WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VA (WVUE) - It's about that time of training camp. Six days of beating up on each other finally led to the first scuffle - or three - today.
Zach Strief and Akiem Hicks mixed it up early on. Cam Jordan and rookie tackle Tavon Rooks had to be separated during the same drill. Curtis Lofton and Khiry Robinson had the biggest encounter. Both players got tangled up which led to pushing, shoving and even, slightly, punching before Drew Brees got in the middle to break it up.
"We just wanted to set the tone today," Jordan said afterward. Indeed, the defense did.
Other than your franchise player having to break up a heated scuffle, this is perfectly normal and probably a good thing that the competitiveness is rising.
The Saints had their best day of camp in the takeaway department. They finished the day with four turnovers. Vinnie Sunseri led things off when he caught a tipped pass off the hands of Andy Tanner. Next, Luke McCown fumbled a snap from Tim Lelito that was recovered by Brandon Deaderick. Then, Charles Hawkins caught a pass but was stripped of the ball, George Uko was there to recover it.
And finally, after blowing two golden opportunities to pick off Drew Brees in previous practices, Patrick Robinson finally held on to one on a diving interception during team drills. It was Brees' first interception of camp.
A huge emphasis has been placed on creating takeaways all offseason. Today was the first time the Saints truly saw the fruits of their labor.
Play of the Day
To me, Ryan Griffin is in the lead for the backup quarterback job with McCown. He's been the most consistent. He had a solid day again today. His best play came when he hit Brandon Coleman on a go-route for a 46-yard touchdown completion. It was a great read by Griffin but an even better catch by Coleman who located a slightly underthrown ball and went up and got it.
Play of Day II
I know I sound like a broken record but Nick Toon is having himself a great camp. He and Drew Brees connected again on a deep post route when Toon got behind Champ Bailey and Kenny Vaccaro. I keep saying what's stood out the most with Toon is the chemistry he has with Brees. That trust wasn't there a year ago.
• He is certainly not the biggest, nor fastest receiver on the roster, but there's a reason Andy Tanner has hung around this long. He's very smart and reliable and is always in the right spot. He had a very good day today. Other than the drop on a difficult pass that led to the Sunseri pick, Tanner had five catches. On most plays, Tanner located the holes in the zone to gain chunks of yardage over the middle of the field. His best catch came on a throw from Luke McCown when he sat in the middle part of the field then reached back to catch a poorly thrown pass. The pair also connected during 7-on-7's when Tanner once again worked the middle to beat a breakdown in converge to score. I have always felt it's not Brandin Cooks nor Kenny Stills that has the closest skill set to Lance Moore, its Tanner. Numbers may prevent him from making the team, but as usual he's made himself a very tough cut.
• I'm not sure what was going on with the quarterback-center exchanges today. Logan Kilgore fumbled three snaps in a row during blocking drills. McCown mishandled the one described above.
• Robinson had a superb day and in my opinion, is leading Champ Bailey in the starting cornerback battle. Not only did he have the great interception, he's led the team in pass break-ups all camp. The play I was most impressed with though was when Brandin Cooks took a middle screen, the same middle screen he went untouched 60 yards on Tuesday, but Robinson burst through his blockers to set the edge and force Cooks back inside for a minimal gain. Robinson will not be credited for any stat on that play, but he was the reason it was successful.
• Speaking of Cooks, add another outstanding day to his resume. Cooks has shown speed, quickness, route-diversity and hands. Today, he closed out practice by stopping on a dime to reach back and catch a pass from Logan Kilgore.
• Aside from Sunseri's interception, he also batted down a McCown pass during team drills. Sunseri has quietly had a solid few days of camp.
• I haven't talked enough about Travaris Cadet. He looks good as the triple threat of running, receiving and returning. To me, he is the clear cut favorite to replace Sproles. Today, he ran a wheel route out of the backfield (a route Sproles loved to run) and Brees located him and hit him right in stride.
• Terron Armstead is a beast. During individual lineman drills he drove Glenn Foster into the ground. Armstead is miles ahead of where he was last year and looks like another small school find for this offensive line.