New Orleans Saints: 2014 NFL Training Camp Report

Saints Camp Report: Day 22

August, 26, 2014
8/26/14
7:10
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Saints kickers Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke both stumbled a bit during a windy practice Tuesday. Based on the unofficial consensus from media members, they each missed two field goals out of an estimated seven attempts. Neither kicker has been consistent enough to lock down the job this summer, but they’ve both been solid in preseason games (the only miss coming on Graham’s missed 33-yard extra point in Week 1). And coach Sean Payton continued to speak highly of both contenders. “I say this: Both of them are going to be kicking this season. I think other teams see us as a place that has a kicker possibly that is good enough to play for them,” Payton said.
  • Another position battle seems close to being decided. Center Jonathan Goodwin has continued to take snaps with the starters in practice all week after starting each of the past two preseason games. Goodwin has played very well this summer, calling it the best camp he’s had in 13 years. But Payton hasn’t conceded anything yet in Goodwin’s battle against second-year pro Tim Lelito. “We will see where that’s headed, but we are getting pretty good consistent play (from both), and that is encouraging,” Payton said Monday.
  • Cornerback Patrick Robinson had a nice practice with a pass breakup in the end zone during team drills and a stripped ball in 7-on-7, among other highlights. Payton revealed that it was a hamstring injury that had limited Robinson earlier in camp. But he said he’s encouraged by his progress. Robinson certainly looks like the front-runner to start opposite Keenan Lewis in Week 1 -- though veteran Champ Bailey has also looked solid in his return from a foot injury.
  • The offensive standout during Tuesday’s practice was probably receiver Joe Morgan, who made a diving catch of a deep pass from Drew Brees that hung up in the air during a two-minute drill late in practice. Morgan sure looks like he has a good beat on a roster spot this year and could be on the field in Week 1 -- especially if Kenny Stills remains out with a quad injury.
  • Stills, safeties Rafael Bush and Marcus Ball, linebacker Khairi Fortt and fullback Erik Lorig did not participate in Tuesday’s practice, though Ball made his first appearance in nearly a week as he watched from the sideline. Cornerback Trevin Wade was limited. Receiver Marques Colston appeared to wave himself out during a set of team drills late in practice, then he chatted with a trainer before watching the rest of practice. He didn’t appear to be dealing with anything significant, though.
  • That’s a wrap for training camp. The Saints are scheduled to hold a walk-through that’s closed to the media Wednesday before playing their final preseason game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

Saints’ Camp Report: Day 21

August, 26, 2014
8/26/14
12:45
AM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • It may have been a good news/bad news day for linebacker Victor Butler. He returned to the practice field after being sidelined by an undisclosed injury for the past three weeks. But according to a report by WWL Radio, Butler is expected to be released. If that’s true, it’s a bit of a surprise and definitely a shame. Butler seemed like such a promising young pass-rusher and such a great fit when he signed as a free agent last year. But injuries may prevent him from ever taking a snap with the Saints. I’ll have more thoughts on the move after it’s confirmed.
  • Other injury updates: Receiver Kenny Stills wasn’t in pads Monday after aggravating his quad injury in last Saturday’s game. He watched practice from the sideline. … Safety Rafael Bush and offensive tackle Thomas Welch were new additions to the injury list. They also watched from the sideline without pads. So did linebacker Khairi Fortt, who remained sidelined. Cornerback Trevin Wade spent part of practice running off to the side with trainers. … Safety Marcus Ball and fullback Erik Lorig remained absent. … Receiver Brandin Cooks practiced fully after being limited by a stomach virus last week.
  • The most notable absence Monday was that of quarterback Drew Brees, whose wife Brittany is expected to give birth to their fourth child soon. Coach Sean Payton helped pick up the slack while Brees was gone, serving as an extra QB in some position drills. “We were one quarterback short. When I saw Pierre (Thomas) throwing, we needed a little intervention,” Payton said. Payton also spent a little time lining up as a cornerback. “Yes, with safety help,” he joked. … Brees seems like a long shot to play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Payton indicated that second-year backup Ryan Griffin will get “a ton of work” in the game. So far, veteran backup Luke McCown has entered all three games ahead of Griffin. But when asked if that’s an indication that McCown is ahead in their battle for the No. 2 job, Payton said no.
  • Cornerback Champ Bailey ended Monday’s practice with an interception during a 2-minute drill simulation. It was a bit of a gift, since McCown was throwing one up toward the end zone as time expired, but it was another good sign that Bailey is on the mend from a foot injury. It may have been Bailey’s first interception in full-team drills during training camp since his workload has been so limited. … Linebacker David Hawthorne had an impressive pass break-up during that same series as the defense held up following a fast start in that drill by McCown, tight end Jimmy Graham and others.
  • The Saints will hold their final practice that is scheduled to be open to the public on Tuesday at 11 a.m., weather-permitting. For fans hoping to attend, please note the time change from the original schedule. The Saints will then hold a closed walk-through on Wednesday to prepare for Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Saints Camp Report: Day 20

