I was able to attend practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Needless to say, the Saints came in clutch for the Who Dat Nation with the covered seats and mist fans because it was hotter than a bowl of gumbo. Ultimately, it was great to see the players up close and get a feel for how things are looking going into the first pre-season game.
Here are some observations from practice:
With Michael Thomas still getting a new contract situated, Smith was taking advantage of every rep he could get. Every time there was a drill, he was the first one in line. Even towards the end of practice, he was working on his routes with Brees and Kamara. He knows his rookie season was not the best by any means and it is a great sign to see him pushing himself to get better and taking advantage of the extra work. Some are saying that he could be traded if the guys behind him keep improving but it would hard pressed to do so given his improvements so far.
The Cook Connection
Jared Cook is already making his presence known in the offense. He and Brees have built a quick chemistry and are constantly connecting throughout practice. Coming off a career high season, Cook fits the bill of what the Saints offense has lacked since trading Jimmy Graham in an elite pass catching tight end. He moves fast for his size and his build will be a force in the red zone. (He came to my section to sign autographs and he is a big man.)
Punters do not get a lot of love but Morstead is an exception. He is a fan favorite and has been one of the best punters in the league since he was a rookie. After 10 seasons, he is still able to perform at an elite level. He was hitting bomb after bomb doing side work and made coffin corners look easy. He did not punt much last year but he is always capable to flip the field to help the defense. Safe to say he will be a hall of famer once he hangs up the cleats.
Rookie Safeties Making Plays
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was making a few good plays during practice with some pass breakups. There is no doubt that he will have a role this season. The more surprising was seeing Saquan Hampton getting first team reps with Marcus Williams not participating in practice. Hampton has the harder road to make the roster even as a draft pick as was shown last year. There was some moments where he made some nice reads and broke up a few passes and has been having an underrating camp so far. Definitely will be something to watch when the games come around.
We all knew going into camp that the receiver battle was going to be the showcase. What no one expected was almost every one of them making plays every practice. Emmanuel Butler has been the most notable, getting comparisons to Marques Colston. Cyril Grayson has flashed his speed constantly and hauled in several deep passes as well as worked on end arounds. Simmie Cobbs has also shown his potential, making it known why the Saints signed him late last season. Keith Kirkwood is steadily improving, Rishard Matthews looks like a strong case for a spot and Austin Carr has had some good plays here and there. Lil Jordan Humphrey is the only one that has not made a big impact yet but there are plenty of practices left to prove his worth.