Here is another update from Gus Kattengell, thanks Gus cannot wait to see you new site !
A humid and partly cloudy morning welcomed the New Orleans Saints to the practice portion of Training Camp 2009. Fans packed the stands along the two grass fields on Airline Drive in Metairie, home of the Saints training facility.
The team got their work and media requirements in minutes before a mid-afternoon shower began. Rain forced the Black and Gold inside for the afternoon practice, which was closed to the public.
DEFENSE SHOWING NEW ATTITUDE
Without question, the top topic of conversation among the fans and media has been the Saints defense. What’s the difference this year? Will we be able to notice a change already in scheme and attitude?
The early answer is yes.
While training camp is just one day old, one can see that the defense under new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams will be an aggressive, “go get the ball” style of play that’s different from the previous seasons’ “bend but don’t brake” approach.
In team drills, one clearly hears the defensive coaches screaming, “get the ball out” or “get to the ball.” Players on every play must try to either knock the ball loose from the receiver or running back and even on incomplete passes, defenders must run to the ball to pick it up. “That’s just forming good habits. Even if it’s just an incompletion, any ball that’s on the ground they’re picking up and running with it just to get used to that mentality,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He also says the difference in Williams’ defense is visible. “In the game, you see a ball on the ground, you snatch it up and run with it. I think that’s a very opportunistic type mentality.”
Several defensive players say that already in just the few offseason practices and onset of camp, the overall approach to playing defense has changed. “You have to understand that it’s a violent game, and you just can’t play it half-heartedly. We have to go out there. We have to be aggressive. You have to impose your will on players, impose your will on teams,” said linebacker Jonathan Vilma following the team’s first full practice of camp. “We really want to get after it. We want to build an attitude and carry that into the games.”
Part of that new attitude is that pigskin being carried under the arms of opposing offenses belongs to the defense. “That’s what we want to take into the games, really emphasizing stripping the ball. The only way we can do that is by getting it done here at practice,” said Vilma, who during the morning workout stripped a completed pass by tight end Jeremy Shockey that could have been ruled a fumble or at worst and incomplete pass. Shockey held onto his right wrist following the play but did not miss practice time.
“We’re not trying to hurt our teammates or anything, but we have to do a good job of really being cognizant of stripping the ball in practice. Now, when we get in the game, it becomes second nature. We go there. We make a tackle. We try to strip the ball.”
The defense on the first day seemed to get the better of the Saints offense, forcing check down throws by the quarterbacks. Every time an offensive player touched the ball, a swarm of black jersey’s were there to stop forward progress, all the while punching at the football. This is an early indication of the type of practices that could wind up helping last season’s top ranked offense.
“They’re doing some good things, mixing it up quite a bit. They’re bringing a lot of pressure, playing with an aggressive mentality. That’s definitely making us better as an offense,” says Brees who sees the chance to go up against Williams’ defensive schemes as a golden opportunity.
“In my mind I know he is one of the best. If I feel like I can handle what he’s throwing at me then I can handle what anybody can throw at me throughout the league. That gives me a great sense of challenge each and every day. It’s a challenge going up against him and, obviously, the guys that we have on the defensive side.”
The morning workout had a few highlights, all of them really coming on defense.
– CB Jabari Greer made a nice move to bat down a Drew Brees pass in team drills.
– CB Tracy Porter, following the yelled instructions from defensive coaches of “knock the ball out,” poked the ball out of a Saints running back during team drills.
– S Darren Sharper showed off a bit of his veteran skills by coming back on a curl route, taking away the catching lane and knocking down a pass.
BUMPS AND BRUISES
WR Lance Morre wore a red jersey signaling to defenders that he was free from contact Friday. Moore had shoulder surgery in the offseason following a weight lifting injury. The injury isn’t limiting that many of his reps, however, as Moore worked in team and individual drills.
LB Jonathan Vilma was limited in the number of snaps he played in as he works his way back from a scope in his abdomen to repair the beginnings of a sports hernia. Vilma says the goal is to work back slowly paying careful attention to his body.
“It’s a little tricky. I can maybe go a whole period, do 5 to 10 plays, sit out the next period, or maybe I can do 3 in one period, 3 in the next period,” said Vilma. “It’s really just gauging how my body feels, knowing that this is the first day of two-a-days. I’m not going to win any championships out here right now. I’m putting in the work to get to where I want to be.”
WR Adrian Arrington did some light work and spent the team drills section riding a stationary bike. The second year player, who was placed on injured reserve last season during training camp, is recovering from an aggravated hamstring injury. It’s important for Arrington, who showed promise last year in Jackson, to get back on the field healthy. He’ll be battling for the final wide out position.
Marques Colston and Lance Moore are your starters with Devery Henderson the third wide out. 2007 first rounder Robert Meachem is likely your fourth wide out in certain set. Courtney Roby, who was brought in towards the end of last season as a kick returner, appears to be the competition for Arrington. Head coach Sean Payton has said from day one of his hire, players that can play multiple positions will be favored when it comes down to making cuts. Arrington needs to get healthy quick and make the impressions he made last year and more.
IN THAT NUMBER
Saints cornerback Jason David is wearing a new number. Safety Darren Sharper is now donning the number 42, David’s number last season, and the number Sharper wore with the Minnesota Vikings. David will be wearing 29 this season