Today was a sad day. I woke up excited to start our "Double Coverage" broadcast and discuss everything we had witnessed over the weekend, and even more excited to watch another great Saints practice.
The first day in pads was more entertaining than every single OTA we witnessed put together. As an O-lineman I had a particularly good time watching inside run and one-on-one pass rush as mentioned in my previous blog post. However, I soon found out that I would be denied the chance to watch these modern day titans scrap, as we ran into a bit of a logistical nightmare.
"Double Coverage" runs from 6am-9am central time, however - and hold onto your seats big curveball comin here - since we are in West Virginia the show is on 7am-10am. That should be great news right? An extra hour of sleep!!! How could my job possibly get any better? Honestly, it couldn't. Still, I had overlooked one critical detail. Practice starts a little after 8am, which means that because of my extreme dedication to "Double Coverage," I have to miss parts of practice - worse, I was unsure as to exactly what parts.
As soon as the show wrapped I packed my bag and hustled to catch multiple shuttles to make it to the practice field. I was grinning from ear to ear, as I thought I had made it just in time to watch the day's one-on-one pass rush. Much to my dismay, I was a few minutes too late. Imagine my added disappointment when I learned that one of the most exciting inside run drills had also already wrapped up!
I fought back tears as the realization set in that I would be denied my daily dose of physical line play. Sure, there were team periods left where we still learned a lot, but I am a man who wants to see full belly-to-belly contact in a more intimate setting. Cry for me not, loyal readers, for where there is a will there is a way. In this age of technology I shall find a way to watch these drills each and every day, so I can give you the subpar insight that you have come to know and love. Until tomorrow!
P.S. Listen to "Double Coverage" tomorrow morning 6am-9am (central!) when we announce the winners of the slightly-coveted 6 available spots in the 12 man "Double Coverage" Fantasy League! We have so many great entries, and honestly, it hurts my heart that we can't put everyone in. But just like Saints camp, cuts must be made! If you are reading this and you don't get in tomorrow, just know that I love you and I will go to bed in a pool full of tears as I mourn what could have been…
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.
Its day four here at the Greenbrier, and finally, for the first time, I got to see what we actually travelled all this way for… practice! Yes, Allen Iverson, I am indeed talking about practice and I am happy to be doing so. Due to my adventures through the hotel itself, I was unable to make practice yesterday so this was my first opportunity to put eyes on this Saints team this week.
When most people watch practice, they only want to watch the sexy positions and the sexy plays. Quarterback, wide recievers, running backs… these are the TV-friendly positions that get the girls. I care not for female attention because there is only one position group that really gets my blood going, and they are the big men up front. The first line of defense, the big uglies, the rotund wrecking balls… of course I'm talking about the offensive line.
If the Saints are going to live up to expectations this year, it is going to start up front. If day one is any indicator of things to come, Saints fans will have a lot to cheer for this fall. The offense looked dominant today as they pretty much had their way with the defense throughout the day. I wouldn't read too much into this, as tomorrow, the defense could come back and do the exact same thing - but there are a lot of positives to take out of their performance today.
I think Tim Lelito has continued to show improvement. It never hurts when you have two pro bowl guards next to you, but that shouldn't take away from what Lelito has been able to do. Despite the fact that he is competing with a 13-year veteran, Lelito continues to take all of the first team reps and looks more and more comfortable doing so. The calls are happening quicker, and the chemistry seems to be quickly developing.
Speaking of chemistry, Terron Armstead and Ben Grubbs seem to be gelling very nicely heading into year two. Armstead is one of the big question marks that no one is asking questions about, but everything I have seen so far leads me to believe that he is developing into a potentially dominant left tackle. His footwork on pass sets looks excellent, and the work that he gets going against Cam Jordan, Junior Gallete, and the rest of this Saints D-line is invaluable.
So far, so good for the big-bootied bohemoths, but there is still a LOOONG way to go before they kick it off against Atlanta in week 1. I will sleep with a giddy excitement tonight as the pads finally go on tomorrow and we will get our first look at the drill that separates the men from the boys.. ONE ON ONE PASS RUSH LETS GEAUX! Until next time (tomorrow) take it easy, and dream of fat boys.
PS Jonathan Goodwin has the best calves on the O-line hands down. I have about 20 pictures on my phone (I know its super creepy) trying to capture the majesty of them and unfortunately it didn't quite work, but here's one of the best shots.
Just call me double-o-T-Bob because I am a stealth master. At least, that is how I felt as I walked through the Greenbrier hotel today trying to find a way to get from the restaurant to the Saints practice facility.
Kristian has to leave "Double Coverage" an hour early every morning in order not to miss any of practice, which means that he had to take the car, which left me stranded with only the shoes on my feet and my overly large (yet not overly effective) brain to figure out a way to get to the practice fields. I left the restaurant (but not before overcoming the temptation to take all the nice scotch lining the bar that I was in completely alone in) and asked one of the employees what would be the best way to get to the practice fields.
