New Orleans Saints: Shayne Graham

A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2015 offseason -- ranked from 1-12 in order of the team's need for upgrades or replacements.

Current depth chart:

P Thomas Morstead. Age 28, signed through 2018. 2015 salary and bonuses: $2.45 million. 2015 salary-cap number: $3.4 million.

K Shayne Graham. Age 37, unrestricted free agent.

K Dustin Hopkins. Age 24, signed through 2017. 2015 salary and bonuses: $510,000. 2015 salary-cap number: unverified, but likely $510,000.

LS Justin Drescher. Age 27, signed through 2016. 2015 salary and bonuses: $765,000. 2015 salary-cap number: $875,000.

Analysis:

Although I ranked this last among the Saints' needs, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them shop for an upgrade at kicker -- either through free agency or the draft. It's just the last position group where I'd expect them to either use a high draft pick or spend big in free agency.

Graham was decent in 2014, making 19 of 22 field-goal attempts and even winning a NFC special teams player of the month award. But he seemed to be on a short leash by season's end, when he missed two December field goals while the Saints auditioned potential replacements.

The Saints signed Hopkins to their practice squad after that audition because they like his potential. The two might wind up battling it out in training camp if the Saints decide to re-sign Graham. But it wouldn't be surprising to see them look for an upgrade at a position where they've never had much consistency in the Sean Payton-Mickey Loomis era.

On the flip side, Morstead is as consistent and reliable as it gets. He had another standout season for a Saints team that quietly ranked first in the NFL in punt coverage (opponents averaged just 4.1 yards per return). Morstead's net average of 42.9 yards per punt was second in the league.

Drescher has also been solid throughout his five-year career with the Saints, so there's no reason to expect any change at long snapper.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints added kicker Dustin Hopkins to the practice squad Wednesday.

It's unclear if Hopkins is being groomed as a possible replacement for current kicker Shayne Graham or if the Saints just wanted to start working with him early with an eye toward 2015. Although it's rare for NFL teams to put kickers on the practice squad, coach Sean Payton explained that they have more of a luxury to do so after practice squads expanded from eight to 10 players this year.

"You're really trying to acquire the best group of players you have. So from a numbers standpoint, it's pretty easy for us to do," said Payton, who said Hopkins "opened some eyes the other day" when he was one of four kickers the Saints brought in for a workout.

Payton also said the Saints had good draft grade on Hopkins in 2013 when he came out of Florida State. The Buffalo Bills drafted Hopkins in the sixth round, and he beat out veteran Rian Lindell for their job. But he never wound up kicking in a game because of a groin injury.

This year, Hopkins was released by Buffalo after being beat out by veteran Dan Carpenter during the preseason. Hopkins said he was still rehabbing the lingering injury until recently, and the Saints tryout was his first.

"Even though it's just my second year officially, it seems like I've been through a lot now already," Hopkins said.

Graham has made 19 of 22 field goal attempts this year, but he's missed two over the past two weeks -- the first of which helped prompt the Saints to look at other kickers last week.

The Saints also added guard Andrew Miller to the practice squad and released offensive tackle DeMarcus Love and defensive tackle Garrison Smith from the practice squad.
METAIRIE, La. -- If New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham was on the hot seat before, it can't have cooled off much after he missed a 51-yard field goal in Monday night's 31-15 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Graham
Graham
Graham appeared to stumble a bit after the kick -- but it was unclear if that affected the kick, which missed a little short and right. And holder Luke McCown didn't spin the laces around on the football. But coach Sean Payton said he'd have to look at the tape before passing any judgment.

Graham's attempt came after McCown had dropped the snap on a previous attempt -- but the Saints got a do-over because of offsetting penalties.

There was a steady rain for several hours in Chicago leading into the first quarter. But Payton said the footing "wasn't that bad really."

Graham, who later made a 25-yard field goal attempt, is now 19-of-22 on the season (plus one missed extra point). But the Saints tried out four kickers last week after Graham had missed a 42-yarder at home against the Carolina Panthers.

And Payton said it's possible to be "unhappy off the last performance" despite a steady body of work throughout the season. Ultimately, though, New Orleans stuck with Graham and Payton insisted he believed he would respond the right way.

