New Orleans Saints: jonathan goodwin

METAIRIE, La. -- Among the newcomers to the New Orleans Saints' injury report this week, running back Mark Ingram (hand) is definitely out for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings; linebacker David Hawthorne (ankle) seems unlikely to play after missing practice again Thursday; and center Jonathan Goodwin (elbow) is on the right track after returning to practice on a limited basis Thursday.

Hawthorne has been out all week after leaving last Sunday's game early with the injury. Coach Sean Payton said Thursday that he doesn't expect him to be out long term, listing him as "day to day." But Payton said the Saints added practice squad linebacker Todd Davis to help fill out the depth while Hawthorne is out.

The Saints should be able to absorb Hawthorne's loss in the short term. They replaced him with experienced backup Ramon Humber last week. Veteran outside linebacker Parys Haralson is also capable of moving inside in certain situations to help fill the void.

Fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) and safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) also remained out during Thursday's practice.

Linebacker Curtis Lofton (shoulder) remained limited. And backup linebacker Kyle Knox (ankle) was added to the injury report after practicing on a limited basis.

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints missed their chance to finish undefeated in the preseason for the first time in franchise history, losing 22-13 to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Obviously that doesn’t matter a lick, considering quarterback Drew Brees and about a dozen other starters sat out the final exhibition game.

So what did matter? I can’t say that any jobs were obviously won or lost on Thursday night. But here are the clues that stood out most:
  • I still have no idea who’s going to win the kicking job. Derek Dimke got all of the work Thursday, including kickoffs. However, he missed a 54-yard attempt wide right that might have helped him lock down the job. Fortunately, a roughing penalty was called, giving him a second chance at a 49-yard attempt, which he made. … That’s kind of how it has been for both Dimke and veteran Shayne Graham all summer -- mostly good, some bad, nothing definitive.
  • Luke McCown sure looks like the front-runner for the backup quarterback job. He started again (McCown played ahead of Ryan Griffin in all four exhibition games) and led the Saints to a touchdown on the opening drive, going 4-for-4 for 29 yards, including a 3-yard TD strike to Travaris Cadet. Griffin played the rest of the game after that first drive, but he was pretty ordinary, finishing 11-of-21 for 126 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Receiver Joe Morgan has been getting better every week and might have moved ahead of both Nick Toon and Robert Meachem as the fourth receiver. Morgan started and caught four passes for 33 yards (one of them a great catch down the field). I would say Meachem’s job appears to be in jeopardy, as he has fallen behind those other guys in the playing-time pecking order. But sure enough, Meachem made a fantastic 52-yard catch Thursday to help remind the Saints why they’ve always liked him so much.
  • I’m almost positive Jonathan Goodwin has won the starting center job over Tim Lelito, as Goodwin got the night off, along with many other veteran starters.
  • If anyone could have possibly lost a starting job Thursday, it might be cornerback Patrick Robinson. The Ravens picked on him quite a bit, chipping away with several mid-range gains. Baltimore virtually ignored fellow veteran Champ Bailey on the other side of the field. I think that battle will remain fluid, but it’s possible Bailey could inspire more confidence heading into Week 1.
  • Of the undrafted rookies vying for roster spots, outside linebacker Kasim Edebali continued to look the part. He started in place of Junior Galette and was in on at least three of the starting special-teams units. Edebali didn’t have any dramatic highs or lows, but it’s obvious the Saints are giving him a serious look. … Meanwhile, safety Pierre Warren made two great plays with an open-field run stop and a leaping interception on an overthrown deep ball. But he wasn’t as involved on special teams, so he’s a slightly longer shot to crack the roster. … Cornerback Brian Dixon had a nice pass break-up and tight end Nic Jacobs was in with the starters at times. But they’re also long shots.

Saints Camp Report: Day 22

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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.
Jonathan Goodwin said he knows it's probably hard for people to believe. But, the New Orleans Saints center said, "In 13 years, I think this was my best training camp."

Goodwin said that goes for how he's been performing as well as how healthy he's feeling and how quickly his body is still moving at age 35.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Goodwin
Gerald Herbert/AP PhotoEntering his 13th pro season, Jonathan Goodwin is fighting to start at center for the Saints.
Clearly, Goodwin has been revitalized by his return to the Saints after spending the past three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

He also wasn't ready to give up his NFL career just yet.

