The Saints began their Organized Team Activities or “OTAs” and I want to take this opportunity to speak about the importance of these practices. To the general public, I would venture to say OTAs are one of the least exciting aspects of the football offseason. Media availability is generally pretty limited and the practices are in helmets and shorts, which would lead many to question just how much work you can actually accomplish. Barring a major injury like the one a Dallas LB recently suffered, OTA’s are very rarely headline news, however, I would contend this time period is critical to a team’s success.
I believe one of the main separating factors between good and great teams is their overall roster depth. Every team is going to have their headline superstars, who will be the main factor as to whether or not a team makes the playoffs, but what separates two division winners? Many times it comes down to the little things like special teams and perhaps more importantly, which team is best able to cope with injuries and setbacks due to having a strong 53 man roster.
Right now the Saints have around 80 to 90 guys competing in OTAs; this number will eventually be whittled all the way down to just 53 members, after the final preseason game. Obviously the Brees, Grahams, and Striefs of the world know they have a roster spot, so they aren’t really stressing about the day to day OTA, however, for the majority of younger guys trying to make the team, these practices are the best chance to show the coaches what they can do.
Also, it is not just the Saints coaches these players are trying to impress; rather (as my Oline coach in St. Louis was very fond of saying) every practice is another opportunity to try out for all 32 NFL teams. The eye in the sky doesn’t lie and being able to put good practice film together is critical to a borderline player’s success.
Obviously, the general public isn’t going to care who wins the interior oline swing position (the back up for both Guards and Center), but that doesn’t mean that’s not important. They are the players who will have to step up when someone gets hurt and will be required to be ready at all times. So, while OTAs don’t make for the sexiest headlines, it is many times the seemingly insignificant moves and adjustments during this period that will decide just how far a team can go.