August, 21, 2014
8/21/14
7:40
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The Saints transitioned out of "camp mode" on Thursday with a glorified walk-through practice that was mostly dedicated to preparation for Saturday night's preseason game at the Indianapolis Colts. This is the one and only preseason game that will get that kind of treatment, since it's the one game where the starters play about a full half. The Saints had a scout team impersonating the Colt, and it was interesting to note that the one Colts offensive player they singled out was up-and-coming receiver T.Y. Hilton (with a player wearing a red No. 13 jersey). "I think when you look at this team, we were talking about this the other day, there are a lot of new faces, guys that are very impressive, that can run. Obviously we know the quarterback (Andrew Luck) has turned into the real good football player. He's got the arm to make all the throws. I think the offensive line has played well. When you put that together with the defense, you are seeing a young roster that has played well, and I'm sure they have high expectations."
  • Since the Saints' offensive and defensive units weren't really going full-speed against each other Thursday, there weren't a ton of highlight moments that stood out. But sure enough, cornerback Corey White managed to squeeze in another big play (almost a daily ritual in camp) with an interception against quarterback Ryan Griffin. Although White probably won't begin the season as a starter with Champ Bailey and Patrick Robinson now returning from injuries, he's certainly taken advantage of his increased practice opportunities. And he'll likely make his way onto the field in certain packages. "All of the reps have been good for me just to show the coaches what I can do on a constant, consistent basis," White said.
  • Receiver Brandin Cooks was back in practice on a limited basis Thursday after missing the three previous days with a stomach virus/fever. When asked if Cooks will play against the Colts, coach Sean Payton said, "We'll see. … We'll see where he's at tonight and tomorrow. (The focus is) really just keeping him hydrated and getting his body weight up a little bit." … Guard Ben Grubbs was also back in practice after missing the past two and a half days with an undisclosed injury. The only other change from Wednesday's practice participation was the absence of safety Marcus Ball, which Payton declined to elaborate on. … Also noteworthy: linebacker Victor Butler and cornerback Rod Sweeting were doing more conditioning work with trainers off to the side of practice than we've seen yet.
  • Quarterback Drew Brees was asked Thursday about safety Jairus Byrd's standout performance in Wednesday night's practice -- particularly Byrd's impressive and deceptive interception against Brees in 7-on-7 drills. "Oh man, it was a ridiculous play," Brees said. "I didn't throw it exactly where I wanted to; I was trying to throw it to Nick Toon in the back, kind of retracing on a route, and Jairus was underneath it. No. 1, I didn't feel like he would really reach it, but he did. To actually come down with it was a whole (different) story. Usually that ball just gets tipped and goes out of the back of the end zone, but it was an impressive play."
  • The Saints don't have a full practice scheduled for Friday. They'll have a brief walk-through, and they'll also take part in an annual fan luncheon before traveling to Indianapolis. Saturday's game at 8 p.m. ET will be nationally-televised by CBS.

Saints Camp Report: Day 19

August, 21, 2014
8/21/14
12:10
AM ET
MANDEVILLE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • It didn't take long for safety Jairus Byrd to start living up to his reputation as a ball hawk. In just his second practice doing full team drills, Byrd had two interceptions (one in full team and one in 7-on-7). He also broke up a pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham in the end zone in full-team drills. "He's someone that covers a lot of ground quickly. He's really smart with his eyes. He's a veteran player that understands formations and where the ball might be going," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Tonight there were a couple of plays where the quarterbacks just commented, 'Where'd he come from?'" Payton also reiterated that Byrd is expected to make his preseason debut Saturday night at the Indianapolis Colts.
  • There was a lot of good news on the injury front Wednesday night. Cornerback Keenan Lewis and defensive end Akiem Hicks returned to full participation after being limited by injuries earlier this week. Lewis briefly had either his left foot or ankle re-taped by trainers on the sideline early in practice. Cornerback Champ Bailey participated in full-team drills for the first time since July 31. Cornerback Patrick Robinson returned on a limited basis with an undisclosed injury. Receiver Brandin Cooks remained out with a stomach virus/fever. Guard Ben Grubbs, linebackers Victor Butler and Khairi Fortt and fullback Erik Lorig were also among those who remained out with injuries.
  • The Saints took their practice on the road Wednesday night across Lake Pontchartrain to Mandeville High School -- something they haven't done much during Payton's tenure. Payton and players said they loved the atmosphere, both the energy from the announced crowd of 6,617 and the retro feel of the high school surroundings. "I think there's a scent to the locker room," Payton said, adding that the team will consider holding some practices in other areas going forward.
  • Other highlights from Wednesday's practice: Brees looked sharp, aside from the ball that was tipped away by Byrd. He drilled a touchdown to Robert Meachem in red zone drills and sailed a gorgeous touchdown pass to receiver Nick Toon. He even took off running for a long gain on a keeper at one point. ... Receiver Marques Colston was dipping from the same fountain of youth, making two nice grabs in team drills. ... Rookie receiver Brandon Coleman had a great night, catching a pass from Brees in team drills and later making a fantastic effort to reach for a ball and try to tap his toes in bounds in the corner of the end zone (though it was unclear if he stayed in). ... Safety Rafael Bush intercepted quarterback Ryan Griffin on a ball tipped up by tight end Benjamin Watson. Cornerback Derrius Brooks had an even more impressive one-handed pick against quarterback Logan Kilgore. ... Rookie linebacker Ronald Powell shot into the backfield for a tackle-for-loss. ... Center Tim Lelito sailed a shotgun snap over Griffin's head, but he stood out against nose tackle John Jenkins in 1-on-1 pass rush drills.
  • The Saints will be back at their practice facility for a 11 a.m. CT practice on Thursday, though they moved it indoors, which means it's closed to the public.

