Saints vs Cardinals Preview

by Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

It’s been a little over seven months since Who Dats were able to cheer their black and gold inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. January 7 was the last game played on NOLA soil, a 31-26 Wild Card Playoff win over the Carolina Panthers. It was the final game of an unexpected season that has bred into one of high expectations.

Preseason kicked off for the Saints with a 24-20 win at Jacksonville. The start of which well wasn’t exactly what many fans were expecting. Jacksonville’s first two drives produced 132 yards of offense to go with 10 first downs. So when asked this week about what he’d like to see improve from the defense in game 2, linebacker Demario Davis stated what you’d expect. “Everything. We can always get better. Better in the running game, better in the pass game, better situational football, third-down in the backfield, red zone. There’s too many situations where you can always get better at everything,” said Davis. “I start with myself individually, what areas I can work on to get better. Game-to-game and as a unit we have to do the same.”

12 years in the NFL has given receiver Ted Ginn Jr. plenty of experience on how to look at the transition from week one to week two of the preseason. So what’s the biggest objective? “Don’t make the same mistake. That’s really it. Don’t make the same mistake man,” says Ginn. “Be on your P’s and Q’s and just leaning how to work for the next man next to him.”

Friday night Arizona comes to town looking to build off of a preseason opening win themselves a 24-17 win over the Chargers at home. The Cardinals had a 2017 season that saw them finish 8-8 and see the departure of head coach Bruce Arians to retirement. Steve Wilks makes the move from Carolina’s defensive coordinator to head coach and his first big job is find his signal caller. Quarterback is their biggest question mark entering the season as Chad Kanoff, Mike Glennon, Sam Bradfor and rookie Josh Rosen, who was the 10th overall pick, all are competing for the job. Bradford last week was 1-1 for 6 yards. Glennon was 207 for 11 yards and Rosen was 6 of 13 for 41 yards while Kanoff went 3-5 for 66 yards and a touchdown.

The Saints are favored by three and a half points for those planning a quick trip to the Mississippi gulf coast. Kick off is set for 7p.



You got the sense that since the Jacksonville game defensive players have been reminded a few times about areas of play in that game that were not up to head coach Sean Payton’s expectations. “Just ok. Just ok,” Payton said when asked about his team’s tackling in the game. “That first drive, everyone had their nachos, their hot dogs, their coke and they were on to the freaking churros in those 15 plays.” Let’s be honest if we judged on how social media was handling the opening Jaguar drives the 2018 would be over and the Saints defense would be well on its way to being ranked 32nd in the NFL. Needless to say how the starting unit performs to open the game will be something to keep an eye on immediately. I’m sure the warm home crowd may help write a different start to this one.


The Saints had a scare this week when Alex Okafor went down with an injury in Wednesday’s practice. 1st round pick Marcu Davenport has miss some time due to a groin injury and was just starting to get back on the field when the Okafor injury occurred. Reports say Okafor suffered a sprained knee, bone bruise and sprained ankle. No timetable has been given for his return. It would be shocking to see Davenport play on Friday since he just began practicing again so we’ll see Al-Quadin Muhammad, perhaps Trey Hendrickson, Jayrone Elliot, Mitchell Loewen, or maybe even see Hau’oil Kikaha, who’s been moved to linebacker go back down to the line. The good part is Davenport should be fully healthy and have some snaps under his belt before the season opener and Okaor will be back at some point. In the meantime, yea it’s about finding the depth at that right defensive end position.


Tom Savage led a pair of scoring drives at Jacksonville with those being a field goal and a touchdown as he finished the night 10 of 14 for 70 yards. Following the game he felt the first three drives should have resulted in touchdowns. Coach Payton says his main evaluation of a quarterback’s success is his ability to get the team in and out of the huddle and move the team up and down the field scoring points. So in that, Savage accomplished that task but also missed on a few possible big plays.

Taysom Hill went 8 of 9 for 72 yards and rushed 7 times for 52 yards including a touchdown. Hill showed that athletic ability coach has raved about. This week he expressed the desire to take reps with the starters as a gauge to his growth going against players as he said “that play regularly on Sundays.”

