Training Camp Day 5 / Practice #4: Saints D-Line Comes Alive & Offensive Rookies Continue to Impress
The New Orleans Saints entered into their 4th Practice a short while ago hoping to allow some players who are key to their success this upcoming season; to get a bit of rest following yesterday's brutally oppressive first practice in full pads, beneath the unrelenting South Louisiana heat.
Two of those players who notably got the second portion of Practice off after the initial walk-through portion indoors were starting strongside and weakside defensive ends Cam Jordan and Alex Okafor, neither of whom were seen out on the field as the team began the next segment of practice in front of a "full house" of fans jam-packed into the bleacher seats adjacent to the Training Facility.
But for anyone that thought that the Saints D-Line would experience any sort of a "drop-off" in performance with Jordan and Okafor not in the line-up, were in for quite the surprise.
The Saints D-Line consisting of Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Alex Jenkins took matters into their own hands, and generated constant pressure against all of the Saints quarterbacks during a series in which the defense got what would have been a total of 3 sacks and 2 turnovers (a Drew Brees fumble forced by a blitzing Alex Anzalone and an interception of Taysom Hill picked off by safety Marcus Williams).
Particularly impressive was the interior rush by Onyemata and the pressure caused off the outside edge from Jenkins, that back-up QB's Tom Savage and Taysom Hill practically running for their lives.
For two players from other different countries (Onyemata from Canada, Jenkins from England) on the D-Line that technically are still learning how to play their respective positions at the NFL level, it's the clearest indication yet that they both have picked up things rather nicely.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIES CONTINUE TO IMPRESS:
Yesterday as you'll recall was an entire day's worth of "stand-out" performance by new Saints rookie WR sensation and 3rd Round draft pick Tre'Quan Smith; and he essentially came back today and picked right up where he left off.
Just as he did yesterday, Smith made several more impressive grabs on a variety of closely-contested catches, and made the "Play of the Day" when he leaped up high and made a falling grab over defensive back Justin Hardee in full-team drills to end practice. Unfortunately, the play wouldn't have counted because Smith's feet would have landed out-of-bounds, but nevertheless it was still impressive.
Rookie RB and this year's 6th Round pick Boston Scott was equally impressive in his own right on a handful of plays on offense, including this play where he beat an asleep-at-the-wheel Ken Crawley down the sideline.
One thing that's become obvious: I think the offensive rookies (Tre'Quan & Boston Scott) are going to make a much more significant impact upon the Saints offense, than any of us first originally thought.
It will be interesting to see if that usage remains the same in the Pre-Season, which begins a week from this coming Thursday Night in Jacksonville, Fla. against the Jaguars.
CRAWLEY'S "BAD DAY"
As it turns out, that play above where Crawley was badly beaten by Scott wasn't even the most embarrassing moment for the 3rd year veteran.
A few series earlier, Crawley got JUKED CLEAN OUT OF HIS SHOES by 3rd year WR Micheal Thomas, who was running for additional yardage after the catch on a slant route; before getting Crawley to grasp at thin air as Thomas had him tripping over his own feet in an attempt to keep up.
It was a reminder of just how good Thomas is, as well as a cautionary tale that even though he played very well last year, Crawley is still vulnerable and susceptible to yielding a big play from time to time, and it will be something that the Saints defensive coaching staff will need to remain mindful of, when the situation warrants.
TRAVIN DURAL BREAKS HIS ARM, AND A FEW OTHER QUICK NOTES:
2nd year UDFA WR Travin Dural appears to have broken his humerus (upper arm) on a play right near the very end of practice and will require surgery, likely ending his 2018 season.
Meanwhile, 2nd year UFDA offensive lineman / center Cameron Tom appeared to have been shaken up about halfway through practice, though he was able to leave the field under his own power.
It's only a few practices in, but I think the veteran RB who serve as the primary back-up to 2nd year superstar Alvin Kamara while #1 RB Mark Ingram is suspended for the first 4 games of the season, could end up being Shane Vereen. While many observers of the team believed initially that Terrance West might be their best option moving forward; Vereen for the first few practices just seems to be the better "fit" for the Saints offensive scheme.
The upcoming Pre-Season games will ultimately determine the RB group's pecking order, but if nobody truly stands out then Payton might need to either "flip a coin" or just ride whoever has the "hot hand" on Game Days.
Perhaps if we're lucky, someone will step up to the forefront in these next few weeks, or else the first 4 games of the regular season could have a slight element of intrigue added to them, until Ingram returns to re-claim his role.