Although Goodwin admitted toward the end of last year that the possibility of retirement had crossed his mind, he knew he wasn't ready to make the full-time switch to the rec-league softball and kickball teams he plays on during the offseason.

"Honestly, playing in those (rec leagues), I realized I was still moving well and still could do it," said Goodwin, who just had to be patient enough to wait for the Saints to sign him after June 1 -- the deadline for free-agent signings to no longer count against a team's compensatory draft-pick formula.

"In this day and age, being a 35-year-old free agent, you don't know what's gonna happen. So I felt like I still could play, but I didn't know if I'd get the chance to play," said Goodwin, who always had New Orleans ranked as his top destination.

"I think being able to come back here and play here in a place that I love, I think it gave me a lot of extra motivation," Goodwin said. "That's turned out to be a valuable thing for me so far."

The battle between Goodwin and second-year pro Tim Lelito for the Saints' starting center job is still too close to call.

But based on Saturday's performance against the Indianapolis Colts, Goodwin might have the slight edge.

Goodwin started for the second straight preseason game, and he played extremely well. Among other examples, he took out two defenders to help open a hole for Mark Ingram's 17-yard run in the first quarter.

And Goodwin got way down the field to take out a defensive back, helping Pierre Thomas gain an extra 10-15 yards on his 26-yard screen pass in the first quarter.

"You know, Pierre does a good job setting it up. And I was able to read Jah's (Jahri Evans) block, and I could tell he was gonna kind of take two guys out," Goodwin said. "So I turned it up and tried to show off the wheels."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he hasn't noticed any drop-off in Goodwin, who was first with the Saints from 2006-10, making a Pro Bowl during the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl season.

"Goody is Goody," Brees said. "I think he's had a great camp. I think also just maybe the way his body feels, he looks really good and he's moving really well. He's strong and powerful.

"Tim Lelito has done a great job, too. I don't know how that's going to shake out, but both of those guys are certainly very capable and will be key contributors."
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The New Orleans Saints practiced in steady rain for the first time during training camp Monday. And they didn’t handle it well.

At least six center-quarterback exchanges were botched (with quarterbacks Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin and centers Tim Lelito and Jonathan Goodwin all guilty multiple times). There were also a handful of dropped balls. And coach Sean Payton was especially upset with the overall energy and effort level on a day that was filled with some physical interior running sessions.

"Overall I thought it was kinda sloppy. A lot of balls on the ground. Too much for my liking, or our liking," Payton said. "I thought the short-yardage period was the same way. It was just OK. So probably one of our more flat practices since we’ve been up here. The weather’s not that bad. We’re gonna play in weather like this ..."

When asked after practice if the run drills were "live" -- meaning full contact -- Payton said, "It was live. ... It’s not a good sign when you have to ask if it was live."

The Saints don’t have an indoor practice facility at their new training camp site in West Virginia. So far, they have been lucky that weather conditions have been ideal for more than two weeks. But Payton said he was glad that the Saints had at least one practice session where they could experience the kind of elements they might face on the road.

Obviously the Saints’ uneven road performances were a huge storyline last season. And it has been a big point of emphasis this offseason -- though it didn’t show on Monday.

"(It’s good to have some days like this) because you try to have a wet ball drill day, and it’s not the same. This is more realistic," Payton said. “So more than anything else you want to see how they respond. And, look, we’ve gotta do a better job as coaches. That’s on me and everyone else as well. It was good for us to see it and recognize that we’ve gotta make improvements. ...

"It does affect how you get ready to practice tomorrow. We’ve gotta do a better job, we’ve gotta have a little bit more sense of urgency, and I’m sure we will. We might repeat a drill or two."

The quarterback-center exchanges were the most blatant and most disturbing errors. They have crept up a few times throughout camp with all of the centers and quarterbacks. But it was almost stunning how much they piled up during one set of team drills Monday.

McCown said the quarterbacks and centers spent extra time after practice working on the snaps with no gloves and no towels to get used to it.

"There’s no excuse for it," McCown said. "That falls on veteran leadership of the team, of the offense, specifically myself, Ryan, the quarterbacks and the centers, and making sure we get that handled. There’s gonna be situations where we play in weather like this, and we’ve got to be able to handle that. ...

