We're nearly a month away from the start of Saints training camp. With the exception of three teams (Buccaneers, Cowboys, Steelers), all NFL teams are anticipating a July 31 start to practices and fan events.
New Orleans is looking to welcome fans back in attendance, and we are awaiting the official schedule drop for the festivities. While a lot can still happen between now and next month, here's where some of the biggest battles of training camp stand for Sean Payton's squad.
Current Depth: Demario Davis, Zack Baun, Kaden Elliss, Pete Werner, Chase Hansen, Wynton McManis, Andrew Dowell, Shaq Smith, Quentin Poling
Keeping tabs on Kwon Alexander is undoubtedly something to pay attention to for the Saints as we move closer to the season. His rehab workouts have been very impressive, and New Orleans has made some wiggle room in their current salary cap situation. However, that could be used to add a cornerback. The Saints had a great tandem with Davis and Alexander, and that duo was sorely missed in the playoff game against the Bucs.
As far as what the Saints bring to the table in 2021, there's no doubting the play of Demario Davis as one key anchor at linebacker. However, beyond that is a mystery. The way the Saints run their defense, it's hard to keep C.J. Gardner-Johnson off the field, which means there's a lot of two-linebacker looks on the field.
Zack Baun is looking to make a major second-year leap but will face stiff competition in his transition to the weak side. Rookie Pete Werner is also expected to make a big push for the role, and we could see a lot of split reps there to find the right fit.
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Depth Chart: Michael Thomas, Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Jake Lampman, Jalen McCleskey, Kawaan Baker, Easop Winston Jr.
No matter who ends up being the quarterback for the Saints in 2021, the expectation is that the offense will be able to push the ball down the field a lot more and have more aggressive tendencies. We also expect a big bounce-back season from Michael Thomas, as well as looking for a breakout season from Tre'Quan Smith in a contract year. What needs to be figured out are the guys behind Thomas and Smith.
Rookie Kawaan Baker could offer some return duties if Deonte Harris takes more of an offensive role this season, while Marquez Callaway impressed when called upon during his first season.
With New Orleans not drafting a receiver or pursuing one in free agency, it definitely reinforces the confidence for the young group that both Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have talked about. Saints fans would love nothing more than to see that on the field.
Depth Chart: Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Ian Book, Trevor Siemian
This will be the top battle of training camp for the Saints, as we try to answer the question of who the starting quarterback will be for the team in the new season. There are varying opinions on Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, and both have made some strides to improve during the offseason and will make their case for who takes over for Drew Brees and leads New Orleans into new and unfamiliar territory.
We know a couple of things concerning the battle. For starters, Sean Payton said he won't be treating the third and final preseason game (vs. Cardinals) like a traditional fourth preseason game. He expects to see a lot of players play, which means we could get full halves from both quarterbacks.
We also know they'll build the offense around who the winner is, as Payton discussed in early June. He mentioned that there was still an overall philosophical approach that both will have learned to play offense, and that it's not a whole different game plan for each of them. Both are bringing the leadership and energy thus far, and it will end up being a must-see competition.
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