After spending nearly two weeks at Saints camp with Christy Lynch Chauvin, I have a few thoughts on what I’ve seen out there. After a few days and a pre-season game removed from it, I feel recharged and wish I could get back out to Saints camp. That’s probably not going to happen so I’ll take the consolation prize in knowing that we have football every week until February, Football is finally back my friends.
Something I liked: The Who Dat Nation, they showed up in force. If there was any doubt about the loyalty of this fan base, look no further than the Black and Gold scrimmage. I’ve been to many camps and can honestly say I have never seen a turn out like this, the line to get in literally wrapped around the block all the way to Zephyr field. It was enjoyable just to kick back with these fans all the days we were out there; they are truly a colorful bunch.
What I didn’t like: The heat, I know I say this every year that I’m out there but damn it’s hot. As Christy can tell you I’m as red as a tomato, it had gotten to the point that I couldn’t get any more burnt than I already was. Mr. Benson please invests in a canvas for the bleachers, it can’t cost that much, heck just charge an extra nickel for the dome foam and it pays for itself. Seriously Tom, do it.
Something I liked: The return of Sean Payton. I know this is obvious but I cannot stress enough how much of a difference maker this man is. It seems to me that he’s been really hands on this camp, more so than in the past. From teaching ball security to manning the tackling dummy during wide receiver drills and barking out instructions, he really seems to be focused and re-energized. He’s a steadying presence out there; coach seems to really be enjoying his time back with his team.
What I didn’t like: The Special Teams. For a team that spends so much time in practice on special team drills and to go into the first pre-season game and lay an egg is unacceptable. With so many players fighting for a job living on the bubble, it a shame Greg McMahon is not on the bubble with them, he deserves to be.
Something I liked: The young talent on this team on both sides of the ball. Some good young talent won’t make the final 53, which is the nature of the beast but I have to tip my hat to the Saints scouting department for finding them. On defense guys like Glenn Foster, AJ Davis, Rod Sweeting, Rafael Bush and Tyrunn Walker have all looked good. While on offense, Andy Tanner, Preston Parker, Kenny Stills, Austin Johnson, Tim Lelito and Khiry Robinson have shined at times also. The Saints always seem to find a hidden gem every year and I’m positive they will find another one this year.
What I don’t like: The depth at linebacker. Specifically the depth at middle linebacker. Behind Jonathan Vilma, Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne it drops off fast. Do Chris Chamberlain, Ramon Humber and Will Herring instill confidence if someone goes down, I didn’t think so. The Saints need to get healthy and stay healthy at this position. Maybe Kevin Reddick can step up but I haven’t seen it yet and Ray Shipman can’t seem to get healthy. It is a concern in my opinion and at this point so late in camp; it looks like we will have to keep our fingers crossed heading into the season.
A few takeaways from the pre-season game against the Chiefs: As I mentioned earlier, the special teams stunk up the Dome. It’s a good thing its early and they have time to fix it, they have to fix it because if you give Atlanta the type of field position they gave the Chiefs it’s going to be a long day.
I love the fact the Saints defensive front got pressure. Glenn Foster was definitely a force out there as was Tyrunn Walker. Walker’s athletic abilities really showed when he single-handedly snuffed out a screen pass. It was also nice to see rookie third rounder John Jenkins get in on the action, he absolutely went beast mode when he bull rushed his way for a sack. Steven Baker had a rough outing for the Chiefs, first it was Cam Jordan driving him back on a bull rush were the QB didn’t stand a chance. And then later, Baraka Atkins using his speed to get around and strip the ball from the QB.
On the offensive side of the ball I thought Preston Parker and Nick Toon stood out as did Andy Tanner. Tanner gets points for never giving up with his leg drive while fighting for a first down, he doing what we have been seeing in practice, earning himself a spot. Kenny Stills had an up and down night, he looked great with his long catch keeping both feet in but not so good on the dropped ball on a reverse, he’ll be fine, a case of the jitters I think. I also thought Terron Armstead had an up and down night, while he showed flashes with his quickness and footwork he also got beat a few times. Bryce Harris had a rough night, he routinely got shoved around. I also think Jason Smith has played his way off this team, he didn’t look bad but that is to be expected when you are switched to right tackle and are playing against the third team. Finally I thought Luke McCown looked pretty good (except for his bonehead interception) He showed good poise in the pocket and had good zip on the ball, I’m thinking he has the inside track to back up Brees, let’s just hope in the regular season all we see him do is carry a clip board.
All in all it was what most first pre-season games are, sloppy with some flashes of playmakers rising above. The offense and defense were pretty vanilla in the scheme and play calling so some of it you have to take with a grain of salt, but make no mistake on September 8th all hell is going to break loose and I for one cannot wait.