I believe both are on the roster. Savage is in due to his starting experience and Hill due to his potential but added value on special teams. I have to believe if or when Payton feels Hill is close to being the back up to Brees you’d imagine Hill would stop being on so many special teams plays?


The Saints have the potential to really be set and deep at receiver this season with Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr, Cameron Meredith and rookie Tre’Quan Smith. During OTAs and into the beginning of training camp you had Brandon Coleman who was injured, Travin Dural, Tommy Lee Lewis, Austin Carr and two young guys in Keith Kirkwood and Eldridge Massington that had some nice size. Well Coleman was released due to injury in that he was going to need time to heal and the team needed the roster spot. Dural broke his arm during a practice and was placed in I.R. and Massington was released. Tommy Lee Lewis looked to really benefit but suffered an injury the week leading into the Jacksonville game and only returned this past Monday. Payton then brought in veterans Michael Floyd and Brandon Tate.

Kirkwood almost because of the lack of depth but also because he earned it has been working with the ones. Kirkwood was targeted twice and caught both passes intended for him. Carr had no targets or catches. So I guess what I’m getting at is that a position in which I could see a real battle for spots is almost turning in to just who WILL be the fifth receiver? Tate and Lewis can play the dual role of receiver and returner, while Kirkwood has what seems to be the Saints size preference. It’ll be interesting to see Friday night, which receiver not named Thomas, Ginn Jr, Meredith or Smith steps up and makes some plays.


Mark Ingram took advantage on the playtime in Jacksonville picking up 23 yards on 7 carries and scoring a touchdown. Those snaps showed what the Saints will miss come the first four games of the regular season while Ingram is off in suspension land. The search has been on as to who replaces or picks up his slack. I have said Jonathan Williams seems to me to be the back that stands out at practice. 4 carries for 26 yards hardly seems like a busy load but the late game carries didn’t go to waist and he scored a touchdown. Payton praised his camp this week and I feel you’ll see number 32 much earlier than the final stages of the fourth quarter on Friday. Will some one else take advantage of his opportunities?


I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that this will be on my areas to watch list until coach says we have a “Bachelor” winner. Payton last week went with Boston Scott and Brandon Tate. Scott had 3 kick returns for 78 yards and had a long of 35 yards. Tate had 2 returns for 59 yards and a long of 36. Will we see others given a chance as Payton prior to the Jacksonville game hinted that we wouldn’t see all of the candidates in the game and it could be more like a duo tryout per game.


LB DEMARIO DAVIS #56: Wednesday following practice Davis was asked about his intimidating appearance as he is listed at 6-2 248. His response is one you’d expect a linebacker to give. “Our coach always says, ‘Your only advantage on defense is fear.’ I think that’s the way you play the game, you want to inflict fear into your opponent by the way that you play not just by the way that you look. My biggest thing is when I turn the tape on I want to jump out and I want them to watch 56 the whole game. If they don’t, they’ll have a long day.”

Davis then went on to say one of the best quotes ever when asked how exactly he goes about instilling fear into opponents. Does he growl or something? “No man, It’s all in the play. It’s all in the play and it’s not about what you say but about what you do,” Davis says. “When they look at the tape, they know who real ones are and that’s what I’m trying to do. When I’m playing an opponent on the field or anybody, it’s a challenge in the moment but I’m thinking about the next opponent and the opponent after that. I want to hit this person so hard, the next three people who watch the tape are really intimidated by it.”

Davis is playing the weakside linebacker role and when asked if he like it or preferred that position he went full martial arts philosopher. “I am flexible so I just try to adapt to my environment. It is like what Bruce Lee says, ‘Be like water.’ You put it in a cup, it fits to the cup, you pour it out and it goes everywhere. I try to adapt to my environment.”

Uhm if he plays like I think he may play well then Saints fans are going to LOVE this guy.

WR TRE’QUAN SMITH #10: Smith led the team in reception with 4 for 48 yards and made a nice grab on a high throw that led to a score. Payton after the game though pointed out that getting line up correctly and other aspects of pre snap duties were lacking. Let’s see if the rookie can learn from that and make an exciting play for the home fans. He’s fun to watch.

