We're one day closer to Saints training camp happening, although things are relatively quiet leading up to it. We should get a better idea of the team's practice schedule by mid-July, and it's certainly a season to be optimistic about even without Sean Payton at the helm. Dennis Allen has handled himself well in this transition and new era, and his coaching staff will have a big hand in the team's successes or failures this season.
New Orleans has done a pretty solid job of improving some major areas in the offseason through both free agency and the draft. The work isn't done necessarily, but most all of the heavy lifting is over. As we approach training camp, there's certainly areas on the Saints roster that have some concern to it. Here's where we should pay close attention to leading up to the regular season.
The recent report of Alvin Kamara potentially facing a six-game suspension is a huge cause for concern. The legal process still has to play out, with Kamara's next court hearing scheduled for Aug. 1. However, this would be a significant loss for the Saints, and their only real solid backup plan right now is Mark Ingram.
New Orleans had veteran David Johnson in at the team's three-day minicamp on a tryout basis, but they couldn't get a deal done. Perhaps that could change as we get closer to training camp, and the timing of how things play out for Kamara is what to watch out for. The Saints could also look at trading for someone before the deadline and could also pay close attention to who drops on final cuts.
Depth going into camp currently has Tony Jones Jr., Devine Ozigbo, Dwayne Washington, and Abram Smith in addition to Kamara and Ingram. Things are a big question mark here if and when something were to happen, but it also won't be impossible for the Saints to navigate the situation.
It's just difficult to put a finger on how this group will look going into the season. It's encouraging to hear about how Taysom Hill is being involved in the tight end room, and he was at the facility the other week doing rehab. The question is whether he'll be ready for training camp or not.
Hill alone can certainly help out at the position, but can't do it himself. New Orleans needs production from the other guys. Adam Trautman's sophomore campaign was more of a slump, while veteran addition Nick Vannett missed over half the season due to injury. Juwan Johnson had a nice start, but really fizzled out as things went on.
Perhaps Hill can inject more life into the spot, and we also await what undrafted rookie Lucas Krull can do going into training camp. There's still a few free agent options on the table like Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph, and Eric Ebron out there, but this spot feels like the Saints are going to roll with what they have and hope they get what they need out of it.
Cesar Ruiz's growth and Andrus Peat's availability are the biggest areas to be concerned about for 2022. New Orleans does have a pretty good depth option behind those two in Calvin Throckmorton, who started 14 games for the team last season. Ethan Greenidge, Forrest Lamp, Lewis Kidd, and Josh Andrews are all players to keep an eye on for the other backup roles, but most everything hinges on their two starters.
The encouraging news is that Ruiz is very self-aware of the areas he needs to get better at, and Doug Marrone is a good coach who can help him out. Throckmorton could challenge for the spot, and it's actually an area he's been working at during minicamp. It'll be intriguing to see how things look when we do get to camp.
- Defensive End - The only real reason this would be concerning right now is that the team was without Marcus Davenport, Payton Turner, and Taco Charlton during minicamp. Charlton is dealing with an undisclosed injury that he was seen rehabbing from, while Davenport and Turner were absent from OTAs. Getting back into the lineup will certainly make things a bit easier here, and the Saints still do have Cam Jordan, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Carl Granderson to get after the passer without these guys. However, on paper, this is certainly one of the team's deepest areas, but availability is their best quality.
- Defensive Tackle - Can David Onyemata get back to form? That's one of the best things that could happen here. This isn't a bad group, especially after the team added veterans Jaleel Johnson and Kentavius Street. Shy Tuttle, Malcolm Roach, and Albert Huggins are all returning from last season, and we'll see what happens with rookie Jordan Jackson.
Training camp sees the Saints rookies reporting on July 19, and the veterans will join up a week later. It'll be here before we know it.
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