Standout players, observations and notes from the second open practice of training camp.
OVERVIEW: The Saints practiced inside for about 90 minutes. The team did a lot of 11-on-11 drills, with one period dedicated to running plays and another on passes.
DRESS CODE: Shells
ATTENDANCE: CB Tino Ellis, TE Josh Hill, OL Andrus Peat and LB Anthony Chickillo were not practicing.
QUARTERBACK REVIEW: The offense was better today. The line wasn’t getting blown up, and there was time to get passes off, which is an improvement from Monday.
Overall, Drew Brees was 5-for-9 during team drills. However, two of his completions were check-downs, and another came on a screen. The coverage at practice is really good.
Brees attempted to go down the field a few times. He overthrew Jared Cook up the seam and a lurking Marcus Williams nearly picked him off. He then failed to connect with Adam Trautman on another pass up the seam with Marshon Lattimore in coverage. A third miss came on a deep pass to Cook that was broken up by safety J.T. Gray.
Interestingly, Taysom Hill worked as the second-team quarterback, and Jameis Winston had a limited role.
Hill made some off-script plays during a heavy-run period and showed off his running ability. As a passer, he hit on 4-of-6 attempts. His two incompletions came on a drop by Alvin Kamara and another pass that looked like it hit or bounced off Emmanuel Butler.
Winston went 1-for-2. His incompletion came on a slant to Butler that got knocked incomplete.
TRAUTMAN LOOKING GOOD: There aren’t too many questions about Trautman’s athletic ability. The former basketball player moves well and showcased his receiving ability throughout college. What he most needs to prove is that he can block.
The early signs are good. I kept my eyes on Trautman during a run period to get a better idea of what he can do. During three plays, he successfully blocked Marcus Davenport, Alex Anzalone, and then easily took on a defensive back. Small sample, but he was solid during this period.
If Trautman can continue blocking well and prove viable in this area, it will open the offense up, and New Orleans will not have to hide him.
CENTER SHUFFLE: Or, actually, no shuffle at all. Erik McCoy again lined up at center during practice. If the hope is to get Cesar Ruiz settled in that role, New Orleans is not yet showing urgency.
There is a chemistry element to playing on the offensive line. The center and the quarterback have to be on the same page, which is difficult. But there is also a lot of communication and chemistry between the guard and tackle that needs to become natural. So, if Ruiz is going to play center, he isn’t getting that experience with Brees, and McCoy isn’t settling in with the right tackle.
But there is another element. Ruiz is getting used to hearing the line call and cadences, but there isn’t any pressure on him to snap the ball. With limited practices, there isn’t as much room for mistakes or wasted time. Maybe the team is letting Ruiz settle in this way before putting him at center.
We’ll find out more as the days go on and after hearing from offensive line coach Dan Roushar.
SAFETY RANGE: The New Orleans safeties can cover a lot of ground. Marcus Williams already has elite range, but the team gets a lot of ground covered when operating out of two-safety shells, and Malcolm Jenkins is covering the other half of the field.
The moments are subtle, and we’ve only seen him on the field for about 20 snaps now, but you can see those two taking away a lot of passing lanes deep and forcing the quarterback to check down. Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins also have a little something to do with that.
TOMMY STEVENS SPOTTED: Tommy Stevens has some road to travel as he transitions to tight end. That showed up during a period focused on running plays when he lost a handful of blocks and looked raw.
Then he reminded you why he’s here when he went down the field and made a contested catch with linebacker Nigel Bradham providing tight coverage. Stevens has a lot of work to do. But his combination of size and athleticism can be molded to make him a tight end.
LOCK THEM UP: Janoris Jenkins has been one of the bright spots during the first two days.
The battles between him and Emmanuel Sanders have been entertaining to watch. They went at it during one-on-ones on Monday, with the duo going 1-1-1 on three tries. Jenkins pulled ahead on Wednesday by breaking up a pass intended for Sanders on a crossing route during team drills.
Sanders later made a catch in the flat. He added a second reception on a screen during a later period when Brees and the starters were up against the second-team defense.
The coverage provided between Marshon Lattimore and Jenkins has been stellar the first couple of days of practice. During the first team period, when Brees was up against the starters, he couldn’t get much going, and both of his passes were to the flat. Their ability to press and play physical coverage has been one reason the defense has looked so good to start camp.
SPECIALISTS: Thomas Morstead looked great handling punting duties, even if it was inside, and you can’t get a full boom going. I did some hyping up of Blake Gillikin earlier in the week – and for good reason – but Morstead is still at the top of his craft. Seeing if the team stashes Gillikin will be interesting.
Wil Lutz attempted some field goals, connecting on four of his five attempts. He’s nearly automatic. We won’t spend too much time worrying about his performance since success is expected. Now, if he starts missing, then that stuff will show up in the notes moving forward.
BAUN UP AND DOWN: Zack Baun is a work in progress.
The rookie linebacker has the tools. He moves well in space, he’s fast and explosive and can come down and rush the passer. After two days of practice, it is easy to see why the team likes him and can transition him from playing on the edge to off the ball.
There have been good moments during the first two days. There have also been a few moments where you can see Baun’s raw. Baun will see what he needs to see, but sometimes it takes him just a second to process the information and get moving. It happened on a play to Ty Montgomery during the first practice, and there were a couple more examples today.
More success will come with reps. Baun needs to get comfortable with the position. Once he does, he’ll be in good shape.
Ty Montgomery is explosive. He had a great run where he got to the corner and beat everyone up the sideline. Sean Payton can do a lot with him. … Ryan Ramczyk was given the day off for the most part. … Chickillo rode a bike. … Gillikin worked as the holder on field goals. … Watching Winston throw the ball is something. His release and arm strength really pop out. … Emmanuel Butler looked good while blocking. … Not much to say about Alvin Kamara yet, but during a routes-on-air period, I noted that he looked incredibly quick.