I was told to take a shuttle to the north entrance of the hotel, walk through the back of it, and then the field would be right there. This ended up being incorrect, but it did end up gaining access to the hotel, and the majesty of all the different rooms blew my mind. The Greenbrier is more spectacular than I could have imagined. At a certain point I decided to document my adventures with my handy dandy iPhone and if you watch the videos below you can see that I was constantly having to pick my jaw up off of the floor. I eventually made it to Saints practice only to find out that I had missed all of it, however I definitely had some good times along the way (plus now I know how to get to the fields quicker… double shuttle FTW!) Perhaps I shall get "lost" again sometime soon so that I can more fully map and explore the hall of mysteries known as the Greenbrier.
P.S. Somewhere along the line here I conceded that I wasn't really sneaking anywhere and I wasn't doing anything wrong, but that ruined the fun. So I chose to keep up the façade that I was truly a fatter Danny Ocean.
I awoke this morning with an extra spring in my step, as I knew Kristian and I would be heading over to the Greenbrier for our very first time. I thought I had an idea of what to expect but I was immediately blown away as we rounded a corner and were hit square in the face with the beauty of this establishment.
When you first pull up to the Greenbrier, the hotel itself immediately sets the tone for the rest of your day. The main building is an all-white sprawling mansion that brings you back to a time where hotels didn't just try to see who could be the tallest; rather, it boasts an old southern architecture that has an air of friendliness and charm that is lost in many modern day establishments. If you read my daily blog yesterday you saw that I described the state of West Virginia as "lush" - The Greenbrier takes this to the next level. The grounds are covered in immaculate gardens and beautiful foliage. Located in a valley and surrounded by mountains, you almost feel as if you have stumbled into some sort of secret fantasy hotel that no one knows about.
After I got over my initial shock at just how aesthetically pleasing this place is, I was reminded that the Greenbrier is a true luxury resort when I looked at the reserved parking spaces. Right next to ten tennis courts, the first sign I saw read "Reserved for Pete Sampras." No big deal - just the second greatest tennis player of all time. Right next to him in a spot that was occupied (I didn't manage to put eyes on him though) the sign read "Reserved for Tom Watson." Anytime you are parking next to these two you know you are in a higher class.
With that in mind, I attempted to walk a bit more upright as we headed over to broadcast the show from Slammin Sammy's (named after Sam Snead of course). As I was desperately trying to project an air of sophistication and class, I soon realized that it was all for naught. I could never live up to the bar that the Greenbrier has set. Slammin Sammy's screams of old southern wealth and class. The rooms reek of mahogany and leather. I felt as if I needed a seersucker suit, and perhaps a nice walking cane just to fit in. I am 99% sure that during my three hours of doing the show there I learned how to tie a full Windsor knot without even trying.
The views from the restaurant are absurd! The beautifully manicured golf course surrounded by dark green mountains is truly a sight to behold, and I am so excited to be spending the next few weeks there! Stick around and I will continue to try and set the scene as the Saints are due to start practice in one of the nicest practice field set-ups I have ever seen.
PS I'll give it to Kristian… he is actually pretty good at pool.
Football season has finally arrived! After a long and tortuous offseason devoid of gridiron greatness, it is finally time for us to put our hands in the dirt and watch more of the sport that America can't get enough of.
Kristian and I enjoyed a wonderful travel day yesterday that saw us fly to Atlanta before hopping on a propeller-powered plane (bonus points for alliteration!) to make the final leg of the trip to Lewisburg, West Virginia. Shoutout to Silver Airlines; was a lil nervous about the prop plane but they made it as comfortable and fun as possible.
My first impression of West Virginia is that it is stunning to look at. After living in Louisiana so long and getting used to the lack of change in elevation, the mountains of West Virginia are truly a spectacle to behold. Everything here is green and I mean green. I would describe the forests as "lush" and I believe that's accurate as they cover 85% of the state's land.
One of the main factors why the Saints chose WV was to escape the heat, and let me the first to tell you that it feels incredible out here. I actually had to throw on a sweatshirt walking to breakfast this morning. I have always heard about "dry heat" versus "humid heat," and I never truly appreciated what that meant until yesterday. When I was standing in the sun it was hot, I was sweating, but for the first time in my life I learned that you can actually step into the shade and cool off. Without humidity the change between sun and shade is astounding. As dumb as it sound,s this truly was a relevatory moment for me.
I was a little apprehensive as to how my time spent in West Virginia would go, but after having a few beers with some locals at the Brier Patch (a local bar) last night I could not be more excited to spend the next few weeks here. The best part is the added bonus of watching the Saints - that's truly the icing on my mountaineerloving cake.
P.S. Kristian is an absolute diva. Look at the outfit, the number of bags…. I wonder if he managed to fit in all of his make up.