Akiem Hicks continues to make presence felt at Saints' camp


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- No one stood out to me more during the New Orleans Saints' abbreviated Monday practice session than defensive end Akiem Hicks.

That's probably because his voice could be heard echoing across the field more often than any other -- whether he was trash-talking the offensive line during 3-on-2 blocking drills or grunting as he chucked a large plastic barrel off the field following another drill.

Hicks also stood out for having one of the best power rushes to get past guard Jahri Evans in one-on-one pass-rush drills.

I already wrote about Hicks a few days ago, since he's been making a noticeable impact in camp after trimming 20 pounds since last season. But he's worth mentioning more than once, since his ability to bounce back from a disappointing season will be vital to New Orleans' defensive fortunes.

Some other highs and lows from Monday's session:

  • Fellow end Cameron Jordan got in for a sack around the right side of New Orleans' offensive line during team drills -- a good sign of his adjustment to his new edge-rushing role. Put Jordan high on that same list of 2014 underachievers who are vital to the Saints' defense (though it's a long list).

  • Receiver Joe Morgan had two of the best catches in team drills. I haven't mentioned Morgan much this summer so far, but he's absolutely in that mix for the No. 3 and No. 4 receiver jobs along with Nick Toon, Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones and Josh Morgan.

  • Coleman, who I have mentioned a lot this summer, continued to emerge toward the top of that pack by lining up with the first-string nickel offense Monday. However, he had a bad drop in team drills and failed to reel in a catchable low ball -- two rarities for him this summer. He responded later with a deep TD with a backup unit when the defense apparently blew an assignment to leave him wide open. ... Coleman also made a great catch that wowed the crowd during 7-on-7 drills.

  • The other highlight in those 7-on-7 drills was an interception by second-year cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste has had a solid camp so far -- and he even drew an “attaboy” the other day in special teams coverage, which could be vital to his roster chances. He'll probably work his way back into my next 53-man roster projection.

  • Outside linebacker Kasim Edebali got a ton of snaps as the edge-rusher across from Jordan in the Saints' starting nickel package Monday. I'm not sure if he would have been there if veteran Anthony Spencer was healthy. Regardless, Edebali has been taking advantage of his opportunity so far in camp.

  • Saints coach Sean Payton said he was pleased overall with the intensity and focus Monday -- and he shared an interesting tidbit about how detailed the Saints get in their self-scouting. This was the Saints' final practice before the players get their first day off on Tuesday. “Well, the notes from a year ago on this practice weren't real good, so it was kind of a focal point for us in the staff meeting last night. These guys handled it well,” Payton said.

  • Payton also said that the staff worked late into the night Sunday for its first extensive review of how everyone's doing on the 90-man roster -- something they'll do every three or four nights during camp.