an elbow injury. Payton says he doesn't think it's serious, but we've then again, we've found out in the past that the first look might not be something, and then it may turn out to be more significant.
We'll see what he does tomorrow and the next couple of days, though they might rest him. If he's healthy, that would certainly be good news, given that they're already down a LB in Victor Butler.
Standing out: I think Preston Parker, the WR formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had his best practice, he was impressive in one-on-one drills. Also, I think Charles Brown had his best practice at left tackle, holding off Will Smith and Junior Gallete quite a bit during team portion of drills, and in one-on-one pass protection. I think he's clearly got a stranglehold on the left tackle position.
Looking ahead to tomorrow: As we go on, we’ll see more and more contact every day. I’m looking forward to them putting in the red zone and 2-minute drill, and I think there’s a good possibility of them doing that tomorrow. And, I expect Payton to have the team go live (full contact) for a few plays sometime this week, likely by Thursday.
Pads popping? Well, sort of: Sean Payton kind of eased them into the first practice with full pads, that’s how he traditionally handles the first few days of camp. There wasn’t really a lot of hitting, really none at all. He wanted everybody kind of off the ground, they weren’t bringing anybody to the ground tackling. I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of that in training camp this season under Sean Payton. Typically in the past, he’s had one or two really live sessions in training camp, and that’s pretty much it. For the most part, that’s what we’ve had the first few days, but a few ‘thuds’ here or there.
It wsn’t the hottest of training camp days that I’ve been a part of, and you didn’t see anybody who was noticeably dehydrated. The good news is that we’ve got through without any issues like that. When you look around NFL camps, a couple of big-name players have gone down early in camp with serious injuries, and it looks like the Saints have escaped without anything like that.
What stood out on the first day with pads: Clearly, the offense got the better of the D when they went to the team portion, with First Team O going against First Team D.
I thought that Luke McCown probably right now has the edge for the backup QB position today, he looked pretty crisp today. Drew Brees was his usual surgical self, where he’s out there throwing back-shoulder fades.
Nick Toon continues to open some eyes, and seems to catch everything that’s thrown his way, along with Andy Tanner. You can’t deny that – Tanner, every time he’s targeted, he’s making plays. Kenny Vaccaro got beat by Tanner on one of those drills.
Speaking of Vaccaro, he’s a feisty player who has some confidence about him.
Could Tanner finally land on the roster for good? Maybe. When you look at that WR battle outside of Marques Colston and Lance Moore, it’s still open. Nick Toon is in that mix, Joe Morgan, Kenny Stills, Andy Tanner, Courtney Roby, there are a number of guys vying for time at that spot. Whatever happens, Tanner will need to be able to do something special on special teams to stand out.
Probably the biggest crowd of Training Camp so far this year, by the way.