Well Who Dat Nation, it's the final trimming for the Saints, as they have to cut the roster to 53 men today. I'll be updating this blog through the afternoon as word leaks out about players who didn't make the cut, though the Saints don't officially have to turn in their final roster until late Saturday afternoon.
Check back here (and remember to hit "refresh) to get the lastest on the Saints roster cuts. And, if you're keeping score at home, Click HERE to view my full roster predictions...
2:00 p.m. - Saints will cut CB Chris Carr, per a league source
2:40 p.m. - Saints will waive QB Ryan Griffin. If he's not picked up by another team, he's a candiate for the Saints practice squad.
2:55 p.m. - Fan favorite WR Andy Tanner will make the roster, per my sources.
3:05 p.m. - Saints will release LB Ray Shipmen
3:10 p.m. - Saints release WR & special teams ace Courtney Roby. Wow - A bit of a surprise move. It shows they want a pure receiving threat, and they've got other guys who can fill his role on special teams.
The Saint must trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Twenty-two players will be given the bad news, and for some it might just be their last chance at a gig in the NFL. Here are my projections as to what the final roster might look like.
Drew Brees is your starter… I don’t need to go into a lot of detail. Luke McCown’s experience gets him the nod as the backup. He played well in the preseason, and the Saints want the insurance if something should happen to Drew Brees. Rookie QB Ryan Griffin has played well enough to make a spot on the practice squad.
Running Backs (4):
Locked in: Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Travaris Cadet
Bubble: Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet. This might be one of the tougher decisions the Saints coaching staff will have to make. Last season New Orleans kept 5 running backs. I don’t see that happening this year. Khiry Robinson has been impressive in the preseason. He’s also had the most opportunities. Cadet was the darling of training camp last season, and found himself in the doghouse after two fumbles in the preseason against the Raiders. After Cadet didn’t make the trip to Miami. That leads me to believe Robinson makes the roster
Locked in: Jed Collins - There is really not a lot of explaining or analyzing to do here. He’s their guy and that’s that.
Wide Receiver (6)
Locked in: Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Nick Toon, and Kenny Stills, Courtney Roby and Preston Parker
Bubble: Andy Tanner, Saalim Hakiem
Keep this in mind when you pare the Saints roster: New Orleans will use tight ends Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson at wide receiver a lot, giving the team in essence 6 or 7 wide receivers. Andy Tanner is steady, sure handed and a guy that you can’t help but route for. However, he doesn’t do any one thing outstanding. Tanner is still eligible for the practice squad, if he isn’t snatched up by another team. I suspect Tanner will land on someone’s roster if he is let go. Hakiem has had his chances in the preseason, but just hasn’t been able to cash in on some plays
Tight End (3)
Locked in: Jimmy Graham, Benjamin Watson, Michael Higgins
Bubble: I really wouldn’t consider anyone to be on the bubble, it comes down to the three players listed above. Josh Hill, and Keavon Milton haven’t done much in camp and preseason.
Offensive line: (8)
Locked in: Brian De la Puente, Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Zach Streif, Charles Brown, Tim Lelito, Bryce Harris, and Terron Armstead. Marcel Jones
Bubble: Andrew Tiller, and Eric Olsen
The Saints typically keep a “swing” offensive lineman that can play two positions along the offensive line. That player is Tim Lelito (guard and center,) who had a nice heads-up play Thursday night when he picked up a Saints fumble in the endzone and scored a TD.
Terron Armstead will be the backup at tackle position. Tiller hasn’t been impressive in camp, and missed some time with an injury making him expendable.
Defensive line: (7)
Locked in: Cameron Jordan, Brodrick Bunkley, Aiem Hicks, Glenn Foster, John Jenkins, Tom Johnson, and Tyrunn Walker
Foster has been the star of the preseason with four sacks. Cameron Jordan looks poised for a breakout season.
Bubble: This is a pretty simple decision for the Saints. These are the guys who have stood out. If Kenyon Coleman weren’t lost for the season the cuts might have been a little more difficult.
Inside Linebackers: (5)
Locked in: Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber, Jonathan Vilma, Kevin Reddick
Bubble: Will Herring and Ray Shipman.
The Injury to Jonathan Vilma could be a game changer if they decide to place him on injured reserve. Vilma had his knee scoped a few weeks ago and the team hopes he’s ready for week 1. Herring and Shipman have been unimpressive in the preseason.
Outside linebackers: (5)
Locked in: Junior Galette, Martez Wilson, Parys Haralson, Jay Richardson, Rufus Johnson
Bubble: Baraka Atkins
The Saints have lost two starters at this position in the offseason and training camp (Victor Butler and Will Smith). This position would have been a bit more difficult to break down had it not been for those injuries. Galette and Wilson will be ready for week one.
