Notes and observations from the third day of training camp.
Attendance: WR Tommylee Lewis, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Grant Haley and TE Dylan Soehner were not present at practice. Sean Payton said that Robinson, a new absence today, is dealing with a death in the family.
Dress code: Shorts and shells
Overview: New Orleans is starting to ramp things up a little bit. The team conducted wide receiver vs. cornerback one-on-one drills and had a few competitive team periods. The practices continue to run a little bit shorter than usual, clocking in at around two hours, as the team works to continue upping the intensity after not doing much on-field work during the offseason.
Jameis review: Jameis Winston got his first opportunity to work with the starters on Saturday. The performance wasn’t as clean or as efficient as it had been the previous two days when going against the second-string defense.
Winston started fine. During his first series, he threw a pass up the sideline to Tre’Quan Smith that was placed exceptionally well and would have been a highlight play, but Ken Crawley pinned the receiver to the sideline and forced him out of bounds before getting his feet down. Winston connected on his subsequent two attempts before the series ended.
The next series is where things got a little rough. After connecting with Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Winston overthrew Alvin Kamara on a pass to the flat, missed when Smith slipped on a pass over the middle, and then overthrew Deonte Harris on a deep pass after getting sacked. Winston said he’d like to have the throw back.
One key in following this battle: Don’t make too much of anything this early in the process. We’ve only seen Winston throw 19 passes this camp. He’s completed 15 of those attempts. Things are still going well for the quarterback, just not quite as well as they had been on other days. If Smith had gotten his feet down and not slipped on another attempt, the perception of Winston’s performance on Saturday would have changed. But this is how things get evaluated when looking at small samples.
Taysom review: Taysom Hill worked against the second-team defense for the first time and had considerable success working against the unit. He had his best throw of training camp when he hit a back-shoulder throw to Marquez Callaway at about 15 yards depth up the right sideline.
Hill remained efficient and effective. He continued to show a willingness to dump the ball off and did so quickly. He hit two passes in the flat on Saturday but got the ball a little further down the field on completions to Callaway, Smith and Harris. He connected on five of his six attempts.
Through three days, Hill has performed well. He had a couple of miscues during Friday’s session but overall he’s done much of what he set out to do entering camp. One of his primary areas of focus this summer was to improve his footwork so he could get the ball out faster when he spotted where he wanted to go with the ball, and it looks like there is reason to believe he has accomplished that goal.
Still, it is too early to know anything, and both of these quarterbacks are keeping things close and competitive.
Inside look at one-on-ones: Saturday was a great day for Ken Crawley. He shined during team drills and also went undefeated in one-on-one drills by breaking up passes on both of his reps.
A cornerback winning a rep in these drills is notable because they are all alone on an island and can’t play to any help. Crawley went against Smith on both of his turns. However, on one of them, Crawley appeared beat but was given time to make a play since Winston floated a deep pass.
The best play of the session came when Trevor Siemian hit Ty Montgomery up the sideline on a deep back-shoulder throw with Paulson Adebo in coverage. Adebo was also in coverage on a back-shoulder throw to Callaway during team drills.
Keith Washington and Brian Poole also had multiple wins during the drill.
Punter battle review: After three days – and again, it is just three days – Blake Gillikin looks like the leader in the punter battle against Nolan Cooney.
After watching Cooney go boom-or-bust on Friday, Gillikin got his turn to punt outside and was an example of consistency. His hang times were all above four seconds, and I had him at a high of 4.94.
One of the more impressive things about him is that his mechanics are so repeatable that his hang times on a few kicks in a row all came in at 4.63 seconds. Performing as expected is the key to success for punters.
Cooney might have been battling nerves during his first time punting during a practice. Perhaps he will bounce back and eliminate the lows from his performance, which would help put him in a position to make this a close battle.
Dark horse: One of the early standouts of camp so far has been Jalen Dalton.
The defensive tackle is consistently flashing and has been in the backfield at some point during each practice session. I thought Dalton had a good chance of making the team last season before getting injured, and he is making an early push in camp.
I’m not ready to completely lock in on my dark horse candidate to make the team, but Dalton is definitely in the mix.
Defensive mix: Crawley moving into the first-team defense was notable. As things currently stand, he appears to be the third cornerback on the depth chart. Still, players like Keith Washington and Adebo are in the mix, and the team might not be done exploring options at cornerback.
After using Pete Werner with the starting defense on Friday, Zack Baun got some reps there on Saturday, with Werner mixing in later. Looks like those two players will continue to compete for the job throughout camp. Werner was in coverage on one incomplete pass intended for Kamara.
Dalton and Tanoh Kpassagnon both had sacks. Linebacker Andrew Dowell broke up a pass when he batted a ball out of the hands of Tony Jones Jr.
Cesar Ruiz – The guard saved a sack when he managed to get his hands on Carl Granderson late during one play. The effort bought Jameis Winston enough time to find Harris on a comeback route.
Crawley – The cornerback stepped up during his opportunity to play alongside the starters. There is a lot of competition to make the team at cornerback, despite the uncertainty at the top of the depth chart. Crawley needs to lock down a spot. The early momentum will help.
Harris – The hype around Harris would be palpable if not for his DUI arrest, which will likely lead to an early suspension. He’s been highly involved in the offense and looks to be taking the next step in his development.
Play of the day: Hill’s throw to Callaway up the sideline. Callaway appears improved from last year and will need to keep showing up to help offset the loss of Michael Thomas early in the season.
Tough moment: Nick Vannett needs to get used to the snap count. He jumped offsides once, and perhaps twice, during a team period.
Next: The Saints are off Sunday and back in action on Monday. Payton said the first practice in full pads would take place on Tuesday.