The Saints are enjoying an off day on Sunday, and then the real fun begins on Monday when we get to see our first padded practice of training camp. Four practices are down for New Orleans, and each day has provided some great insight and observations. Here's several things that we've learned about the team after their first week back in action.
Michael Thomas is Michael Thomas
It was the biggest development of the week seeing Michael Thomas back out on the field for the starting day of training camp. We had heard that he wasn't going to be on the PUP list long from Mickey Loomis and Dennis Allen, so when we saw him out there on Tuesday and actually practicing, it was a huge deal.
Thomas looked good in his breaks and cuts, which is what was most important. He's jumping off the line in his routes and looks like Michael Thomas. There's a sense of him being rejuvenated being out there, and it shows in a big way. Teammates have been very vocal about his impact and focus going into this season, and we also got to talk to Thomas for the first time in a long time.
Thomas had a planned day of veteran rest on Saturday, but was still around for practice and participating in walkthroughs. He hasn't been doing much in the way of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, but expect things to only ramp up for him going into next week.
You always want to see rookies flash in training camp, and we got our first big day from Chris Olave on Saturday. It was something we were waiting to see, especially being that he had made such a large impact at all the practices in May and June. Of course, you see busted coverage from the Saints defense on his 60-yard score, but Olave knew it from the jump and raised his hand to let Jameis Winston know he'd be wide open. Dennis Allen referred to this as a game of mistakes, and capitalizing on them make all the difference on Sunday.
However, it's not just Olave that has showed up. You've seen pass breakups and good energy from Alontae Taylor. D'Marco Jackson is a player who wasn't mentioned much back in May and June to having two of the better plays of camp on the first two days. Undrafted rookies Lucas Krull and Dai'Jean Dixon have also made some nice plays. If there's one rookie that looks to be ascending right now, it would be Abram Smith. He's rattled off some nice runs in camp, and is someone to keep an eye on as the pads come on.
More Information Needed for the O-Line
A lot of people have been asking about how Trevor Penning has looked and the offensive line in general. It's been hard to make that assessment early on. You've likely heard a lot about the pads coming on, but why is that important? Both Landon Young and James Hurst elaborated at length about it.
Young said on Saturday, "So, in OTAs when you're not going against somebody and you're in just individual drills, like you can show him that you can take the steps you can show him that you can do it with speed that you can do the right play, go to the right person, but when you're actually coming in Monday and we're actually going against the defense, then you're able to take that and utilize it against somebody else."
He also explained further about the differences and what it's like in real time.
"So, it's so easy to come out here on a field and be like okay, give me a wide three pass block and go and take that wide three pass block. But when you have somebody against you who gets you and you have that split second decision, it's very hard to keep all that technique in balance and so coming out Monday, and especially as we progress into pads, shells, everything else. It's really making sure that you hone that technique and that you are very firm in that technique and you can show the coaches that you're coachable that you can take what we've learned in OTAs to take what we've learned and just, you know, just t-shirts and shorts and be able to utilize that in the actual game."
"The evaluation for offensive line has to be in pads and we know that," Hurst said.
"There's so many things that we can work on wearing jerseys and these shells. There's a lot of footwork, there's a lot of body position, you know that stuff shouldn't change. But then obviously when the pads come on, that's from contact to the end of the whistle. That's what we see. And that's where plays are made. That's where the blocks are made. That's where the runs are sprung. That's where the quarterback has time to step up and get throws down the field. So, we know that's coming and that's big for us. And obviously it's important. We're excited about it. It's real football for us."
Doug Marrone's presence has been pretty hands on, and he's earned the player's respect easily. Being that he's a former offensive lineman and successful coach in this league, it's really encouraging for the outlook of the Saints going forward.
- A lot of people are getting uneasy not seeing Tyrann Mathieu out there, especially after Dennis Allen didn't offer an update on his return. He'll be back soon. Again, he was excused from the beginning of training camp to handle a personal family matter.
- Wil Lutz has looked really sharp and seems back to his old self. Our last look of him at mandatory minicamp saw him struggle a bit, but he went 7-of-7 on his attempts Saturday.
- Mark Ingram looks great right now, and that's encouraging to see. He certainly believes he has a lot left in the tank, and I would absolutely agree. Don't sleep on the veteran if he has to be put in a situation to take on a larger role if something actually happens with Alvin Kamara.
- Taysom Hill was around after practice on Saturday, so that's encouraging. Allen said he'd be out for a 'little bit' after taking a shot to his ribs.
- Keep an eye on Kawaan Baker. Given the outlook at wide receiver currently, he may not make the final roster. However, he's working hard and making his reps count at both receiver and gunner.
- Pete Werner should be back soon, but someone on the rise that no one is really talking about at linebacker is veteran Eric Wilson. He's been a familiar pairing with Demario Davis on the first team. He's doing pretty well and is on the right track.
- Jameis Winston's three-day retreat with teammates was a ton of work. Winston structured and planned out the whole thing and also paid for it all. Marquez Callaway said the first day they went to work at 8 a.m. and went at it for 12 hours. His sense of leadership and ownership keeps being put on display.
- Monday is Alvin Kamara's rescheduled hearing date from February's incident. Mickey Loomis wasn't sure whether or not he would be in attendance for this, but it's something to monitor.