Saints’ Camp Report Day 18

August, 19, 2014
8/19/14
7:45
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The Saints got some good news on the injury front Tuesday when safety Jairus Byrd was cleared to do full-contact work. But there were still a handful of key players missing. Cornerback Keenan Lewis was held out of practice, though he did some exercises off to the side with trainers. Guard Ben Grubbs was absent after leaving with an undisclosed injury during Monday’s practice. Receiver Brandin Cooks was absent for the second straight day with a stomach virus (coach Sean Payton said he still had a fever). Cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebackers Victor Butler and Khairi Fortt and fullback Erik Lorig were also among a group of players who remained sidelined with unspecified injuries. Defensive end Akiem Hicks and cornerback Champ Bailey participated in a walk-through but didn’t do any team drills.
  • Veteran defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick replaced Hicks with the starting defense – another sign of Deaderick’s versatility and possible value to the Saints. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder spent most of the summer lining up as the Saints’ second-string nose tackle while John Jenkins recovered from a pectoral surgery, and that’s where Deaderick was lined up when he recovered a fumble in last Friday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Deaderick, 27, spent his first three seasons with the New England Patriots and one year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s right on the roster bubble, but he’s making a strong case.
  • Speaking of that roster bubble, another undrafted rookie that belongs on your radar is outside linebacker Kasim Edebali, a German native who played at Boston College. The main reason I haven’t touted Edebali much when I do my weekly 53-man roster projections is because I feel like that position is so overcrowded that it will be tough to crack. But the 6-2, 253-pounder has flashed some impressive athleticism and pass-rush ability at times. Saints analyst Bobby Hebert was just touting Edebali on Monday. Then on Tuesday, Edebali got a ringing endorsement from fellow former undrafted linebacker Junior Galette. When asked if he’s been impressed by any undrafted guys, Galette said, “One guy I’d point out, Kasim Edebali. You know he’s not really a rookie, I feel like. He’s up there in age, 25 years old [as of Sunday]. He’s a lot more mature than I was as a rookie. And the guy gets off the ball and he can play.”
  • Some of the on-field highlights Tuesday: Rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste went up high to break up a pass from Drew Brees to Marques Colston in the end zone, one of Jean-Baptiste’s best efforts to date. … Cornerback Corey White forced a fumble against running back Khiry Robinson in seven-on-seven drills, one of White’s many nice plays in camp. … Tight end Jimmy Graham continued to serve as a go-to target in Tuesday’s practice, continuing a stellar camp. And after Graham scored a TD on Tuesday, he celebrated with an emphatic (and legal) spike. … Brees kept the ball to himself, tucking it and running it in for a score to cap a red zone drill at the end of practice.
  • The Saints will take their practice show on the road Wednesday night for a rare practice across the lake at Mandeville High School. The session, from 7-9 p.m. CT, will be free and open to the public, weather permitting. Payton said the team will be in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts instead of a fully-padded session.

