1. Fans are back: The bond between the city of New Orleans and its football team is undeniable. I mean, where else in the world at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning are 2,000 people greeted by the Rebirth Brass Band as they second line into an NFL training camp? That was the scene Saturday for the first Training Camp practice scheduled in front of the Saints fans. As always, they showed up and showed out, making themselves heard basically any time something of significance took place, including during walkthroughs and stretching. Running back Mark Ingram II after a walk-through carry angled toward the Airline Drive side and gave the fans a wave as he headed back toward the huddle, eliciting a loud cheer. Later during team drills defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson (Ceedy Duce) defended a pass on the near sideline and immediately ran toward the stands and gave three violent fist pumps, getting some of the fans on their feet. After three days of general quiet during practice, you could definitely tell there was more energy on the fields, and it was due to the fans, because the heat was a factor yet again. There will be nine more scheduled fan practices at the Oschner Sports Performance Center (weather permitting) for the rest of camp.
** 2. An Inauspicious beginning:** The first two plays of 7-on-7 drills were two that quarterback Jameis Winston would like to move on from (and to his credit, he did). On play one, Winston looked to hit wide receiver Deonte Harty in the right flat. Gardner-Johnson had other ideas, stepping in front of the pass, intercepting it clean and in stride for a long pick-six. The dust had barely settled when on the next play rookie wide receiver Chris Olave ran about a 10-yard curl route coming back toward Winston and cornerback Bradley Roby jumped the route, stepped in front and like Ceedy did, picked it off and took it to the house. After practice, Coach Dennis Allen was asked about those two plays as far as Winston goes and said that mistakes are going to be made, it’s how you respond that is part of the process and Allen thought Winston responded well after those early hiccups, which leads to Observation No. 3.
3. Co-Plays Of The Day: On the third play of team drills as practice was nearing completion, Winston faked a handoff, was protected well, stepped up in the pocket and launched a deep pass down the middle of the field. Olave was running (there was a busted coverage), caught the pass in stride, and took it to the house for a 59-yard touchdown reception, drawing the loudest cheers of the day from the fans. The VERY next play, Winston handed the ball off to running back Alvin Kamara, who morphed into vintage AK, slashing left and right through the big bodies, found a tiny hole, then exploded into the clear with a burst of speed and ran free for another 59-yard touchdown. After the first three days of camp, big plays by the offense were few and far between, which made this sequence all the more pleasing for the fans in attendance, though the defense probably wasn’t as thrilled with those results.
4. Lagniappe observations: For the first time during training camp, the offense wore black jerseys instead of the white they wore the first three days, and obviously the defense switched to white. I asked Allen about this after practice, and he said really there was no significance other than they’ll be switching it up every few days all throughout camp…Kicker Wil Lutz made his first appearance in front of the fans and didn’t disappoint either, going a perfect 7-for-7 on all his kicks. Four extra points, a 42-yarder from the right hash, a 46-yarder from the left hash, and a 51-yarder from the right hash. Enjoy the day off everyone and we’ll see you on Monday for the first padded practice.