WR BRANDON TATE #87: Tate didn’t have a reception or target in the first game at Jacksonville. Perhaps due to his timing as his late arrival at Saints training camp probably hasn’t allowed him to fully get a handle on the playbook. Make no mistake Payton brought him here to compete for the role of kick returner but the 5th receiver spot isn’t as concrete as it perhaps was at the start of camp. Tate this past week of practice has made some nice plays at receiver including a catch in the end zone in traffic. Does he get more snaps Friday night at receiver?

CB JUSTIN HARDEE #34: Hardee was on my players to keep an eye on last week and he stays there this week for two reasons. One, the team bid adieu to De’Vante Harris after the Jags game when he was flagged twice under two minutes to play, so there’s one less corner to worry about. Two perhaps more importantly is the fact this week it was revealed that Marhson Lattimore has sort of taken the former receiver under his wing. “Tough love” is how Hardee described the relationship where Lattimore will have criticism when deserved and praise when earned. Hardee has good size and athletic ability and seems to be trending upward as camp progresses.

RB BOSTON SCOTT #30: Scott was disappointed that only got one carry in the game but it was almost a touchdown as he got stopped short of the goal line. Scott’s chances at making this team will improve greatly if can return the ball well in special teams. That said if he does get more handoffs it could be his shot to show the moves and quickness he’s displayed at practice at times that’s made starters on defense whiff.


The Saints will have their final open practice of training camp on Saturday when the take to the field 4 to 5:30 pm. Next week the Saints will leave for California early as they are scheduled to practice twice against the Chargers before next Saturday’s preseason game.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.



Marcus Williams’ future too bright to dwell on ‘Minnesota Miracle’

  • Mike Triplett    ESPN Staff Writer

METAIRIE, La. — Marcus Williams would rather let his play do the talking as he tries to move past the “Minnesota Miracle.”

If Friday’s practice is any indication, that should work.

The New Orleans Saints’ second-year safety broke up a pair of Drew Brees passes on back-to-back plays during full-team drills on the second day of training camp — again flashing the type of playmaking ability that he demonstrated throughout his breakout rookie season.

But Williams knew that wasn’t what he would be asked about most after Friday’s practice.

Read more here.




It’s go time! What to look for in the preseason opener
By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

Thursday the preseason opener brings an end to the speculation and guessing part of how good the New Orleans Saints can be as it’s time to see what players can actually do in a game.

2017’s season has Saints fans excited, as excited as I’ve ever seen them not only in the Sean Payton era but also in franchise history. You’ve read and heard about how much talent and depth this team has over the past few weeks and months. All of that though comes without seeing a single meaningful snap and off of assumptions.

I understand that preseason success and failure doesn’t determine and at times really give an indication of the season to come but it can shine a light on areas of promise or concern.

A winning start is important for the Saints this season and in the past two seasons head coach Sean Payton has said winning mattered even in preseason. The open is against a team that is getting plenty of chatter nationally.


Jacksonville was just as a surprise team in 2017 as the Saints were finishing the year 10-6 and winning the AFC South. The Jags in the post season beat Buffalo 10-6 in the Wild Card round, stunned the Steelers in Pittsburgh 45-42 and lost at New England in the AFC Championship game 24-20 in game in which they lead 17-10 entering the 4th quarter.

NFL analysts across the county predict Jacksonville to have just as good a chance at having a good season led by a stout young defense and by LSU’s Leonard Fournette on offense who rushed for 1040 yards in his rookie season to go with 9 TDs. Head Coach Doug Marrone, a former Saints assistant under Payton, has gone about this year like last by putting his team though grueling training camp practices.

I’m interested in seeing how the Saints stack up against a team that was a quarter away from the Super Bowl. I’m not talking starters against starters as I’m aware that many on both sides will wear ball caps instead of helmets but depth against depth.

Kick off is set for 6p.



The Saints have held 12 practices and you could argue the defense has won darn near all of the workouts, including Monday’s final practice of this game week. Whether it’s interceptions, pass blocks, strip fumbles, stuffing run plays, you name it as it seems as if the defense is doing the job. The plays being made also aren’t just from the starters but from players that this team will be looking at as key depth.