Locked in: Malcolm Jenkins, Rafael Bush, Roman Harper and Kenny Vaccaro, Isa-Abdul Quddus
Bubble: Jim Leonard, Jerico Nelson. Leonard is worth keeping around if you can for leadership. Nelson is likely headed to the practice squad.
Locked in: Keenan Lewis, Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, Rod Sweeting, Chris Carr and Corey White
Bubble: Corey Lindsay
The Saints have the luxury of keeping just five Cornerback’s because of the versatility of Kenny Vaccaro at Safety. Vaccaro will likely be the “Nickle Back” and cover the slot receievers when the Saints go to that package. Corey White made the team a season ago, but Rod Sweeting is the bigger faster option. Chris Carr hasn’t done anything spectacular but veteran experience helps him stick. White could be on the roster instead of Carr. This one is up in the air.
Kicker: Garret Hartley - He’s had his best camp of his career
Punter: Thomas Moorstead - a huge weapon for this team
Long Snapper: Justin Drescher - you don’t get noticed until you snap the ball over someone’s head.
The league mandated roster cut to 53 players is Saturday afternoon at 5pm. Injuries on the defensive side of the football would have made these cuts a little more difficult especially at defensive line and Outside Linebacker. New Orleans has lost three players for the season on D. Kenyon Coleman (chest), Will Smith (knee) and Victor Butler (knee).
Down to 75: I was a little surprised by the cut of LB Eric Martin, because early on in camp he was one of those players that you penciled in as maybe having a chance to impress. He did some good things in the minicamps and OTAs, and then in training camp. Then, it just never materialized, and he was bothered by the injury bug for about a week, and didn't catch on as fast as he should. He was a player that came in with a lot of preseason hype, but it just didn't work out.
Next stop, 53: Now, the final cuts down to 53 have to be turned in to the league office by 5:00 p.m. Saturday, and I'll start getting information midday Saturday and will be filtering them out. Probably around the time LSU is kicking off, I'll have a copy of the final roster, or at least the cuts they've made. And those are going to be 22 tough cuts, I think you're going to see some surprises in there. Be sure to follow all the cuts as we find out about them at WWL.com, and you can follow me on Twitter @kristiangaric1. Plus, I’ll be calling in to Bobby and Deke’s Tiger Tailgating Saturday afternoon as I learn of the cuts.
Fan favorite? A lot of Who Dats are pulling for WR Andy Tanner to make the final 53...but I just don't think he's going to be there in the end. He's kind of caught up in a numbers game here in New Orleans. You have to ask, what does he do that's different, that is special, that sets him apart from any other receiver on this roster? And the answer is, nothing. He doesn't have blazing speed, though he's got good hands...but the Saints already have a few starters who have good hands and consistently catch the ball. And, he's not an exceptional special teams player. So, in the end, I don't think he lands on the final roster. He's a try-hard type of guy, and he's been cut and resigned 32 times since 2010, and I think he'll land somewhere...whetherit be on the practice squad, maybe in New Orleans, or on an active roster on another team. With 32 teams that carry 4 receivers each, you can't tell me that there are 128 better receivers than him.
A solid outing for the Saints down the road in Houston, and it was nice to see a good showing by the Who Dat Nation. There was a lot of Black & Gold in the stands at Reliant Stadium.
Here are three things I took away from Sunday’s preseason game #3:
1)Rob Ryan’s defense is for real. I think fans and analysts alike are now pretty confident that we won’t see a repeat of last year’s historically bad performance. Against the Raiders is one thing, but to have a good pass rush against the Texans is quite another, and the Saints show that they can get it done. As the Cajun Cannon says, they showed a “bend but don’t break” attitude at times, they were good on 3rd down, in the red zone, a goal line stand, and stopping the Texans on a 4-down situation. They also held Houston to three field goals that could have otherwise been 21 points.
2)Never say die: I thought it was a good test that both the offense and defense faced some adversity early and battled back. The offense started out with rough field position, but they shook off the rust and got going. Drew didn’t play as long as some fans would have liked, and as long as some had predicted, but c'mon...we’re talking about Drew Brees in a preseason game. Sean Payton saw all he needed to see. The sooner he got pulled, the better. (Just look at the Jets' Sanchez debacle.)
3)Work to do: Despite being 3-0 in the preseason for the first time since 2009, we learned that they're not quite a finished product yet. They still have some things to work to do on both sides of the ball before the season opener against Atlanta, now less than two weeks away.
Coming up: Thursday’s preseason game against Miami will be the final chance for bubble players to make an impression. You should not expect to see any starters play at all…I expect the backups will go the whole way. Ryan Griffin will likely start under center and go the whole way, though It’s clear to me that the backup QB position has been locked in by Luke McCown.
Relatively healthy? Good to see that Marques Colston has been back at 3 out of the 4 last practices, and OL Jahri Evans was also at practice today. Mind you, we don't know how full their participation was, because unlike training camp, we're not allowed to watch the entirety of the practices, whether indoors or out. We can watch certain portions or practice, but not the team portion, so it’s hard to gauge how much a player participates. NFL rules don’t require coaches to list a participation report during the preseason. But, still, it's a good sign that the team is getting healthier.
