New Orleans Saints: nic jacobs
Charles, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012. The 6-foot-3, 254-pounder spent two seasons in Cincinnati with a total of nine catches for 109 yards.
Jacobs, who spent time at both LSU and McNeese State in college, impressed this summer as a big, physical presence who was especially strong as a blocker.
It’s unclear if the Saints will need to add another tight end to their active roster this week. Backup Benjamin Watson left last Sunday’s game early with an undisclosed injury but called it a “minor setback” on Twitter.
Tuesday workouts: The Saints also worked out veteran defensive backs Derek Cox and Brandon Ghee and veteran guard/centers Eric Olsen, Lemuel Jeanpierre and Alex Parsons on Tuesday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates. Such workouts are routine as teams like the Saints like to keep their “ready lists” updated. So it doesn’t necessarily mean any transactions are imminent -- though the Saints are down a man at center while Jonathan Goodwin recovers from a high ankle sprain.
Power rankings: The Saints (1-2) moved up just one spot in ESPN’s power rankings to No. 15 after their first victory of the season.
Cowboy drama: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, who was the sixth pick in the draft out of LSU in 2012, reportedly stormed out of the team’s facility when told he won’t be starting this Sunday night against the Saints.
To follow all the Cowboys news this week, check out ESPN's Cowboys team page. And follow Cowboys reporter Todd Archer on Twitter @ToddArcher.
- Despite their 1-2 record, the Saints lead the NFL with an offensive efficiency rating of 42.7, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
- Quarterback Drew Brees is 8-of-9 this season when targeting tight end Jimmy Graham on third downs -- with all eight completions going for first downs, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
- If Goodwin can’t play Sunday, it will snap his streak of 89 consecutive games started with the Saints and San Francisco 49ers. It’s the second longest active streak in the NFL among centers and the sixth longest among all offensive linemen.
- Saints receiver Brandin Cooks turns 21 this week. According to The Times-Picayune, the rookie is on pace to shatter NFL records for players who entered the league at age 20.
- The Saints moved above .500 all-time in the Superdome with last Sunday’s 20-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, as The Advocate pointed out. It’s the first time they’ve been above .500 in the Dome since they started 2-1 when it opened in 1975.
Of that group, McClain is the only one who wasn’t with the Saints in training camp. The 6-foot-5, 336-pounder was released by the Buffalo Bills over the weekend. He also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders after joining the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson in 2012.
The Saints are expected to hold a bonus practice Monday before returning to their usual weekly routine, with players off on Tuesday. Their first media access and injury report will be Wednesday.
- 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.
- Marques Colston (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) has always been the Saints’ biggest receiver. But he’s now looking up to undrafted rookie Brandon Coleman (6-6, 225). “This is the first time I’ve had a receiver where I can feel like I am looking in the mirror,” Colston said of the former Rutgers standout, who has turned things around in camp after struggling during OTAs.
- Meanwhile, Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief also compared rookie receiver Brandin Cooks to Colston (from a personality standpoint, not a physical one, since Cooks is 5-10, 189). “He carries himself like a much older player," Strief said. "You talk about a guy you’d like to come in and have an immediate impact, a lot of that is, ‘Is it too big?' Is the scene too big? Is it too big to get a pass from Drew Brees? Is it too fast? He acts like an eight-year vet, he really does. He’s very calm, cool and collected. He’s very Marques Colston-esque, personality-wise. He’s very quiet, just comes to work, all the things you want to see. I don’t know where we keep finding these receivers that don’t talk.”
- Strief also did a great job breaking down Cooks’ speed: “He’s electric. I think the thing you see with Brandin is that it seems very natural. It doesn’t seem like when he’s running fast that he’s running fast. You see some guys really get going and it looks like (it). Like Mark Ingram, when he gets to top speed it’s like a freight train. You know what I mean? It looks like he’s really driving. Brandin just seems to kind of smoothly go faster than everybody. It’s clearly real natural to him, and he’s got a great burst.”
- Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said the funny thing about new veteran cornerback Champ Bailey is that everywhere he goes, he has four young defensive backs following him around like a shadow. “As young players, they grew up watching him, and now he’s in the same room. It’s unbelievable,” Lofton said. “I’d be doing the same thing if that was Ray Lewis or Mike Singletary.”
- Speaking of Lofton, both Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette made a point to single him out this week as a vital part of New Orleans’ defense, even though the younger guys are getting more attention right now. Galette called him the “calming influence” that helps keep everyone focused.
- I also liked Galette’s description of powerful defensive end Akiem Hicks, saying he’s so athletic for a 6-5, 324-pounder that he can “tomahawk dunk” on the basketball court. And when asked if it’s true that teammates marvel at Hicks’ prowess in the weight room, Galette said, “Everything you’ve heard and more. ... I leave the weight room when he comes in.”
- Saints coach Sean Payton offered lofty praise to perennial practice-squad receiver Andy Tanner, who has continued to stand out in practice for the fifth straight summer. “He is someone that you don’t ever take for granted," Payton said. "He is a guy you don’t bet against. He is a grinder. He is tough. He knows what to do. Shoot, he has a lot of traits that endear himself to the team. He has the respect of his teammates, and they have seen him work, and they have seen him be successful. Defensively, guys will talk about who is tough to cover. ... I think he’d be one of those guys they would bring up.”
- I’ve been eyeing undrafted rookie tight end Nic Jacobs as a wild-card possibility to crack the 53-man roster because of his unique size (6-5, 269). Jacobs first caught my eye when he showed surprising athleticism while catching a pass. But he’s been even more impressive as a blocker, according to Strief: “He’s as physical a blocker as any tight end we’ve had here. You see it on film, he just buries his face in guys’ chests.”
