Four days of training camp are in the books, and the New Orleans Saints have finally started to lose the “pajamas” and put on the pads. The biggest takeaway from the opening of this year’s camp is that the players love the West Virginia weather. The players are accustomed to the oppressive heat of Louisiana and Mississippi, so the cool 60-degree temperatures are a welcomed feeling.
The cooler temperatures have allowed for fresher bodies and minds, which has resulted in an especially competitive and focused camp. Though the veterans have shown their experience and mettle, at times it has been the young guns that have stolen the show.
Among those young players is first round rookie Brandin Cooks, though this isn’t under the radar, there was plenty of curiosity surrounding Cooks. He was only available for a week of OTAs earlier in the offseason due to Oregon State’s school schedule, so this was really the first glimpse the coaching staff has gotten of him. And he has been as dynamic as advertised.
Cooks has lightning speed and has shown it creating consistent separation on deep patterns and even showing the ability to go up and snag the ball despite his height. If Cooks continues on this path, the Saints’ offense will be even more difficult to slow down.
Cooks wasn’t the only receiver who opened some eyes. Undrafted free agents Brandon Coleman from Rutgers and Seantavius Jones from Valdosta State have made their share of plays. Both have the taller frames that Sean Payton covets (Coleman at 6-4, Jones at 6-3) and can move well at their heights.
Coleman, in particular, has shown some good rapport with backups Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin. Unfortunately for Jones and Coleman, receiver is a crowded position to crack the roster. However, this hasn’t stopped late round gems from Marques Colston, Joe Morgan, and Lance Moore in the past.
If during the preseason, someone like Nick Toon or Robert Meachem slips up, they could steal a spot with a strong showing. The more likely scenario, however, will be that one or both make the practice squad or get redshirted by the staff a la Toon or Adrian Arrington.
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, the unit as a whole has looked more aggressive with a newfound focus on turning the ball over. And the plays should continue to come, especially when prized free agent haul Jairus Byrd returns. However, in his absence, one unknown rookie is making himself known—Pierre Warren.
Warren, the undrafted free agent out of Jacksonville State, has been the beneficiary of Byrd’s absence as he has gotten some run with the second team defense. He had an interception and made one of the bigger splash plays forcing and recovering a fumble and then taking it for a touchdown (what the coaches call the “trifecta”).
He showed the same type of instincts at Jacksonville State, and those same ball-hawking plays could maybe get him as one of the last players on the team. As of now, Kenny Vaccaro, Byrd, and Rafael Bush are locks. From there the staff will probably keep one more safety. Unfortunately for Warren, fifth-round pick Vinnie Sunseri will have the edge because of his special teams prowess. But, keeping five safeties(which was done last year) isn’t out of the question. If not the main roster, the practice squad may be a very likely landing spot for Warren.
Camp is off to a great start. Looking forward, the staff will want to see how Byrd returns from his back surgery. In addition, the second cornerback position is far from being resolveod. For now, the young guys are really stepping up to the challenge of being a key piece to a Super Bowl contending team.