Tight Ends Shine While Rookie QB Barrett Struggles in 2nd Practice of Saints Training Camp
Among the stand-out performers for the New Orleans Saints earlier today during their 2nd Practice of their 2018 Training Camp: starting tight end Ben Watson and the young man who is likely to take over that role from Watson someday: UDFA rookie tight end Deon Yelder.
Watson ― who is serving as Yelder's mentor this Summer while the rookie learns the "ins and outs" of playing at the NFL level ― made one of the highlight plays of today's practice when he went up high and absorbed a hit in team drills to catch a pass from Drew Brees.
Meanwhile, the rookie Yelder made a few nice plays of his own, including this pass from fellow UFDA rookie QB JT Barrett (more on him in a second) during 11-on-11's.
It was a very encouraging sign to see Yelder in particular stand out, given that he is still largely unproven as a tight end and only has a single year of production on his college resume; whereas almost all of the other tight ends from this year's class had three or even four years starting experience in college.
But if put in the right situation, the talented Yelder has the potential to virtually "explode" onto the NFL scene. And there's no better situation for that to happen than in New Orleans with the Saints.
Watson, who returned to New Orleans this off-season after the team re-signed the 37-year old and now 15th year veteran tight end in the opening wave of 2018 NFL Free Agency at the end of March, obviously still has a lot of "gas left in the tank". And that's something that should benefit Yelder as he learns from Watson moving forward.
Watson seemingly is the perfect mentor for Yelder — and could help the rookie not only further develop his natural God-given gifts to become a "receiving threat" as a tight end, but perhaps, more importantly, help Yelder as an in-line blocker (the rookie's biggest weakness) as well.
"I'm excited for him. I'm excited to watch him develop. I'm excited to have conversations with him where he says stuff like, 'You know, my parents are not that much older than you...", said Watson to the media regarding Yelder yesterday, with his final sentence prompting laughter.
Unfortunately it wasn't a good day at Practice for everyone, and the most disappointing performance of the day clearly goes to UDFA rookie QB JT Barrett, who alternated between snaps running the 2nd and 3rd team offense with #2 QB Taysom Hill.
On one particular series, Barrett stared down Yelder and made an ill-advised throw too late, which allowed 3rd year Saints CB De'Vante Harris to "jump the route" and make what would have been a "Pick 6" interception for a TD.
Then on the very next play, Barrett had his screen pass intended for rookie RB Boston Scott tipped by defensive lineman Alex Jenkins; who nearly had a shot at a "Pick 6" himself.
A few players later: Jenkins sacked Barrett as well.
His stats on the day: 1-for-6 passing overall, with an 0-for-4 performance (including the interception) during team drills.
Although it's still very early in his development, the knock on Barrett coming out of college (and the reason why he didn't get drafted) is largely due to the fact that he struggled at times with accuracy, and has had some past difficulties with his reads and progressions as well as "ball placement" and "throwing receivers open".
Based on what we saw from Barrett today, that is something that he'll need to work on while being mentored by Sean Payton and Brees for the remainder of Camp.
Nevertheless, Barrett has quickly become a popular player in a short amount of time among a rather large portion of 'Who Dats'; specifically many fans of the team on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter who believe the undrafted former Ohio State star would give the team a more viable and promising prospect for the team's future, rather than free agent signee and 5th year veteran Tom Savage (who came over this off-season from the Houston Texans).
However, a handful of analysts that cover the team feel that Barrett would probably benefit more from spending his rookie season on the Practice Squad, where he could further sharpen and develop his QB skills, which still need a lot of work and refinement for him to successfully compete against top competition in the NFL.