@MikeTriplett: This was a hot topic this week after The MMQB’s Greg Bedard observed that Champ Bailey looked “extremely average” to him when he visited Saints camp and said it wouldn’t be a shock if Bailey doesn’t make the team.
@MikeTriplett Ok, you've seen him in coverage Is Champ Bailey stiff in the hips? Struggling in coverage? Thanks— dOMe_inate (@WhoDatWarriors) July 30, 2014
First of all, I don’t share that opinion. I’m not saying Bailey has blown me away with his athleticism or speed. And I still think he’ll have to prove he deserves the starting job over Patrick Robinson (who has maybe been even more impressive so far in camp) and Corey White. But Bailey has never stood out to me as looking especially stiff or slow. He seems to be moving around well, and he’s shown some playmaking instincts a couple times.
More importantly, from what I've been told, the Saints seem to be pleased with Bailey so far. They obviously had a specific vision in mind for him when they added him, knowing full well that his skill set and athleticism had diminished. The Saints are very high on “ball skills” and still feel Bailey can win battles for the ball in the air in tight spaces. So I think he’s still the guy to beat for that No. 2 cornerback job.
However, I also wouldn’t totally dismiss what Bedard wrote, for two reasons. One, Bedard is a longtime NFL writer who has seen a lot more of Bailey in past years than I have. So he’s in a better position to compare how Bailey looks now against how Bailey looked in the past.
And two, Bailey could indeed be in jeopardy if he doesn’t win a starting job. It wouldn’t make a ton of sense for the Saints to keep Bailey around as a backup since they use safety Rafael Bush in their nickel packages and Bailey wouldn’t be much of an asset on special teams like White is, for example.
@MikeTriplett: Piggybacking off of what I just said, the veterans who could be “surprise cuts” are usually the ones who might get beaten out for a starting job and wouldn’t serve much purpose as backups if they don’t play special teams.
@MikeTriplett I Just read an article about the possibility of Champ getting cut & while I dont believe that, who could we surprisingly lose?— Ric Sincere (@bornsincere7) July 30, 2014
Think Jon Stinchcomb or Alex Brown (both of whom got cut in training camp) or Scott Shanle (who became inactive every week after losing his starting job) in recent years.
For now, I don't have any of those types of surprise cuts in my 53-man roster projections because I haven’t seen any reason to cut any of the Saints’ vets from last season. But if you had to look at the type of player who could be in jeopardy if he doesn’t win a starting/rotational role, you’d look at guys such as Bailey, Robinson, center Jonathan Goodwin, receiver Robert Meachem, or the veteran linebackers since there are so many guys battling for roster spots at that position.
@MikeTriplett: Since I haven’t cut any veterans yet on my projected 53-man roster, I also haven’t added any undrafted rookies yet. But there were two guys that I almost added in the latest edition -- safety Pierre Warren from Jacksonville State and tight end Nic Jacobs from McNeese State.
@MikeTriplett What 3rd string guys have looked good? Who are some less obvious UDFAs who look like they could potentially crack the roster?— Hedgery (@Hedgery) July 30, 2014
Warren has been widely recognized for making a lot of big plays in practice in recent days. More importantly, he clearly did something early on to gain the trust of the coaches, since he’s run with the second string ahead of other roster hopefuls all summer. The key for Warren, however, will be how he handles special teams in the preseason games.
Jacobs, meanwhile, has turned my head because he moves so well for his massive size (6-foot-5, 269 pounds). I could see the Saints finding a role for a big blocking tight end with growth potential.
Receivers Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones have looked good at times. But receivers always seem to shine in training camp, and they’ve got a lot of veterans ahead of them. Some of the linebackers have flashed at times, such as Todd Davis, Marcus Thompson and Kasim Edebali. But that’s an even deeper position.
I also like what I’ve seen from center Matt Armstrong and quarterback Logan Kilgore, though they’re probably more practice-squad material.
And if there’s someone I didn’t mention, it doesn’t mean they’re struggling. It just means there are 90 guys out there on the practice field, and it’s hard to get eyes on everybody consistently.
@MikeTriplett: I’d still rank guys such as Jimmy Graham, Cameron Jordan, Keenan Lewis and a handful of others higher. But I do see your point. The Saints are really counting on Terron Armstead to continue developing (he looks like he could be a really special player). And from the little I’ve seen so far, backup Bryce Harris looks a lot more polished as a run-blocker than pass protector on the left side.
@MikeTriplett After Brees, I feel like Armstead may be the "MVP" in the sense that losing him to injury=huge dropoff in wins. Agree?— no lemonade (@nolemonade) July 30, 2014
I’m planning to write something on Armstead in the next day or two. I’m expecting a really nice Year 2 leap from him, and I think the Saints are, too.
Current depth charts:
Tight end: Jimmy Graham, Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill, Je'Ron Hamm, Nic Jacobs
Fullback: Erik Lorig, Austin Johnson
Gone from last year: FB Jed Collins
Key roster battle: First of all, I often lump these two positions together when breaking down the roster because they have been interchangeable at times in the past (with backup tight ends also moonlighting as backup fullbacks).
Secondly, I think this is the group that is most likely to produce a dark horse on the final 53-man roster. The Saints have often kept either four tight ends or two fullbacks, so they could easily make room if second-year pro Johnson or undrafted rookies Hamm or Jacobs impresses this summer.
The young backups have all shown some potential so far. Hamm probably stood out most during organized team activities and minicamp because of his athleticism and pass-catching skills. But the other guys will likely show their value more in padded practices and on special teams.