Chippy practice: Saints training camp 2014
Things get chippy during drills between the offensive and defensive lines during Saints training camp at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune) (Michael DeMocker)
Jeff Duncan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Jeff Duncan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on July 31, 2014 at 12:26 PM, updated July 31, 2014 at 2:59 PM, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
My first day at camp was a good one. It proved to be the most intense session so far according to observers who’ve been here since Day One.
Typical of the day after an off day, coaches quickly reset the mindset of the players by amping the competition and sending the troops through run drills.
The intensity ignited a handful of standoffs and near-skirmishes, including one between Curtis Lofton and Khiry Robinson that Drew Brees was forced to break up. Zach Strief and Akiem Hicks got into it after another play and Cameron Jordan and Tavon Rooks also engaged in some extra-curricular activity after another.
“If you want to become a physical team you have to practice like a physical team,” center Jonathan Goodwin said.
On this day, the Saints were definitely physical.
2. Return job: My money is on Brandin Cooks in the competition to win the team’s punt return job. The rookie speedster is confident catching punts and can get into top gear very quickly once he secures the football. Right now his main competition is from Charles Hawkins and Joe Morgan, but if all things are equal Cooks will get the job because his roster spot is secure.
3. Eye-openers: Early nominees for All-Greenbrier: Nick Toon; Patrick Robinson; Hicks; Terron Armstead; Pierre Warren; Cooks; and Khiry Robinson. Those are the players earning the most “buzz” from media members so far. Notably, Saints coach Sean Payton said Toon is “having a fantastic camp. He’s really showing himself here.”
4. The small things: Brees’ attention to detail never ceases to amaze me. During skeleton pass drills, he chided himself for a low throw in the flat to Pierre Thomas. “Get it in his chest!” Brees exclaimed to himself after Thomas was forced to reach near his knees to make the catch, retarding his momentum to the sideline. On the next snap, Brees put the exact same pass squarely between the “8” and the “2” on Benjamin Watson’s sternum.
5. Lagniappe: Cooks is going to be one of those guys that makes at least one highlight-reel play per practice. Today his Did-Ya-See-That effort was a diving one-handed stab of a dart from Brees. Cooks showed impressive concentration, hand-eye coordination and hands to make the snare. … I know it might be semantics and technical Xs and Os that reporters don’t understand, but cornerback Corey White is definitely playing safety in certain packages. … The offense was unusually sloppy at times. I noticed two muffed center exchanges and at least four false starts, which drew the ire of Payton. … The defense smothered both bubble screens to Cooks, who busted a big gain the other day on a similar play. … Vinnie Sunseri made a couple of nice plays in team drills. He batted down a pass from Luke McCown at the line of scrimmage and intercepted Ryan Griffin. … One guy who continues to catch my eye is Keyunta Dawson. He has a very similar skill set to Junior Galette.