I’ll be looking to see the Saints defense shows the flow and hats to the ball, show the ability to break up pass plays even after their caught but not fully completed. Lastly the team has not had a live period in practice so the game will be the first time to judge how well the tackling can be. Jacksonville’s offense is not a pass happy offense so it’ll be interesting to see if the defense can be physical at stopping the run.


Let’s start by stating the obvious. Drew Brees gets injured to where he misses a handful of games or more this is not the same team. He’s a first ballot hall of fame quarterback. You don’t replace those. At best you deal with a loss like a damaged ship, keep it afloat and maybe even still manageable to stay in the fight. So that aside, there is a real possibility that a helmet malfunction, the flu, an injury during the game takes place and someone other then him needs to take a or a few snaps.

Tom Savage and Taysom Hill are battling for the back up role. Savage has starting experience where as Hill doesn’t. Payton this week said that when comparing the two you have to start with the fact that they are two different quarterbacks. Hill is the more athletic. Savage the more manager of the two. Hill throws darts. Savage gets the ball there and you’re counting on making the right reads. Hill to me brings one other element that goes with his athleticism. The ability to extend or even make a play with his legs. In practice we’ve seen broken plays turn into runs down the field gaining big yardage. We have even seen college style read option plays where he kept and took it into the endzone. Payton has long talked about wanting an almost dual threat QB. Before you balk at the notion you need only take a look in the Saints own division. Carolina’s Cam Newton is that and won a league MVP.

Philadelphia’s Caron Wentz is not just a pocket passer, nor is Jarod Goff with the Rams, Jimmy Garoppolo with the 49ers, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers all use their mobility. No one is saying that they are Michael Vick, but they are definitely stuck in stone in the pocket. With the potential the Saints defense has of keeping opposing offenses from putting up large amount of points and the potential the Saints offense has with young weapons at receiver and in the backfield, a quarterback needs to just not trip on the handoff. That’s Savage. Imagine if they have the ability to air it 50-70 yards down field on a dart on the run or elude a sack and find Kamara running out the backfield turning a sack into a first down and that’s what I think Hill can be. Now the deal is he has to go out and prove it. I still believe the Saints would like Hill to earn the job. He’s highly involved in special teams so he’s on the team. But Thursday will be his first chance his value is at quarterback and not slobber knocking returners on a punt or kickoff.
Sean Payton’s given us what to look for when either Savage or Hill is in the game. Can the team in and out of a huddle?. Pace. Rhythm. Can they move the team up and down the field and produce points? Can they run the offense and make plays? If neither shows the ability to do so by game 3 of the preseason they’ll be on the phone calling someone that can.


Mark Ingram missing the first four games has this position group as a must watch for four games. Your Contestants for a role while he is away in suspension land are Jonathan Williams, Terrance West, Shane Vareen, Boston Scott and Trey Edmunds. Edmunds has seen a move to fullback which could be an indication. I’ve found myself writing #32 a lot during practice and that’s Williams’s number. West has had a play here and there and I’m eager to see the quickness and stop on a dime then go ability Scott has shown at times. Game speed and live action will be the determining factor in determining who stays and who goes. Something to note is that Ingram can do it all, run, catch out the backfield and more importantly pass protect. Which of the back can do all three or at least two of the three?


Payton has called these players the Bachelor contestant. They are Alvin Kamara, Ted Ginn, Boston Scott, Brandon Tate, Tommy Lee Lewis. Kamara is a we need a home run call up in the return game as he’s far too valuable to use. Ginn is right there. Lewis has flashed here and there as a receiver but it’ll be his ability to return the ball that will earn him a roster spot. Scott can earn his spot here in the return game. West, Vareen and Williams have experience over Scott as just running backs. Tate brought in after the start of camp after Payton admonished the other returners will be given a chance to earn it.


