After Further Review: Training camp progress report - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

After Further Review: Training camp progress report


New Orleans -- As the Saints enjoy their first off day of training camp, I thought it would be the perfect time for a progress report on where they stand after nine practices.

Let's not kid ourselves, there's still a LONG way to go. We haven't even gotten to PRE-season games yet. This list could, and likely will, change. Nonetheless, with the first portion of camp complete, here's what stood out.

Breakthrough Player

Kenny Vaccaro.

He immediately opened eyes with his physical, aggressive style of play.

Some have questioned if he's crossed the line at times. Fair enough. I happen to think that edge is exactly what this defense needs. From what I've been able to gauge thus far, for the most part, his teammates feel the same way.

But none of that is why I'm calling him the breakthrough player of camp. It's because, I love his skill set. He came with the label of versatility and has shown why.

Vaccaro has done a little bit of everything. He's covering slot receivers and tight ends as the first team nickel corner. He's blitzing. He's dropping back into a traditional safety with the second team. And of course, he is hitting.

To me, Vaccaro has had more ‘wow' moments than any other player thus far.

Best Competition Battle

3rd/4th wide receiver

Every practice some young wide receiver steps up and makes a play. Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, Andy Tanner, Courtney Roby and Kenny Stills have all had time with the first team offense and every one of them has played well. Preston Parker and Saalim Hakim have also flashed some ability as well. This race is too close to call and the preseason will be the ultimate factor. I'm also curious how many roster spots this position group ultimately yields. That's where special teams contributions come in.

Biggest disappointment

LT Jason Smith.

After beginning camp with the second team, Smith is now with the third team offense. It's understandable why. Smith has simply not done much and needs a strong finish to camp or he may be out of a job.

Unknown who's made a name

OLB Eric Martin

Every Saints training camp there's an undrafted free agent that goes from unknown to unforgettable. Eric Martin is that guy through the first set of practices. Martin has shown speed off the edge to rush the passer. He's shown an ability to cover in space. He can also play special teams. He's laid big hits throughout camp. Coincidentally, both were on Travarris Cadet.

If he keeps this up, Martin is steadily making himself very difficult to cut.

Other Observations

-         I thought the left tackle battle was going to be more of a competition. But thus far, it's been pretty tame. Charles Brown is clear cut frontrunner.

-         Very curious where Patrick Robinson fits in when he returns.

-         As I observed individual lineman drills all week long. One player I never saw make a bad play was Tyrunn Walker.

-         The first team offense is doing what they do.

-         Before camp, coach Payton said he hopes Akiem Hicks settles into a position. Based on what I've seen, Hicks is better suited as an end.

-         I can't quite put my finger on it as to why, but I'm just not as high on running back Khiry Robinson as others yet.

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