Up next: Tomorrow is a bit more than a walk-through, but not a full contact practice. The team will travel on Saturday, and then on Sunday, Payton says the starters will all play at least a full half. I also expect that one group from the offense or defense will play a little into the second half, depending upon who gets how many snaps in the first half.
The real deal: This will be the closest in the preseason you'll get to a real game, and while the score doesn't count in the preseason you really want to see the Saints be competitive in the first half. You're going up against a quality opponent, and this is a really loud stadium (though, not as loud as the Superdome.) Plus, it's on a Sunday, which gives it even more of a real-game-feel to it. I can't wait.
Cut: I'm not surprised OT Jason Smith was cut. He started at with the #2's and struggled there, then moved to RT with #3's, and even had trouble there. So, it was just a matter of time before he was trimmed from the roster. So, the LT starting spot now belongs soley to Charles Brown with Rookie Terron Armstead as the backup.
Rested: The Saints are continuing to play the cautious approach getting wide receiver Marques Colston ready for week 1. He sat out of practice on Wednesday. Fullback Jed Collins also missed practice (undisclosed) along with linbebackers Will Herring (undisclosed), Chris Chamberlain (undisclosed), offensive guard Jahri Evans (undisclosed.) OLB Junior Gallete is still out with a leg injury.
Looking ahead to Houston: Sunday when the Saints battle the Texans it should be a great measuring stick for the Black and Gold. The Texans present a number of challenges for Rob Ryan’s defense and likewise for Houston’s defense against the Saints offense. How do they handle pass rusher J.J Watt for the Texans? Can the pass rush generate the dominate performance against a much better offensive line for Houston? The Texans and Saints are expected to play their starters into half time and maybe one series out of the locker room.
After two days off, the Saints returned to work and look to be as healthy as they have at any point in camp.
Several key players were back on the field this afternoon. Wide Receiver Marques Colston, LB Curtis Lofton, OLB Martez Wilson were a few Saints that were back at practice. WR and special teams ace Courtney Roby (toe) also returned to practice today.
Cuts: The Saints waived five and cut three veterans today. Among the veterans released: WR’s Patrick Crayton and Steve Breaston, along with QB Senaca Wallace. The five rookies released include LB Chase Thomas, whom fans had high hopes for. The other four rookies released were DB A.J Davis, WR Jarrod Fayson, DB Dion Turner, and OG Ricky Henry.
I wasn’t surprised by the moves today. The Saints have to trim the roster to 75 players (it currently sits at 81) by next Tuesday and to 53 by September 1st. The release of WR’s Crayton and Breaston clearly point to the development of Kenny Stills and Nick Toon at WR. I think when it’s all said and done the Saint will keep these five wide receivers: Colston, Moore, Stills, Toon, and Roby. Keep in mind Jimmy Graham is used often as a wide receiver, so that affords the Saints the luxury of keeping just five at wide-out.
Surprise play of D-line: Keep an eye on the development of Akiem Hicks on the defensive line. Cameron Jordan is the best player on D, but Hicks and Jordan might prove to be two of the best in the league before the year is over. DE Glenn Foster and DE Tyrunn Walker have also flashed at times. The Saints are really talented up front with the questions remaining at linebacker at this point. Rookie NT John Jenkins has also looked like a solid addition to the line through two preseason games.
Houston, we might have a problem: While the Saints made it look easy against the Raiders last week, it likely will be difficult to repeat that performance against a much better Houston Texans team this Sunday on the road. The Texans are a playoff team from a year ago, and have the talent to contend for an AFC championship. I’m interested in watching how Charles Brown and the rest of the Saints offensive line matches up against the Texan’s D-line and J.J Watt.
Well, either the Raiders are that bad, or the Saints have improved that much. But I think it's really combination of both.
The Saints have improved from week one, and the Raiders are just a bad team. The D and offense looked really good, and so did the special teams (compared to a week ago.) The special team got maybe a "D" last week, and they went to an "A" this week. The only negative I think we saw was the fact that they were not able to cash in on points and had to settle for field goals. It was total domination by the Saints in the first half.
It was obvious that Luke McCown moved the football better last week vs. KC compared to what Seneca Wallace attempted on Friday night. Given Wallace's poor night, McCown is the leader in the clubhouse.
What stood out: I like how the defense recorded a safety, and stopped the Raiders on a 4th down play...and also registered a number of sacks and forced some turnovers. Glenn Foster continued to flash, I think he's going to be a real fine.
Offense: Drew Brees looked mid-season form, he was really sharp. The whole offense looked sharp, and it was great to see Nick Toon and Kenny Stills have great games.
2nd Half: A lot of Who Dats complained online that the 2nd half “fell apart.” Really, it’s not to worry. that's just from having younger players in there.