WR TRE’QUAN SMITH #10: He has been one of the players of training camp that’s stood out. Smith has made plays since the start of camp that get you thinking uh oh did the Saints steal another playmaker in the third round? Smith has shown the ability to catch the ball smoothly, catch in traffic, catch it short take off and out run everyone. Smith has shown the ability to run on the snap, stop on a dime and make a big grab when the defense has the momentum and one of the plays of camp was his ability to go up and out jump a defender and bring the ball down and maintain it after he hits the ground. Can Smith do it in a game though? We’re about to find out and I have no question he will show what we’ve been seeing at practice.

TE DAN ARNOLD #85: Tight end is a thin position group right now thanks to injury. Ben Watson is on the team as is Josh Hill. To me after that the spots are up for grabs. Arnold is a converted WR and honestly, the guy is just catching everything. Not flashy size or speed but just solid.

CB JUSTIN HARDEE #34: The depth chart has Marshon Lattimore at RCB followed by rookie Natrell Jamerson and then Justin Hardee. Hardee a converted WR plays bigger then his 6-1 200 pound frame. He’s made some nice plays during practice and to me has some upside. Could a roster spot come down to Hardee and a draft pick? Payton’s gone with the better player in the past (Pierre Thomas vs Antonio Pittman).

RB BOSTON SCOTT #30: He’s just fun to watch at times. Scott is one of the smaller players on the field but one of the quickest as well and has put some sick moves on some of the best Saints defensive players. I’ve mentioned several times at practice that because of when he’ll play in the preseason games and against maybe not so good defenders, I expect Scott to have a play or two that will wow and get people talking. I mentioned earlier up top, his ability in the return game can really help his chances at making the team.

WR KEITH KIRKWOOD #18: Sometimes things happen to give you an opportunity and it sure feels like for Kirkwood it’s happening. Injuries to Travin Dural and Brandon Coleman have freed up snaps as those two are no longer with the team. At 6-3 210 the undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple is just consistently chugging along. Making a play here and there like Sunday at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium when he caught a pass from Brees in traffic in the endzone. Kirkwood has gotten snaps with the ones. Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Cameron Meredith and Ted Ginn are your 4 locks at receiver. Who’s the fifth? Tate? Austin Carr? Kirkwood can help his cause with in game showings and special teams play.


The Saints will have a brief closed practice on Friday afternoon before holding a pair of open practices over the weekend at the normal 8:50 to 11:40 schedule. Monday is a closed practice followed by a scheduled day off before the final open practice before preseason game number 2 Friday in the Dome against the Cardinals.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.



Sideline Pass Saints Watch Party

What’s up Who Dat Nation !! come out and see former Saints WR Robert Meacham!!! He’s going to be the Guest of Honor Thursday at Sideline Pass Saints Watch Party / Back To School Saints Pizza Party!

No ticket to buy… Just come meet Robert & watch the Saints’ 1st Game with us at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Uptown! 


Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Uptown will donate 25% of whatever you spend to our efforts to take underprivileged female athletes shopping for their back to school sports shoes & equipment!! — at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Uptown (LPK – Uptown).

Just come eat, write “Sideline Pass” on your receipt & LPK will donate 25% of your purchase to our Back to School shopping trip for underprivileged female athletes!!!

Cant make the watch party? That’s ok- go eat at LPK on Carrollton ANYTIME Thursday, August 9, write “Sideline Pass” on your receipt & we get 25% of your check!



Saints fans share why they love their black and gold

The Sports Hangover’s Gus Kattengell asks a few fans during a Saints training camp practice their thoughts on the team and the upcoming season.



Season ticket holders are pumped about 2018 potential

The Sports Hangover’s Gus Kattengell on Friday asked season ticket holders their thoughts on the upcoming 2018 season. There was one thing they all had in common. A combination of a potentially strong defense and potent offense has Who Dats thinking it could be a special season.



Saints Training Camp: Update #2

Heading into the weekend Saints offense comes to life
By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

The Saints have just three open practices, including Friday, before they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener next Thursday.

Friday and Saturday are normal 8:50-11:40 practices at Saints camp in Metairie but Sunday the team will travel uptown for a 7pm workout at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium.


