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Banged-up Saints bang around for spots in training camp

Rookie LB Martez Wilson (#95) at New Orleans Saints Training Camp (Photo: Parker Waters)Rookie LB Martez Wilson (#95) at New Orleans Saints Training Camp (Photo: Parker Waters)
Rookie LB Martez Wilson (#95) at New Orleans Saints Training Camp (Photo: Parker Waters)

METAIRIE - The injury bug has hit the New Orleans Saints as preseason work continues on Airline Drive.

Saints head coach Sean Payton expressed mild concern about the number of walking wounded.

“It’s a bigger list than I’d like," lamented Payton. "It seems in the last two or three days it has gotten bigger."

Cornerback Tracy Porter sat out practice on Wednesday as did offensive guard Jahri Evans with a swollen knee. Among other additions Wednesday to the injury list missing practice were FS Malcolm Jenkins, TE Tory Humphrey (iced his right knee), WR Courtney Roby (elbow), CB Leigh Torrence and LB Ezra Butler.

Also remaining oin the sidelines were RB Joique Bell, LB Clint Ingram, LB Ramon Humber and DE Jeff Charleston. Chris Ivory and Greg Romeus are still listed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Drills in the afternoon session concentrated on third down situations quite a bit.

Two players that have caught my attention since the beginning of camp are rookies wide receivers Jarred Fayson (Illinois) and John Chiles (Texas). Payton appears to share the same sentiments although he is well aware of the learning curve for the newcomers.

"Both of them had some setbacks. I think you'll see both players play in this game, especially in the second half. I've been pleased with these newly acquired receivers," said Payton.

Joseph Morgan has done some positive things at practice, according to Payton.

Both Chiles and Fayson continue to display consistent skills with not very much drop off since camp has begun. They both show consistent hustle and improving technique.

In what is always a good sign, Chiles received a congratulatory remark from a couple of the assistant coaches during practice.

Morgan flashed good hands as a receiver catching a short touchdown pass while falling down at the end of team drills.

Seemingly the favorite for the 5th receiver spot, veteran Adrian Arrington may be facing a make-or-break situation within the next week to 10 days. Although he has shown flashes with sharper route running and better hands, Arrington may not have separated himself enough from the younger receivers. On one particular play, Arrington did show some outstanding athleticism as his momentum was taking him right yet he was able to bend backwards to make a tough catch despite tight coverage from safety Pierson Prioleau.

In his third year out of Michigan, Arrington has a flair for making the dramatic, tough catch and may need to flash those skills in preseason games coming up to keep a roster spot.

PRACTICE STANDOUTS

Another younger skill position player, second year tight end Jimmy Graham, has made huge strides since 2010 training camp. He seems to be more comfortable and more confident. The sky is the limit for the Miami product, who may end up as the Saints' top red zone threat this season.

More than a third of practice was dedicated to special teams. Drills told us one thing we already knew; Darren Sproles is excellent as a punt returner. His sure hands and quick decision making are reasons why he will be an upgrade for the Saints.

The ex-San Diego standout is also an dangerous receiver out of the backfield and in patterns. Sproles ran some from the slot in short "drag" routes. He will fill the Reggie Bush role in the offense without a drop-off in production.

Junior Galette lines up a sprinter's stance and explodes into the backfield on passing downs. The second year defensive end shows ballerina moves because he is very light on his feet. Galette has been tough to contain off the edge and also diagnoses plays very quickly before it develops.

Jonathan Casillas peeled over from his linebacker spot and filled the "C" gap (between tackle and tight end) to meet the ballcarrier at or behind the line of scrimmage. If he can be as physical as he is fast, Casillas is a sure-fire starter in 2011.

New acquisition Will Herring has garnered some attention. He was lined up with the starters at times like he did in the first preseason game. But veteran Scott Shanle also saw plenty of snaps at strongside linebacker as well with Cassilas' staking his claim at the weakside position.

Drew Brees was picked off by Jabari Greer towards the end of team drills. The veteran corner is the best of a deep group when healthy, something Greer was not at times last season.

Rookie LB Nate Bussey flashed some skills on a nifty interception of Chase Daniel in zone coverage. Bussey had a good drop on the play, similar to the pick he made against the Niners last week. The seventh rounder out of Illinois has the inside track to making the 53-man roster as a developmental project who can play on all special teams units.

First round pick Cameron Jordan continues to display improved pass rush skills at defensive end and is one of thise players who seem to improve a little bit each day.

One player not usually spoken about has had a very good camp is WR Andy Tanner out of Midwestern State. Tanner continues to perform well on special teams. He also runs good, crisp routes with very good hands. The practice squad may not be entirely out of reach for him.

Another unsung performer, offensive guard Roger Allen, has had a very solid camp. He may find himself on the practice squad. Baylor OG Dan Gay (6'4-303) has also represented himself well.

The newest camp arrival, RB Patrick Cobbs, made a nice over-the-shoulder catch in solid coverage from linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

Shaun Rogers continues to gain deep penetration into the backfield, splitting double team blocks. Blocking the mammouth defensive tackle is like trying to contain a double-wide refrigerator.

Charles Brown is enjoying quality reps and taking advantage. He lines up at both left and right tackle. He was one of the few that seemed to be able to handle Galette on a consistent basis. In fact, his natural pass blocking skills may provide the edge to beat out Zach Strief for Jon Stinchcomb's old job.

HIT OF THE DAY

George Foster, a huge offensive tackle, was "flat backed" by safety Pierson Prioleau on a vicious hit on a running play. The veteran defender appears to still be entrenched as Roman Harper's primary backup and can still bring the wood.

ATTA BOYS

Players that received a positive shout out from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams:

- Rookie LB Martez Wilson after a very good reaction to the ball. The mistakes have come, but the potential is abudant for the third rounder.

- CB Mark Parson out of Ohio University. He shows great hustle every time he's on the field.

- Paul Oliver, a versatile safety, played in place of Jenkins with the first unit. The 5th year veteran out of Georgia wears Reggie Bush's old jersey number 25 and appears to be on his way to a spot on the final roster.

UP NEXT

The Saints will hold their final practice Thursday afternoon before leaving for their preseason game at the Texans on Friday. For some players, this Saturday in Houston will be the final opportunity to catch the eyes fo the coaching staff. Next week at Oakland, the third game of the exhibition season, should be more focused on preparing the starters for the regular season. Every snap will be vital for many players getting a long look by the Saints.

 

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