Looking ahead: The Texans are a LOT better than the Raiders. I mean, better offensively and defensively, the Texans are much better. This will be as close to a real game you'll see next week. You'll see the first team play for a short while out of the locker room after halftime.
Anything different about this camp?Looking back on this last day of Training Camp, I don’t know about different, but you can see the competitive drive this team has.The competition offensively and defensively from this team is something you can see, it’s readily apparent.It’s healthy for this team.When they’ve had success is when they’ve had these really competitive camps.And with Coach Payton been back, that’s the earmark of one of his teams;Nothing is guaranteed for anyone, and they’ve all got to go out and fight for his job (with the exception of Drew Brees, of course.)
Impact of injuries:Taking a look at the injuries this team has sustained over Training Camp, with WR Joe Morgan lost for the year, and Kenyon Coleman, we’ve talked about that ad nauseam …but also today, Coach Payton confirmed ILB Jon Vilma was out getting his knee scoped, and he’s going to be out for a few weeks.It gives the opportunity for a guy like David Hawthorne.They’re paying him starter money, about $3 million a year…he was banged up quite a bit last year, and now he has an opportunity to come in and earn that spot in the middle next to Curtis Lofton in the 3-4 defense.The amount of money they’re paying him, they want him to work out.That’s an awful lot of money to pay a special teams player who gets on the field occasionally when he’s making that kind of jack.
Also, Coach Payton said today that WR Marques Colston and LB Junior Gallettee will not play against the Raiders.No new news on Courtney Roby, who left practice earlier this week with a toe injury.
Saints vs. Raiders, what to watch:I want to see if the special teams have made the improvements, have they increased their passion, their energy, and their efforts following the first outing against KC.I also want to see how well Seneca Wallace moves this offense.And, thirdly, I want to see if the defense can force turnovers.Last week against KC, we saw them get after the quarterback pretty well…but now, how long can they stay in there and force some turnovers.Also, can they get take care of the alignment errors, that you heard them talk so much about this week…The alignment and assignment errors last week against KC is something they have got to get corrected.
Anything different about this camp? Looking back on this last day of Training Camp, I don’t know about different, but you can see the competitive drive this team has. The competition offensively and defensively from this team is something you can see, it’s readily apparent. It’s healthy for this team. When they’ve had success is when they’ve had these really competitive camps. And with Coach Payton been back, that’s the earmark of one of his teams; Nothing is guaranteed for anyone, and they’ve all got to go out and fight for his job (with the exception of Drew Brees, of course.)
Impact of injuries: Taking a look at the injuries this team has sustained over Training Camp, with WR Joe Morgan lost for the year, and Kenyon Coleman, we’ve talked about that ad nauseam …but also today, Coach Payton confirmed ILB Jon Vilma was out getting his knee scoped, and he’s going to be out for a few weeks. It gives the opportunity for a guy like David Hawthorne. They’re paying him starter money, about $3 million a year…he was banged up quite a bit last year, and now he has an opportunity to come in and earn that spot in the middle next to Curtis Lofton in the 3-4 defense. The amount of money they’re paying him, they want him to work out. That’s an awful lot of money to pay a special teams player who gets on the field occasionally when he’s making that kind of jack.
Also, Coach Payton said today that WR Marques Colston and LB Junior Gallettee will not play against the Raiders. No new news on Courtney Roby, who left practice earlier this week with a toe injury.
Saints vs. Raiders, what to watch: I want to see if the special teams have made the improvements, have they increased their passion, their energy, and their efforts following the first outing against KC. I also want to see how well Seneca Wallace moves this offense. And, thirdly, I want to see if the defense can force turnovers. Last week against KC, we saw them get after the quarterback pretty well…but now, how long can they stay in there and force some turnovers. Also, can they get take care of the alignment errors, that you heard them talk so much about this week…The alignment and assignment errors last week against KC is something they have got to get corrected.
Pads popping: We saw a little bit of live goal line today, which we didn't think we'd see. For the most part, the offense got the better of the defense. It's good to see Pierre Thomas back out here today participating in team drills. Now, it's just about getting ready for the Oakland Raiders.
Where's Vilma? OLB Jon Vilma was not out on the field at all. Usually, if a player is rested, they're still out on the field, but Vilma wasn't anywhere to be seen. Kind of peculiar, but when we asked Coach about it after practice, he said, didn't offer any info about Vilma's status.
Injuries: It's pretty much been the same. Martez Wilson was back out, but not participating in the full team portion of practice. As I mentioned above, PT was back in team drills. They're getting healthier, that's the good thing. They haven't sustained any significant injuries since the WR Joe Morgan and DE Kenyon Coleman injuries.
Standouts: As far as who stood out, on the D, you can see where guys like DE’s Glenn Foster and Tyrunn Walker are climbing up the depth charts pretty quickly.
