The New Orleans Saints put in their 10th practice on Monday, which was moved inside after initially being designated outside. No one complained there, as we got to see Sean Payton's squad start a four-day stretch of practice for the week that concludes on Saturday when they travel to take on the Ravens. Here's how the training camp practice went with our notes and observations.
The big news out of today's attendance was the absence of Wil Lutz. It's injury related and his availability to start the season as the Saints kicker is in question due to surgery. Joining him on the absentee list was Tre'Quan Smith, Patrick Robinson, P.J. Williams, KeiVarae Russell, and Ethan Wolf.
Kwon Alexander was participating in some walkthroughs and linebacker drills today, but no contact. Andrus Peat was present for practice, but it appeared he was in attendance just for a moment.
Jameis Winston had a strong day of practice, and it was evident in 11-on-11 red zone work. Winston looked about as comfortable as we've seen him, and this goes down as another standout day for him. He ended up going 4-of-5 in 7-on-7 drills, while finishing 6-of-7 in 11-on-11 red zone work.
For Taysom Hill, he also had a good day, but not as good as Winston's. He also went 4-of-5 in 7-on-7, but finished 3-of-6 in red zone work. He also had a bad interception when he tried for Tommylee Lewis on a deep shot. It was underthrown and picked off by Bryce Thompson.
Starting Rotation and Notes
Really no surprises when it came to the starting rotation on offense. Most of the big guns were there during walkthroughs, but Will Clapp ended up getting the starting reps at left guard with Peat not participating.
- QB: Jameis Winston
- RB: Alvin Kamara
- WR: Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris
- TE: Adam Trautman, Nick Vanett
- OL: Terron Armstead, Will Clapp, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk
Sub Notes: Subs included some looks with Jalen McCleskey on the first team, while Lil'Jordan Humphrey got some reps at wide receiver. Ethan Greenidge rotated in for Terron Armstead in 11-on-11.
New Orleans opened in base 4-3 defense, but then went to nickel formation. The linebacker faces changed a bit, but here's how the overall look went.
- DE: Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport
- DT: David Onyemata, Christian Ringo
- LB: Pete Werner, Demario Davis
- CB: Ken Crawley (left), Marshon Lattimore (right)
- Slot: C.J. Gardner-Johnson
- S: Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins
Sub Notes: Familiar rotations are starting to unfold with Jalen Dalton being one of the top interior subs. Naturally, Shy Tuttle and Malcolm Roach are familiar pairings, but Ringo started today. Kaden Elliss came in for base defensive looks, and Zack Baun got top reps at weakside linebacker to begin things.
Rhythm, Flow, and Observations
The Saints offense were in dark jerseys again, and the team opened up with position specific drills after stretches.
Quarterbacks were working with the running backs while tight ends were working on blocking, and wide receivers were getting some position specific work before joining the quarterbacks to work on deep posts and medium routes.
The offensive line was working on some fumble recovery drills to start, but later went to 1-on-1 blocks. They also had a session where they were working on hand placement with one lineman versus two others. Linebackers were working on some simulated formations, while the defensive backs and linebackers were together.
One of the things that the defensive backs swapped to later that was particularly interesting were with the wide receivers. They were working on rub routes and communication. Some of it worked well, while other reps saw the receivers get the better of them.
We got special teams work today with simulated punts, as Nolan Cooney was back there handling snaps and such. The quarterbacks worked on throwing accuracy with the net setup they have with three separate colored targets.
7-on-7 Notes: This was setup at the 18-yard-line for more red zone work for the offense. Tommylee Lewis had a good crossing route with Zack Baun trailing that would have resulted in a score. The Saints simulated down and distance here, moving up the field for different scenarios until they got near the 4-yard-line.
One throw Winston would have liked back was one to Garrett Griffin near the goal line. Demario Davis, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and Zack Baun were all right there. Winston was fortunate it wasn't picked off after the ball hung up in the air some.
Hill started strong by connecting with Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris on some short crossing routes with Chase Hansen being in coverage. He then hit Alvin Kamara on a great route that was near the goal line.