"And it takes some getting used to, but you’ve gotta be able to do it. So it was inconsistent today and wasn’t good enough today. And I hope it rains tomorrow so we can be better."

Players on offense and defense alike agreed with Payton that Monday’s practice wasn’t good enough. They all felt that same flat energy level -- which can be common at this stage of training camp, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

"You can feel Sean when he’s kinda aggravated. You can just see it in his face," Saints cornerback Corey White said. "And you don’t want that face, so you’ve gotta pick it up."

One of the few players who seemed unfazed by the conditions was rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, who hasn’t been fazed by anything yet. Cooks caught every ball thrown his way, including a tough low ball near the sideline. And once again, he made a linebacker whiff with a sharp cut that turned into a long gain.

As I joked earlier, we’re still looking for Cooks' Kryptonite, but we haven’t found it yet.

"I played in Corvallis," the former Oregon State star said with a laugh. "It rains like this all the time, so I was kind of used to it. These guys from down South don’t always see this."
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- More than a week into training camp, the New Orleans Saints' battle for the starting center job is still too close to call.

Both 13-year veteran Jonathan Goodwin and second-year pro Tim Lelito have stood out a handful of times in full-team and individual drills as they’ve taken turns working with the first-string offense. And we’ve seen a few fumbled center-quarterback exchanges from each of them.

It’s a difficult position to judge with the naked eye from the sideline in practice. Even coach Sean Payton said after Saturday’s scrimmage that the only way to truly evaluate an offensive lineman is to go back and look at the tape (not to mention knowing the assignments).

I did notice Lelito making two very nice blocks on two of the Saints’ big plays during Saturday’s scrimmage. But before that, Goodwin had stood out to me a couple more times in some of the Saints’ physical run drills.

And it’s clear from talking to Saints coaches and players that Goodwin is very much in the competition.

When asked what it is about Goodwin that will make it hard for Lelito to beat him out, Payton said, “He is consistent and he obviously knows exactly where to go. He will go six, seven weeks without a mental error. That is the type of player he is.”

Guard Jahri Evans said he’s seen the same Goodwin who was around from 2006-2010 before he left to spend three years with the San Francisco 49ers.

Ultimately, though, Evans agreed with Payton that the “eye in the sky” will be the ultimate judge for both players.

“Tim’s getting better. There’s a lot going on for Tim. It’s the first time he’s played center, especially at this level. The one thing I can say is that he’s getting better,” Evans said. “Goody is a seasoned vet, he’s a pro. He’s played 13-14 years in this league and Goody is just like we all remember Goody. We jell well together, we know where each other is going to be. We have those games and those reps with each other.

“I think both guys are working hard, and the thing is that the eye in the sky doesn’t lie. Go back to the film and see who’s the better guy.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The New Orleans Saints are off Sunday, so I thought it would be a good chance to empty my notebook from the week. Check out Part 1 from earlier today.

Payton’s flat tire: What does Saints rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste have to do with changing a flat tire? Well, coach Sean Payton brought the two together when he broke into a lengthy anecdote to help illustrate why young players need to focus on earning their keep in any role they're asked to do:

“We talked about it the very first team meeting. No one is going to be given a role for the (entire) season, but by the time you get to the opening game, there’s going to be a role for each player. The willingness and the ability for everyone to accept and then really buy into their role for that game, I think that is important,” Payton said. “I used this analogy a few years back. I was on a trip up to Snowshoe Mountain (in West Virginia), and if you go out of the airport to the right, you lose cell phone service pretty quickly. So I lost cell phone service, got a flat tire and was finally able to get someone on the phone to come out. This big ol’ boy came from a shop and he had his truck and asked me to back the car up, and then I backed up the wrong way and he yelled at me. Then he said he wanted me to hold the light here ... no, no, over here. And so for the next 20 minutes my role was to help him fix this flat tire so I could get up the hill.

“It wasn’t a permanent role, it was just for that 20 minutes. I think the same thing exists a little bit for players in this league. It is not a yearly role. It is a week-to-week role of what we need to do to win that game. With regards to a rookie corner, that might mean special teams, that might mean playing (the) dime. But that hasn’t been established yet, that hasn’t been determined yet. We are trying to get every opportunity to see where these guys can fit, and then the end game is to win that week. And the end game was to get to the top of the hill with a fixed tire.”

