NFC South: 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 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.

Falcons Camp Report: Day 17

August, 18, 2014
8/18/14
4:40
PM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
  • The big story Monday before the Falcons officially broke camp was rookie Jake Matthews' move from right tackle to left tackle following a season-ending knee injury to Sam Baker. Left guard Justin Blalock joked with Matthews about it being their first date together. The Falcons thought it would be a happy marriage with Matthews from the beginning, which is why they drafted him sixth overall. Matthews played left tackle last year at Texas A&M, so the transition back to the left side didn't seem to bother him one bit. It was interesting seeing him fight against veteran designated pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora as Umenyiora rushed off the right side. "We've got a ton of talent on this defense," Matthews said. "Every day, it's a challenge for me to go out and block. But it's been good for me. [Umenyiora's] one of the best that ever played. I'm excited to work with him and get better from him."
  • Defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice and participated in individual drills, meaning he's no longer on the physically unable to perform list. Peters tore his Achilles against San Francisco on Dec. 23 of last season. "Corey's way ahead of schedule in terms of his rehabilitation with his Achilles," coach Mike Smith said. "It's going to be fun to watch him get indoctrinated into what we're doing this season with coach (Bryan) Cox. We're going to take it slow. The next question may be whether we're going to have him ready for the first game. That's going to be something that will be determined (on) how he handles the next couple of weeks."
  • Javier Arenas was the primary nickelback during Monday's practice as the Falcons continue to weigh competition at the position. Smith said before Saturday's loss at Houston he wanted to figure out the best man for the job between Arenas, Robert McClain, and Josh Wilson. Arenas will get the first shot this Saturday against Tennessee. "I think we still have a lot of decisions to make in terms of who's going to be our nickel," Smith said. "We're going to rotate a little bit differently this week than what we did in the first two games. There's really been three guys who have been competing for it .... This is Arenas' chance to get his reps in there. And then we'll make a decision going into the fourth preseason game on who's going to be our starter at nickel."
  • There was a bit of an altercation between outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi and center Joe Hawley. After Massaquoi kept screaming at Hawley, Smith stepped in and warned how Massaquoi could get a 15-yard penalty for continuing to run his mouth. The Falcons have been penalized 19 times for 171 yards in two preseason games.
  • Extra points: Julio Jones looked rather smooth in catching a touchdown pass behind Desmond Trufant on a perfectly executed fade with Matt Ryan. ... Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who tore his Achilles this offseason, was in a walking boot and out supporting his teammates Monday. He once yelled from the sideline for the defenders to get proper depth on their drops. .... Offensive tackle Gabe Carimi walked around the practice field all day but remained sidelined coming off an ankle injury. ... Devin Hester had a drop over the middle on a bullet from Ryan. ... Terren Jones played with the second team at left tackle as Ryan Schraeder was at right tackle. ... Harry Douglas corralled a Hail Mary pass.

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.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
8/14/14
8:01
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Training camp ended for the Buccaneers the exact same way it started -- with electricity in the air. No, really, there was electricity in the air. Lightning first interrupted practice for an hour and then brought it to a premature end. The same thing happened on the first day. Between the first day and the last day of camp, the Bucs had no other interruptions or cancellations. They broke camp Thursday and coach Lovie Smith said he was pleased with how things went. But Smith also said he's looking for an improved performance in the second preseason game, Saturday night against Miami. "The rain cooperated with us throughout camp," Smith said. "I think every day there's been a threat of thunderstorms and lightning. But, for the most part, we've been able to get everything in. I feel like we've had a good camp. We realize what's at stake this week. We want to play a lot better. Any time you get to start off in front of your fans at home, that's kind of special." While they still were able to practice, the Bucs worked in shorts and shells and did some game planning for Miami.
  • Smith said cornerback Alterraun Verner, cornerback Mike Jenkins and running back Charles Sims have been ruled out for Saturday night. Verner and Jenkins are recovering from hamstring injuries. Smith said Sims has an ankle injury and the running back was wearing a boot on the sidelines.
  • The Bucs took a bit of a low-risk gamble by signing defensive end Larry English. Coming out of Northern Illinois in 2009, English was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft. But English never has lived up to his potential. The Bucs have nothing to lose by taking a look at English. "You can never have too may pass-rushers," Smith said. "We talk about getting pressure with a four-man rush. I remember Larry when he played at NIU. A good football player. Injuries have kind of held him up a little bit. But he's what we're looking for, a speed, edge rusher. We feel like he might be able to give us something." The Bucs released Jibreel Black to make room for English.
  • Smith said the starters will play into the second quarter Saturday night. He said it's likely the starters will get double the amount of snaps they did in the preseason opener against Jacksonville.

