by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Jun 5 2012 7:33AM
Saints players hit the field today for three days of the team's Mini-Camp at the training facility on Airline Drive. First things first, in all likelihood Drew Brees will NOT be in attendance as he is still not under contract with the Saints. With that said here is what to watch for.
Daniel with the first team
Quarterback Chase Daniel has been leading the Saints offense in Brees' absence throughout Organized Team Activities. While Daniel has looked solid for the most part, he's no Brees... and for that matter not too many people are in that class. The offense isn't as crisp, the ball comes out on time, but for the most part Daniel doesn't have the accuracy that separates Brees from most quarterbacks. If Daniel has to play at all this season, he should benefit from the extended reps he's received during the offseason. However, the Saints just look ordinary without Brees under center.
Different Defensive look
You'll notice almost immediately that the Saints defense has an entirely different philosophy under new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. It's yet to be seen if the defense will be better or worse, but from what I have seen, the defense won't be matched up in so many man to man coverage situations. Spags likes to keep his secondary in zone coverages, with their eyes on the football so they can make more attempts at interceptions. Now that's not to say he won't bring pressure, but it's not the sell out blitzes that we witnessed under former coordinator Gregg Williams.
The Saints all of a sudden are deeeeeeeep at this position. Fans have been clamoring for an upgrade for several years, and they've got it now. The Black and Gold brought in three linebackers during free agency in Curtis Lofton, David Hathorne and Chris Claiborne. Lofton is clearly the answer in the middle of the defense, and you can see it on the field. Lofton is all over the field, and I think his best football is ahead of him. Hawthorne will compete for a starting job at outside linebacker, as will Claiborne. Scott Shanle continues to be in the mix as well. Like it or not, the Saints have brought in several guys to compete with Shanle and none of them have been able to get him off the field.
The Saints might have pulled off another draft day steal with the selection of receiver Nick Toon out of Wisconsin in April's NFL draft. Toon has been impressive during the 6 practice sessions of Organized Team Activities. He's received high praise from the coaches and players in his short time with the Saints. I'm told he's picking up the offense at a "veterans pace." That bodes well for rookie. The coaches often say when a player isn't thinking, and just reacting, he often performs much better. Watch Toon catch everything, and I mean everything. He's a huge target with great hands. Brees is going to love this target when he gets his long term deal done.
First of all Kristian, I think you meant Chris Chamberlain, not Chris Claiborne...who was also a NFL linebacker, just not one who ever suited up for the Saints. I am excited about Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, and Chris Chamberlain. It's been a while since we've had such an influx of veterans at the LB position.
I'll be more comfortable once the Saints sign Drew Brees to his last NFL contract. That being said, once we get #9 back in the fold, we're gonna have a great year. I believe it's just a matter of when, not if...