The Saints moved practice to the recently named Caesar's Superdome for training camp session No. 18. Seeing the new renovations completed was a great spectacle, as some of the lighting had changed in addition to the new suites and transformed standing room only in the corners. Here's a look at our notes and observations from Friday night's practice.
Attendance and Transactions
The big news of the day saw Pete Werner returning to practice. He didn't partake in any drills, but it was a good sign seeing him back on the field. Will Clapp also returned to practice and was a full participant. As far as attendance, here's the list of missing Saints: Wil Lutz, Tre'Quan Smith, Tommylee Lewis, Alex Armah, Malcolm Roach, and Payton Turner.
After practice, Sean Payton announced the signings of Jeff Heath and Aldrick Rosas. Both were present. Tommylee Lewis was put on the reserve/injured list, while Josh Pederson was waived.
Several players like Andrus Peat, Deonte Harris, and Marshon Lattimore appeared to have the night off, but were present.
Taysom Hill took starting reps on the day, and had a pretty good start to practice. He finished 12-of-22 in five separate series in 11-on-11 drills, while Jameis Winston went 8-of-12 in the four series. What separated Winston on the day was several touchdown passes, including a huge 80-yard hookup to Chris Hogan. More on the quarterback performance later.
Starting Rotation and Notes
New Orleans opened in a three-receiver set to open practice. However, they rolled in several different looks with different personnel.
- QB: Taysom Hill
- RB: Alvin Kamara
- WR: Ty Montgomery, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Marquez Callaway
- TE: Nick Vannett
- OL: Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk
Sub Notes: James Hurst, Chris Hogan, Adam Trautman, and Deonte Harris all rotated in during walkthroughs. Later on in practice, we saw both Ethan Greenidge and Calvin Throckmorton take snaps as the starting left guard.
On the defense, we saw a nickel look during walkthroughs. They operated in a base 4-3 later in some 11-on-11 drills.
- DE: Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport
- DT: Jalen Dalton, Christian Ringo
- LB: Kwon Alexander, Demario Davis
- CB: Ken Crawley (left), Marshon Lattimore (right)
- Slot: C.J. Gardner-Johnson
- S: P.J. Williams, Marcus Williams
Sub Notes: Among those around the first team defense during walkthroughs included P.J. Williams, Tanoh Kpassagnon, David Onyemata. Jeff Heath and Pete Werner were also around, but did not line up in walkthroughs. Later on, the Saints went to 4-3 and rotated in Shy Tuttle in place of Christian Ringo, while adding Kaden Ellis and Zack Baun alongside Demario Davis. Ken Crawley moved to the right side, while Paulson Adebo held down the left side.
Rhythm, Flow, and Observations
The Saints were in their shells on Friday night, with the offense sporting their white jerseys. Officials were in attendance, as it was Carl Cheffers and his crew that were assisting. They'll be working the Monday night game against the Jaguars in the Superdome.
Things got off to a fairly normal rhythm on the night, but we saw immediate work on special teams while the defensive line, quarterback, and offensive line were all working separately. The centers were working with the various quarterback on shotgun exchanges. We also saw some extended punt return work, where gunners were focusing on downing the ball inside the 5-yard-line and attempting to prevent the ball from going into the end zone for a touchback.
We saw most of the position groups separate after walkthroughs and stretching, and then we had a 7-on-7 session followed by punts. The rest of practice mainly focused on 11-on-11 with some clock and red zone situations, but we did have a sprinkle of kick return work before that.
7-on-7 Notes: The biggest highlights here came from Jameis Winston's work from the 10-yard-line. He hit Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a touchdown, while Tony Jones Jr. got the next pass for a score on a great route. Malcolm Jenkins made a nice play in coverage on Humphrey on the ensuing play, as Humphrey dropped a touchdown.
11-on-11 Notes: As we mentioned earlier, Taysom Hill finished 12-of-22 on the day. His five series saw him go 2-of-3, 1-of-2, 2-of-2, 5-of-10, and 2-of-5. He didn't throw any touchdowns or picks on the day, but did make some good decisions while getting into the end zone a couple times with his feet. For Jameis Winston, his 8-of-12 broke down to 1-of-3, 2-of-4, 2-of-2, and 3-of-3.
During the first series for Hill, his first play resulted in an intermediate gain over the middle to Marquez Callaway. It was a real good throw by Hill. The next attempt was broken up at the line by Shy Tuttle. The next pass was a bootleg right that went to Nick Vannett on a minimal gain.
Cam Jordan came up big on two separate plays, as the first was a run stop on Tony Jones Jr., followed up by a sack on Hill. The pass attempt was actually intended for Callaway, but was broken up by Ken Crawley.
On the next series, Hill would flat out miss a deep shot down the sideline to Humphrey, and then get Hogan on an inside route. For the third one, he hit both passes, which included a tight end screen for a big gain to Juwan Johnson, and Alvin Kamara on the left sideline.
