As training camp opens this week, all eyes of Saints fans have turned toward White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where the black and gold will call home for the next month as they prep for the 2016 campaign and I'll be there to cover it every step of the way.
Day 1 is already in the books and, as day 2 rolls on here in West Virginia, there's no better time than now to take a look back at all the action from opening day. So, here are my 5 biggest takeaways from the first day of Training Camp 2016.
1. Drew Brees doesn't care about your contract concerns
There's no use in rehashing the the Brees/Saints contract talks since it's common knowledge that both sides seem to have reached an impasse at this point. But, Brees was questioned the repeatedly about the ordeal, more so than anything else. And each time he pretty much had the same response- that it wasn't on his radar right now. Only once did Drew relent, when a reporter asked due to how much he means to this team, if he thought these negotiations should be easier, to which Brees let out a nervous laugh and said, "Eh, I would hope so," and then quickly moved to another question. Safe to say, this issue isn't going away anytime soon, but don't expect to hear anything about it from the man himself.
2. Mark Ingram has high hopes for the season
Opinion has been split on the former-Heisman Trophy winner. For example, I think he's been decent but needs to stay healthy, while some people call him a flat-out bust (I think the jury is still out on that, but hey that's my opinion). Despite all the injury-related hurdles he's faced in his career, Ingram hasn't lost confidence in himself. When asked about what he expects for this upcoming season, he replied "I wanna run for a lot of yards, I wanna catch for a lot of yards [...] obviously All-Pro would be nice." Pretty high expectation there from Ingram, but you have to love the confidence. The Saints are going to need solid production from him this year if they want to turn things around.
3. Everyone was impressed with the energy and tempo from day 1
Players and coaches did their raving about one another as usual in the post-practice presser, but one thing everyone talked about was how impressed they were with the tempo, especially right out of the gate. Newbie linebacker James Laurinaitis was the most impressed, lauding Sean Payton in the process, saying "the attention to detail, the urgency is there [...] every coach has his own style, but there's just a confidence there." Ingram and Brees were pleased as well, both saying (oddly enough) the exact same thing that "people were flying around out there. Everyone was great." Cameron Jordan echoed that, saying "I think we did a good job today, there was a lot of energy." Expect that tempo to stay about the same as Coach Payton really emphasized he wanted high energy practices during training camp.
4. People can't get enough of Darryl Tapp and Andrus Peat
Now, I know what you're thinking. Tapp is 31 and only recorded 19 total solo tackles last year. Is he really going to contribute anything? To that, I can't provide a definite answer to, but the point is, the guy is making an impact on his new teammates. Cameron Jordan talked at length about the guy, saying "He's coming out like in young guy though [...] he's taking extra notes.," adding "If you were to tell us he's year eleven, we'd know it, but we couldn't really tell the way he brings himself in here." Another player talked about equally as much was Andrus peat. With Terron Armstead starting camp off on the PUP list, Peat had to slide over to the left tackle slot, something that earned him tons of praise from the head coach. "The tackle position comes easy for him, he's played it [...] he's handled the transition well," also adding, "He's smart enough to where he handles that pretty well."
5. Vonn Bell, defense make an immediate impact
The rookie from Ohio State saw reps with the 1's in 7-on-7 drills yesterday, quickly showing why that was a good decision. On one of the opening drives, Bell lept up and picked off a Drew Brees pass. Although it's only training camp, that has to be a confidence booster for the young Saint. Bell wasn't the only defensive player who looked good. In fact, the whole defense looked solid in 11-on-11 drills towards the end of the day. Hopefully, that's a sign that the Dennis Allen hire will pay immediate dividends.
Now, like I said earlier, it is only camp, so we can't get super worked up about anything. But, hopefully these positives are signs that the Saints are trending in the right direction.
Keep checking back for my takeaways from camp!
Jacob Griffith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org