There’s not much of a debate as to which side of the ball has been the more dominant one thus far during camp. Defense. Pass break ups. Interceptions. Strip fumbles. Tip or batted balls you name it and the defense is doing it. Saints head coach Sean Payton said on Thursday that you want to see and ebb and flow where both sides alternate having good days and never want to see one side truly dominate.


Thursday saw the offense get back to the form we are used to seeing. One with good temp and plays being made. Team periods were focused on redzone and goal line plays with a team period dedicated to running the football only in each area.

RB Mark Ingra had a pair of nice runs as did a number of backs. Jonathan Williams is one the backs battling for snaps and at least to me I seem to be jotting down #32 a lot in my notes.

It was easily one of the only practices that I can’t recall seeing Brees angrily pull off his chin strip or slap his hands together in disgust.


A big reason Brees wasn’t disgusted much was because his accuracy was deadly Thursday. The best example was a goal line play with the ball spotted at the five yard line. The formation had two receivers to the left with Tommy Lee Lewis outside and Michael Thomas in the slot. At the snap, they cross with Lee running a slant towards the middle. CB Patrick Robinson is lined up over Thomas and Lattimore was lined up over Lewis but in a blink of an eye has Thomas fading to the near pylon and by the time he reacts it’s too late. The ball was already in the air and Thomas used his 6-3 body to go up and get it before Lattimore could react and brought down a ball thrown over his left shoulder away from Lattimore. It was money. If the Saints run that play 10 times this season there is no way it’s not a touchdown in at least 9 of them.

Remember Sean Payton’s bachelor comment back on Sunday about how it’s anybody’s job at punt returner. Well we saw WR Austin Carr get a shot on Monday and Wednesday but with the signing of Brandon Tate, add him to the list of contestants. Head coach Sean Payton made it clear it was a big deal by spending Thursday’s punt and kick catching special teams drills right next to the returners. Like right next to them, blowing the whistle to start or stop the play. Just a little pressure huh?


Saturday join Gus Kattengell, John Fourcade, Marlon Favorite, Bryan Bienemy and Jordan the Intern as they all head across the street after practice. New Orleans Harley Davidson is having FREE food and FREE beer. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, sausage for the eats and cold beer, water and soda all for free for fans looking to refresh from practice. Sno-Balls and ic cream for the kids will be available as well. So come on by and talk football while you eat and drink for free!


Monday the Saints will hold a closed practice and will be off on Tuesday. Wednesday following a walk through they will travel to Jacksonville.

The Saints will kick off their preseason schedule on Thursday August 9 at Jacksonville.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.



Weekend hot take aways from Saints training camp

The Sports Hangover’s Gus Kattengell and Bryan Bienemy recap the first two days of padded practices. Among the topics covered are how a rookie is making some noise, did a 1st round pick get a message sent and why Sean Payton talked about the television show “The Bachelor”.

Also Gus and WDSU’s Sharief Ishaq talk about what they are seeing so far in camp.



Sports Hangover

Want to hear more about the Who Dat Nation, well check out Gus Kattengell the host of the
Sports Hangover show.  He can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM – ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.





5 days in, the scheduled day off comes at right time

By Gus Kattengell / @gkatt_17

Tuesday, the final month of July, couldn’t come at a more perfect time for the New Orleans Saints. The bumps and bruises of training camp have begun to take a toll on the team as they wrapped up their third straight padded practice on Monday.

Sunday saw wide receiver Travin Dural suffer per several reports a broken left humerus. It’s the most severe of the injuries so far through five days as we’ve seen a few players leave early from practice. Center Cameron Tom was seeing with his arm in a sling on Monday as he reportedly has a chest injury. Rookie defensive back Kamrin Moore reportedly has a hamstring injury. Head coach Sean Payton has made it clear he will not comment on injuries and won’t do so until he is required to release an injury report.


It’s the question that’s asked during training camp to those that attend the practices so here are a few things that have stood to me through five practices. We got to watch 5 practices before camp with three OTA and two mini camp workouts but then and even through the first two days of training camp practices, coaches and players kept saying just wait until the pads come on to start evaluating. Well the hitting has started so here is what has stood out so far.