Falcons Camp Report: Day 16

August, 14, 2014
8/14/14
1:55
PM ET
HOUSTON -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Atlanta Falcons training camp:
  • The Falcons had their second of two joint practices against the Houston Texans in preparation for Saturday's exhibition. The day involved a lot of situational work, including more red zone and two-minute drill, plus a series with the Falcons backed up deep near their own end zone. Coach Mike Smith was pleased, overall. "I thought it was a good work," Smith said. "We worked on a lot of situations. ... I thought it was very good work. We had some guys that we held out that we have on their normal routine. I think that sometimes gives other guys opportunities to play and grow."
  • Speaking of getting opportunities, rookie receivers Bernard Reedy and Geraldo Boldewijn got more chances with both Julio Jones and Roddy White resting, as scheduled. Boldewijn actually caught a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan during the red-zone period. "I thought some young guys got a chance to compete at a different level than they've been competing," Smith said. "(Boldewijn) did a nice job. And Reedy got an opportunity to get more reps. (Jeremy) Ebert got an opportunity to get more reps. That's what these practices are really about: the evaluation process."
  • The defensive line and pass-rushers found it a tough go, at times, against the Texans offensive line. But the Falcons had their moments. Nose tackle Paul Soliai pushed an opponent back what seemed to be 10 yards during one-on-one drills, while Jonathan Babineaux was simply consistent during the same session. Veteran Osi Umenyiora showed off a nice spin move later in practice. And Kroy Biermann went at it hard with former Falcons teammate Tyson Clabo early in practice. Several defensive linemen and linebackers got a little irked with Texans offensive lineman Mike Farrell, who seemed to take the field looking for a fight. Cliff Matthews came the closest to coming to blows with Farrell.
  • Speaking of fights, there was a little tension between Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant and Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins after Trufant broke up a pass during a drill. The two glared at each other. Then Hopkins and Falcons cornerback Josh Wilson got into it, with Wilson throwing a punch at Hopkins. But Hopkins might have instigated with a push. "It was even with me, really," Trufant said of the squabble. "(Hopkins) and I, we were just battling all day and just competing. It's a full-contact sport. Tempers are going to flare. But we're just competing."
  • Extra points: Trufant was getting medical treatment on the side near the end of practice but said it was just cramps. ... Rookie outside linebacker Jacques Smith saw more second-team reps running alongside Stansly Maponga behind starters Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi. ... Ryan got picked off a couple times during drills. ... There was a little trash talk between Falcons safety William Moore and a member of the Texans coaching staff after Paul Worrilow appeared to stop the runner in the end zone for a safety. Moore started yelling, "All day. All day." The person going back and forth with Moore appeared to be Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. ... Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) and offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (ankle) remained sidelined.
  • Next up: The Falcons have Friday off.

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.