Saints Camp Report: Day 17

August, 18, 2014
8/18/14
6:00
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The defense got the better of the offense during a simulated two-minute drill at the end of Monday's practice -- always among the most spirited competitions in camp. Quarterback Drew Brees looked sharp for a while, moving the first-string offense from one 20-yard line to the other. Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for four completions, including a perfect pitch-and-catch tucked between a linebacker and safety. And Mark Ingram was an asset as a receiver out of the backfield during the drive. But then the drive stalled as time started to run out, with a spike, an incomplete shot toward Kenny Stills in the end zone, a would-be sack by blitzing safety Kenny Vaccaro (if they were live tackling) and an incomplete fade pass toward Marques Colston in the end zone. Brees loudly grunted his disgust after the missed opportunity. ... Ryan Griffin led the second-string offense, but they weren't able to cross midfield, thanks to a pass break-up by safety Vinnie Sunseri and two would-be sacks on third and fourth down. Griffin's fourth-down pass, which was nullified, was also intercepted by safety Pierre Warren for good measure.
  • I left Warren off my projected 53-man roster this morning. But the undrafted rookie continues to make plays and make an awfully strong case for himself. Warren also had a nice pass break-up earlier in full-team drills. The problem is that I've still got Warren ranked sixth among the safeties on New Orleans' depth chart, with newcomers Sunseri and Marcus Ball also playing so well in recent weeks. Ball also had a would-be sack on a blitz during team drills Monday.
  • Speaking of undrafted rookies on the roster bubble, receiver Brandon Coleman had a great practice, continuing his roller-coaster summer with the Saints. Coleman made several nice catches, even working in with the first string at times. His best effort was when he went up high to snag a pass over cornerback Brian Dixon. I still think Coleman is more likely headed to the practice squad than the roster, but his unique size and skill set make him worth watching. Payton took note of Coleman's performance, saying he made four or five nice catches, which was “encouraging.” Payton also complimented Coleman's blocking performance in Friday's preseason game.
  • Another receiver who looked sharp Monday was Colston. He had at least two nice catches -- including a gorgeous throw from Brees over cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste during team drills. Colston sat out last Friday's preseason game for an undisclosed reason, but his health certainly hasn't looked like an issue over the past two days.
  • The Saints had to head indoors Monday because of rain and lightning -- to the chagrin of the fans, since indoor practices are closed to the public. They'll try again Tuesday, with an outdoor practice scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., open to the public weather-permitting.

Saints Camp Report: Day 16

August, 17, 2014
8/17/14
11:50
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The Saints returned to some hot and steamy weather when they held their first practice back home in Metairie. But it felt like Christmas morning with so many of their key players returning to the field at once. Quarterback Drew Brees was back in full-team drills for the first time in two weeks. So was guard Jahri Evans. Cornerback Keenan Lewis and receiver Marques Colston were full-go after injuries Friday night. Receiver Kenny Stills, linebacker David Hawthorne and defensive tackle John Jenkins increased their workload. And coach Sean Payton said he expects Jairus Byrd back to full speed Monday. Everyone on that list should be 100 percent by the start of the regular season. ... And to top it all off, even owner Tom Benson was back watching from his familiar spot in his golf cart after he had to leave training camp in West Virginia early because of some struggles with the altitude.
  • The "downer" side of the injury report: Fullback Erik Lorig and safety Ty Zimmerman remained absent. And cornerbacks Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson, Rod Sweeting and Terrence Frederick and linebackers Victor Butler and Khairi Fortt all sat out in street clothes. It was a good sign to see Butler at least watching for the first time in weeks, with a sleeve over his right leg (the specifics of his injury are unknown). And Bailey was doing a lot of work off to the side with trainers (the specifics of his injury are also unknown). But all of their timetables are more in doubt than the others.
  • With so many injuries at cornerback, the healthy corners are obviously getting a ton of reps. But so far it’s been hit and miss for some of the guys in the lineup. Trevin Wade, who is about as closely "on the bubble" as it gets when it comes to the 53-man roster, literally tripped up when he fell while the Tennessee Titans’ Justin Hunter broke free for a 64-yard touchdown the other night. And rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste has had a series of ups and downs all summer, including some struggles at Sunday’s practice. I like Jean-Baptiste’s long-term potential and still expect his physicality and press coverage to be great assets. But he’s still going through that rookie learning curve for now.
  • Brees started 0-for-2 (gasp!) during full-team drills in his return to the field Sunday. He overshot receiver Nick Toon deep on his first throw. Then a short pass appeared to be dropped by receiver Joe Morgan. But one play later, Brees hit Morgan deep behind the secondary. ... Brees also connected with Colston for one of the day’s most impressive individual efforts in 7-on-7 drills when Colston reached out to snag a one-handed pass.
  • The Saints changed up their practice times this week. Their practices on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday have been moved back to 11 a.m. CT. They’re all still open to the public, weather-permitting. The Wednesday night practice across the lake in Mandeville is still scheduled for 7 p.m.

