Training camp, the cannon shot that screams football, has returned and America responded accordingly. This time of year, we immediately start dreaming of Super Bowls and talk up the new guys who are going to put us over the top this year. We’ll point to our veterans and only see the positives in their game and forget that awful play from yesteryear as if it never happened. It’s a fine tradition.
My football camp days, back when Al Gore was busy inventing the internet, were sweaty messes that involved me and my teammates sweltering under the Kentucky sun. After morning practice me and my crew would down beers and pizzas as if they were going out of style. Then we would wonder why the second practice of the day was so awful. So, sometimes camp doesn’t invoke true happiness I guess, but I’m an old man now and I love it. It brings a smile to my face and pep to my step. Camp days have returned so let’s take a look at our favorite team, the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints have returned to camp and now you have a reason to go to Metairie!
New Orleans enters the season with a (sort of) do-or-die mentality. As everyone and their mama will tell you, Drew Brees is not getting any younger and now the latest fashion is to talk about how his play faded down the stretch of the last season. I’m not a fan of trends and I’ll say it again, I don’t think this is Brees’ last campaign.
Yes, an argument could be made that the offense faded but another way to say that would be, “The Saints went 4-2 down the stretch of the regular season (one game playing backups) and only scored 28 points or more three times.” See?
Hopefully that’s all in the rear view (and this dumb lawsuit goes away quickly) and the Saints hit the ground running. They’ll need to as they open with four teams that made the 2018 playoffs, highlighted by a rematch with the L.A. Rams in L.A.
New faces will dot the lineups this year and none are more important than whomever is taking over for Max Unger at center. Again, there is nothing more important than getting a solid replacement at center. Erik McCoy, the rookie out of Texas A&M is getting a hard look and we’ll all jump for joy if this kid can come in and own the position. If he’s not up to the task, it’s up to veteran free agent Nick Easton or Baton Rouge-native Cameron Tom to get the job done. Everyone cross your fingers that this is not a thorn in our side.
With the departure of Marc Ingram, the new face in the backfield is ex-Viking Latavius Murray, who will share the load with superstar Alvin Kamara. Murray, if he can stay healthy, could be a great replacement for Ingram, taking over his role banging the ball between the tackles. He also can catch the ball out of the backfield so whether it’s Kamara or Murray, the Saints will look to torture linebackers in coverage once again.
On the outside, a new face is an old face, as Ted Ginn Jr. returns after a 2018 campaign that was wrecked by injury. Last year saw Ginn Jr. only play in three games after Week Four and his absence was noticeable with Brees desperately trying to find a second receiver to go to after Michael Thomas. Ginn Jr., in his 13th year in the league, will look to ease some of the pressure by providing a deep option but the likes of Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood or possibly camp sensation Emmanuel Butler will have to step up.
As the old saying goes, the offense brings the crowd but the defense wins the game will always hold true. The Saints were proof positive of that adage last year relying on their defense to grind out some much-needed victories. Happily, the Saints will return the bulk of the unit led by the all-world Cam Jordan. A fresh face lining up beside Jordan is defensive tackle Malcom Brown, a 320-pound man who will clog up the middle. Once Sheldon Rankins returns from his Achilles injury the Saints create all sorts of issues for the opponents interior linemen. Which will create more one-on-one’s for Jordan, and Marcus Davenport in his second year, and opposing quarterbacks will be looking over their shoulder all game long. In short, the addition of Brown makes this a nasty bunch.
The Saints line backing corps returns intact and that is a beautiful thing. Demario Davis, who blew up last year, is the leader and will be joined by A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone. Craig Robertson, who is always around the ball and one of my favorite players, will back them up.
My eyebrows were raised during this year’s NFL Draft when the Saints, in a year where they only had five draft picks, selected safeties back-to-back. Do you think Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell noticed? I bet they did.
It’s going to be a talented group as Williams and Bell have both played solidly in their young careers and the new guys, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Saquan Hampton, are making it a competitive camp on the back line of defense. Gardner-Johnson, considered one of the biggest draft steals by ProFootballFocus.com, can move up to play in the slot as well as safety and will be a menace in coverage. Look for him to play early and hopefully become another gem in the defensive backfield alongside Marshon Lattimore.
The boys are back in town, New Orleans. Just a few weeks (and four dreadful pre-season games) to go. Who Dat!
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Karbach Brewing’s “Daymaker” Brut Rose IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Louis Armstrong – “When The Saints Go Marching In”
Around the Way
It’s always cool to see teams get out into the community and contribute to projects that they otherwise might not have. Props to the UNO Women’s Basketball team for answering the call and helping out at the 2019 Blessed to Be a Blessing Annual Backpack Extravaganza and Blood Drive and Give Hope NOLA. It’s takes a village, y’all.