Kathryn Terrell8 minutes of reading
According to Saints coach Dennis Allen, nearly every player is on track to be ready for training camp, including wide receiver Michael Thomas, who has promised to be “full-go” when camp opens in late July.
“I think as we sit here right now, there’s one player that could be questionable for the start of training camp, although I’m optimistic he’ll be ready,” Allen said. “I feel pretty good about having everyone here for training camp healthy and ready to go.”
One of those reasons for optimism is new quarterback Derek Carr, who got a chance to work with all of his pass-catchers for the first time during minicamp.
“I think quarterback is the most important position on the field,” Allen said, “and when you have a very skilled player, a very intelligent player, a guy who operates like Derek does, a guy who has that type of leadership qualities. that Derek has, that’s going to filter through the entire football team — players and coaches — and I think that gives you a lot of confidence during the season.”
Here are five observations from the Saints’ practices during OTAs and minicamp:
Carr is familiar with the offense
Carr isn’t ready to say he knows everything about the Saints playbook and system at this point, but he feels comfortable with his level of knowledge at this point.
Getting to actually be around teammates like running back Alvin Kamara has helped speed up that process. And Carr couldn’t help but feel some admiration for seeing some of his teammates in person for the first time.
Kamara’s route-running ability was one of the things that impressed Carr as soon as he saw it in person.
“Bruh, it’s not normal,” Carr said he joked to a teammate.
Carr lamented during minicamp that the Raiders didn’t get his best work in his final season there. He is determined to change that in New Orleans.
“I’m just trying to get better,” Carr said. “Better teammate every year. There are things last year, learning a new system, trying to go through certain situations … I don’t think they got the best of me.
“They just didn’t get my best and it drove me crazy at the end of the year because I felt so scattered in so many different ways.”
Olave looks set for a big second season
It took Carr just a few seconds to set the tone in team drills during the second practice of minicamp.
Carr threw a deep pass down the sideline for an easy touchdown to wide receiver Chris Olave on the first play of 11-on-11 drills. Olave easily hauled in the pass to cornerback Alontae Taylor, and the session for the first-team offense ended in two plays (Olave touchdown and a failed 2-point conversion).
Olave’s excellent offseason feels like a continuation of his rookie year, when he caught 72 passes for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games.
In one session of OTAs, Carr couldn’t connect with Olave in the end zone on goal line work, but immediately made sure to go back to him to mark that field. The idea was to make sure everything was perfect now so there was no hesitation on Sunday.
“If we ever miss something, I don’t care if it’s pass interference … which it could have been,” Carr said with a smile. “No matter what you’re feeling, hit it. … In training camp we try to get all the reps in, but if I can try to fit it in right then, I’ll try to hit that rep again. It’s just something I always have done. Then if I can’t do it right, it’s after practice. If we’re missing something, I want you to remind me after practice.”
He added: “He wants to win every game. If you even throw it in his vicinity, he feels he should get it.”
Hill’s role is constantly evolving, but it still includes QB
Taysom Hill’s may have the most unusual 2022 stats of anyone on the roster.
Hill “officially” moved from quarterback to tight end last season, but he rushed 96 times for 575 yards and seven touchdowns, caught nine passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns and completed 13 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He also played 40% of the special teams snaps.
Hill is still a player without a true position in his seventh season, and like last year, they are still trying to find that balance. He worked with the quarterbacks during 2-of-3 minicamp drills last week, taking third-team snaps in place of rookie Jake Haener. But he still caught passes and played special teams on all three days.
Hill said the coaches looked at his snaps and rep numbers from all 17 games last season to figure out how to tailor his usage to what’s best this year. One thing that could be explored this season is advancing his role as a pass catcher and route runner.
“I think we’re trying to find this happy medium, this happy balance between ‘OK, let’s be realistic with what we’re going to ask you to do this season and make sure you get the time and the reps on those things,” Hill said. “And I felt like the last three days have been really good from that standpoint.”
There is a competition outside CB
Taylor and Paulson Adebo both started more games than expected in their respective rookie seasons, with Adebo starting all 17 games in 2021 and Taylor starting nine last season due to Marshon Lattimore’s injury.
But with Lattimore back from an injury that limited him to seven games, the other outside cornerback spot will be a summer competition.
“I think there’s good competition in the defensive backfield,” Allen said.
Adebo and Taylor both rotated with the first team throughout minicamp, with Adebo playing first team in 11-on-11 drills on Day 1 and Day 3 and Taylor running with the first team on Day 2.
“There’s a ton of competition and playing time and starting jobs, it’s all earned and you really have to come out and earn it every single year,” Allen said. “The great thing about it, those two special players … both are fully capable of being starters and playing at a high level for us, but we’ll let that competition play out.”
Allen said one of the things he likes about Taylor is his short memory, which was evident when he returned from giving up a touchdown to score one of his own on an interception.
Saints defensive back Tyrann Mathieu pointed out that Taylor is playing multiple roles now, working at both slot corner and outside corner, which will increase his chances to get on the field.
“He’s a playmaker,” Mathieu said. “He’s one of those guys that I think at the cornerback position you have to have confidence and be willing to channel it. … He has good ball skills and I think what I’m most impressed with is … this year he’s kind of playing a new role. He’s focusing on nickel right now, so you can kind of see that versatility.”
Saints learn to bond through some unusual circumstances
Allen showed up to a team meeting in full fishing gear during the final week of OTAs with a surprise for everyone in the room.
The last practice before minicamp was canceled in favor of a holding day, with the entire guard going on a bowfishing trip instead.
Allen asked linebacker Demario Davis for some ideas. Davis, a team captain, has been one of the players in charge of several of the defensive outings this offseason, which have included arcades, bowling and go-kart rides.
The team spoke enthusiastically about the event afterward, even players like newcomer Jamaal Williams, who admitted he’d normally rather do an activity indoors with electricity and the Internet.
“You guys didn’t tell me how great it was,” Carr said. “It’s electric.”
Carr joked with recently signed tight end Foster Moreau, who was on another boat at the event, texting him and asking him how he was doing.
“I said, bro, I’m a swamp person now,” Carr said. “This is awesome.”
Saints first-round pick Bryan Bresee said the trip was fun because they got to spend time with players they wouldn’t otherwise get to know, which was part of the intent behind the day.
It was also a chance to let off some steam.
“I feel like we’re starting to figure out what’s normal again,” Hill said. “I feel like 2020 and 2021 were just so abnormal that I don’t know what it is now. We’ve had a lot of changes here in the last few years and I want to be here the last few days with the guys and the team, everybody’s doing really well. I feel like offensively we’re in a really good place, and I’m super happy to see that.”