As for his individual assessment of Jean-Baptiste, Payton said he is "big, long-levered and plays bump-and-run well" and that he is still learning the defense and the nuances of playing cornerback, like most young players.

Millsaps memories: It’s been funny to hear veteran Saints players compare their training-camp experience here in the cool mountain air of West Virginia and the posh Greenbrier resort setting to their days at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, from 2006-2008. Center Jonathan Goodwin described the two experiences as complete opposites, “one end of the spectrum to the other.”

Offensive tackle Zach Strief compared the rooms at Millsaps with bare white walls and no TVs to solitary confinement. And worse yet, some of the young guys were stuck in a dorm with a broken air conditioner that couldn’t be shut off. And he hadn’t yet learned at that time to bring his own sheets and blankets. Now, Saints players are staying at a resort that includes a “pillow menu, for goodness sakes,” Strief said. The Greenbrier rooms do have some quirks -- including floral patterns on the walls and chandeliers in the ballrooms that don’t necessarily match with a football team. But Strief said it’s kind of cool, like a “time warp.”

And obviously players enjoy the benefits on the field, since it was brutally hot in Jackson. Strief estimated that he received at least 15 IVs to rehydrate during a typical Millsaps camp. Players had to wait in line for them. Here, he hasn’t had one yet. Strief said those tough camps were beneficial for the team at the time, especially the first one, when the team was changing its culture and trying to evaluate an entire roster full of players. And he said this current camp only works if you have good veteran leadership. But he said a camp like this truly can extend the careers of veteran players -- not to mention have them much fresher by the start of Week 1 and deep into the season.

Silver lining: Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton wasn’t happy with the defense’s performance in Saturday’s scrimmage, in which they missed too many tackles and allowed too many big plays. But he did admit that the defense will probably be better off for it when they return to work on Monday.

"I'm disappointed we didn't go out and dominate, but at the same time I'm kind of glad," Lofton said. "As a defensive player if you're out here and think you've made it, something is wrong. So, boom, you get knocked back down and that makes everyone refocus and come together."
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- On the field, the competition between Jonathan Goodwin and Tim Lelito for the New Orleans Saints' starting center job is as intense as it gets. But Lelito insisted that’s not the case off the field.

The second-year pro said the 13-year veteran Goodwin has actually taken both Lelito and rookie center Matt Armstrong “under his wing” since the Saints signed Goodwin to compete for the job in June.

“It’s definitely a competition. We’re both going for the starting center position. But it’s nice to have a guy that will actually work with you and teach you things,” said Lelito, who said they’ll break down things over lunch or dinner, as well as the meeting rooms. “He’s not going to dog-cuss me or [say], ‘I’m not saying anything to you because you’re my competition.’ We’re both trying to make this team better.”

However, when asked if he has returned the favor by teaching Goodwin anything, Lelito said, “I don’t know if you can teach someone who has been in the league for 13 years something. That’s kind of hard to do.”

The competition is too close to call for now as they’ve taken turns working with the first-string offense so far during camp.

Goodwin has probably stood out a little more during one-on-one pass-rush drills the last couple of days. But both players would quickly point out that the center position is as much mental as it physical -- maybe more so, since the center calls out blocking assignments before the snap.

In one sense, this summer is a big change for Lelito, who cracked the roster as a backup last year after being undrafted out of Grand Valley State.

But Lelito said it’s also very much the same.

“I still come into it the same way mentally, as, ‘This is do or die today,’” Lelito said. “I don’t think you can take any plays off or take days off or anything like that, especially when you’re going for the starting center position.”
A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints' 90-man roster heading into the start of training camp. Players report on Thursday and will hold their first practice Friday at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

Current depth chart:

Left tackle: Terron Armstead, Bryce Harris, Tavon Rooks

Right tackle: Zach Strief, Ty Nsekhe, Thomas Welch

Left guard: Ben Grubbs, Senio Kelemete, Manase Foketi

Right guard: Jahri Evans, Marcel Jones, Jason Weaver

Center: Tim Lelito, Jonathan Goodwin, Matt Armstrong

Gone from last year: C Brian de la Puente, OT Charles Brown

Key roster battles: The main focus here will be on the center position, which is one of a very few actual wide-open battles for a full-time starting job. Perhaps Lelito's youth and potential give him a slight edge over Goodwin, but I believe it’s awfully close to 50-50 heading into the start of camp. Chances are, they will both make the team since either one could be used as a reliable “swing” backup at guard and center.

