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Saints' New D Shines at Weekend Mini-Camp

Randy SavoieAnalyst IIJune 9, 2009

METAIRIE, LA - MAY 13: Rookie offensive lineman Zach Strief practices during the New Orleans Saints Mini Camp at the Saints Training Facility on May 13, 2006 in Metairie, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

A few random observations on this weekend's mini-camp:

The Saints' level of defensive intensity is much higher under new coordinator Gregg Williams. The difference is evident: pressuring the QB from all angles, batting down passes, defensive backs stripping balls from receivers and running backs (and you thought the only stripping in New Orleans took place at those houses of ill repute on Bourbon Street)—all signatures of a Gregg Williams defense.

Robert Meachem is looking like a first-round wide receiver. Drew Brees was quick to single out Meachem's performance.

"Meachem continues to get better, not only physically," Brees said. "He's a big, strong guy who will get the ball for you. I see the confidence level starting to come out. He's giving me that look for me to believe in him, trust him, and that he can make plays, and I'm liking that."

Devery Henderson is catching everything thrown his way. Henderson averaged 24.8 yards a catch one year ago. He continues to show improved technique along with soft hands and precise route-running ability. Brees' confidence in the former LSU star has never been higher.

Mike Bell is emerging as a leading candidate to assume the role of power back. He gained 677 yards as a rookie for Denver a few years back before falling into Mike Shanahan's doghouse. Bell is playing at about 228 lbs.—about 10 pounds heavier than last year. He looks fast and light on his feet.Bell and Lynell Hamilton have the definite edge over former Wisconsin star P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson.

First-round CB Malcolm Jenkins got off to a shaky start, getting burned twice in one-on-one drills then recovered with an interception.

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There is a lot to like about the former Ohio State star. He has long arms that will serve him well when jamming receivers in press coverage. Jenkins displays good technique with a smooth back-pedal. His attitude is excellent. Although not required by Saints' brass, he took his exams at Ohio State early so he could attend the mini-camp.

The cornerback battle is wide open. Projected starter Tracy Porter needs to show more consistency. Devery Henderson beat Porter by seven yards on a bomb from Mark Brunell, reminiscent of a play Porter surrendered last year against the Redskins. Also, Porter dropped a sure interception. Veteran Randall Gay looks like the most consistent of the group. Jabari Greer had an interception and will upgrade the position.

Rookie punter Thomas Morstead was kicking the ball 60 yards with hang time. Maybe drafting a punter was not such a bad idea after all. Incumbent Glenn Pakulak has a battle on his hands. Pakulak was not as consistent although he has an edge on Morstead in directional punting- knocking the ball out inside the ten.

If Will Smith and Charles Grant's suspensions are upheld, Bobby McCray, Paul Spicer, and Anthony Hargrove will have to pick up the slack because a strong pass rush is everything on a Gregg Williams defense. McCray is off to a fast start with several sacks.

Drew Brees needs to stay healthy. The Saints are fortunate to have a veteran like Mark Brunell advising Brees, but his age is a factor. Joey Harrington played poorly this weekend and may be on his last stop in the NFL. He overthrew and underthrew Jeremy Shockey, almost causing the controversial tight end to fly back to Las Vegas for another Rehab pool party.