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Saints rookie minicamp gets underway

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Aug 3, 2015; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; A general view of the New Orleans Saints training camp facilities at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2015; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; A general view of the New Orleans Saints training camp facilities at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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Another day, another day closer to the season. The New Orleans Saints rookie minicamp starts today.

This marks the first real football work that New Orleans Saints players and coaches can do this offseason. Not every player is allowed to participate: as the camp name suggests, only rookies can attend the minicamp. But it’s an important time of year for the team. And this year more so than ever.

The Saints have a number of rookies that they need to get up to speed, and fast, because they have at least three rookies that they expect to contribute right away. And every single drafted rookie, all seven, can make the case that they will see a decent portion of field time this season.

Marshon Lattimore projects to start right away. He’ll need to get up to speed. Alvin Kamara will serve an integral role in the offense. Same with Marcus Williams. Each of those guys immediately projects at the top of their position.

And then the rest of the guys, from first round pick Ryan Ramzcyk to sixth rounder Al-Quadin Muhammad, all have a shot at cracking the starting lineup. Ramzcyk can push Zach Strief for the job. Muhammad and Trey Hendrickson will compete with Hau’oli Kikaha, Alex Okafor and Obum Gwachum for the starting DE job, as no player at the position stands out enough to lock it down. And Alex Anzalone has enough talent to make a push for a starting job somewhere along the linebacker group. This is valuable introduction time for some key contributors.

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And perhaps more importantly, this is the Saints first opportunity to get a look at these players on the field and begin their evaluation in proper.

This is most important for the roster hopefuls, the UDFA class that needs to find some standouts if they want to crack the final 53. The crucial phase of that evaluation is in the preseason, but it starts now. And if players fail to make a solid impression, they might not even make it to the preseason. This is a time of roster flux.

There are a few notable names on the Saints UDFA list, from Arthur Maulet to Travin Dural. Maulet was a highly rated CB in college, but dismal athletic measurements pushed him off draft boards. And Dural is a receiver from LSU, a rare hometown sighting in New Orleans. With uncertainty at the backend of the Saints receiver group, Dural has a shot at the roster. He’ll need to show he can contribute in special teams to make the most of his opportunity.

One name to watch is Cameron Tom, the center out of Southern Miss. He was a solidly rated UDFA recruit, and worthy of remark even before the injury to Max Unger. But Unger’s injury shines a spotlight on Tom. The Saints have Senio Kelemete as the primary backup along the OL, but Kelemete has yet to log any regular season snaps at center. The only pure center on the Saints roster behind Unger is sophomore UDFA Jack Allen. If Tom can impress in camp, he has arguably the best shot out of the UDFA class at the final 53.

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