Saints Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
8/13/14
8:25
PM ET
A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The defense dominated a set of live goal-line drills Wednesday -- easily one of the most physical and spirited sessions to date throughout all of training camp. The first-string offense scored only twice on six attempts inside the 3-yard line (or maybe only once; see below). And the second-string offense got shut out on all four of its attempts, including a fumbled snap between center Tim Lelito and quarterback Luke McCown. The two running backs who scored were Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet -- both times around the left side. It's hard to pinpoint too many individual standouts in that type of drill without the benefit of replay. But among those who came up big at least twice were defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley with the first-string defense, end Glenn Foster and cornerback Corey White with the second-string defense and left tackle Terron Armstead with the first-string offense.
  • The players themselves wish they had a replay challenge at their disposal since no one could agree whether Cadet scored. Players debated on the field, in postgame interviews and even on Twitter after WWLTV.com's Lyons Yellin posted a video of the play from an inconclusive angle. What was conclusive on that video is that Armstead laid a great block on linebacker Kyle Knox -- who then recovered to make an outstanding hit on Cadet just as he approached the goal line. For what it's worth, I was watching from a direct sideline angle and thought the ball crossed the plane.
  • Nobody needed replay to see rookie receiver Brandin Cooks put on another dazzling display later in team drills. Cooks reeled in a touchdown pass of more than 50 yards from McCown by leaping up and outdueling safety Pierre Warren for the ball. He later ran free behind the third-string defense to catch another deep ball from QB Logan Kilgore. As I've said many times, we really aren't overhyping Cooks. He simply keeps makes the biggest highlights on an almost-daily basis. I didn't think he'd be in a position to catch the deep ball against Warren, but sure enough, he rose to the challenge.
  • The secondary had a few highlights of its own in team drills. Safety Rafael Bush intercepted quarterback Ryan Griffin after linebacker Kevin Reddick popped the ball up (Reddick should've caught it himself). Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Stanley Jean-Baptiste each had nice pass break-ups in the end zone during a red-zone drill.
  • Kicker Derek Dimke had a rough day, missing two of his three field-goal attempts. Shayne Graham was a little better, going 3-of-4, including one from 50-plus. But Graham did doink one off the right upright. I still say Graham has the edge if he can show stability throughout the rest of the preseason. The Saints just need to have faith that he can be a solid 80-percent kicker. But Graham hasn't locked down the job yet, and he's competing with both Dimke and kickers who will get cut around the league.
  • The Saints are now done with training camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. They won't practice Thursday as they fly home to New Orleans before Friday's preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Then they'll remain home for the rest of camp.

Saints’ Camp Report Day 14

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
7:58
PM ET
A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Coaches and players were much more pleased with the effort and energy during Tuesday’s practice after Sean Payton called the team out for having its flattest performance to date on Monday. The Saints held another physical short-yardage session, and you could hear the pads popping and players shouting throughout. “I thought it was better from both sides. When they are arguing over whether you made it or not (it’s a good sign),” Payton said. “We’ll look at it on tape and try to grade each one. But I thought it was more competitive. Definitely more lively.” Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan felt the same way -- also a good sign when both sides are happy. “This was much more like it,” Ryan said. “We liked the hitting there.”
  • Unfortunately we didn’t have a great angle during that session, so it’s hard to point out which individuals stood out. But the first-string defense started strong with two run stuffs, followed by a first-down conversion by the offense on the third try. ... Later in practice, the defensive line appeared to load up on would-be sacks (if they were live-tackling quarterbacks), with Cameron Jordan, Parys Haralson, Tyrunn Walker, Glenn Foster, Rufus Johnson and Kasim Edebali among those bringing pressure. So all in all, it was a standout day for the defensive front seven.
  • The offensive star of the day was probably wide receiver Nick Toon, who made a couple nice catches, including a deep ball from Ryan Griffin against tight coverage by cornerback Stan Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste ran stride for stride down the field with Toon but wasn’t able to locate the ball in the air -- similar to what happened in the preseason opener. Jean-Baptiste is still maturing, though, and he rallied back with two pass break-ups, including one against Toon.
  • The Saints were visited by another golf superstar Thursday, when Sir Nick Faldo watched practice and broke down the team afterward. Whatever he said had the team cracking up, and offensive tackle Zach Strief said they tried to invite him to the rookie talent show later that night. Like previous training camp guest Bubba Watson, Faldo has a home in The Greenbrier area in West Virginia where the Saints are training. “That was a pretty cool deal,” Strief said. “I’ve never met a knight before, so that was pretty awesome. He wasn’t dressed exactly how I thought my first knight would be dressed. But you talk about a guy who won six majors, (40) tournaments, that’s a pretty impressive pedigree.”
  • Wednesday will be a bittersweet day for the Saints -- their last day of practices at The Greenbrier. A full practice is scheduled for 8:50 a.m. ET, followed by a 4:30 p.m. walkthrough. The cool temperatures and top-notch facilities have been widely praised by everyone in the organization, and they’re excited about returning in future years. But players said they’re also eager to return home, starting with their debut in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday night.

