After Further Review: Five takes from Saints camp through five practices

After Further Review: Five takes from Saints camp through five practices
The Saints practice at team headquarters in preparation for the 2019 season.

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Take One: Advanced Camp

Saints training camp 2019 feels a little like graduate school. Everyone there is all business working toward a common goal. There are no rah-rah speeches, no motivational slogans, and no wasted motions. Everything on the field is done with a deliberate purpose. This team knows what ’s at stake and what the ultimate goal is and they’re conducting themselves in an business-like fashion.

There definitely is a feel of get in, accomplish the task at hand and move on to the next assignment. This train is moving and if a player can’t keep pace, they will get left behind.

Watching the Saints first teams work, you get the sense that they’ve already gotten into the subtle, intricate details of the offense as opposed to teaching the concepts. Normally, that doesn’t occur until about the second week of camp. This year, it happened right away.

Take Two: Center battle remains top competition

Erik McCoy, Cameron Tom and Nick Easton are all battling for the starting center position. Overall, McCoy has gotten the most team reps there as Tom and Easton have also gotten work at right guard.

All three have been solid.

It’s still very early, and what they do in games will be the ultimate determinant, but through five practices, I have McCoy in the lead with Easton looking the new Senio Kelemete as essentially the sixth offensive line starter.

Take Three: Rookies rolling right along

The rookie draft class has been impressive to watch early on. They haven’t needed a whole lot of time to get acclimated.

McCoy, as mentioned, is squarely in the mix for the center job.

Playing mostly nickel, C.J. Gardner-Johnson has made plays at just about every practice. On Tuesday, he had three PBU’s and a sack.

Saquan Hampton has spent some time with the first team at free safety with Marcus Williams out and has quietly strung together a few practices.

Alize Mack looks be leading in the third tight end competition over Dan Arnold.

Kaden Elliss has spent a lot of time with the second team at middle linebacker and has the only interception of camp.

There’s still a long way to go and there are no guarantees when it comes to the numbers and fluidity of a roster. But early on, every single draft pick have given themselves a chance to make the team.

Take Four:Cooking up the chemistry

Through five practices, Jared Cook’s presence is undeniable. When you watch him play you truly get a sense of just how much this offense has missed a dynamic tight end. Drew Brees sees it; that’s why he’s on a mission to speed up the chemistry with his newest weapon.

Of all the developments of camp, Cook’s emergence is the biggest because there’s a sense that his production can have a direct impact on wins and losses this season. The need for a pass-catcher to produce outside of Michael Thomas was so big last season. If Cook fills that role, big things can follow for this offense.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • Emmanuel Butler has been the star of camp thus far. He has great size and hands but also an innate sense of timing with his routes that has set him apart. That skill takes time to develop within this offense. He is squarely on the Saints radar and has a legitimate shot to stick. He’s taken full advantage of the extra reps with Thomas out. But now that Thomas is back, I’m curious to see how much he stands out.
  • In all honesty, I didn’t feel like Thomas holdout was as much of a topic as I thought it would be. Had it lingered perhaps it would have been but in the end, once practices got rolling the work on the field was the main focus.
  • Tre’Quan Smith has had a really good camp. We haven’t spoke much about it because he did the same last year and hit the rookie wall midway through the season. For him, it’s all about having the endurance to last the entire season.
  • Cyril Grayson’s speed is real, but his ticket on the squad will be on special teams. Right now, he is struggling to find a spot there.
  • The linebacker group as a whole is the most underrated position on the team. It’s a very consistent and deep unit.

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