You could also question the decision to attempt that 51-yard kick in the first place on Monday night, especially with some mild weather conditions to deal with. But the Saints appeared to have a light wind at their back. Graham had just nailed a 55-yarder going in the same direction during his last warm-up kick with at least 5 yards to spare.
METAIRIE, La. -- Shayne Graham hadn’t missed a kick in more than two months before he pulled his 42-yard field-goal attempt wide left in this past Sunday’s 41-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

But that was enough to put him on the hot seat along with several other teammates who are being scrutinized more than ever by coach Sean Payton this week.

Graham
Graham
The Saints tried out four free agent kickers Wednesday before ultimately sticking with Graham.

When asked if it’s possible to be unhappy with a kicker who is 18 of 20 on field-goal attempts this season, Payton said, "Yeah, you could be unhappy off the last performance."

"And yet I pay close attention to his numbers. We wanted to look at what was available, how they did," continued Payton, who said it’s common for NFL teams to take a look at possible alternatives at a variety of positions throughout the course of a season. "But, look, Shayne is going to respond no different than the rest of these guys we’re challenging. He’ll respond."

Graham, who is no stranger to the NFL business after playing for 10 different teams in a 14-year career, agreed that he needs to be more worried about how he responds than the challenge itself.

"All I can do is control what’s in front of me, not upstairs," said Graham, adding that he wasn’t taken aback when Payton had stern words for him on the sideline after his miss, because that's expected when any player makes a mistake. "I’d probably be concerned if there wasn’t something said to me."
METAIRIE, La. – Garrett Hartley is among a group of kickers working out for the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

It’s unknown if the Saints are intent on replacing current kicker Shayne Graham or if they’re just updating their list of fallback options – as NFL teams often do in season. According to league sources, the Saints also are working out Derek Dimke, who was with them throughout the summer, and Zach Hocker, among other possible candidates.

UPDATED: Per a league source, the tryouts concluded Thursday and the Saints didn’t immediately appear likely to sign any of the kickers. Obviously that could change going forward, though.

Hartley
If the Saints wind up bringing back Hartley, their longtime former kicker and Super Bowl hero, it might be the most interesting twist yet in New Orleans’ current roster shake-up.

Hartley, 28, has been out of football since the Saints released him in a similar shake-up last December. Before that he spent six seasons in New Orleans that Hartley aptly described last year as a “roller coaster.”

Hartley was a hero during the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run, making an overtime field goal in the NFC championship game and three field goals of 40-plus yards in the Super Bowl win. However, Hartley also battled several periods of inconsistency over the years, missed one season with a hip injury and once missed four games for testing positive for a banned stimulant.

Ultimately, the Saints decided to let him go during Week 16 of last season after he had missed two field goals in a loss to the St. Louis Rams.

At the time, coach Sean Payton said, “The way these doors kind of open and close, we just agreed that, ‘Hey, right now, don’t ever say never in regards to being back with the team.’”

Hartley had at least two reported tryouts this year, with the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans, but hasn’t caught on anywhere.

Graham, meanwhile, has had a solid year with the Saints after a somewhat-shaky preseason, in which he ultimately beat out Dimke for the job. But Graham missed a 42-yard attempt during this past Sunday’s 41-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Graham has made 18 of 20 field-goal attempts this year. He has missed one extra point.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October after going a perfect 9-for-9 on field-goal attempts.

Graham
Graham
Graham made exactly three field goals in each of the Saints’ three games -- including a clutch 44-yarder that tied the game late in regulation in New Orleans’ 37-31 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5. He also made clutch kicks of 48 and 36 yards in the fourth quarter at Detroit before New Orleans wound up losing that game in the final minutes.

This was Graham’s first monthly honor in a 14-year career spent with 10 different teams.

The 36-year-old has certainly proved the Saints right for sticking with him as their kicker this summer despite some inconsistency in training camp and the preseason. He is 13-of-14 overall on his field goal attempts this season, though he also missed an extra point in Week 3.
Thomas MorsteadTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys stopped Thomas Morstead for a 2-yard loss on the Saints' ill-fated fake punt.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- To be fair, there is no such thing as a high-percentage play when you are down 31-17 and facing a fourth-and-9 with 7:45 remaining in a game.