Saints Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
8/11/14
5:35
PM ET
A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Are people tired of hearing about Brandin Cooks' daily exploits yet? I honestly don't think that we in the media are over-hyping the Saints' rookie receiver. He simply makes one or two of the biggest plays on the practice field every day. As quarterback Luke McCown said Monday, "He's got next level speed ... and quickness. We find him in positions where he's just separating from guys regularly." That was absolutely the case again Monday during an otherwise-sloppy practice in the rain. As Cooks said, he's from Corvallis, Oregon, so he's used to this weather. Cooks had two breakaway plays for big gains on short passes -- once cruising about 75 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass. Cornerback Keenan Lewis valiantly gave chase the whole way but didn't really have a chance. "He's a special player," McCown said. "I think that's easily recognized for any amount of time you spend watching him. He's a smart, heady player that you only have to teach a certain route or step or technique once, and he's got it down, and he begins to operate like a veteran. So the sky's the limit for that kid."
  • Two other rookies who haven't made an overwhelming amount of highlights during camp had arguably their biggest moments to date Monday -- safety Vinnie Sunseri and linebacker Khairi Fortt. Sunseri made a great diving interception during full-team drills (after Fortt probably would have had a sack on the same play if they were live tackling). Sunseri also broke up a deep pass intended for tight end Josh Hill. Fortt also had another would-be sack.
  • While we're on the subject of guys operating in the shadows, I'll give a little love to defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and linebacker Parys Haralson. Bunkley had a great run stuff early in practice to add to his sack from the other night in the preseason game. Although Bunkley hasn't made quite the impact the Saints were hoping for when they signed him in 2012, he was probably playing his best football yet in New Orleans during the second half of last season. Haralson, meanwhile, has stormed inside for would-be sacks on each of the past two days of practice in full-team drills.
  • Monday's practice made me second-guess my decision to add undrafted rookie tight end Nic Jacobs to my projected 53-man roster in place of receiver Joe Morgan. Jacobs had a rough practice, dropping one pass and having a ball stripped away from him by safety Pierre Warren after a catch. But then again, it's the 6-foot-5, 269-pounder's prowess as a blocker and special teams asset that made me put him on the 53-man roster in the first place. … Meanwhile, Morgan had two great catches in practice Monday -- especially impressive on a rainy day. As I said Monday morning, I'm not ruling Morgan out of the battle against Nick Toon and Robert Meachem for the fourth or fifth receiver jobs by any stretch. I just don't think the Saints will keep all three of those veteran receivers, so I decided to omit Morgan.
  • The Saints could get a chance at a do-over in the rain Tuesday. There's more rain in the forecast for their scheduled 8:50 a.m. ET practice. They also have a walk-through scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Saints Camp Report Day 12

August, 10, 2014
8/10/14
9:40
PM ET
A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Cornerback Corey White's interception toward the end of Sunday's practice highlighted a dominant day for the secondary. And it was another nice moment for White, who can't be ruled out of the No. 2 cornerback competition, especially since Patrick Robinson missed the second half of Sunday's practice for an undisclosed reason. ... The Saints' defense won the day overall, especially during a series of hurry-up drills at the end of practice. First, quarterback Luke McCown and the starters went 4-and-out with three pass break-ups and a would-be sack by linebacker Parys Haralson. Then White intercepted Griffin when the second units were in. Each QB then got another crack, including Hail Mary attempts. McCown's Hail Mary attempt was batted down by tight end Jimmy Graham, who was moonlighting as a safety. Then Griffin found redemption with a Hail Mary touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson (who was actually playing tight end).
  • The defense was equally strong up front for most of practice. Although the Saints’ run game got off to a fast start in the first set of team drills, the defense fought back with a number of run stuffs. It was hard to identify many specific players from our vantage point, but middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had at least one standout stuff. ... Defensive end Cameron Jordan had a couple highlights both in team drills and 1-on-1 pass-rush drills.
  • On the flip side, the Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in Friday night’s preseason opener -- especially in the run game. I chatted with center Tim Lelito on Sunday, and he praised left tackle Terron Armstead and guards Senio Kelemete and Marcel Jones, among others. Lelito credited Kelemete and Jones for playing virtually the whole game, since starters Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs were held out. Lelito said they did a great job with communication and assignments – as if there was barely any drop-off from the usual veterans.
  • Newly-signed veteran fullback Greg Jones got some snaps with the first-string offense Sunday. The Saints haven’t offered any specific details on fullback Erik Lorig’s leg injury. But I can’t help but wonder if a proven vet like Jones would have been signed if Lorig was expected back in a matter of days or even weeks. Payton spoke highly of Jones, a 10-year veteran with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. “He’s experienced. He’s someone that’s very physical. And looking at his tape from a year ago before we signed him, he played pretty well in that [Texans] offense,” Payton said. “So he is tough. He plays with good pad level, and he’ll strike you. He has good size. And it will be a good look for us and him ... this week.”
  • The Saints will be back on their normal practice schedule Monday, with a full practice scheduled for 8:50 a.m. ET and a walk-through at 4:30 p.m. This is their final week of practices at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia before they return home for the rest of training camp.

