Postcard from camp: Saints
The Saints moved camp from Metairie, La., to Houston, where two days of joint practices have been spirited, fast-paced and productive. And on Wednesday, all that frustration spilled over with six fights breaking out between the Texans and Saints. The headline event was a couple of Pro Bowl players, the Texans'
Otherwise, the Saints got a lot out of the joint practices, arriving Tuesday to the expansive Texans' facility, which includes three full fields, a 100-yard indoor facility and an extra 50-yard workout field much to their liking.
Saints fans turned out in big numbers for every workout. After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of Louisiana residents relocated to the Houston area. Those Louisianans may have changed addresses, but not allegiances. One fan began to choke up as he told me he's come to love living in Houston, but hadn't seen the Saints in person since prior to Katrina in 2005. He said he felt "a piece of home" watching the Saints practice. The Saints seemed to respond to all the support with much crisper workouts.
The bad news is, both teams have put a premium on ramping up things on the defensive side and have been made to look silly in these joint workouts. That's not to say the Saints haven't shown some improvement on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary has been bolstered with talent, and
But if having a joint practice was designed to show the Saints areas in which they still need improvement, mission accomplished. In 11-on-11 scrimmaging, the Saints' run defense struggled to stop Houston back
The problem is, he could be running like
It seems strange to say that about a four-time Pro Bowl player, but Shockey has been an NFL disappointment. With so much talent and promise, Shockey has largely fallen short. It alternately has been because of petulance, off-field troubles, injuries or Shockey simply being a contrary baby. But the fact remains, Pro Bowls and being an in absentia member of a Super Bowl champion (because of injury) has left Shockey's reputation in shambles. A year ago, Shockey was a nonfactor for the Saints.
He could not have looked better in the Saints' first preseason game, however, when he had three catches for 61 yards. And in the joint practices with the Texans, Shockey consistently has gotten open, made nice plays and finished blocks.
At least new defensive coordinator
Williams is beginning his 20th NFL season with the task of transforming what was the league's 23rd-ranked defense in 2008 and 26th in scoring defense. His foremost responsibility is changing the attitude on the defensive side of the ball. He has been harping on his players to rely on aggressiveness and instincts throughout camp, over the measured reactive-type defense of before.
Williams' style is to put versatile players in position to make plays, but without compromising responsibilities. Several players already have endorsed the system and, though it has a long way to go, if nothing else the Saints defenders are buying into the system and look confident in it.
For one thing, he does not beat himself up over a training-camp battle lost. After Jenkins joined camp 11 days late because of a holdout and having to catch up to get in football shape, it would be unrealistic to think he could step in and cover an All-Pro receiver. But he is a smart player who can play safety, corner or nickelback. He is athletic and willing to learn. He has enough size to tackle and the speed to cover.
Everyday, as so much is being thrown in his direction, Jenkins has been showing that he will be a keeper. Already, Saints coaches have thrown Jenkins in with the starting group and, for the most part, he has excelled.
It's inevitable, even here, that if Reggie Bush and
After the first joint workout with the Texans, naturally the subject came up again, with Bush initially sidestepping the question, but eventually saying:
"That's part of the territory. It comes along with it. It doesn't affect me at all ... We've done events together. We've seen each other. We talked today inside. He's a great guy. There's no tension between us. I think that's for the fans and the media. In all honesty, I think it makes for a better story. I think all it does is bring more attention to the game and that's what we want to do, bring attention to the Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints."
• There may not be a deeper stable of NFL quarterbacks anywhere, with
• The highlight of joint practices with the Texans have been the line battles -- specifically Mario Williams against Saints tackle
• The first four games in the Saints' 2009 schedule could go a long way determining what kind of year it will be. If they cannot win at least three of their first four against the Lions, Eagles, Bills and Jets, it could spell trouble.
• Saints kicker