2007 Training Camp News & Notes

After being imbedded with the Saints for their first week of 2-a-days here are some random thoughts and observations:

1. Free agent cornerback Jason David has been sensational. Listed generously at 5’8 David seems to break up 4 or 5 balls each day in 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills. On Wednesday he started working with the 1st team defense…expect him to start opening night against Indy and expect this secondary to be greatly improved with he and Mike McKenzie on the corners.

2. The play of the tight ends has also been impressive. Red zone drills seem to incorporate new addition Eric Johnson, Mark Campbell and Billy Miller more than last season. Remember how well Drew Brees utilized Antonio Gates in San Diego? He seems to have some very good options this year at tight end. Don’t be surprised to see the production of the tight ends go way up this year. Expect Eric Johnson to start.

3. Rookies: Last year 6 rookies opened the season in prime roles. Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Jhari Evans, Steve Weatherford, Roman harper and Rob Ninkovich. This year don’t expect any rookies to play a prominent role. That’s not an indictment on any of the guys the Saints drafted, it’s just that the rookies play position where the team has tremendous depth. 1st round pick Robert Meachem is currently listed 5th on the depth chart behind Colston, Devery Henderson, David Patten and Terrance Copper. He’ll play, but how much remains to be seen. Preseason will be big for him. O-Lineman Andy Alleman and Jermon Bushrod will be back-ups and won’t play unless 1 of the starting 5 go down. The rookie who could be on the field fastest is Usama Young from Kent State. He’s picked off 2 passes so far and has looked exceptional. He’s currently backing up Mike McKenzie but could be used in dime packages.

4. Kicking: Got a chance to get to know Olindo Mare a little during camp. Class guy. He’s been booming balls into the end zone on kick offs. He’ll push former saints great Morten Andersen for most touch backs in one season. Mare is replacing fan favorite John Carney. I think Mare is in for a banner year. He’s kicked in the humid condition of Miami on natural grass for 11 seasons. Moving indoors to the Superdome did wonders for the career of Carney and will do the same for Mare. I’m calling it now, mare is headed for the Pro Bowl.

5. Stecker is the new Gleason: When the Saints drafted running back Antonio Pittman out of Ohio State many believed Steckers days with the black and gold were numbered. But, with the loss of Gleason (he’s out for the year after knee surgery) Stecker will now more than likely make the team and serve as the special team captain. He’s perfect for this role.

6. Lance Moore: The Saints will keep 6 wide receivers: Colston, Henderson, Meachem, Patten, Copper & Moore. Moore will return punts and kick offs and so far he’s look very quick. He’ll handle the punt returns when the team has a long field (Reggie Bush will handle short field punts) and Moore will team up with Bush or perhaps Aaron Stecker on kick off returns.

7. Tough cuts. The team will have several tough cuts to make this year. Last year the team was so thin the guys they cut didn’t turn heads but this year…it’ll be more difficult. On the bubble and more than likely gone are DT Rodney Leslie, CB Jason Craft, Safety Jay Bellamy, Punter Steve Weatherford, QB’s Tyler Palko and Jason Fife (one of the two), RB Jamal Branch, and WR Jamal Jones.

8. Coaching: Think about this. Sean Payton only lost 1 coach off his staff from last year and he was a very unimportant guy. Johnny Morton left the Saints for USC. Other than that Payton’s entire staff remained intact. That’s pretty special given the success the Saints had last season. That also says a lot about Payton and the respect his assistants have for him and the potential they see in this team.

9. A local newspaper columnist recently wrote an article about how good the guys are the Saints and the Hornets are. He’s totally correct. All the guys we interview are informative, courteous, and all around good people. They’re the kind of people you want in your community. The kind of people you want your kids to look up to. This columnist wrote that if only our politicians were the same kind of people as the athletes who represent our city we’d be in better shape right now…and again, he’s totally right!

10. Deuce McAllister’s Knee: Deuce has had to wear a sleeve on his right knee for most of training camp. He says it’s just for 2-a-day practices but it worries me. I hope I’m wrong but watch McAllister’s right knee. I hope he’s good to go and can continue to be the work horse he was last season.

11. Saints practice squad: I think these guys are great candidates for the teams 2007 practice squad:
QB Tyler Palko (if he clears waivers)
WR Rhema McKnight
WR Aaron Hosack
RB Pierre Thomas
CB Joe Porter
G/C Jake Kuresa

12. Millsaps has been great. First, Millsaps college is a beautiful little school. Their facilities are also top notch. The 2 practice fields are perfect for workouts. Also, Veterans Memorial Stadium next to Millsaps has been an added plus. The Saints were not supposed to work their that often but Coach Sean Payton says he loves it so the number of practices there have increased.
Okay, that’s it for now…plenty more to come!

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