But a fake punt clearly wasn't the answer. And New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game that "hindsight probably was 20-20" after punter Thomas Morstead was sacked for a 2-yard loss. The Dallas Cowboys scored soon afterward to ice their 38-17 victory.

Payton said he is not sure he would have gone for it in that situation, though. He likely would have opted to punt instead with two timeouts still remaining.

"It’s something we’d had up for a while. Even versus their 'safe' look, it was something we thought would have a chance," Payton said of the play, which began with a fake handoff to running back Travaris Cadet -- but the Cowboys didn’t bite.

"There was some misdirection involved. They played it pretty well," Payton said. "Hindsight probably was 20-20. I had kind of gone back and forth with it. It was on the hash mark we wanted, and they covered it pretty well."

Morstead said the Saints had been practicing the play for a while, but the Cowboys simply didn’t bite.

"No one was open, so I didn't throw it," Morstead told reporters. "I think they had three guys covering the two that were options for me to throw to, and I just didn't feel like it was there. I decided instead of going 0-for-1 with an interception, I'd try to extend the play, and it just didn't work."

It was hardly the only special teams gaffe of the night for the Saints.

Kicker Shayne Graham missed a 41-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter to help set the tone in an "everything that could go wrong ..." game.

It was Graham’s first field-goal miss of the season, but he also missed an extra point last week in a 20-9 victory against the Minnesota Vikings. Graham later made a 30-yard field goal Sunday and is 4-of-5 on the season.

UPDATED: Payton reiterated Monday that the blame for the failed play was "on me for being impatient" when asked if he would have liked to see Morstead at least throw the ball up for grabs.

"No. Listen, that's on me. That's not Thomas or that's not Cadet," Payton said. "It's a play designed for misdirection. Credit Dallas, they were in a punt-safe. I kind of felt like they would be, and really that's on me for being impatient. I thought we were at a point in the game once we got to two scores, if I had to do it over again, I'd have punted. Thomas did what he was supposed to."
METAIRIE, La. -- Although the New Orleans Saints risked losing kicker Shayne Graham on the open market when they released him on Saturday, it sounds like they remained committed to him all along.

Coach Sean Payton gave Graham a ringing endorsement when discussing why the Saints re-signed Graham on Tuesday and chose him over challenger Derek Dimke this summer.

Graham
Graham
"We felt like he won that battle, and we felt like it was pretty clear," Payton said.

Payton confirmed that the Saints decided to release and then re-sign Graham to "buy time" until they could use their short-term injured reserve designation on rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt, which wasn't allowed until Tuesday.

As it turned out, the Saints wound up waiving quarterback Ryan Griffin on Tuesday, then they used the I.R. designation on Fortt on Wednesday. Regardless, Payton's point was that Graham never strayed far from their plans.

"Now listen, when a termination happens, it happens," Payton said, indicating that Graham could have wound up signing elsewhere. "But clearly he was someone we felt won that competition. We felt both those guys (Graham and Dimke) did a good job of handling it. But I thought he had a real good camp."

Graham, meanwhile, said he didn't know for sure that the Saints would call him back after he was released Saturday. But he remained optimistic since they told him he had a good camp and told him to "be ready" in case they did want to bring him back.

"I felt a vote of confidence, but I know the way this business goes, you never know," Graham said. "That's why I play, managers manage and coaches coach."

Graham, 36, showed some inconsistency during training camp practices. But he was mostly solid in the preseason games. He made all four of his field-goal attempts, and his only miss came on one of the experimental 33-yard extra-point attempts in Week 1.

Graham said he felt good about his camp, saying that he made close to 90 percent of his kicks.

"That's really pretty good. That's typically what I'm shooting for in training camp, 90 percent or higher, pushing right on that borderline," Graham said.

Throughout the summer, I consistently projected that Graham would wind up winning the Saints' kicker job because I knew they liked what they saw at the end of last season when he was so clutch in the playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles (making 4 of 4 field goals, including the game-winner). And I knew the Saints didn't fault Graham too much for his two difficult misses in tough weather conditions in the playoff loss at Seattle.

However, my confidence in that prediction started to waver when Payton was clearly unhappy about the missed extra point. And then Graham was unable to clearly seal the deal during the final week of practice, when he and Dimke both missed two field goals during a windy practice that included spirited kicker competitions.