The next play looked to result in a sack, as the coverage was great and it forced Hill to scramble around. He tried Tommylee Lewis in the end zone, but he couldn't hold on. Hill bounced back by throwing to Juwan Johnson for one of his several touchdown grabs on the day.
Ian Book looks better and better each day, but he absolutely made a bad decision at the goal line when he tried for Nick Vannett. It went straight to Deuce Wallace in one of several turnovers the defense got on the day.
11-on-11 Notes: This is where Winston shined most on the day. There was a lot of jawing back and forth between the offense and defense with regards to who made the bigger plays. The energy wasn't lacking at practice.
Winston could have went perfect in red zone drills had it not been for a Devonta Freeman drop in the flats. One of the best decisions Winston made was being able to escape a collapsing pocket with a good David Onyemata rush, to which he scrambled out of instead of taking a sack.
Winston found Deonte Harris, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Alvin Kamara and a few other targets in the first two rotations. However, it was his last rotation that saw him essentially 'come to life'. The drive started out rough, as Marcus Davenport blew up Ethan Greenidge and evaded Cesar Ruiz for a big sack.
Winston rebounded by throwing three touchdowns (Harris, Juwan Johnson, Callaway). There was also a brilliant run by Alvin Kamara from 10 yards out in which he went into the end zone untouched. The hookup to Harris was a post route, while the Johnson touchdown came from the flats. The big one to Callaway was a perfectly executed backshoulder play.
Hill's first outing in 11-on-11 saw him hook up with Marquez Callaway on a mid-strike to the sideline. It was another good catch made by Callaway. What you have to remember is when the rotation happens, you'll see the first quarterback (Winston for today) with a certain amount of reps, followed by the second, third, and fourth. Then, the rotation starts over.
The bad Hill interception we mentioned earlier came on his first series, and his second series saw the first pass dropped and him keeping the ball the next two plays for runs. The final play of that series was hitting Devonta Freeman in the flats, and Kaden Elliss forced a fumble and recovered. It wouldn't have counted if it were a real game, however, as Carl Granderson jumped early.
Some other plays worth pointing out from the other teams include runs from Dwayne Washington and Tony Jones Jr. while Ian Book was in at quarterback. These were back-to-back plays for the Saints offense, and the run by Jones Jr. was a long touchdown run where he shot through the C-gap. Andrew Dowell might have got him down, but we didn't hear any whistle.
Book also was perfect in 11-on-11 throwing, going 4-of-4. He hit Juwan Johnson, who he said was one of his favorite targets, deep down the left sideline, while also connecting with Ty Montgomery on the same series. He later got Kawaan Baker into the end zone after a great pump-and-bait throw intended for Alvin Kamara. He followed that up by connecting over the middle to Johnson again for a score.
Practice ended after a crazy play that saw Johnson go up in the air to secure a catch with Marshon Lattimore essentially having him wrapped up in that spot. It could have been bad for both, but in real time it was pretty crazy.
Star of the Day: It's close, but we'll give it to Juwan Johnson with his three touchdown grabs. He had a great day of practice with a ton of catches from every quarterback, and his conversion to tight end seems to be working. Honorable mention goes to Jameis Winston.
Mood Elevator: You can tell how happy Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander are together. It just breeds energy. They were cutting up together and really being vocal out on the field with instruction and overall direction. They absolutely need a good nickname.
Gunner and Jammer Notes: Brian Poole is someone doing a lot of good work on special teams, and his versatility in the slot could help him make the final roster. Although I left him off of my Monday morning roster prediction, he had a nice jammer rep with C.J. Gardner-Johnson on Paulson Adebo.
Other pairings at jammer included: Prince Amukamara and Ken Crawley, J.T. Gray and Grant Haley, Bryce Thompson and Deuce Wallace. Thompson and Wallace had an outstanding rep against Lil'Jordan Humphrey.
For gunner work, Kawaan Baker keeps looking good in that area. He won his rep against Amukamara and Crawley, and is someone we want to see more from in preseason. I talked a lot about the rookies in my podcast release this morning.
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