Drew: Drew ran the scout team, which was different to see. They were just running Raiders plays, that zone-read option, so don’t expect that you're going to see him run that…that was just to get them ready for the Raiders and give them a good look.
Looking ahead: Tomorrow's indoor practice is essentially a walk-through, getting their i's dotted and their t's crossed. Friday, I'm looking forward to seeing how the special teams do this Friday, and whether the defense can get off the field on third down, and what kind of tempo the offense can work with.
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.
Going live: Today was what everybody was waiting for, the short-yardage live portion of practice. The D started out pretty impressive, stopping the offense on third and one. I mean, they went live tackling, they went all out. The D stopped the offense on 2 straight plays, but overall, the offense came back. Now, that's a situation that benefits the offense, it's an advantage for them more so than for the defense. It's a third and short play, the offense should be able to pick up one yard. And the offense rebounded later, and ended up winning up the total team period.
Beating a dead horse? I know I’ve said it a lot, but the secondary on this team has been impressive during training camp and through one preseason game. The offense can't get the ball deep on this secondary, so that's a positive sign, if they can get it translated to game days. Now, the Saints offense is still trying to figure out who their deep threat is to replace Joe Morgan, but they're just that talented in the secondary. They've shown they know who to cover, and not allowing someone from getting behind them, they've not given up the big play.
Special work: They focused yesterday and today on special teams issues. Coach Payton talked about that Friday night after the game, and the last two games, you saw where they want to get back to getting the alignment issues solved, and fixing the energy and effort level.
Who won the day? I'd say the offense got the better of the defense, but not by much. It's been a mixed bag. I can tell you this: It has not been an all-out domination by the offense like we saw last year. The D has their moments, the offense has their moments, and that's good to see.
Injuries: No new news on LB Junior Galette. RB Pierre Thomas didn't practice. And, LB Chris Chamberlain is the newest face to not practice.
Up next: Practice is closed Tuesday, open on Wednesday, they'll do a closed walk-through on Thursday, then break camp. On Friday night, you'll probably see the starters play into the second period. And, Friday night is the first time we'll see QB Seneca Wallace play. Coach Payton says he'll be taking some snaps vs. the Raiders.
Back to work: The team has an indoor practice today, closed to the public. We'll be there, and I'll give you a report here at WWL.com as soon as they're finished. The coaches watched film yesterday, and today they'll probably be in in shorts and shoulder pads, doing a lot of special teams work, and continuing with installation. Sometime this week heading into the Raiders I do expect them to go live with the goal-line installation.
Overall grade: Looking back at Friday night’s game, I think both the offense and defense were average, maybe a 'C" at best. They weren't exactly awful in any particular area. One thing that concerns me though: Special teams. They gave up a lot of return yards, and that's a bit alarming, something they definitely want to get cleaned up. Going back to last year, they had problems with coverage on returns, and also in returning the ball. Coach Payton hit on it 3 or 4 times in the post-game press conference.
All in all, an average showing, but it was about what you would expect in a preseason contest.
Vanilla D - The defense was average as well. They didn't appear to settling in very well at first, but got better at controlling things and getting after the passer. That first series was really rough. Mind you, you're not going to see much scheming in the preseason. It's hard to tell what the coaches are looking at. They may be looking at a certain player in a certain position, and their whole game plan can be to get a certain look from a certain player.
I sat down with the Cajun Cannon following the final pre-game practice at Saints Training Camp. Here is what Bobby said is what he is looking for in the Friday night game vs. Kansas City:
Looking for a good drive: I’m just looking for a good 8, 9, 10 play drive, get into the end zone, and then sit them down. You know, you want to keep people healthy, and you want the Saints just to set the tone from the get-go. Especially in that first quarter, when you see players on both sides of the ball that are healthy.
Defense: Can’t wait to look at the Chief's offense against the Saints defense. Andy Reid is a lot like Sean Payton. We take for granted how efficient we are in passing the ball...we were number one in passing last season. Well, guess who was dead-last in passing last season? The Chiefs. So, that WILL change under Andy Reid. He makes that much of a difference. So, it will be interesting to see if our defense can get after the QB.
Who gets the playing time? Realistically, all the young defensive ends. You want to have Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks ready to roll in that first game against the Falcons, so a lot of those young DE's are going to get a chance. There are four or five of them, when you look at the roster.
I'd say on the offensive side, K-Rob, Khry Robinson. He's like Chris Ivory Junior. He'll run hard, and in wanting to keep the backs healthy, he could get 15 carries. If the offensive line can give him a crease, he runs with a lot of power.
3 things The Cannon is looking for:
1. The first unit, I'll be looking to whether they're in control of the game...that the O can sustain a drive, that the D can force a 3 and out.
2. Backup QB: Who's going to back up Drew Brees? It's an opportunity for Luke McCown, with Seneca Wallace sitting out with that groin pull. So, kind of looking at Griffin as a practice squad player.
