NFC South: Greg Paulus

METAIRIE, La. -– I had my first chance to see the New Orleans Saints since the Super Bowl as they went through two minicamp practices Friday. It was a bit of a media circus, but you’ve got to expect that when you’re the defending champion and the Saints seemed focused on business. Here are some notes and observations:

  • Tight end Jeremy Shockey sat out the morning session because of back spasms, coach Sean Payton said. But Shockey took part in most of the afternoon session.
  • The Saints had undrafted quarterback Greg Paulus (Syracuse) in for another tryout. They already had him in for their rookie camp. Not sure whether Paulus will end up getting a contract. If he does, he’ll compete with Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield to be the No. 3 quarterback. More than ever, I’m convinced the Saints have to add a veteran just in case something happens to Drew Brees.
  • Speaking of veteran backups, Mark Brunell’s stuff still is in his locker. I wouldn’t read too much into that because Brunell supposedly is ticketed to join the New York Jets before training camp. I’m thinking the Saints will sign someone like Patrick Ramsey or Luke McCown, who previously have visited with the team, but I’m not totally ruling out the possibility of Brunell returning.
  • Running back Pierre Thomas and left tackle Jammal Brown were not present. Both are restricted free agents, who have not signed their tenders and are looking for long-term deals. I usually try to stay out of contract negotiations, but I’m thinking not showing isn’t a good move by Thomas or Brown. The Saints have other options at both positions.
  • Speaking of running backs, I’m not a scout and don’t carry a stop watch. But Reggie Bush looked faster Friday than I remember him looking in the past.
  • On pure speed alone, free-agent receiver Larry Beavers might have flashed the most speed on the team on a deep route during the afternoon session. But the Saints are deep at receiver and, despite his speed, Beavers probably needs to add a little bulk to have any shot at making the roster.
  • There was a lot made about the Saints being more aggressive on defense when coordinator Gregg Williams came in last year. He had his players chasing loose balls and constantly trying to poke the ball loose from offensive players. Doesn’t look like Williams’ message has changed a bit and that’s a positive.
  • I’ll be back with more Saturday. By the way, the Saturday morning session, which starts at 10:15 CT, is scheduled to be open to the public.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened up Monday’s OTA session to the media, so let’s get to some observations.

  • Guard Davin Joseph did not participate, but was at the session. Joseph said he’s recovering from a surgery to a “lower extremity."
  • Running back Derrick Ward and tight end Kellen Winslow were not around. Coach Raheem Morris said he expects both of them to be participating soon.
  • Left tackle Donald Penn didn’t participate in the “voluntary’’ session. Make no mistake on this one. Penn’s looking for a long-term contract. This one’s a tough call. Penn’s turned into a solid left tackle. But, on the flip side, he’s far from dominant and the Bucs don’t want to pay him huge money. But I think Penn has something of the upper hand in this one. It’s not like the Bucs have anyone else to protect Josh Freeman's blind side. And, as we keep saying, Freeman is the franchise in Tampa.
  • Speaking of Freeman being the franchise, those two new toys the Bucs drafted for him looked pretty good this morning. I saw receiver Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn each make some catches. Freeman said he’s going to the hotel where the rookies are staying tonight to go over the practice schedule for tomorrow.
  • I don’t think this quite goes to the level of Deonte Thompson saying he was glad to have a “real quarterback’’ after Tim Tebow left the University of Florida. But I thought Williams had a pretty good line when asked about playing with Freeman. “It’s like great, playing with a big, tall quarterback." Syracuse’s Greg Paulus was a point guard before he was a quarterback.
  • Freeman looked sharp most of the practice, but cornerback Aqib Talib did have one very nice interception.
  • I understand the Bucs are going with youth, but I’m wondering if they still might be looking out for a veteran quarterback to back up Freeman. I think Josh Johnson has some upside. But Jevan Snead and Rudy Carpenter are the only other quarterbacks on the roster. If anything happens to Freeman, the Bucs will be in big trouble.
  • Just got a great anecdote from Kelli Masters, one of the agents for first-round pick Gerald McCoy. She and McCoy flew in from Oklahoma on Sunday night. Their first stop was Raymond James Stadium, where McCoy got his first look at the 80-foot picture of himself. “I literally saw Gerald’s jaw drop and he was just stunned,'' Masters said.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who will be Drew Brees' backup in New Orleans this year?

Mark Brunell
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThe Saints' backup quarterback last season, Mark Brunell, is still a free agent.
My guess is that quarterback isn’t even on the roster yet. Yes, the Saints took a long look at several quarterbacks in their recent rookie camp. They brought in Syracuse’s Greg Paulus and seventh-round pick Sean Canfield also took part. Paulus is a former Duke basketball player who played only one year of college football. At best, he’s a developmental prospect. Maybe he spends some time on the practice squad.

Canfield also is a prospect. He was a seventh-round pick and it’s unrealistic to expect him to start off as anything more than a No. 3 quarterback. But that role was held by Chase Daniel last season and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Daniel and Canfield competing for the No. 3 job this year.

Yes, the Saints like Daniel, but he’s got no real experience. It’s kind of a stretch to imagine the Saints just handing the No. 2 job to Daniel at this point.

They’ve got a Super Bowl championship team. Let’s get hypothetical for a second and say Brees twists an ankle and has to miss a couple of games. Are the Saints ready to turn it over to Daniel? Or Canfield?

I seriously doubt it. This is a veteran team and just about anything less than another Super Bowl will be a disappointment. The Saints need an insurance policy behind Brees. They need someone with experience who could come in and lead them for a couple games.

You’ve got to believe something will happen on this front, especially when you look at how the Saints have collected depth just about everywhere else. Mark Brunell, last year’s backup, is still available as a free agent and I still think he’s the leading option. Yes, Brunell is old, but he already knows the system.

Even if the Saints think Brunell is too old, they’ve got to look at other guys with experience. The list of available free agents isn’t all that impressive right now. But someone like Marc Bulger could make the Saints feel a lot more comfortable with their backup situation.