The New Orleans Saints first fully padded practice held a surprise that I could not have anticipated. No, I speak not of the thunderstorms that would make for one of the most interesting post practice press conferences I have ever been at, but rather, the appearance of one of my favorite voices in sports.
I speak of his royal highness, King Peter of the house Sports Illustrated. That’s right, Peter King’s latest stop on his nationwide tour of NFL camps was the Greenbrier, and I could not have been more excited to meet him. I started doing my morning show with Kristian Garic back in October, and one of the sites that I get on each and every day to prepare is mmqb.si.com. It is one of the most unique and refreshing sites in the vast ocean of information known as the internet. In a day where blogs and quick write ups are King (pun absolutely intended,) MMQB rejects the notion that quicker is better. Instead they take their time to write informed, thoughtful pieces that are like a cool sip of water in a desert of noise. Obviously I am a fan, and I introduced myself grinning from ear to ear. Peter was everything you would want your King to be, grounded, kind, and willing to take time to talk to us lowly peasants.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRING, W.Va-The Greenbrier owner Jim Justice spent $30m to build in quick and attract Saints. Great fields.
That's enough of that - lets talk about the Saints first full day playing ACTUAL football.
The first day in pads is always an interesting one as it offers the first chance for the players to show just how good they truly are. The intensity level is raised, as is the competition. Throughout OTAs and mini-camps, there are multiple times where you will hear a guy say something like “just wait till we get the pads on!” Today it was time to put up or shut up.
It all got started with the inside run drill. Now the O-lineman view on inside run is that the defense is given a pretty big advantage because they do not have to respect the pass at all. There was no clear cut winner between the offensive and defensive lines as both sides had their wins and losses.
I will say, however, that Broderick Bunkley looked great clogging up the middle whenever the Saints would line up in an odd front defense. A great noseguard will hold his ground while holding up two offensive linemen, and not allow them to get to the next level and block a linebacker. Bunkley did this time and time again, and he will need to continue to do it if the Saints LBs and DEs are going to repeat their excellent performances from last season.
One cool moment during Inside drill was when the guys started getting a little chippy. Junior Galette and Zach Strief got into a bit of a shoving match with some choice words exchanged. This speaks of great leadership, because it shows that no one is taking it easy on each other out there… everyone is trying to dominate and get better.
After inside run was the one-on-one pass drills. Although this is also a defensively skewed drill, if you are one of the O-linemen who can win consistently, you are an absolute monster. The two matches to highlight took place between Zach Strief and Cameron Jordan, and Terron Armstead and Junior Galette. In the Strief/Jordan battle there is no doubt in my mind that the grizzled giant Strief won the day, as he didn’t allow a sack in the three reps against Jordan. This is a good sign for Saints fans, as it appears Strief is ready to build upon what was already the best year of his career last season.
In the other matchup, however, defense won the day as Galette showed off the combination of elite quickness and impressive moves that saw him reach double digit sacks last season. Fear the Beard indeed. Positive sign for Armstead, however, was the last rep in which he shut down one of the quickest inside spin moves I have ever seen.
The best part about all of this is that they have to come out each and every day and continue to compete and I am going to continue to watch with a smile on my face and a fat man bias in my heart. Until next time, may the odds be ever in your favor (hows that for a completely out of place reference).
PS The post practice press conference was absolutely insane - we carried the Saints players and coaches LIVE through a true West Virginia mountain thunderstorm. That’s right, team WWL is bringing you the MOST EXTREME Saints coverage you can possibly imagine. We are like the Surge soda of radio teams.