Saints’ Camp Report: Day 11

August, 6, 2014
8/06/14
5:45
PM ET
A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • It was another dominant day for the Saints' secondary, according to reports and highlights from Wednesday's practice, as the defense continued to bounce back from a rough start to training camp. Safety Rafael Bush intercepted quarterback Ryan Griffin to kill a spirited 2-minute drill at the end of practice, stepping in front of a pass intended for tight end Jimmy Graham. Rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste also denied quarterback Luke McCown from scoring in the same set of drills with two pass break-ups, including a near-pick of his own. Cornerback Patrick Robinson had an interception in 7-on-7 drills. And cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Kenny Vaccaro were also noted for making multiple plays during practice (not to mention joining Bush in a scuffle with receiver Charles Hawkins at one point).
  • Graham wasn't completely denied. He scored a touchdown during 7-on-7 drills and promptly faked a slam-dunk attempt before stopping just short and holding the ball up high. He then went ahead and finished the dunk a moment later. But Graham knows that he needs to start working on some new material now that the NFL has outlawed his trademark dunk celebration -- especially since he looks primed to keep scoring touchdowns in bunches. As Vaccaro noted the other day after Graham beat him down the field in the scrimmage, "The dude's flying. He's faster than last year, he seems stronger."
  • Three guys who haven't been mentioned too often throughout training camp were singled out for making some nice plays Wednesday -- receiver Robert Meachem and rookie linebackers Khairi Fortt and Ronald Powell. Although younger receivers Brandin Cooks and Nick Toon stood out more earlier in camp, Meachem proved last year that he won't be easily removed from the lineup since he's so reliable as a blocker and deep-route runner. That battle for the fourth receiver job between Meachem and Toon will be compelling all summer. … As for Fortt and Powell, they've battled the age-old issue of trying to play at full speed while still learning and thinking too much. But as they get more comfortable, their athleticism is starting to show up more.
  • Kicker Shayne Graham maintained the "hot foot" at the end of practice, making all four of his field-goal attempts, including two from 50-plus yards. Derek Dimke went 3-for-4, missing a 53-yarder wide left. They've now missed two each during practices. But the preseason games will be more important. And as I've said consistently, it's Graham's job to lose as long as he looks steady enough. I think he could afford one or two misses as long as he shows overall consistency.
  • No practice on Thursday as the Saints travel to St. Louis. The next glimpse we'll get of them will be the preseason opener Friday night in the Edward Jones Dome against the St. Louis Rams.

Saints Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
8/05/14
6:55
PM ET
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Time for your daily Brandin Cooks highlight reel: The Saints' dynamic rookie receiver had two nifty catches in Tuesday's practice. He burned cornerback Trevin Wade with a sharp cut for a big gain on a screen pass. And he caught a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone from Luke McCown. ... Normally, rookies have to adjust to the “speed of the NFL game.” But Cooks was asked whether he feels like he's reversing that trend and making defenders adjust to his speed. “Well, I have to use my strengths to my advantage, and that's my speed. As far as the speed of the game, it's not that much different to me,” Cooks said. “But how smart people are, that's the different part from college to the NFL. That's where you have to work on your game.”
  • It's been Corey White's turn to stand out in the Saints' cornerback carousel this week. The third-year pro has now had interceptions on back-to-back days after snagging a Ryan Griffin pass that was intended for Brandon Coleman on Tuesday. White also had an impressive pass break-up against QB Luke McCown on a pass intended for tight end Jimmy Graham. At different times this summer, both Champ Bailey and Patrick Robinson have stood out. But the physical White remains very much in that mix for either the No. 2 cornerback job or a prominent role in nickel/dime packages -- even though he went through some highs and lows as a replacement starter last year. “We really like him,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “We love him as an inside corner, but he has done some good things outside as well. We're excited about him. He started for us down the stretch and did a really good job in those games. We know he's an ascending player and he's going to be really good.”
  • Third-year guard Marcel Jones got an extended audition with the first-string offense Tuesday after starting right guard Jahri Evans left practice for an undisclosed reason. Jones did most of the work in team drills -- though backup Jason Weaver also took a turn. I didn't notice anything extraordinarily good or bad from Jones in Tuesday's practice. But he has impressed me at times during camp, and he has tackle/guard versatility, which is why I bumped him up onto my projected 53-man roster earlier this week. If Jones gets an extended look with the starters, it could certainly help make or break his chances.
  • Second-year defensive end Glenn Foster is another guy who has stood out to me a handful of times in team and individual drills throughout camp. He missed Monday's practice with an undisclosed injury. But he was back in pads Tuesday and didn't look like he missed a beat.
  • The Saints are scheduled to have another full practice day on Wednesday (8:50 a.m. ET practice followed by 4:30 p.m. walk-through). Then they'll be off Thursday as they travel to St. Louis for Friday night's preseason opener against the Rams.

