Saints training camp opens on Thursday, as it really feels like Christmas in July. New Orleans has two open practices that fans can attend starting on Friday, but the first look for the media is today. Be sure to keep up with me on Twitter and Saints News Network for updates.
Here's a comprehensive A-to-Z look at what to look forward to over the next several weeks.
A is for Adam Trautman. He's in the spotlight as the top tight end threat with Josh Hill and Jared Cook out of the picture. New Orleans did add Nick Vannett in free agency, but for now, Trautman is expected to make a giant leap in the offense in 2021.
B is for Brian Poole. A late addition to the training camp roster, the veteran adds some depth to the cornerback room, which leaves a lot to the imagination. Sean Payton said on Wednesday that adding another cornerback is a 'must' for the team.
C is for C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The electrifying safety is someone the Saints just can't keep off the field, and should only get better this season. Often used in the slot, Ceedy Duce provides a fun element on defense that we can't wait to see in camp.
D is for Demario Davis. Davis' role as a leader and as a key player on defense makes him one of the most important Saints going into this season. He's one of the league's most undervalued linebackers.
E is for Erik McCoy. The third-year pro is looking for another strong season at center for the Saints, as he helps anchor one of the league's best offensive lines.
F is for Free Agency. New Orleans didn't bring in a ton of free agents this offseason but should be commended on how they were able to navigate what many thought was an insurmountable salary cap deficit. Alex Armah, Nick Vannett, and Tanoh Kpassagnon are some of the big names the team added in the offseason, as they also did a good job of retaining some of their own.
G is for Gayle Benson. The Saints owner goes into her fourth season in charge since the passing of her late husband, Tom Benson.
H is for Taysom Hill. He's looking to compete for the Saints starting quarterback gig, and it's probably the biggest storyline of training camp. Hill certainly struggled in his four starts last year, and the key for him is how his mechanics have grown this offseason.
I is for Ian Book. He wasn't the most popular pick from the draft, but the rookie quarterback out of Notre Dame gets a chance to showcase his talents during training camp. He had some fun experiences in minicamp that he shared at the end of June.
J is for Jameis Winston. The opportunity is there for Winston to become the guy in 2021, and we get to finally see the impact of all of the offseason workout videos. Along with Hill, he's absolutely playing for the next contract.
K is for Kris Richard. Replacing Aaron Glenn as the secondary coach, Richard looks to make his mark with the Saints and help them get even better. Richard is known for his work with the Legion of Boom and time in Dallas.
L is for Latavius Murray. Entering his third season with the Saints, Murray has been a strong complement to Alvin Kamara. Perhaps with the team's struggles at wide receiver, more two-back sets might be what the doctor orders.
M is for Michael Thomas. Unfortunately, Thomas will start the season on the sideline due to ankle surgery. It's a big blow for New Orleans, as they are looking at a 12-16 week timeframe without 2019's Offensive Player of the Year. Other receivers will have to step up in his absence, as the Saints will need to weather the storm. Both Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton talked about his outlook on Wednesday.
N is for Ryan Nielsen. He almost got pried away by the Packers but received a promotion to be the team's assistant head coach, a role previously held by Dan Campbell. He's a huge reason why the Saints' defensive line has been so successful and faces a large test on the defensive line without David Onyemata in the lineup.
O is for Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Fans will be able to attend up to seven open practice sessions at the team's 77,504-square-foot practice facility.
P is for Punter Battle. It's the first time we see one since the time Thomas Morstead first arrived on the scene as a rookie in 2009. Blake Gillikin and Nolan Cooney will look to earn the starting gig.
Q is for Quarterback Battle. Also an unfamiliar experience for this year, New Orleans has a quarterback competition on their hands between Winston and Hill. This will take center stage for training camp.
R is for Rookies. The Saints rookie class consists of Payton Turner, Pete Werner, Paulson Adebo, Ian Book, Landon Young, and Kawaan Baker. It will be interesting to see how these players grow in such a short time.
S is for Sean Payton. This may be Payton's biggest test of his career as head coach of the Saints. Payton sits at 143-81, good for 23rd on the all-time list, and he has an opportunity to pass Marv Levy (143-112), Bill Cowher (149-90-1), and Steve Owen (153-100-17) this season in wins while battling Pete Carroll (145-94-1) and Mike Tomlin (145-78-1). It might take a little extra work to catch Joe Gibbs (154-94) and Bud Grant (158-96-5).
T is for Tre'Quan Smith. This is undoubtedly his most important year, especially after the Michael Thomas injury. Here's to hoping Smith has a great contract year like Trey Hendrickson had last season.
U is for Undrafted Rookies. Not to be forgotten, there's as good of a chance as any for undrafted players to make the Saints roster. Let's also not forget that the league is bringing back 16-man practice squads, which may see New Orleans keep some of these players.
V is for Vaccination. Loomis said on Wednesday that the Saints are over the 90 percent threshold for player vaccinations, with several players being in the process of it. According to a report by NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan, there are only 8 players who are not.
W is for Wil Lutz. He'll start training camp on the NFI list, but it's expected to be a short stay and the Saints won't be trying out any kickers. He's an important part of putting points up on the board for New Orleans and is looking for a big bounce-back season.
X is for X Receiver. The verdict is still out on who replaces Michael Thomas is his absence, but it appears the answer is on the roster according to Mickey Loomis. Typically, you need a physical receiver who can avoid getting jammed up at the line of scrimmage and be able to elude the coverage.
Y is for Youth. Of the team's 90-man roster, only 8 players (8.8 percent) are at age 30 or older. This is a team that many don't know what to expect in life post-Drew Brees, but development and growth from younger players will be key for this season's success.
Z is for Zack Baun. He's one of the many players that are expected to make big growth this season, but Baun will have his work cut out for him. At worst case, maybe he takes over for Craig Robertson on special teams, but that's not ideal for a player the Saints invested a good bit of draft capital on.
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