- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin took some snaps at left guard with the first-string offense, while backup guard Senio Kelemete took snaps at center with the second team. The Saints are making sure that both players have enough versatility to play both spots if they wind up as the lone backup guard/center on game days. They already know that center/guard Tim Lelito is capable of doing both. … It was a good sign for Kelemete that the Saints are considering him as a bona fide possibility for the 53-man roster. Coach Sean Payton said the former practice-squadder has been “impressive” while lining up as a first-string guard in place of injured Ben Grubbs throughout camp. However, Kelemete had at least one fumbled exchange with quarterback Ryan Griffin at center on Monday.
Safety Marcus Ball also got a mini-promotion on Monday, rotating in with the first-team defense as a third safety at times. It was quite a leap for Ball, who has spent the entire summer working with the third string. But the former Canadian Football League standout helped his cause with a great performance in Saturday’s scrimmage. Payton praised Ball afterward as an instinctive player who could be an asset on special teams. And safety Kenny Vaccaro had even higher praise Monday: “Marcus, he’s a fiery guy. He reminds me of myself last year. He empties out the tank every day, and he’s gonna be a great player.” … I feel even better about moving Ball on to my projected 53-man roster Monday morning.
Ironically, however, the guy I removed from my 53-man roster to make room for Ball was second-year defensive end Rufus Johnson Jr. And Johnson had by far his best practice to date Monday. He brought pressure three times in one series and also came up with an impressive run-stuff. Johnson (6-foot-5, 272 pounds) is an impressive athlete, and the Saints moved him from outside linebacker to end this year because of his size. But Payton made it clear that Johnson is still a work in progress. “He's a young player, who like a lot of these guys, you're looking for consistency and you're looking for stringing together two practices, three practices," Payton said. "And I think with him, making sure he knows what to do ... with regards to assignment, alignment and being consistent."
Veteran kicker Shayne Graham got back on track after two misses last week. He went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts, including kicks from 51 and 53 yards. Meanwhile, Derek Dimke missed his first attempt of camp from 39 yards (his only attempt of the day). That battle won’t be decided on the practice field, though. If Graham is steady in preseason games, I believe it’s his job to lose.
The Saints will back to their regular practice schedule Tuesday, with a full practice at 8:50 a.m. ET and a walk-through at 4:30 p.m.
2hEric D. Williams