After Further Review: Five takes from the Saints offseason
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Judging football in June is tough. If everything we saw at the end of the offseason was real then Nick Toon, would've been an All-Pro.
Still some storylines have emerged that are worth watching when training camp rolls around.
Injuries are a part of the game, and it appears the Saints will have to manage major health concerns that once again in 2017.
Max Unger, Dannell Ellerbe, Nick Fairley and now Terron Armstead are battling significant injuries. That's four of the Saints' top 15 players on the roster. Unger is hoping to be ready to go by the season opener, which is different than the third preseason game goal Sean Payton said.
Fairley's third opinion on his heart condition should be in soon. His career hangs in the balance. The organization wants him to return but it sounds to me that they've also planned for life without him. We'll wait and see on him.
Ellerbe, I'm told through league sources, broke a bone in his foot during OTA's. Even if he does return for the season, it's probably time for the Saints to reconsider their future with him. At some point, a team has to come to the realization when a player's body is not equipped for the rigors of an entire NFL season.
Armstead is a huge blow to what was shaping up to be the strongest unit on the team. Armstead is one of the best young left tackles in the game but has battled injuries throughout his young career. A four-to-six month recovery would put him back mid-October at the earliest. The question is who rises to take that job in is absence? Ryan Ramcyzk has been brought up. If he's ready, the Saints should go with him. But that's a big 'if', Ramcyzk isn't even 100 percent healthy. He'll need to get there before he can even think of being an opening day starter at such a crucial position. Bryce Harris and Khalif Barnes are currently on the roster but it wouldn't shock me if the team brings in another vet.
The most encouraging sign of the offseason was what appeared to be the improvement of the secondary. That's a great sign considering how much the team invested in the defensive backfield. The group was very active all camp and got a lot of hands on passes.
Delvin Breaux is back to full strength and is the clear cut number one corner. The competition opposite of him will be interesting. Marshon Lattimore, P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley and Sterling Moore have all gotten reps there. The team also appears to be strongly considering a traditional nickel using three corners as opposed to three safeties (that heavy nickel look will be used more against base personnel). Williams, Devante Harris and local undrafted free agent Arthur Maulet have both gotten reps there.
At safety, Marcus Williams was most impressive. He was exactly as advertised. He's a ball-hawking safety that make plays playing the single high. That kind of range can be a huge asset to this group.
Kenny Vaccaro appears to be the defense's 'joker' once again. He's played deep safety, strong safety, Sam linebacker and nickel. I expect big things from Vaccaro who's also eying a new contract.
This is the biggest battle of camp because all positions appear to be open. Craig Robertson, Stephone Anthony and A.J. Klein all got reps with the first team at middle linebacker.
Ellerbe, Klein, Robertson and Alex Anzalone all received first team reps at weakside linebacker.
When the team went three linebackers, Klein received the majority of the reps at strong side.
This list doesn't include Manti Te'o who still hasn't done much on-field work.
The team has not been shy about throwing their draft picks into the mix right away. And that's a good thing. Along with Lattimore, Williams and Anzalone, Alvin Kamara has gotten a significant amount of time with the starters.
Kicker Wil Lutz looks like a different player. Gone is the scared rookie afraid to make a mistake. In his place, is a confident kicker who knows he belongs. His improvement can literally be the difference in wins and losses this season. Coby Fleener and Brandon Coleman still struggle with d rops but that doesn't mean they have grown within this offense. They both have had costly d rops, but both have made some impressive catches during the
offseason. Adrian Peterson will be one of the main players I watch when the pads come on. His teammates gush over him but still everything will get real when things go live.
Mark Ingram is saying all the right things with the signing of Peterson but his body language is saying something different. He respects Peterson but also seems out to prove he is still the main guy out of the backfield. If I'm the Saints, that's exactly what I want. Ingram is a better player when motivated. This will motivate him, and the team will benefit.
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