What we can appreciate most about Hill's work on this series was the fact he ran it into the end zone twice on quarterback keepers. Both fooled the defense, and Devonta Freeman also had a rushing touchdown in the middle of three really good plays led by Hill.
For Winston, his first work saw him unable to connect on his first two attempt. Lil'Jordan Humphrey fell on his route on a sideline pass, and the next pass couldn't be secured by Devonta Freeman after getting a hand on it. His lone complete was a slant route for an intermediate gain to Juwan Johnson.
The next series for Winston went slightly better, as his first pass to Kevin White was his second best throw of the night, as he fit it in perfectly in a tight window with Tanoh Kpassagnon and Christian Ringo in his face. He'd hit Humphrey on a curl route on the next one, but miss his next two on a drop from Humphrey running a seam route, and then missing Kawaan Baker on a corner route in the end zone. Now, on those two plays, we likely would have saw a Kaden Elliss sack, and the next would have been a sack from Kpassagnon.
The final series in this session saw Winston hit both of his throws, a touchdown to Kevin White on a slant route, and then a throw in the flats to Devonta Freeman.
Getting the first crack in the 2-minute drill, Hill missed low on his first attempt to Chris Hogan. His next pass hit Tony Jones Jr. in the flats, which drew a flag from Ken Crawley. The next attempt saw C.J. Gardner-Johnson break up the pass intended for Ty Montgomery.
Hill tried Marquez Callaway on the left sideline in intermediate territory, but it was incomplete. He then hit Tony Jones Jr. over the middle for a good gain, and then hit his next three to Adam Trautman (sideline right), Lil'Jordan Humphrey (screen), and Callaway (sideline left).
Ken Crawley would make a big pass breakup in the end zone on Callaway on the second to last play of the drive, and then Tony Jones Jr. couldn't get the short curl route, making the Saints settle for a field goal.
Winston's final series saw him connect to Easop Winston Jr. on a slant route to begin the drive, and the second play was a catch by Winston Jr. again, but an offensive holding call wiped it out. His next throw went short middle to Dwayne Washington, and David Onyemata was right there for a potential sack. However, we heard no whistle. The final throw was an 80-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan.
After Winston's work, Taysom Hill got an opportunity to operate with 58 seconds left from their own 48-yard-line. The first pass intended to Marquez Callaway was broken up by Paulson Adebo, and Marcus Davenport was right there for a would be sack. Hill went back to Callaway on a short crossing route. He then tried Nick Vannett on the sideline, but it went out of bounds.
He'd take off on the next throwing attempt, as Davenport would have got a sack here after beating Ethan Greenidge. Hill made up for it by connecting with Callaway on a deep sideline shot to put the team in a spot to get the score to win the game. He tried Callaway again on a backshoulder hookup, but it was dropped. It was arguably Hill's best throw on the day.
The next play was flagged for intentional grounding, as Hill just threw it away into the end zone. The series concluded with what appeared to be an outstanding last-second hookup to Juwan Johnson for a touchdown. However, a flag for offensive pass interference wiped it out.
Punt Play: Blake Gillikin had nine punts inside the Dome, and he continues to look fantastic. Again, a common theme for him has been backing up returners who anticipate the kick to be at a certain spot that ends up making them backpedal to field the punt. Some of those things could spell the difference in creating muffs or just allowing some extra time for the gunners to make a big play. J.T. Gray made a fantastic down play inside the 5-yard-line on one of Gillikin's punts.
Tempers Flare: Calvin Throckmorton got into it with Albert Huggins after a play. No fighting happened, but we can recall that it's not the first time the second-year guard has mixed it up with someone from the defensive line. Last time, it was David Onyemata on Day 11.
Kick Return Team: Today saw Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Chase Hansen, J.T. Gray, Brian Poole, Andrew Dowell, Juwan Johnson, Kaden Elliss, Zack Baun, Tony Jones Jr., and Dwayne Washington as the primary return team.
Receiver Drops: There was a lot more drops than normal in today's practice. Perhaps some of it had to do with adjusting to the new field, but it's never a good sign. It came from just about every receiver.
Stock Down: When talking about drops, someone who has really stood out in that department is Lil'Jordan Humphrey. He's had a really rough week of practice. Presumably, he could be fighting veterans Chris Hogan and Ty Montgomery for a roster spot, and he really needs to put together a strong game.
Play of the Day: Nothing stood out more than Jameis Winston hooking up with Chris Hogan on an 80-yard bomb for a touchdown. It came on a 3rd and 15 play, as Hogan beat Grant Haley on a go route.
White Shows Up Again: Kevin White had a couple of nice grabs on the evening, including a touchdown catch on a slant from Jameis Winston. It will be interesting to see what happens on Monday night, if anything.
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