WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VA (WVUE) - We begin with the best news of camp: Jairus Byrd is back. It was a welcomed sight to see after the Saints invested so much in him this offseason. In the days leading up to Tuesday, Byrd had been doing a ton of conditioning work and appeared to be close. Now he's back, albeit on a limited basis.
Byrd took part in the walkthrough and 7-on-7 drills but did not participate in team drills. He also got some work in at punt returner.
Even before Byrd's return, the secondary had been playing great all camp. His presence should only enhance that.
Back and Forth
Call Tuesday the best practice of camp thus far.
The offense and defense both made plays.
Early on, the defense dominated the first 7-on-7 period. Marcus Ball even picked off Ryan Griffin. But the offense struck back in the team drills to, in my opinion, win the day. Drew Brees had back-to-back completions over the middle to Andy Tanner and Marques Colston. Both would have been big gains.
Play of the Day
Its hard to not get excited about rookie Brandin Cooks. As I've said in the past, Cooks isn't exactly filling one role, he's bringing a new dimension to the Saints offense. The Saints have never had a wide receiver with his short and long term speed.
We saw a perfect example of this Tuesday when Drew Brees threw a middle screen to Cooks who took it 60 yards for the touchdown…untouched.
It was the second big "wow" moment we saw from Cooks this camp. They have not been shy about getting Cooks involved early and often.
• While the play above showed Cooks' dynamic ability, another play demonstrated his intelligence within the offense. On the play, Brees read blitz, took the snap and identified the one-on-one coverage. It was Cooks running downfield on Champ Bailey, Brees fired it to his back shoulder on the sideline; Cooks planted his foot, reached back and caught the ball. First off, it was an excellent throw by Brees. But the route and catch showed that Brees and Cooks were on the same page. That route can sometimes take years to perfect, Brees and Cooks looks like they've already got it.
• Khiry Robinson is the truth. He looks leaner this camp but still has that punishing style. He also has shown an ability to hit an extra gear in the open field. He had one of the best offensive plays of the day when he followed Jason Welch's block (a block that pummeled Vinnie Sunseri) and broke it open for a big gain. He also has shown an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, a good trait for a Payton back to have.
• Kenny Vaccaro is already back in his midseason, physical form. He read a reverse called by the offense and leveled Joe Morgan. Yes, these two have collided before and it didn't end well for Morgan. However, Morgan popped right back up after this one.
• Akiem Hicks made an incredible play when he sniffed out a screen pass to Mark Ingram then flattened him from behind.
• Nick Toon looks really good, but you've heard me say that all camp. I'm officially taking him off the bubble in the wide receiver battle. He is on, barring some catastrophic meltdown.
• The new rookie wide receiver to keep an eye on is Seantavius Jones, who keeps making catch after catch.
• Logan Kilgore had his best play of camp when he hit Cooks for a big gain over the middle.
• I paid close attention to the one-on-one O-line vs. D-line battles. Tim Lelito had a nice effort against Broderick Bunkley; Senio Kelemete was destroyed by Tyrunn Walker. The best battles were Cam Jordan vs. Zach Strief and Jahri Evans vs. Hicks.
• For the second straight day, Patrick Robinson had a interception in his hands…then dropped it. If I'm being objective I'd have to say right now that Robinson is having a better camp than Champ Bailey but Robinson has to make those plays when they are available.
• Terrance Frederick didn't blow his opportunity. On an overthrow by Luke McCown, Frederick ran it down to pick off the pass.
• Rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste hasn't seen a lot of action in the secondary. Balls just haven't gone his way, he did however force a fumble on a 'punch-out' today. He did a similar thing in OTA's.