The New Orleans Saints will be headed to Greenbrier, West Virginia to start training camp on July 24th. With all the offseason issues finally being resolved, it is time for players to get down to business and get ready for the upcoming season. For the established players, this will be a period to get back into shape, but for others this will be a time to compete for depth chart position.
One position that will present the most competition and intrigue will the second cornerback spot. Keenan Lewis is firmly entrenched on one side as the number one cornerback. However, the other side will have some healthy competition between free agent and future hall of famer Champ Bailey, third year player Corey White, and rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Bailey, though revered, is getting up in age and is coming off a disappointing, injury filled season. White, though much maligned at times by the fan base, still has shown promise with more playing time. Whether he plays at the number two spot or not, he will be primed for a nice year. And Jean-Baptiste was drafted in the second round for his long frame and exceptional athleticism. He is a little raw at this point, but if he open eyes in camp, he can rise up the depth chart quickly.
Besides cornerback, the offensive side of the ball has some scores to be settled, most important of which is the center position. The offensive line expects to see some improvement with Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, and Zach Strief returning as well as 2nd year left tackle Terron Armstead gaining more experience. It is important that the Saints see stability at the center position to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The battle will be between second year player Tim Lelito and veteran Jonathan Goodwin. Goodwin had done an earlier stint with the Saints before going to San Francisco for a couple of seasons. He already has familiarity with the Saints’ offense which will give him an advantage. However, Lelito is held in high esteem by the coaching staff, as evidenced by the fact that the center position wasn’t addressed in the draft. Goodwin may be the favorite going into camp, but the coaching staff has never been afraid of trusting in young players; if Lelito outperforms Goodwin, he will get the nod to start.
Finally, staying on the offensive side of the ball, the battle for the fourth wide receiver spot will be hotly contested. Normally, this isn’t a terribly vital position, but Sean Payton uses an abundance of 4 and 5 wide receiver sets, so the winner of this position will see some playing time. Though there are plenty of option, this will be a race between two young and familiar names, Joe Morgan and Nick Toon. Joe Morgan is the consummate deep threat who tore his ACL last season. If he is able to come back from injury, he can add even more speed to what Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks bring.
Toon, on the other hand is a little bit taller and bigger. He can run every route in the tree and his big frame can add height to Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham giving a basketball feel to the receiving core. The coaching staff may favor Toon a little bit, seeing him as a possible Colston replacement, but if Morgan shows the same speed he had before the injury, his big play ability will be hard to pass up.
The Saints have done a nice job setting themselves up with a dynamic and complete roster heading into the season. The aforementioned battles will be intriguing as they will all have extremely talented options. Training camp and the preseason will ultimately help settle things, but until then it will be fun just to watch.