Ultimately, though, I understand and agree with the Saints' thinking on Graham. After going through so many highs and lows with kickers over the past eight years, the Saints have had their most consistent success with steady veteran types like John Carney and John Kasay -- guys who don't get too high or too low. And they're hoping Graham can be that type of player.

It probably wouldn't hurt for Graham to get off to a solid start, though, to make sure he remains on that solid footing.
Most significant move: Releasing cornerback Champ Bailey was the New Orleans Saints' biggest bombshell. But it ultimately shouldn't come as a shock. Bailey wasn't able to beat out fellow veteran Patrick Robinson for the No. 2 cornerback job. And for Bailey, it was probably a “starting job or bust” situation since he doesn't play special teams, and since the Saints are happy with their nickel/dime guys in safety Rafael Bush and cornerback Corey White. ... The big question mark is whether Robinson is the right choice. He had a nice camp at times, and the speedy athlete has shown as much big-play ability as anyone in the Saints' secondary during his turbulent five-year career. But Robinson has also battled injuries and inconsistency. If he can provide stability, New Orleans' secondary should he a huge strength.

Super loss: By cutting receiver Robert Meachem, the Saints now have only seven players remaining from their 2009 Super Bowl roster. They also parted ways with longtime veterans Lance Moore, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer and Roman Harper this year. But the writing was on the wall for Meachem when younger receiver Joe Morgan came back so strong from a knee injury. The two of them have a similar skill set as standout blockers and deep threats. I expect Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks and Joe Morgan to be the Saints' four active receivers when everyone is healthy. And while Stills nurses a quad injury that could keep him out in Week 1, the Saints still have promising young receiver Nick Toon available.

What's next: The Saints still have one glaring need since they went with "none of the above" in their kicker competition. Neither Shayne Graham nor Derek Dimke was consistent enough to lock down the job. I'm perfectly fine with that, especially when you consider the experienced veterans who are now available (Ryan Succop, Alex Henery, Connor Barth, Jay Feely, Rob Bironas, plus a number of young guys who had solid camps elsewhere). The question, however, is whether the Saints can develop trust in a new guy quickly enough. The Saints have had an itchy trigger finger regarding kickers over the years. So what happens if the guy they choose misses once or twice in September? ... To make room for the next kicker, the Saints will likely place either fullback Erik Lorig or linebacker Khairi Fortt on injured reserve -- possibly with a designation to return.

Saints moves: Terminated contracts of CB Champ Bailey, OLB Keyunta Dawson, K Shayne Graham, FB Greg Jones, WR Robert Meachem, OT Thomas Welch. Waived C Matt Armstrong, CB Derrius Brooks, WR Brandon Coleman, ILB Todd Davis, K Derek Dimke, CB Terrence Frederick, WR Charles Hawkins, TE Nic Jacobs, G Marcel Jones, WR Seantavious Jones, OT Tavon Rooks, RB Derrick Strozier, NT Lawrence Virgil, CB Trevin Wade, S Pierre Warren, T/G Jason Weaver.

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.

W2W4: New Orleans Saints

August, 28, 2014
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Two of the NFL’s four undefeated teams in the preseason will square off Thursday when the New Orleans Saints (3-0) host the Baltimore Ravens (3-0) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It will be the final exhibition game for both teams.

1. Griffin still in play? Honestly, I'm not sure if the Saints’ backup quarterback job is still up for grabs. For most of the offseason, I predicted they’d go with second-year pro Ryan Griffin as long as he could prove trustworthy in the role. But the Saints have played veteran Luke McCown ahead of Griffin in every preseason game so far. So maybe they’ve already made up their minds to go with the more proven veteran. … Either way, Griffin will get one last chance to sway them against Baltimore. He’s expected to play most of the game, though coach Sean Payton hasn’t announced who will start. Payton also hasn’t announced whether or not starting quarterback Drew Brees will play.

2. Jobs on the line? There are a handful of starting jobs still up for grabs, including at kicker (Shayne Graham vs. Derek Dimke), center (Jonathan Goodwin vs. Tim Lelito), cornerback (Patrick Robinson vs. Champ Bailey vs. Corey White) and fullback (Austin Johnson vs. Greg Jones). Of that group, I’d bet the only one that can truly be influenced by Thursday night's performances is the kicker battle. It’s close enough that a bad night could doom either guy. As for the others, I’m guessing we’ll see Goodwin, Robinson and Johnson starting in Week 1, though any extreme highs or lows tonight will certainly be taken into account.

