NFL Nation: Isa Abdul Quudus

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints just finished the first practice session of their minicamp.

Let’s take a quick run through some notes, highlights and observations:
  • Cornerback Keenan Lewis was not at practice. Coach Sean Payton said Lewis was “held out’’, but did not elaborate on the reason,
  • Jason Smith, who is competing for the starting left tackle spot, limped off the field about halfway through practice and was taken to the locker room.
  • Most of the talk about the safeties has centered on veterans Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins, and rookie Kenny Vaccaro. Harper and Jenkins worked with the first team Tuesday, and Vaccaro worked with the second team. But the one safety I saw make several big plays was backup Isa Abdul-Quddus.
  • Payton has said second-year running back Travaris Cadet has some similarities to Darren Sproles. But Cadet will have to come up with some big plays to make Payton and the coaches forget about what happened on a short pass about halfway through practice. The perfectly-thrown pass went right through Cadet’s hands and was intercepted by Corey White.
  • There clearly is a competition for the backup quarterback spot between Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace. I thought Wallace had the better performance Tuesday morning. I also think the Saints might be wise to keep Wallace. His mobility could be used on the scout team to help the defense get ready for the likes of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
  • Wide receiver Jarred Fayson was the first name Payton mentioned when asked which young players stood out to him. Fayson had several nice catches. Fayson and cornerback Rod Sweeting had a brief shoving match after they collided at the end of one of Fayson’s catches.
  • Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he was impressed by the performance of rookie linebacker Rufus Johnson. He’s working behind Will Smith and Junior Galette at “Jack’’ linebacker. I saw Johnson swat down a pass, and he looks like he has some quickness.
  • Running back Mark Ingram hasn’t been much of a threat as a pass-catcher. But the Saints seemed to be throwing to him a fair amount Tuesday. I think that might be a sign of things to come.
  • I’ll have much more on Ryan and the defense in my Thursday column. But, for now, let’s just say I was impressed with how many different defensive packages the Saints put on the field Tuesday morning.

New Orleans Saints cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:45
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the New Orleans Saints’ roster moves.

Biggest surprises: Although the Saints almost certainly will have the NFC South’s oldest opening-day roster, they did show they’re not stuck on having a bunch of veterans. They released linebacker Clint Ingram and safety Pierson Prioleau.

Both had deep ties to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and Prioleau was the special-teams captain last season. But the release of Ingram shows the Saints believe the younger legs of Will Herring, Martez Wilson, Ramon Humber and Jonathan Casillas can cover more ground at outside linebacker. By releasing Prioleau and safety Chris Reis, the Saints are showing a lot of faith in undrafted rookie Isa Abdul-Quddus.

No-brainer: The Saints, who ran out of running backs in last seaosn’s playoffs, are determined not to let it happen again. Even though Chris Ivory was put on the injured-reserve list, the Saints kept Joique Bell to go along with Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Bell had an outstanding preseason and made it impossible for the Saints to cut him.

What’s next: Don’t be surprised if the Saints bring in another tight end, and look for it to be a guy who specializes in blocking. They currently have only two tight ends on the roster. Jimmy Graham is likely to be used mostly as a pass-catching specialist, and David Thomas is a jack of all trades. The team wants to get back to a more consistent running game, so a run-blocking specialist would be a good fit.

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