Better late than never, here’s a look at all things
related to the Saints training camp you should familiarize yourself
with after the first several days.
We’re several days into New
Orleans Saints training camp, which has been just about
everything everyone has expected and then some thus far. Fans were
able to get their first glimpse of the team on Saturday, and it was
also the day where the pads came on. While the anticipation will
only continue to build for this team leading up to the regular
season, it sure does feel like team’s first preseason game on Aug.
9 when they travel to take on the Jacksonville
Jaguars will be here in no time.
Here’s a comprehensive A-to-Z look at Saints
training camp with some of the most interesting players,
storylines, positional battles, and topics to watch out for
throughout the month of August.
A is for Al-Quadin Muhammad.
The second-year Miami Hurricanes product is looking
to make his mark in what appears to be a crowded and talented depth
chart at defensive end. Last year’s sixth-round pick spent most of
the season as a game day inactive, but is someone to keep an eye on
for how he’s grown and developed.
B is for Benjamin
Moving on from Coby
Fleener was something that had to happen, especially
given the concussion history. Watson
enters the fold as someone who gives the Saints a big upgrade at
tight end, even at 37 years old. If the team can get similar 2015
production out of Watson and have ‘playoff’ Josh
Hill, then the Saints offense could be downright scarier
than anyone might imagine.
C is for Coaching. Sean
Payton went from being a head coach who fans and the media called
for his head to being praised for his cockiness and pettiness en
route to getting the Saints back into the postseason. It’s the very
thing fans loved about him when the team was winning. After getting
rid of his familiar support system, the additions of Mike Nolan,
Ryan Nielsen have only helped being paired up with Dan
Glenn, and Brad Banta. Other presences like Mike Westhoff
and Peter Giunta have been quietly solid moves for New
p id=”Jmb419″>D is for
Defense. You could rope in Demario
Davis and Dennis Allen into this easily, but the main
focus is the Saints defense. Once heralded as the league’s laughing
stock on a regular basis, New Orleans saw a tremendous turnaround
in 2017. They’ve only improved by adding UTSA’s Marcus Davenport to
the pass rushing mix, bringing back a familiar face in Patrick
Robinson to help the secondary, taking a NFC South rival
Coleman, and adding Davis.
This should be a defense that has high expectations.
E is for Trey
was one of the standouts from training camp last season, as his
hard work earned him a spot on the team’s roster. Edmunds appeared
in all 16 games for New Orleans last season, primarily on special
teams. Someone needs to step up to the plate because of the Mark
Ingram four-game suspension, and there’s some
consideration to throw at Edmunds.
F is for Fan Fest. This
is a great experience when you make it out to practice. These
include fan activities (Play Football stations), especially those
geared towards kids, concession offerings, merchandise booths,
giveaways, video games, former players, and much more. Fan fest at
Tulane’s Yulman Stadium on the night of Aug. 5 will feature live
music in addition to free practice. It’s also a great chance to
score some autographs from your favorite players.
G is for Growth. The
Saints defensive interior line is banking on some major growth from
Onyemata and Tyeler
Davison (who is facing a contract year). The Saints
definitely looked at improving at defensive tackle by eyeing free
Suh and Muhammad
Wilkerson, but didn’t land either player. Look for these
two to continue to rotate alongside Sheldon
is for Hau’oli Kikaha. It’s a contract year for the
team’s 2015 second-rounder, whose Saints career has been plagued
mainly by injuries. With a reassurance of being totally healthy and
good to go this season, Kikaha is working not only as a pass rusher
for Dennis Allen’s defense, but is being asked to work as a strong
side linebacker. Kikaha was the subject of trade talk ahead of last
year’s trade deadline, and would appear to be fighting for a roster
I is for
Mark Ingram. It’s not ideal to see Ingram out of
action for the first four games of the season due to a suspension,
but he’s been present for training camp activities and is certainly
looking to come back in full force. Ingram needs 735 yards in what
will be a shortened season to become the Saints all-time leading
rusher, and has the full blessing of the current owner of the
J is for J.T.
While the backup quarterback situation is likely
between Taysom Hill
Savage, it’ll be interesting to see Barrett’s progression
throughout training camp. Barrett has had some very flashy moments
and less than ideal ones. Barrett could be a priority practice
squad player when it’s all said and done, but we know that the Ohio
State pipeline for New Orleans is a real thing.
K is for Ken
would appear the Saints have a vote of confidence on Crawley as
their second cornerback, and he’s been pretty adamant about getting
better. He was a key piece of the Saints defensive turnaround, and
should be in store for another successful campaign.