3. Room for undrafteds? My latest 53-man roster projection didn’t include any undrafted rookies – which would be rare for the Saints, who wound up with a total of seven on their roster last year. But as I wrote Wednesday, I think outside linebacker Kasim Edebali has a chance after the Saints cut some experienced linebackers this week. Others on the bubble include safety Pierre Warren, tight end Nic Jacobs and cornerback Brian Dixon. A big night from any of them – especially on special teams – could earn a roster spot.

Saints Camp Report: Day 22

August, 26, 2014
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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 15

August, 13, 2014
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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.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Drew Brees took one small step closer to getting back to work on Tuesday when he dressed in full pads for the New Orleans Saints' practice.

Brees didn’t participate in any drills, though, as he continued to throw and exercise off to the side with the training staff as he recovers from a strained oblique.

Once again, it appears extremely unlikely that Brees will play in Friday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. But he still appears on schedule to be back in plenty of time for the regular season.

“He's progressing well,” Saints coach Sean Payton said after practice. “So all those things are good signs. Each day he does a little bit more with the training room and then out here. And we just keep working on the rehab and making sure, functionally, that we're not stressing it where it sets him back."

When asked if it’s difficult to keep Brees patient, Payton said: “Well, he has that nature in him. But I also think he’s smart and he understands that the type of strain he has is something that can reoccur if you’re not careful and you don’t let it heal properly.”

The Saints had a number of positive developments Tuesday with their injury list.

Cornerback Champ Bailey returned to the practice field for the first time in nearly two weeks after suffering an undisclosed injury -- though he was limited to walk-through and individual work.

“He’s progressing well, feeling better, and it’s encouraging,” Payton said.

And guard Jahri Evans was spotted on the sideline for the first time in a week, although he wasn’t dressed in pads and only did some light exercises with the trainers off to the side as he recovers from an undisclosed injury.

Other injury updates:
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Drew Brees remained sidelined by a strained oblique during Monday’s practice, increasing the odds that he will sit out the New Orleans Saints' second preseason game on Friday night against the Tennessee Titans.

Brees
Thomas
However, Brees continued to show signs that he won’t be out for too long. He threw passes to receiver Kenny Stills and ran with cornerback Champ Bailey, among other exercises on an adjacent practice field.

Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t bother with another daily status update calling Brees "day to day" and adding that Brees is "getting there."

Payton did, however, elaborate slightly when asked about the injuries to cornerbacks Bailey and Patrick Robinson and how they’ll affect the Saints' evaluation of that No. 2 cornerback battle. Although Payton didn’t specify either player's injury, he predicted both will return to practice soon.

Bailey, who has been sidelined since July 31, did more running on the side Monday than we have seen to date. Robinson, who left Sunday’s practice early, spent some time on the stationary bike Monday.

"I think (Bailey) is making progress, and I think sooner than later he’s gonna be back out here," Payton said. "Champ’s someone that’s smart enough to know his body and obviously wants to make sure he’s 100 percent. ...

"I think with regards to Patrick, I don’t anticipate him being out a whole lot of time. He’s in good shape and he was smart enough yesterday, he just felt it get tight and he pulled off."

In another bit of good news, running back Pierre Thomas returned to practice in full pads and participated in some full-team drills after being held out of last Friday’s preseason opener and Sunday’s practice with an undisclosed injury.

Meanwhile, guard Jahri Evans, linebacker Victor Butler, fullback Erik Lorig, cornerback Rod Sweeting and safety Ty Zimmerman remained absent from practice.

Kicker Shayne Graham was present but did not participate in practice after suffering an undisclosed injury during Friday’s game. Stills, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe and tight end Je'Ron Hamm were also present but didn’t participate.

Safety Jairus Byrd and guard Ben Grubbs were dressed in full pads and did some individual work, but they did not participate in full-team drills.

UPDATE: Center Jonathan Goodwin and linebackers David Hawthorne and Kyle Knox were not present at the Saints’ afternoon walk-through. It’s unknown if their absences were injury-related.

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