2012 New Orleans Saints: 3 Training Camp Observations
With two games under the Saints' belt thus far this preseason, I headed down Airline Drive to see how this team looked in its first live action since its game versus the New England Patriots last week.
In short, New Orleans was sloppy.
Special teams had problems getting lined up or not having enough men on the field. Drew Brees had a couple of interceptions and a couple of bad throws behind receivers. The offense also sputtered with false-start penalties, ending the practice on one that ended in wind sprints for the guys.
The offense might have had a so-so day, but the defense was pretty solid on its end and again. It seems the players get better every week they are practicing in Steve Spagnuolo's new defense, and that could only mean great things for the upcoming season by the way they've looked so far.
Here are my observations from my trip to training camp.
Rookies Are Impressing
A few rookies have stood out during camp, and it showed today.
Akiem Hicks, the team's first pick of the draft in the third round, is starting to prove a lot of people wrong, including myself, about his selection being a reach. The way he's come on the last week and a half is starting to make his pick more of a value than a bust.
Hicks dominated throughout the day whether it was bull-rushing from inside or taking the fight to the offensive linemen from the defensive end position. While he was out at end, he got into a little spat with a backup offensive lineman. It ended as quickly as it started, though. That's the kind of intensity he's had since he's come back from a hand injury that sidetracked the rookie's start of training camp.
Corey White, a fifth-round pick out of Samford, has had an up-and-down preseason so far, but he showed outstanding play in today's practice. He had a couple of break-ups, and his smothering coverage was a highlight of the defense this morning.
Travaris Cadet, the undrafted sensation that I featured here, ran tough this morning and continued his preseason success. Cadet ran towards a closing hole during practice and squirted out the other side. I don't know how, but he just makes plays.
Aderious Simmons, the local product who just started playing football a few years ago, has shown that he has great potential, but, at the same time, is still very raw. The way he practices is interesting, though. His raw power and athleticism is shown through his ability to be a sponge on the field and work the basics as he runs his drills. Could be a great project on the practice squad.
There were a couple veterans struggling through the last week during the Patriots game and practice today.
Jermon Bushrod was one of those vets who have had a rough week. He got abused by rookie Chandler Jones in the last game, and that sloppy play extended into today's practice. He looked like a turnstile going up against Will Smith. He needs to repair that in training camp before he gets Brees pummeled when it counts.
If Brees wasn't wearing a red jersey today, Bushrod would have picked him up a few times.
Chris Ivory was another guy who has been struggling, but, in this case, it could cost him his roster spot to Cadet. Ivory has had trouble holding on to the ball lately and hasn't impressed despite getting the most opportunities in both games. With Cadet impressing so much and other positions thin, Ivory could be on the trading block, and his playing time should only increase as the team shows him off around the league.
Veterans on the Way Up
A few veterans had an impressive morning out on Airline Drive.
Those guys would be Courtney Roby, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins.
Roby has had a very impressive training camp. I have never seen this kind of passion and urgency in preseason before. Usually, you'd see him contributing a little bit at receiver, but mostly just honing his special teams skills.
This preseason, he has made impressive catch after catch and blown past teammates in practices. Just ask Johnny Patrick who was left in Roby's dust this morning on a touchdown.
He could contribute more in the passing game this season especially since players that were ahead of him on the depth chart, Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon, are out with injuries.
Robinson came back very strong in his first action in a while due to his shoulder injury. He picked off Brees and provided tight coverage on every receiver in front of him. Never lost a step.
Jenkins isn't coming back from injury, just from a bad schematic match. Gregg Williams' defense did not showcase his natural playmaking abilities as much as it should have. The safety that benefited from that system was blitzing expert Roman Harper.
Spagnuolo's defense will put Jenkins in the right spots to bring him to an All-Pro level, and it showed today. He picked Brees off, also, and was always around the ball.
2012 could be a great year for all three of these vets.