L is for Landon
Turner . He’s
one of the many offensive linemen looking to take Senio
Kelemete’s spot on the team as the sixth man, but he’ll
have his work cut out for him battling against John
Fullington (who has been on first-team reps in place of
Andrus Peat), Cameron
Clapp, and Rick
Leonard, to name a few. The former undrafted rookie
appeared in six games for the Saints in 2016, but spent 2017 on the
“Can’t Guard Mike” enters his third season with New
Orleans, and he’s only looking to get better. Like Marcus
Williams, he spent some time in the gym and is looking in
great shape. Anyone that has Thomas
outside of their Top 5 wideouts this season might have to
reconsider with another imminent high-producing season looming from
N is for New
Orleans. While training camp is technically held in
Metairie, it is considered part of the New Orleans Metropolitan
Area, housing well over one million residents. Great food, good
people, the many sights and sounds, and the hospitality of the
locals make this a must-visit area for any person considering a
road trip to see their team — even if you are a Falcons
O is for Ochsner
Sports Performance Center. It’s the team’s 77,504
square-foot practice facility that houses the Saints and Pelicans.
Tremendous improvements have been made inside for the players, and
dedicated fan experiences outside sure make it a great place to
watch the team practice.
P is for P.J. Williams.
The former 2015 third-round pick is included in
those facing a contract year, and is also considered a roster
bubble player this season. Williams
will need to put together a strong training camp and preseason to
crack the 2018 squad.
Q is for quarterback
Brees . He
needs little to no introduction around the NFL, and enters his 19th
season in the league. Brees is the focal point of the Saints
offense, and success will continue to rely on his shoulders. The
good news is that he continues proving that age is just a
R is for
Remember when virtually everyone sandbagged and
hated on the team’s 32nd overall pick last year? Man, were they
wrong. Ramczyk was thrown into the mix immediately for the Saints,
and that was all she wrote. He had a stellar season for New
Orleans, and should continue being a main staple at right tackle
for years to come.
is for special teams. Wil
Lutz was expected to have some drop off last season, but
it never happened. He continues to be an underrated strength for
the Saints, and is quickly rising as one of the league’s better
Morstead enters his 9th season for the Saints, and
continues to be a top punter in the league. Don’t think about
challenging him in a pull-up contest either. The biggest thing to
watch here is the makeup of the kickoff team and its returners, as
the league changed the rules up a bit.
T is for Tom Benson.
The unfortunate passing of the longstanding Saints
owner in March came as a surprise to many, but the ‘Keys to the
Kingdom’ seem to be in good hands with his wife Gayle Benson. It’s
a different feeling not seeing Benson there in his customary form
via a golf cart, but his professional legacy lives on with the team
playing for him this year.
U is for Max
retirement of Zach
Strief officially put Unger in the spotlight as a leader.
He’s received a unanimous vote of confidence from Strief and
others, and don’t let his bogus Madden 19 rating fool you, Unger is
pretty good at football as the team’s center.
V is for veteran running backs.
After being added late to the training camp roster,
West and Shane
Vereen are cherishing an opportunity to crack the 53-man
roster. Vereen is more of the versatile presence, while West is
more in between the tackles and the physical back. The Saints have
to have someone emerge to help Alvin
Kamara with the workload while Mark Ingram is suspended
the first four games, and either of these backs could do
W is for the wide
receiver battle. Michael
Meredith, and Ted
Ginn Jr. would appear to be the team’s top receiving
threats entering the 2018 campaign. Outside of that, the battle
mainly includes rookie Tre’Quan Smith, Tommylee
Coleman, and Austin Carr. Naturally, there’s others like
Massington, and Josh
Huff looking to make their mark as well. Whether or not
the Saints ultimately decide to roll with five or six receivers
will be something to watch here.
X is for Alex. Maybe
it’s cheating (X receiver for Michael
Thomas was too easy). However, both Alex
Anzalone and Alex
Okafor look to bounce back after seeing their seasons end
prematurely. Anzalone was promising as the team’s weak side
linebacker, and was certainly showing off some speed that the
Saints defense had been desperately craving. Okafor was a strong
bookend opposite of Cam Jordan, having success in both run defense
and pass rushing. New Orleans could absolutely use both of them at
Y is for
youth. It’s crazy to think how much of a young,
strong nucleus the Saints have on their hands. Over the past
several drafts, New Orleans has gained the likes of Andrus
Bell, Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Marshon
Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Alvin Kamara, Marcus
Williams, Alex Anzalone, and Trey Hendrickson. That’s
also not including undrafted talent like Ken Crawley, Justin
Hardee, and Cameron Tom. This year’s draft class is
shaping up to be special, yet again.
Z is for Zach
some rumors swirled around the Saints seeking a reunion with John
Kuhn, the team went back to their main man at fullback in
2017. Line played in 12 games for New Orleans, and was quite an
underrated presence for a very strong rushing attack. He should
continue to build upon a strong season. Don’t forget about that
Wood fellow either, the team’s long
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