3. Who's going to win in the trenches? I know it's a preseason game, but are we going to be blocking or able to stop the run? That's something you have to build upon. Looking at the defense, I’m looking to see whether they get the confidence. It all starts here, even though it's a preseason game...it's ultimately about stopping the run, stopping the QB, and setting the tone.
The bad news: The injury bug really hit this team hard. Two players who factored in pretty well into the Saints’ plans are lost for the year. WR Joe Morgan has a partial tear of his ACL and a tear of his meniscus, and he’s going to have surgery today and be out for the rest of the season. Also, DE Kenyon Coleman tore his pectoral muscle and is also lost for the season. The Saints brought in Coleman free agency, and is a player whom Rob Ryan called the ‘best run defender in the 3-4 in the NFL,’
How serious is this? Well, you don’t EVER want to have injuries, but I guess you’d rather have them early, so that players can have time to kind of carve their niche out, and you’ll get time to find out who is its that’s going to take those guys’ spots. And right now at WR, it figures to be Kenny Stills out of Oklahoma. And as far as Kenyon Coleman, it’s an opportunity for DT Akeem Hicks to step up and be the run defender. So on a scale of 1-10, I’d give it about a 7…even Coach Payton called it “significant.” But, remember, we haven’t even played the first game yet. It’s early. It will give guys more opportunities to get some reps in the preseason, and certainly more practices. I’ll expect that they will bring in a veteran DE who has played in the 3-4 scheme, to kind of soften the burden who are already on their roster. They can look at some other free agent DE’s.
The other 4: RB Pierre Thomas LB Junior Galette, WR Saalim Hakim, and DB Keenan Lewis all left the field today with trainers. Coach Payton didn’t elaborate much, but then again, he doesn’t ever say much about injuries until he has to. It could be heat related or a muscle pull for the four players, and we’ll probably learn more tomorrow. Coach always plays info about injuries close to the vest.
Who stood out: Ironically, WR Kenny Stills looked pretty solid. He’s making real strides and good progress. For the most part, the emphasis on running the football is still very much there. One thing they appear focused on heading into the KC game is establishing that identity (the running game) as a part of the offense. I thought in the one-on-one DB vs. WR drills, the defense stood out. Keenan Lewis had another solid practice.
Another player to keep an eye one, who is getting rave reviews from other players: Rookie OT Terron Armstead. Several players I talked to today said this guy will wow you with his athleticism at 310 pounds. He’s been impressive, though he’s still a little raw and needs more time to develop. He could turn into a heck of a football player.
Tomorrow: Thursday’s practice is Indoors, closed to the public, 4:30 to 6:30. We’ll be there and give you a full recap after practice, but I don’t expect much hitting on the day before a game. They might even dress out in just jerseys and helmets, like a minicamp practice….light stuff, sort of a walkthrough.
How hot was it? Man, this was THE hottest day of practice so far. In fact, it was so hot, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for Snapple. (Yea, I stole that from somewhere.)
Following practice, I spoke with our resident pro Bobby Hebert on his thoughts about Tuesday's practice.
He noted that the Saints spent a significant portion of practice in “2 minute” situations on Tuesday. The “Cajun Cannon” also told me the defense did a solid job going up against the high powered offense, forcing an interception on the first play. Safety Roman Harper jumped an underneath route to Lance Moore and picked off Drew Brees. “Roman Harper had a nice break on the ball, he looked like Darren Sharper, how he caught it. He would have returned it to the opponent’s 15 yard line,” said Hebert.
On the second series of 2 minute offense vs. defense, the 1st teamers forced Drew Brees on a 4 plays and out. “Rob Ryan mixed it up and throws a blitz in there, and it helped squash the down,” Hebert said. Bobby also noted Roman Harper would have a sack on the blitz called by Ryan.
And, Hebert also pointed what he noticed as a weakness for the Saints defense in camp so far. “You look at these outside linebackers, the flat routes or swing routes. The offense has been able to throw the ball there and pick up 15 yards.” He also added that Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan might be concentrating on other aspects of the defense at this point in camp, so it’s premature to draw any conclusions this early on. “I thought though overall, the defense won this practice. It’s positive stuff that I am seeing from the D,” Hebert said.
Bobby was also pleased to see how the Saints placed so much emphases on the run in practice today. “I don’t think I have ever seen them run the football this much in practice,” Hebert joked this morning. “That’s the mindset, they want to establish that identity early in practice and hopefully it will carry over to the games.” The rushing attack has looked better in camp, and we’ve seen a lot of nice runs in camp so far, from all of their running backs. Mark Ingram looks especially quicker and lighter on his feet this season, and that should pay some dividends in the regular season, the Cannon noted.
Hebert said he was really looking forward to the "goal line" session of practice, but that didn't happen today. “And, Coach Payton said after practice that installation period won't happen until next week,” he said. “However, that should be a good intense session. There is always a ton of big hits in goal line. You just hope you don't get anyone hurt."