ROOKIE SHINE: When answering who’s stood out, you have to start by saying “well besides QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara as they are on another level. So other then the trio the player that has stood out so far easily is rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith. The UCF product has made play after play day after day. I’ve referenced him as a “must roll” player as in you better be rolling video when he lines up cause here comes a play.

Smith has shown the long speed that got him drafted but he has also shown the ability to catch the ball in traffic, catch and run, jump up and grab the ball over defenders and earned an “atta-boy” from QB Drew Brees after going up and coming down hard on the final play of Sunday’s practice. Brees ran 40-50 yards to help him up and pat him on the helmet.

He just stands out with his 6-2 frame and at times flashing solid balance to stay upright after contact. It’s been to the point where at times many in the media while watching hold up two fingers after a play as in “this is the second best receiver on the team”.


In the past when QB Drew Brees showed signs of frustration by snapping off his chin straps quickly, slamming down his helmet, or giving a brief yell to go with a hard hand smack you were concerned it was the offense not performing up to expectations. Shockingly it’s been the norm so far at training camp.
The Saints defense has frustrated Brees and company with pass break ups, interceptions, tip balls at the line, strips on ball carriers, coverage sacks, and stretching out runs where the defense looks like a flowing school of fish. Head coach Sean Payton still is unhappy that the consistency level isn’t where he would like it to be in that they’ll be a big play given up after several good plays but trust me there has been many more good plays then bad ones.

Monday’s practice alone was a defensive clinic as the defense collected four interceptions with three coming from the linebacking corps in Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson and Demario Davis. The linebacker position group is the best and deepest it’s been I dare say since the Dome Patrol, which isn’t saying much for as we all know there have been some lean years in that group.

I’ve had one heck of a challenge so far this training camp in trying to temper my enthusiasm and praise of this Saints defense but man I KNOW the Saints offense has weapons and I’m telling you Brees and company are having to fight for every yard or catch.


Ok it seems like I’m just continuing for the above point but specifically the Saints secondary seems to record a PBU literally on every other play if not every play. If it’s not a clean pass break up, the defensive backs are doing just enough to keep the play from being a completion. Several times the receivers have won the route and are open but at completion or coming down with the catch, a hand dislodges the ball and poof you got an incompletion. On my radio show I’ve asked and suggested we tweet during games after a PBU a catchy hash tag. I’m suggesting “#PBUcity”.


One of the concerns you had heading into camp was how would a talented yet young team handle expectations. Competition helps. This team has so many areas on the squad where snaps if not jobs are up for grabs or on the line that if you’re not focused on that it could me a pink slip. Another way to keep a team grounded and focused is the coaches staying on the players. You can’t feel or act like you’ve made it if you’re constantly being told or shown you haven’t.

An example of this was Sunday when Payton was asked about where the team is and he brought up sloppiness such as dropped snaps and areas of concern such as the return game. He likened it to the television show “The Bachelor” referencing there were 12 roses and it was anybody’s job for the taking.

Many saw it as Sean being funny but to me it was coach understanding the importance of that area on his team and what it could mean come game time. Look the NFC is loaded and the Saints schedule looks daunting so it’s not impossible to think that the black and gold will be in some tough games this season. Think a return outside the ten yard line matters? It opens the playbook to more then okay let’s not make a mistake and punt it. A return close to or over the 30 could mean points or flips the field. I love that Sean is putting the emphasis on the return game. He knows every yard will matter in a season that can be special but for that to happen you have to give yourself the best chance at a win and special teams will play a vital role this season.


Six practices remain following the team’s day off on Tuesday with only two of those being closed to fans. Sunday the team will practice at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium in an evening practice that begins at 7p.

The Saints will kick off their preseason schedule on Thursday August 9 at Jacksonville. Many national analysts consider the Jaguars as a team that could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. Thanks to several seasons of futility Jacksonville has drafted high in past drafts and have hit on some pretty good players especially on the defensive side of the ball. It will be interesting to see which team is deeper when starters come out of the game early.

Gus is the host of the Sports Hangover and can be heard weekdays on 100.3 FM ESPN New Orleans Monday through Friday 12 to 3pm.