Falcons Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
8/13/14
3:10
PM ET
HOUSTON -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons training camp:
  • The Falcons had the first of two joint practices with the Houston Texans on Wednesday morning. More than anything, it was a chance for the offensive line to work against a rather talented Texans front seven, led by J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and rookie Jadeveon Clowney. "I thought we got some really good work,'' Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Coach [Bill] O'Brien and his staff did a really good job putting the practice together. Thought we went out and got a chance to work against each other. But I only saw one side of the ball. And I was back and forth. So I really don't have a true evaluation. But I thought that they worked hard. It was a different sequencing for us, coming out here in the morning. Look forward to watching the tape and seeing what tomorrow brings.'' Smith is likely to see his offensive line -- specifically Justin Blalock and Mike Johnson -- getting dominated by Watt. Rookie Jake Matthews held his own but had some trouble with Reed at one point, while Sam Baker went head-to-head with Clowney, who appeared to force Baker into a holding penalty later in practice. Nobody on the Falcons' defensive line seemed to do anything overly spectacular.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a touchdown pass at the end of practice and Douglas was demonstrative with his celebration. It helped that Ryan got a little extra time to throw due to solid protection up front. Ryan was asked about the timing with his receivers at this particular point in the process. "I think we're about right where we need to be this time of the year,'' he said. "We've got some things to clean up, but I think our timing has been pretty good.'' Ryan continues to re-establish his rhythm with Julio Jones, who remains on a day on, day off practice schedule with an increased workload when he participates. Jones praticed Wednesday so he's likely to be off Thursday, unless there is a last-minute change.
  • Unlike what we've grown accustomed to back in Flowery Branch, Georgia, no significant fights broke out during Wednesday's practice. There seemed to be just one truly heated moment when Falcons rookie fullback Maurice Hagens got into it with former Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent, who was traded to the Texans in exchange for quarterback T.J. Yates.
  • Running back Jacquizz Rodgers, running with the first team with Steven Jackson (left hamstring) still sidelined, had a little added motivation to perform well in practice. Rodgers is from the Houston area and had about 12 relatives and friends at the practice. "It's always good to come home,'' Rodgers said. "Got my family here. Gives them a chance to see us practice firsthand.''
  • Extra points: Ryan on Texans linebacker Justin Tuggle, the son of former Falcon great Jessie Tuggle. "I think he's doing a good job. He's really filled out. He actually started off at B.C. [Boston College], so I was fan of his early on.'' ... Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi returned to the field as an observer for the first time since suffering an ankle injury during a joint practice with the Tennessee Titans. ... Linebacker Tim Dobbins, who suffered an ankle injury in last week's exhibition opener against Miami, returned to practice and faced his former teammates. ... Rookie Kimario McFadden had an interception off a tipped pass. ... The Texans had receiver Andre Johnson, running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing back to practice off injuries.
  • Next up: The Falcons and Texans conclude their two-day joint practices with another 8 a.m. session Thursday.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
8:58
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • Coach Lovie Smith pulled a bit of a surprise and put an unexpected end to the training camp portion of the preseason Tuesday. The Bucs are off Wednesday. When they return Thursday, they’ll be practicing without pads and preparing for Saturday night’s preseason game with Miami. Smith said he was pleased with camp overall. “I thought it was good," Smith said. “We practiced in the heat of the day most of the time. It’s draining. It’s draining just going through a walk through in Tampa. But the guys got through it. We haven’t had any major injuries. We felt we got about the proper amount of physical contact that we need to get ourselves in position to play the game. I like the work that we’ve done. Most of the guys have made a lot of progress throughout. We just need to kind of take steps now. We want to see improvement in the games."
  • Smith singled out several under-the-radar players that have given themselves a chance to make the roster with strong training camps. He mentioned fullback Jorvorskie Lane, linebacker Danny Lansanah and defensive lineman Scott Solomon. Smith also said rookie receiver Robert Herron has come on strong in recent days after having some problems holding onto the ball earlier in camp.
  • Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was given most of the practice off. Smith said that was a coach’s decision and a reward for a strong camp by McCoy. Nose tackles Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence each got some work at McCoy’s three-technique position.
  • Tuesday was “legends" day. The Bucs welcomed 50 former players to watch practice. That was a nice gesture and a change from former coach Greg Schiano, who didn’t always welcome former players. “I think we’ve made it known that they’re welcome," Smith said. “Not just on legends day, but any day coming back to their football team. What we’re doing, we hope that they see, is we’re trying to get it back. Most of the guys that came here had success while they were here, and that’s what we plan to do."
  • The Bucs signed defensive end T.J. Fatinikun.
  • There is no practice Wednesday. The Bucs are scheduled to practice Thursday at 2 p.m. Although Smith isn’t calling it training camp anymore, the practice still will be open to the public, team officials said. This will be the last open practice of the preseason.

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.

