NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The time has almost come. The football drought will end next week, when the Saints begin training camp in West Virginia.
We are officially a week away from their first team practice, and here are the top six camp battles to watch:
1.) Wide Receiver
Wide receiver is the biggest unknown at such a crucial position in quite some time for the Saints. Behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks, no one knows who will emerge for the three or four wide receiver slots available.
Judging from experience, it should be Nick Toon's job. However, it's fair to wonder why it has taken Toon so long to catch on. The time is now for him to shed his "King of June" label. Joe Morgan has downfield speed, but will it be enough to secure a spot? Two youngsters in Brandon Coleman and Seantavious Jones both have size and showed clear improvement this off season. Veteran Josh Morgan is also in the mix.
Suggesting Andrus Peat would be the swing tackle or "tackle eligible" player his rookie year was met with a lot of resistance from the fan base when I posted it on Twitter. However, I don't think the Saints are going to hand Peat the job over Zach Strief at right tackle. He will have to beat him out. It's very difficult to gauge an offensive lineman's progress with no pads. Thus, this battle will be won in training camp.
3.) Nickel Cornerback
The outside corners are set with Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner, but in today's NFL, the nickel cornerback is basically a starter and almost an every-down player. The surprise of the group was Delvjn Breaux, who turned heads during OTAs. Aside from him, Kyle Wilson and rookies PJ Williams and Damian Swann will have the opportunity to compete.
It's always interesting to see just how many cornerbacks the Saints keep on their roster. Given Rob Ryan's love of safeties, five cornerbacks may be it.
One name I didn't mention was Stanley Jean Baptiste, who is likely more of an outside player. However, SJB must emerge, or the team will not be afraid to part ways with their second-round pick from a year ago.
Zach Hocker or Dustin Hopkins?
None of us knows. The Saints rolled the dice and banked on choosing a kicker that has never before kicked in a live NFL game. Someone will emerge in training camp, but we won't know if he has what It takes until the regular season when there's :03 left in the fourth quarter, on the road, and one of these players are asked to win the game with a 49-yard field goal.
5.) Middle Linebacker
David Hawthorne is the veteran starter but rookie Stephone Anthony looks like he is ready to play right away. Of course that was the padless May and June sessions where Anthony excelled. However, if he succeeds in training camp, I don't think the Saints will hesitate to play him.
6.) Backup QB