With a little less than a week before your New Orleans Saints report for another training camp, I had to take a break and recharge my batteries and doing so I found myself reflecting on my time covering the Saints for this website.
There was really no concerted effort to say “Hey lets start a Saints website.” It was just started by a handful of disgruntled Saints fans that just wanted their voices heard. WDW was launched in July of 2012, so you can imagine the bounty gate circus that was following the Saints, needless to say we were not a happy bunch.
Nobody was providing answers and it became clear to us that none would be coming in the foreseeable future. The local media even dumped on the Saints and their fans (Jeff Duncan). So while all of this was going on the owner of this website, Christy Chauvin, made it a point to seek out the truth. While everybody was speculating she was sitting in court at the hearings bringing the news back here with out all the baloney.
Meanwhile my fellow colleague at WDW, WhoDatTN was digging into and blowing holes into the so-called evidence that the league spoon fed to their media lap dogs – BountyGate. TN did a five-part series tearing bounty gate down, I highly recommend reading it…you can view it here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)
Me? I was sick of everything that was going on whether it was Drew Brees contract standoff or the over-the-top harsh penalties handed down to the Saints with Roger Goodell’s Iron fist – I just wanted football to be back.
So just talking with the gang I had mentioned I would be going to training camp as I do every year and with that Christy announced (unexpectedly to me) that I would be covering Saints camp for WDW. Ill prepared is the best way to describe my first day doing it. (Christy here “Whoopsie!”)
When I pulled up that first day I was amazed at the media that had set up camp outside of the training facility on Airline drive. You name it, they were there from the locals all the way to CNN, ESPN, Fox, NBC and everything in between–it was a zoo.
So here I am with my little 3′ by 5′ note pad and feeling overwhelmed I start to make my way across the highway when I look down Airline drive and I see a wall of water coming our way, by the time I get back to my car all hell breaks loose and a mini hurricane reeks havoc on the chaotic scene.
I remember walking over talking to TV reporter among the tore up news canopy’s and trash strewn about and as I was walking away he yells to me “Welcome to Saints camp.”
I would return the next day.
The first thing I noticed as that first practice got underway was how quiet it was. The year before you could always count on Gregg Williams barking or coach Payton walking through drills giving orders. That was gone, you had Steve Spagnuolo who never raised his voice plus Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer who aren’t the most outspoken coaches. You couple that with a subdued crowd with the bounty black cloud hanging over its head, and it just gave me the feeling that this is going to be huge mountain for this team to climb.
I have to admit before I attended this camp I underestimated the leadership and coaching of Sean Payton. Sure, I knew he was one of the best in the NFL but after that record-breaking offensive onslaught of 2011, I thought they could just put it on cruise control in that system and still be a playoff team. It wasn’t until I sat through all of those practices that I realized that it was going to be a tough go of it.
I also learned that I had a lot to learn when it came to writing reports for this website. Still today I cringe at those early reports.
Needless to say that whole year was painful for the Saints and the Who Dat Nation.
On January 22, 2013 Sean Payton was reinstated and in one of his first moves he fired Steve Spagnuolo and hired Rob Ryan. Attending that mini camp it was almost a sigh of relief for me knowing that those two could turn this thing around.
When training camp rolled around I had a new partner in crime out there with me, Christy Chauvin. This made it much easier for me because there is so much going on at camp you can’t catch it all–a second set of eyes really helped plus she brought the high-tech gadgets (I still use a pad and pen) for two and a half weeks we sat in that New Orleans heat and by time camp broke I looked like a dried up tomato.
With Payton’s return and a newly acquired Rob Ryan the energy level at this camp was night and day from a year before. As the season got underway the website started to gain traction and really took off I knew I had to change my writing style. I had always been into watching tape but now I dove into it even further and started a weekly game film breakdown called the Grind Factor, which I will do again this year as the season gets rolling along.
Last year as training camp got underway the hype machine had snowballed mainly because of the defensive turn around that Rob Ryan had done in 2013. The players started believing their press clippings and so did the fans (myself included).
When camp finally returned to Metairie, Christy and myself took in the last week and a half–to be honest that’s more than enough to sit through. I mean you get to the point were all you want to watch is team drills (11 on 11 and 7 on 7) but camp is much more than that with tons of individual drills and even more special team drills.
I am much more reserved this time around heading into camp mainly; because if last year taught us anything, it taught us that the Saints had some serious holes on their roster. From poor secondary play to weak front seven play all the way to an offensive line that looked like they were playing on their heals all season.
I do like the Saints being aggressive in the off-season, the acquisitions of Max Unger, C.J. Spiller, Brandon Browner and Delvin Breaux are going to pay huge dividends in my opinion even though I wish they would have solidified the interior of the defensive line more.
So here we are heading into training camp next week where every team is tied at 0-0. I feel good about the Saints 2015 campaign but I am also optimistically cautious knowing that if those off season moves tank or crucial injuries hit, then you may be looking at another losing season.
When the Saints return to Metairie after their stint in Greenbrier I will do what I always do–bring you a daily practice report. I’ve taken some time off to recharge but I’m getting that itch again, you can feel it in the air – Football is back! and with that as always….WHODAT!