The other four starting jobs are locked down. And I think Harris is also cemented as the top backup at offensive tackle -- especially now that he is being cross-trained at left tackle.

Beyond those top seven, it’s a wide-open battle for one or two more spots on the 53-man roster. The rookie Rooks probably has the best chance since the Saints invested a sixth-round pick in him and like his growth potential. But I’m not sure how significant his recent injury is since the Saints haven’t revealed any details.

Fellow rookie Armstrong has potential to stick since he was one of the Saints’ most highly rated undrafted pickups. And the Saints have always liked Jones’ potential since drafting him in the seventh round in 2012. But this is probably a make-or-break camp for Jones, who hasn’t cracked the 53-man roster yet. Maybe the switch from tackle to guard will help prove his versatility and value.

Otherwise, the Saints have a handful of veterans with some limited NFL experience that they brought in this offseason as alternative options.
METAIRIE, La. -- Jonathan Goodwin said leaving the New Orleans Saints in 2011 was one of the toughest decisions he ever made.

Coming back this week was one of the easiest.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to retire a Saint, so I guess this makes it a lot easier,” said Goodwin, who re-signed with the Saints on Tuesday after previously playing in New Orleans from 2006-10. “I look at New Orleans as my second home. This is the place where my career turned around and I had the most success.”

[+] EnlargeJonathan Goodwin
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAfter three seasons in San Francisco, Jonathan Goodwin returned to New Orleans this offseason on a one-year deal.
Goodwin, 35, spent the past three years with the San Francisco 49ers after leaving for a more lucrative offer in 2011. He doesn’t regret his time spent in San Francisco -- he started all three years for a team that reached a Super Bowl and two NFC Championship Games.

But he admitted that it was a grueling choice to leave at the time.

“That day I changed my mind like twice. I told the 49ers I was coming, then I told 'em I wasn't coming, then I told 'em I was coming for real,” Goodwin said. “So it was a rough decision for me and my family. But I felt like I had some things I couldn't pass up.”

This year, however, San Francisco decided to move on to younger alternatives. And the Saints were the team with the opening after they decided not to re-sign starter Brian De La Puente in free agency.

The Saints had been in talks with Goodwin since April, but coach Sean Payton confirmed that they waited until after June 1 to finish the deal since it could potentially affect their ability to earn a compensatory draft pick next year.

Goodwin will now compete with second-year pro Tim Lelito for the starting job.

Lelito was still working with the first string during Thursday's organized team activities (OTAs) session that was open to the media. But Payton insisted that no one has an advantage.

“Both those guys are going to have a good shot of playing for us,” Payton said. “And listen, that’s the way it is, it’s normal. You’re never just given a position. Tim’s done a lot of good things, we’re excited about his progress. And a guy like Jonathan, who obviously has played a long time. I think it’ll make both of 'em better.”

Goodwin said he won’t have any problem competing with Lelito and serving as a mentor to him at the same time. He said that’s what his relationship was like with young center Daniel Kilgore in San Francisco.

“You know, in this league, when a younger guy can play, that’s who teams tend to go with. But guys did it for me, so I have no problem doing it with Tim,” Goodwin said. “We’ve already had conversations, and I think we’ve already started building a relationship.

“Naturally, I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t want to play, so I still want to play. We’re both going to fight each other tooth and nail. So either way, I think this team will be straight at the center position.”

Goodwin said he took a couple of days after last season to think about whether he wanted to keep playing at his age. And he said he felt like he could still play and the game was still fun. And if the right opportunity presented itself, he would pursue it -- which obviously turned out to be the case.

Although Goodwin clearly isn’t in his prime anymore, observers felt like he continued to be a serviceable starter for the 49ers last year. And Goodwin stills feels he is playing at a high enough level.

