Saints Defense: Thumbs Up and Down at Saints Camp

Here are some of the most noteworthy performers from an impressive New Orleans defense in the early portion of training camp.
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The New Orleans Saints are now in their second week of NFL training camp. Like all teams, the Saints will need to base their roster decisions based on these practice performances alone, thanks to the cancellation of offseason team activities and preseason games because of Covid-19 concerns. 

New Orleans has one of the league's best offenses, courtesy of stars like QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas, RB Alvin Kamara, and a dominant offensive line. However, the Saints defense often got the better of their offensive counterparts over the first week of training camp.

The New Orleans defense has been rebuilt over the last three seasons and is on the cusp of being one of the league's better units. Pro Bowl caliber players like DE Cameron Jordan, LB Demario Davis, and CB Marshon Lattimore lead the squad, but the New Orleans defense has several contributors that make it useful. 

Here are some of the Saints backup defenders who have stood out in some way during the early training camp.

THUMBS UP

CARL GRANDERSON, DE

New Orleans Saints defensive end Carl Granderson (96) stops Tennessee Titans running back Dalyn Dawkins (28) during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. 

New Orleans Saints defensive end Carl Granderson (96) stops Tennessee Titans running back Dalyn Dawkins (28) during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. 

Granderson, who missed all of last preseason and the first portion of the regular season as a rookie last year, has been a menace to open up camp. The 6’5 261-Lb Granderson has good length and showed disruptive potential as a rookie. 

In his first full preseason, he is exhibiting nice strength at the point of attack and outstanding burst into the backfield. The Saints offensive linemen have had trouble handling him, and he’s making an early case to be a bigger part of the defensive line rotation in 2020.

THUMBS DOWN

KEITH WASHINGTON, CB

Credit: WVUE - Edwin Goode, Videographer/Photographer, August 23, 2020, New Orleans, LA; Saints Practice Facility

Credit: WVUE - Edwin Goode, Videographer/Photographer, August 23, 2020, New Orleans, LA; Saints Practice Facility

My personal dark horse favorite to make the Saints active roster as an undrafted rookie from West Virginia, Keith Washington. He has come up on the wrong end of several training camp highlights so far. He has still shown good recovery speed but has been vulnerable to double moves and too stiff in turning to match a receiver's breaks. 

Washington must quickly rebound if he has a chance to overtake the experience of Patrick Robinson, a defensive liability last year, for a roster spot. Washington did step up with an impressive outing at Wednesday's practice, intercepting two passes and looking more confident in coverage. 

THUMBS UP

CHASE HANSEN, LB

Credit: WDSU - Alvin Moore, Videographer/Photographer, Saints Practice Facility, August, 2020

Credit: WDSU - Alvin Moore, Videographer/Photographer, Saints Practice Facility, August, 2020

Hansen was a favorite of the defensive coaches last season as an undrafted rookie from Utah before an injury ended his year in preseason. He has made several plays early in camp, showing great downfield speed and instincts. Hansen may still have an uphill battle to make the active roster. But his play, along with the rapid development of rookie 3rd round pick Zack Baun, impressive camp starts of Kaden Elliss, Joe Bachie, and the presence of veteran Craig Robertson is easing some worry about the Saints quality of depth at LB.

THUMBS DOWN

NIGEL BRADHAM, LB

Credit: WVUE - Edwin Goode, Videographer/Photographer, August 17, 2020, New Orleans, LA; Saints Practice Facility

Credit: WVUE - Edwin Goode, Videographer/Photographer, August 17, 2020, New Orleans, LA; Saints Practice Facility

Expected to compete for a starting spot with New Orleans when signed, they released Bradham just three weeks after joining the team. He had been demoted to the 3rd unit and was simply outplayed by the Saints younger linebackers. Alex Anzalone is cementing his role as the 2nd LB alongside All-Pro Demario Davis. Also, 2nd-year players Elliss, Hansen, and rookies Baun and UDFA Joe Bachie have been impressive to bolster depth. 

THUMBS UP

P.J. WILLIAMS, CB

Jul 28, 2018; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (26) breaks up a pass to New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) during training camp at New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY 

Jul 28, 2018; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (26) breaks up a pass to New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) during training camp at New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY 

Williams’ spot on the roster was probably safe, but he cemented his role in the New Orleans secondary with a terrific camp so far, creating several big plays during team drills. Now entering his sixth NFL season, Williams is a versatile member of the secondary who makes plays in off the ball coverage. He is in a battle with second-year S Ceedy Duce for the nickel back spot, but both players will be key contributors to the Saints defensive backfield's success in 2020.