Saints Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
8/04/14
8:45
PM ET
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin took some snaps at left guard with the first-string offense, while backup guard Senio Kelemete took snaps at center with the second team. The Saints are making sure that both players have enough versatility to play both spots if they wind up as the lone backup guard/center on game days. They already know that center/guard Tim Lelito is capable of doing both. … It was a good sign for Kelemete that the Saints are considering him as a bona fide possibility for the 53-man roster. Coach Sean Payton said the former practice-squadder has been “impressive” while lining up as a first-string guard in place of injured Ben Grubbs throughout camp. However, Kelemete had at least one fumbled exchange with quarterback Ryan Griffin at center on Monday.
  • Safety Marcus Ball also got a mini-promotion on Monday, rotating in with the first-team defense as a third safety at times. It was quite a leap for Ball, who has spent the entire summer working with the third string. But the former Canadian Football League standout helped his cause with a great performance in Saturday’s scrimmage. Payton praised Ball afterward as an instinctive player who could be an asset on special teams. And safety Kenny Vaccaro had even higher praise Monday: “Marcus, he’s a fiery guy. He reminds me of myself last year. He empties out the tank every day, and he’s gonna be a great player.” … I feel even better about moving Ball on to my projected 53-man roster Monday morning.
  • Ironically, however, the guy I removed from my 53-man roster to make room for Ball was second-year defensive end Rufus Johnson Jr. And Johnson had by far his best practice to date Monday. He brought pressure three times in one series and also came up with an impressive run-stuff. Johnson (6-foot-5, 272 pounds) is an impressive athlete, and the Saints moved him from outside linebacker to end this year because of his size. But Payton made it clear that Johnson is still a work in progress. “He's a young player, who like a lot of these guys, you're looking for consistency and you're looking for stringing together two practices, three practices," Payton said. "And I think with him, making sure he knows what to do ... with regards to assignment, alignment and being consistent."
  • Veteran kicker Shayne Graham got back on track after two misses last week. He went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, including kicks from 51 and 53 yards. Meanwhile, Derek Dimke missed his first attempt of camp from 39 yards (his only attempt of the day). That battle won’t be decided on the practice field, though. If Graham is steady in preseason games, I believe it’s his job to lose.
  • The Saints will back to their regular practice schedule Tuesday, with a full practice at 8:50 a.m. ET and a walk-through at 4:30 p.m.

Saints Camp Report: Day 8

August, 2, 2014
8/02/14
6:50
PM ET
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The Saints weren’t keeping score in Saturday’s scrimmage. But it was a clear victory for the offense – especially considering Drew Brees was sidelined by an oblique strain. Backup QB Ryan Griffin was particularly impressive, but he and Luke McCown both had some highlights. I already broke down the big performances from receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints’ run game was equally productive. And the defense was even flagged for 12 men on the field at one point, which led to some very vocal disappointment from coordinator Rob Ryan. ... There were a few high points for the defense (some Keenan Lewis pass breakups in the red zone, safety Marcus Ball's interception and Junior Galette's pass rushes). But they still walked away with a salty taste in their mouths. “I think the No. 1 thing for us as a defense is that you don’t want to give up big plays, and you’ve got to tackle. We gave up a few big plays and didn’t tackle too well,” linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “You’re going to get that in your first live tackling and stuff, but as a defense we’ve just got to get better.”
  • I was especially impressed with the Saints’ run game, which has looked strong throughout the first eight days of camp. Mark Ingram had several nice runs, including a sharp cutback for a touchdown between blockers Tim Lelito and Terron Armstead (both of whom stood out more than once). Khiry Robinson showed some great burst during a long gain on a screen pass. And Travaris Cadet tore up the third-string defense a couple times.
  • There hasn’t been much buzz around Ball this summer since he has been running with the third string. And Galette said he knew Ball was disappointed by his start in OTAs. But the former Canadian Football League standout stepped up in his biggest audition yet. He showed great instincts on the interception, shooting in front of Cooks to pick off McCown. He also had a sack on a blitz and a nice run stop. Ball even got the crowd involved, turning and yelling to the “Who Dats!” “The one thing I would say based on the film study was his ability to tackle in the open field, and he has really good football instincts. The interception he had today was a good example of that,” said head coach Sean Payton, who credited player personnel director Ryan Pace and the scouts. “The ball kind of finds him, and it did a lot when we watched the tape. He was very, very productive in the CFL, and I think he has a chance to be a real good special teams player.”
  • There was an intense moment when Kenny Vaccaro tackled Graham from behind by grabbing him up near the shoulder pads. It was nearly a horse-collar tackle, and Graham wasn’t happy. He shoved Vaccaro after the play. … Vaccaro was obviously fired up for the live scrimmage. He also laid a big hit on running back Robinson at one point.
  • The Saints will be off the field until Monday at 4 p.m. ET. Players will have Sunday off, then they’ll come back and watch film of the scrimmage Monday before weightlifting, meetings and the afternoon practice.

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