The dawn of training camp brings with it many things.
A sense of renewal and rejuvenation.
A break from the monotony of baseball.
A chance to see one's favorite football team in person.
For all of these reasons and more, I made the journey to Metairie, LA, to see my Saints up close and personal on Saturday morning.
For over five months, I've noticed of the changes the Saints have made on defense—none bigger than importing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
There are a number of positions and roster spots up for grabs, and I wanted to make my own assessment.
Here are five observations from Saints camp.
1. Coach Williams' impact is very noticeable.
Every time I hear someone describe Williams' approach to defense, one word is always mentioned—aggressiveness.
By my account and the accounts of those I attended camp with, there is a good reason for this description.
I don't know if Williams' aggressiveness will translate to more wins, but what was evident Saturday is that every defender has the mentality of playing with intensity and forcing turnovers.
Every time that a ball hit the ground, whether it was a fumble or not, defenders swarmed to the ball and ran with it.
If the ball was caught, multiple defenders surrounded the receiver in an attempt to make a stop and force a fumble.
This is not your typical Saints' defense.
2. Now I know why the Saints traded two draft picks for a punter.
The Saints went through three punters (and kickers) last season and finally settled on Glenn Pakulak.
Pakulak's 47.7-yard punting average was good for fifth on the season and 15th all-time.
For this reason, many Saints' fans, including myself, were scratching their heads when the Saints drafted two draft picks to move up and select Thomas Morstead in the fifth round.
After a two hours at practice, I now know why.
Pakulak was wildly inconsistent.
I timed his hang time under four seconds on multiple occasions.
Morstead, on the other hand, consistently recorded a hang time between 4.6 and 4.8 seconds.
If I were a betting man, I'd guess Morstead makes the team over Pakulak.
3. Cornerback may be a strength for this team.
Tracy Porter, Randall Gay, and Jabari Greer each looked solid as they stayed with receivers and broke up sure completions.
Porter and Gay primarily played with the first unit while Greer took reps with the second team.
Malcolm Jenkins better sign soon because it appears he is no better than fourth on the depth chart now.
On the other hand, there's Jason David.
I hate to pick on the guy because he's endured a lot while with the Saints, but he looked awful.
He was often matched up against receivers who are battling for the sixth receiver spot and looked two steps behind.
On one play, Skyler Green caught him flat-footed on a hitch and go route and blew past him for a big reception.
David will be battling with Reggie Jones and Leigh Torrence just to make the team.
4. Courtney Roby has the edge over Green for the final receiver spot.
Skyler Green's play against Jason David was the only good play he made all day.
He dropped a pass during a drill and muffed two punts.
Roby caught everything thrown his way and didn't drop a punt.
Green is probably the quickest receiver on the team, but Sean Payton will likely take Roby's consistency and straight line speed over Green's ups and downs.
5. The Saints aren't going anywhere without Drew Brees.
Anyone who follows the Saints to any degree knows that Drew Brees is the most important player on the team.
In Saturday's practice, Brees looked sharp and accurate.
The backup quarterback situation is a different story.
Both Mark Brunell and Joey Harrington looked shaky in seven-on-seven drills.
On one instance, Harrington rolled to his left and held the ball for a good six or seven seconds before firing an incomplete pass.
All of this with no pass rush.
Overall, I left practice feeling good with what I saw.
The defense was flying to the ball.
Brees and his receivers looked great, especially Marques Colston.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good assessment of the line play because they generally practice on the opposite end of the field from where I was watching.
From other accounts, Bobby McCray looks like a starter at defensive end, even when Will Smith and Charles Grant return from suspension.
It seems that there is good reason for high levels of optimism surrounding this team.