Dat Defense - Today, we saw a lot of 2-minute offense, and the defense shined again, keeping Drew Brees out of the end zone. Roman Harper, I thought, had his best practice so far. In fact, the first-team unit in the first session of the team portion was 1 & out. Roman Harper picked off Drew Brees and it probably would have been a pick-six in a game. The defense continues to make more strides, and that's a positive and encouraging sign. I thought for the most part, you look at the defense as a whole, they’re just flying around, and able to get their hands on a lot of footballs. I can't wait to see what they can do Friday night against the Chiefs.
Now, just how much of the improvement at practice will translate to improvement on the field? Well, I think it gives them confidence. They clearly believe in the scheme, and what Rob Ryan is trying to sell here. I think it will translate into some success...but how much? We'll see. I don’t think you can venture a guess on that at this point, but it's encouraging. They're getting a pass rush...Roman Harper, in addition to the interception, also would have had what was a sack of Drew Brees.
It keeps you running: Today, they spent a LOT of time on the running game, trying to establish that run. And you heard Sean Payton say back when he was reinstated that he wanted to get back to running the football. And it's evident by the way they practice in team portion, typically, four or five of the first plays were running plays...and that's something that you haven't always seen from this team.
Coming up: As we inch closer and closer to the preseason game, you're going to see less and less contact. Coach Payton is getting them ready for the game, and he's going to back off of them a bit. You won't see goal line installation, the more intense portion of practice, according to Coach Payton. So that will be in next week as they prepare for the Raiders, but mostly this week we'll see installation, and a bit of special teams. Friday night, I'm looking to see who is going to be the standout player on special teams. That's where a lot of these guys have to make their mark.
Injuries: Still waiting for the update on Joe Morgan. DE Kenyon Coleman today left practice with a chest injury. Jon Vilma also rested today from practice, but for the most part, the big news is awaiting word on Joe Morgan, who is getting a 2nd opinion on his knee.
Monday inside: The Saints worked indoors Monday afternoon at their training facility on Airline drive in shorts and shoulder pads. There was a fair amount of contact and a lot of energy at the practice. Coming off the Black and Gold Scrimmage, Sean Payton scaled practice back a bit.
Joe Morgan: Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan is getting a second opinion on his knee, according to Payton. Morgan injured his knee in the scrimmage on Saturday. With the injury bug biting a bit at the wide-out position, the Saints made a few roster moves to help soften the blow, Including the signing of WR Steve Breaston to a 1-year deal.
If the news is serious on Morgan, that might thrust WR Kenny Stills into action as the teams’ deep threat. Interestingly enough, the team’s former “deep threat” Devery Henderson is no longer available. Morgan was having a solid camp, and you could see he has become a more efficient route runner and was catching the ball more smoothly. Morgan also is a bit of factor in the Saints running game, considered a solid blocker on the outside.
Off PUP: Wide reciever Marques Colston and defensive back Patrick Robinson returned to the practice field today after starting training camp on the PUP list. Colston and Robinson did individual drills but sat out of team drills in practice. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma sat out of practice today; Coach Payton says Vilma will be back on the practice field tomorrow morning.
Transactions: The Saints made a number of roster moves today. The kicking battle in camp was pretty short lived. The Saints waived Jose Maltos, and waive injured WR Chris Givens. The Saints also signed WR Steve Breaston. The Cardinals selected Breaston in the 5th round in the 2007 NFL draft. Breaston also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs. His best season came in 2008 when he caught 77 passes for 1,006 yards. The Cardinals lost to the Steelers that season in Super Bowl XLIII. The Saints worked out Breaston and Laurent Robinson over the weekend.
What to watch for at Tuesday’s practice: We haven't seen "Goal Line Installation" yet. With the first pre-season game looming on Friday night against the Chiefs, I suspect we'll see that period either tomorrow or Wednesday. The Goal Line installation period is one of the most fun sessions of camp. The team usually goes "live" (full tackling) for about 5-8 plays with some pretty intense action. It's where you'll see and hear the violence of this game up close and personal.
The Saints have picked up more help at the wide receiver position.
A league source confirms the Saints have signed WR Steve Breaston. Breaston was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2007 draft in the 5th round, and was most recently in the Kansas City Chiefs lineup.
Is this related to WR Joe Morgan’s injury? Well, In some way, shape or form, it's probably related, but won't know for sure until later today. Typically, you don't bring someone in, work them out, and then sign them to a one-year deal unless there is a roster spot available. It could also mean that they’re not satisfied with someone’s performance in the WR position, or that Joe Morgan’s injury is more serious than initially thought.
We’ll find out more after today’s afternoon practice from Coach Payton about both Morgan’s injury and the signing of Breaston. Today’s practice from 2:30 to 6:30 is closed to the public, but media is allowed to observe. We’ll have a full recap following practice, along with Coach Sean Payton’s Q&A with the media sometime after 6:30.
