The New Orleans Saints offseason program is continuing to roll, with minicamp practice sessions opening to the public this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Depending on the weather, the Saints will allow observers to attend these practices to see their favorite Saints in action.
If thunderstorms threaten the team will move to their indoor practice facility which is not open to the public, so here’s hoping for clear skies and fair weather.
Who Dat Dish will be on the scene for each day of practices so long as weather allows us. Here’s a quick breakdown of some things we’ll be keeping an eye out for:
- The Development of Garrett Grayson. The Advocate’s Nick Underhill has gone on-record talking up the progress in poise that the Saints’ presumed quarterback of the future has made since his first year, but this will be the first time fans and other media will get their eyes on the 25-year old passer. There’s only so much you can learn from these non-contact practice sessions, but young quarterbacks can show what they’ve learned so far as adjusting alignments before the snap and communicating play-calls in the huddle.
- New Faces on Special-Teams. We can expect most attention to focus on the kicker battle between Kai Forbath and Connor Barth, but the punt coverage units should draw the eye. It’s one of the few areas where we can pick out potential locks to make the team and see who’s really interested in competing for a job. New pickups like Nate Stupar and Daniel Lasco were brought on board for their noted special teams ability, but fringe players like Brandon Coleman, Obum Gwacham, and Brian Dixon will need to be common sights on special teams if they want to still be on the roster come September.
- Offensive Line Combinations. The lack of contact allowed in these practices is frustrating when you’re trying to glean any information out of the offensive line, but you can still pick out a few things. So far as we can tell from last week’s lineup, Senio Kelemete has edged out Tim Lelito for first crack at a starting job at left guard. Last year’s first round pick, Andrus Peat, is getting dibs on the right guard spot in an attempt at getting the five best players on the field. It would be nice to see noted undrafted free agents Jack Allen (Michigan State) and Landon Turner (North Carolina), but for now they need to work their way up from the second and third units, respectively. Kaleb Eulls (Mississippi State) changed positions from defensive end to try and take advantage of a thin group on the roster, but he’s also spending practice on the third team.
- Struggles in the Secondary. The only things we know at this time are that Delvin Breaux is starting at one cornerback spot, Kenny Vaccaro is making plays all over the field, and Jairus Byrd is hurt again. At least two starting jobs are up in the air, and things are so fluid this early in the offseason that it’s hard to project who starts where. The hope is that Keenan Lewis can return to 2014 form after a series of lower-body injuries threatened his career last autumn, but second-year corner P.J. Williams seems to be bringing all the confidence he can in his bid to start opposite Breaux. Rookie second-round pick Vonn Bell has the inside curve on starting at free safety but CFL-import Erik Harris has been getting a lot of looks in three-safety sets. Saints legend Roman Harper has returned for one more year before transitioning to the coaching staff, but he shouldn’t be expected to play in anything more than short-yardage situations and special teams. How involved the Silver Fox will be in 2016 remains to be seen.
- The Fourth Wide Receiver. Brandon Coleman finished strong last year, posting impressive numbers down the stretch (when thrown at three or more times in his last five games, Coleman went 16 of 22 for 231 yards, averaging 14.4-yards per catch). But Coleman was highly-inconsistent last year and wasn’t an adequate replacement for Marques Colston. Now that rookie second-round pick Michael Thomas is in town and turning heads, Coleman will have to fend off challengers like R.J. Harris, Kyle Prater, and Jared Dangerfield for his spot on the roster. If any one of those three can prove to be a threat downfield and chip in on special teams, Coleman’s days with the Saints may be numbered.
- The Edge Rushers. Losing Hau’oli Kikaha, a second-year starter and presumed paired defensive end with Pro Bowler Cam Jordan, was a catastrophe. But now is the time to move on. The Saints do have a couple of interesting options on the roster to fill in for Kikaha; notably Kasim Edebali, who was second on the team in sacks last year behind Jordan, but who has also spent practice sessions up to this point on the stationary bike. Obum Gwacham packed on 15 pounds of muscle in his continued transition from wide receiver to defensive end, and has been running with the first team defense in Kikaha and Edebali’s absence. Undrafted rookie D.J. Pettway is looking to make some noise, as is returning 2015 draft pick Davis Tull (who laid waste to Division II football throughout his college career).
So who are you most interested in seeing updates on from this week in Saints offseason practices?