“I want to still play well. I don’t want to just be out here just to say I’m an NFL player,” Goodwin said. “I’ve got a lot of pride, and you know, I saw my grade sheets that Coach [Mike] Solari gave me every week last year. So I know I played well. Definitely not perfect. But I know I still can hold down the fort as a center in this league.”

Veteran teammate Zach Strief isn’t playing favorites between Goodwin and Lelito. But he said he’s definitely glad to have Goodwin in the mix.

Strief said after De La Puente signed with the Chicago Bears, he was texting Goodwin about 10 seconds later.

“You lose a friend (De La Puente) and you want a friend to come here,” Strief said. “I think on top of that, I think he’s a good football player. He’s proven that. He’s been successful in San Francisco. It’s good to have as many good players in the room as you can.”
The details are in on center Jonathan Goodwin's contract with the New Orleans Saints. He signed a one-year, $1.02 million deal that will count $635,000 against the Saints’ cap under rules that promote the signing of veteran players to minimum-benefit deals.

Goodwin received a signing bonus of $65,000 and a base salary of $955,000 -- of which $60,000 is fully guaranteed.

The Saints are now $1.72 million under the salary cap, according to the NFL Players Association.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints’ OTA practice on Thursday was open to the media. Here’s my quick take on the observations that stood out most:

[+] EnlargeStanley Jean-Baptiste
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsRookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste has impressed the Saints during offseason workouts.
Crowded CB battle: It looks like the competition for jobs behind No. 1 cornerback Keenan Lewis will be wide open this summer. Last week, we saw Patrick Robinson working with the first-string defense. Today, both Champ Bailey and Corey White were out there with the 1s while they spent most of team drills in nickel defense. Rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste also rotated in with the first-stringers at times, while Robinson worked with the second string.

Jean-Baptiste looked pretty good out there, including a play when he stuck with speedy, small receiver Charles Hawkins deep down the field, forcing Drew Brees to throw incomplete. Jean-Baptiste will need time to develop this summer, but he hasn’t looked too raw or lost out there at all. Defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff spoke highly of his progress after practice.

Toon looks solid: Third-year receiver Nick Toon had a nice practice, including one catch he had to reach up and pluck out of the air. As I’ve written since the middle of last season, I still think the Saints are high on Toon’s potential, even though he struggled during his brief opportunity for playing time last year while filling in for injured veterans.

Coach Sean Payton stressed Thursday that the Saints still have high expectations for Toon, and he could have an opportunity to play a significant role this year.

A lot of fans seem eager for the Saints to move on from Toon and maybe replace him with undrafted rookie big man Brandon Coleman. But so far Coleman looks like he may need some time to develop. He dropped a pass Thursday, though it’s obviously an extremely small sample size so far.

Lots of Cadet: It felt like Travaris Cadet was getting the lion’s share of the workload among the Saints’ running backs Thursday, both when the Saints were doing run plays and passing plays. He stood out even more than usual since the Saints aren’t doing any live tackling in practice at this stage of the offseason, but he still showed some speed and nifty elusiveness at times.

I think Cadet clearly ranks fourth in the pecking order at running back behind Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. But he could indeed play a much greater role in this offense now that Darren Sproles has been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Goodwin’s return: Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin was back on the field after signing his contract earlier this week. He was working with the second-team offense, while Tim Lelito remained with the first string. But Payton said it will be an open competition for the job this summer.

Goodwin is obviously thrilled to be back in New Orleans, where he played from 2006-10 before leaving for a more lucrative deal with the San Francisco 49ers. Goodwin said he considers New Orleans his second home and that leaving was one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made. He said he even changed his mind twice at the time, telling the 49ers he was coming, then telling them he wasn’t, then switching back.

Other depth chart notes: Quarterback Ryan Griffin worked with the second-string offense throughout practice, but neither he nor Luke McCown stood out much, for better or for worse. The secondary had a nice practice, in general, denying anything from being completed deep. But the practice was mostly filled with run plays and shorter passes.

Second-year outside linebacker Rufus Johnson appeared to be working as a 3-4 defensive end for much of the practice, signaling either a possible position change or a versatile role.

Kenny Stills, Hawkins and running back Derrick Strozier took turns fielding punts, but it was more of a punt-coverage drill than a return drill, so it’s still unclear what the pecking order will be there. Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks is expected to be the No. 1 guy there when he returns to practice later this month. Cooks is not allowed to practice yet since his school, Oregon State, is still in session.