It was an impressive day for the defense at the Saints’ Black and Gold Scrimmage. They would've had about five sacks, a couple of interceptions, and a couple of turnovers. Remember earlier in the week I said I wanted to keep an eye on the pass rushing...they were able to generate that today.
All in all, I thought the first-team offense looked crisp. Tight end Jimmy Graham had a pretty solid day. I thought they ran the football a lot better, though Mark Ingram did have a fumble; he's got to take care of that. They moved the football pretty well as a first-team offense. After that, the second-teamers offense was not as impressive with moving the football.
On the first-team defense, a guy that continues to stand out is cornerback Keenan Lewis in that secondary, he re-routes defenders. Safety Kenny Vaccaro also applying that continued edge that we've seen from him. I think this defense is going to be better than people give them credit for. From what I saw today, I'm encouraged.
Who won? At times the defense looked impressive, but most of the 5 sacks came against the 2nd and 3rd teams. Still, LB Junior Galette had a really solid day, he probably would have had two sacks. DT Akiem Hicks had back-to-back sacks in the team portion of the session.
The offense with Drew Brees at the helm moved the football vs. the 2nd team, but when it was the 1's vs. the1 1's, the Saints defense held Brees out of the end zone on their drive. That drive was stalled by a procedure penalty by LT Charles Brown, which I'm sure Sean Payton is not happy about, that's a drive-killer. Overall, I'd have to say if you were keeping score, the #1 defense beat the #1 offense. The #1 offense beat the #2 defense.
Who Dat Nation in the house: Man, what a strong turnout for the crowd, more than 5,000 people turning out in the heat, lined up past Zephyr Field. Drew Brees said when he was driving up, he thought there must be a Zephyrs game with the amount of people that were lined up.
Injuries: A relatively injury-free day...outside of WR Joe Morgan and RB Travaris Cadet going down. We didn't get the details from Payton after practice as to their status, we'll find out more on Monday. Players are off Sunday, and then gear up for the first preseason game this coming Friday night.
Most impressive: What really stood out to me was the secondary for the first team and the second team unit. Keenan Lewis continues to get his hands on a number of footballs, batting them down. I think that might turn out to be the strength of this defense...not necessarily the pass rush, because I think that's a bit of a question mark.
It's certainly looking like the secondary is going to be able to make some plays on the football.
Not a bright idea: The other thing is the fan who charged the field. What a knucklehead. And I'm not advocating this sort of thing, but if you're goin to be that kind of idiot, at least wait until game day. He said he wanted to give the team a piece of their mind, and alcohol was apparently a factor. It's not wise to charge a football field at an NFL Training Camp. And these are JPSO officers working security, so now you're facing a felony charge of battery upon a police officer...not to mention you'll probably never get to see another practice again. In the words of Fred Sandford, ‘You Big Dummy!’
Saturday’s scrimmage: This is the closest thing that you're going to see to a preseason game. There will be some live moments, they'll clear the field, and it will be game-like situations. Now, they're not going to be bringing guys down to the ground, there's not going to be a lot of that.
Back on the field: Running back Mark Ingram was back at practice after sitting out yesterday.
Coach Payton decided to move the practice inside today...I think he feels like he can get more done without being in the heat. (Friday's practice, though, which was scheduled to be inside, has now been moved outside & is open to the public.)
Movin' on up: The offense is really humming, they’re moving the football pretty well. But, at the same time, I think the defensive secondary had a really solid day today, getting their hands on a number of footballs. Safety Kenny Vaccaro continues to assert himself, and also cornerback Kennan Lewis really stood out. And, I think Malcolm Jenkins is having a better camp that he’s given credit for, he’s really rebounded nice. I think he’s a little tired of hearing people say he’s underperformed in his time with the Saints. He had a really good practice today.
Overall, I think the defense is heading in the right direction, and you can see strides they’re making.
Tomorrow: I think tomorrow will be a lot like today, not a lot of hitting. The coaches are saving that for Saturday, but I would not anticipate an all-out hitting war on Friday.
What to watch: On Friday, I want to watch the offense and seeing some of these new players…WR Kenny Stills and Nick Toon, to see how they’re developing, along with guys like Andy Tanner and TE Ben Watson teaming up with Jimmy Graham…that’s going to be a formidable duo with those two. I really want to see what kind of chemistry they’ll have with Drew Brees. Defensively, I want to see how this pass rush is developing…it’s hard to tell how well the pass rush is doing, though, because they’re not live and they can’t hit the QB’s. But that’s something I’m following pretty closely.
Injury / rested: LB Curtis Lofton was back at practice today after sitting out a couple of days with a sore back.
Mark Ingram was rested today, he sat out of practice. Coach Payton said he gave him the day off, but didn’t go into any details about a possible injury or anything like that, so Ingram should be back on the field tomorrow.