Falcons Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
6:15
PM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons training camp:
  • Coach Mike Smith moved the final open practice of camp to the morning so the Falcons could get used to the schedule they'll have in Houston the next few days during joint practices with the Texans. "We wanted to get some timing today in terms of our practice, in terms of doing it in the morning, so we got the guys up early this morning," Smith said. "The next two days, we're going to switching our emphasis to morning practice and doing our walkthrough in the afternoon."
  • Rookie running back Devonta Freeman was back as a full participant after leaving practice on Monday. "Devonta was just dehydrated from practice," Smith said, "and we wanted to be very precautionary and take him off the field. We got him re-hydrated and he's ready to go." Freeman should get plenty of touches in the exhibition against the Texans with Steven Jackson slowly working his way back from a left hamstring injury. Antone Smith should get more looks as well.
  • The heat might be an issue an issue in Houston, with temperatures in the 90s. Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates, who was traded from Texans, warned that it's a different type of hot in Houston. "I thought (Monday) was probably the closes that we're going to get to the weather that we're probably going to have in Houston," Smith said. "It's going to be muggy. It's going to be humid. We've got to do a good job of hydrating when we get on the plane. We've got to make sure that we drink 20 ounces of fluid per hour on the flight, and that's one of the things that our guys will be reminded to do. And it's going to be important that we pre-hydrate and then stay hydrated down there because it's going to be competitive. Houston has got a good football team. They've got some very good athletes. I'm looking forward to watching some of our offensive linemen go against their pass-rushers."
  • Big nose tackle Paul Soliai got his 300-plus body up in the air and nearly picked off a Matt Ryan pass over the middle during Tuesday's practice. He looked like a defensive back dropping into coverage. "It was a good drop (move)," Soliai said. "I’m not really a dropper; I was just doing my job and fortunately I was there at the right moment and should have made a play." When a big guy can move like that, you understand why the Falcons are so high on Soliai and the impact he'll have up front this season.
  • Extra points: The Falcons did their share of red zone and goal line work on Tuesday -- areas Smith said needed to improve from the exhibition. ... Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and linebacker Tim Dobbins remained out of practice coming off ankle injuries. ... Wide receiver Julio Jones did not practice but did participate in the walkthrough session ... Rookie receiver Bernard Reedy got some looks with the first-team offense. ... Both Desmond Trufant and Dwight Lowery came up with interceptions. Lowery corralled a pass tipped by Josh Wilson. ... Linebacker Paul Worrilow made a nice play to break up a pass in goal-line situation.

Falcons Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
8/11/14
8:45
PM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics from Atlanta Falcons training camp:
  • Rookie running back Devonta Freeman was on the field for the start of practice but exited early and didn't return. The initial word was the heat got to Freeman, although coach Mike Smith declined to go in detail about Freeman's status. After practice as Smith met the media, Freeman walked around and greeted a few people and didn't have any protective gear on any part of his body. "I don't think it's anything serious," Smith said. If the heat indeed got to Freeman, it might be worth monitoring because the Falcons are set to have joint practices against the Texans in scorching Houston starting Wednesday morning.
  • Speaking of running backs, starter Steven Jackson performed some agility drills on a side field for the first time since suffering a left hamstring injury on July 28. Jackson did not perform any sprinting exercises. Smith said all along he expects Jackson to be fully healthy for the Sept. 7 season opener against the New Orleans Saints. With Jackson still sidelined and Freeman exiting early Monday, Jacquizz Rodgers remained as the primary running back with Antone Smith also getting a few first-team reps.
  • Julio Jones participated in his second consecutive practice and caught a few balls. The Falcons had Sunday off, so he technically had a day of rest in between practices. It's the same schedule he's been on throughout camp and it won't change just yet. "I know we're going to go every other day," Smith said of Jones' status, "but the workload is going to be different then it was in the first two weeks."
  • Extra points: Outside linebacker Stansly Maponga got into it with Lamar Holmes during pass-rush drills and drew anger from both defensive line coach Bryan Cox and offensive line coach Mike Tice. In fact, Tice taunted Maponga by saying he could show better pass-rush moves than Maponga could, while Cox challenged Maponga to play better on game day rather than thumping his chest in practice. ... Tight end Mickey Shuler got a few reps with the first-team offense coming off a strong performance in the first exhibition. ... Safety Dwight Lowery had full participation coming off a concussion although he didn't take a hit through the course of the day as the Falcons practiced in pads and shorts. ... Pat Angerer also seemed to have full participation while tackle Terren Jones was limited as both continued to go through the concussion protocol. ... Linebacker Tim Dobbins was on the field observing, following an ankle injury. Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (ankle) was nowhere to be seen.
  • The Falcons practice Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET before leaving for Houston for joint practices with the Texans starting Wednesday.

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