Injuries/roll call: Safety Jairus Byrd was watching from the sideline after having back surgery last week. Payton said he’s still expected to be ready for the start of training camp this summer. Defensive tackles John Jenkins and Tyrunn Walker remain sidelined with an undisclosed ailment. Receiver Joe Morgan was still working off to the side as he rehabs from last year’s knee injury.

Also not participating for undisclosed reasons: Receiver Steve Hull, linebacker Cheta Ozougwu and nose tackle Moses McCray.

And as expected, tight end Jimmy Graham was not present since he is still unsigned.
The New Orleans Saints officially announced the signing of center Jonathan Goodwin to a one-year deal on Tuesday. They also signed veteran defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick to a one-year deal. Terms were not disclosed.

Deaderick is a fifth-year veteran who spent last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and his first three seasons with the New England Patriots. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder has a total of 65 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 53 career games, including the playoffs. He has started 20 of those games.

Deaderick originally joined the Patriots as a seventh-round pick out of Alabama in 2010.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

METAIRIE, La. -- A wrap-up of the New Orleans Saints' draft. Click here for a full list of Saints draftees.

Best move: Trading up for dynamic receiver Brandin Cooks with the 20th pick in Round 1. Normally, I preach fans shouldn't expect too much from any draft pick in year one, but Cooks sure looks like he could make a huge impact right away for a Saints offense that suddenly needed some more juice after parting ways with veterans Darren Sproles and Lance Moore.

[+] EnlargeBrandin Cooks
Matt Cohen/Icon SMIThe New Orleans Saints gained one of the more polished receivers in this draft class in Brandin Cooks, per ESPN's Scouts Inc. profile.
Cooks' combination of college production (128 catches for 1,730 yards last season at Oregon State) and dynamic speed (4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash) makes the 5-foot-10, 189-pounder another matchup nightmare for coach Sean Payton to play with. Cooks could also take over the Saints' punt-return role -- another area in which they need some help.

But Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said that's more of a bonus than the reason Cooks got drafted.

"Obviously, we were aware of his skill [as a returner]," Loomis said. "But he also had 120-some catches. We're pretty happy with him as a receiver."

Riskiest move: The same answer. The Saints had to trade away a third-round pick to move up from No. 27 to No. 20. Obviously, I think Cooks was worth that risk, but it’s really the only move the Saints made that could qualify as a gamble. Many NFL teams cherish those midround picks.

Loomis, however, has always shown a willingness to trade up when the Saints have a conviction on a player, which was clearly the case in this instance. And he said the Saints' success with undrafted free agents has made them more willing to trade picks over the years.

Loomis said that third-round choice was "not inexpensive," and it would have been "a hard pill to swallow" to give up more than that. That's why the Saints didn't move higher into the teens ahead of the New York Jets, for example.

Most surprising move: Not drafting a center or guard. It wasn't a huge shock -- I ranked receiver and cornerback as the Saints' top two needs, and that's where they went in Rounds 1 and 2 with Cooks and Stanley Jean-Baptiste. But I did expect New Orleans to add an interior lineman at some point in the draft. Payton explained the Saints considered a handful of centers but never came close to drafting one. He said it wasn't a deep draft at the position in general, and the grades never lined up when New Orleans was on the clock.

That leaves the center position as the Saints' biggest question mark right now, but they're high on second-year pro Tim Lelito. I still think there's a strong chance they'll sign free-agent veteran Jonathan Goodwin to compete for the job.

File it away: What a change for Florida linebacker Ronald Powell to come into this draft as an unheralded fifth-round pick (No. 169 overall). Four years ago, Powell was rated as the No. 1 high school player in the country, according to ESPNU, but he never quite lived up to that potential and missed the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL that required two surgeries.

Powell is still an enticing athlete -- and he insisted those setbacks will only serve as motivation.

"I think he is hungry. It's very important to him. You get that sense specifically with that player," Payton said. "For every one of these guys, it's important. But every once in a while, you talk with one of these players, and that just stands out."
Thanks for all of your New Orleans Saints questions on Twitter this week. Send ‘em my way anytime @MikeTriplett: