New faces making plays on first day of Saints Minicamp
By Ty Anania
The New Orleans Saints brought in some new faces to lift them out of the 7-9 cellar. And so far, the returns look promising.
On both sides of the ball, the New Orleans Saints have new projected starters. The majority of those new players are on defense, but Payton and Brees have some new toys to play with as well.
And while its always wise to take minicamp and OTA observations with a grain of skeptical salt — no pads, vanilla playbooks, and drills that favor the offense — we’re all hungry for any sort of taste. And so far, it tastes pretty good.
A number of the Saints’ newest players have caught some eyes already through one day of Minicamp. Some made highlight reel plays, and others demonstrated skills that the Saints have been sorely lacking for years in the Payton era.
On offense, the name we’re most accustomed to hearing — outside of Adrian Peterson — is Ted Ginn Jr. Slated to replace Brandin Cooks as the Saints burner on the outside, the Saints are asking a lot of Ginn. But according to early reports, he’s got the feet to fill the shoes. Every reporter with an eye on the field has noted that he seems about as fast as he’s ever been, sparking a T.G.I.F. joke. Ted Ginn Is Fast. But a bigger impact may come in the WR room, where Brees and Payton have lauded praise on the veteran receiver. The Saints don’t have much veteran experience at the position, so Ginn’s ability to lead by example could be huge for the roster. His team-first mentality should be a step up from another receiver that comes to mind.
But after one day of Minicamp, a new name is sticking out. That’s rookie Alvin Kamara.
Kamara projects as the Saints’ joker-back, the dual-threat RB who can catch passes and run the ball. And until the pads come on, the pass catching is about the only trait we can judge out of the backs. So hold off on the AD hype. But Kamara apparently sparked some excitement on the field when he burned Manti Te’o on a route out of the backfield. Te’o got spun around and Kamara raced with only the wind as company.
On defense, as I said, it can be harder to evaluate in these drills. 1-on-1 matchups favor the offense. Just because Te’o got embarrassed by Kamara doesn’t mean he can’t fit on the roster. It’s different when your playing with a full eleven. That’s how defenses operate.
But it’s always nice to see a defender step up in isolated coverages. And in that vein, we have promising things to note in A.J. Klein and UDFA Arthur Maulet.
A.J. Klein gave up the play of the day in the final team drill when Coby Fleener caught a one-handed 25-yard touchdown over him. But the moment was the play of the day only because of how good Klein’s coverage on Fleener was. The Saints haven’t had a linebacker that can run with TEs in, god, it feels like forever. If Klein can be that guy, it’s a huge boost for the Saints defense.
Alex Anzalone and Stephone Anthony also both flashed good moments in pass coverage. Both welcome signs.
And in the secondary, Arthur Maulet won all of his 1-on-1 battles. That’s huge for a rookie. Marshon Lattimore, on the other hand, gave up a pair of touchdowns in the team drills. They’re both young, and Lattimore is far and away the better player. But Maulet may very well carve a spot on the roster out of this crowded Saints CB group.