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New Orleans Saints news: Media gets first glimpse of team at OTAs

The media was able to observe the 2017 Saints for the first time on Thursday, and there’s a lot of good stuff to pass on from it.

NFL: New Orleans Saints-OTA Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The media attended New Orleans Saints OTAs on Thursday, and gave a ton of reactions for today’s news. But first, here’s a cool gallery of some of the best pictures from the open session.

Saints honor Cortez Kennedy by wearing No. 96 on practice field |
"If you didn't know better and you saw him, you might think he worked here," Payton said. "My first time here interviewing with Mickey, we had dinner, and Cortez would always make sure if it was a nice play that he was there to join you."

News of Kennedy's death has been on the mind of the organization all week.

"He was just here for the draft," Payton said. "All of us are devastated. ... It just was so sudden, and it's tough. ... As great a player as he was – and trust me, if you had to pull a starting lineup out of the Hall of Fame on defense, he's in the starting lineup – he was that good a guy."

A.J. Klein started at MLB | Mike Triplett
Some other lineup/attendance notables during Saints OTA practice Thursday: A.J. Klein started at MLB (though Manti Te'o still rehabbing). Newly-signed vet Josh LeRibeus at center in place of injured Max Unger. Senio Kelemete and Bryce Harris split time at LT while Terron Armstead watched from the side. P.J. Williams started at CB opposite Delvin Breaux. Rookie S Marcus Williams spent time with first string in three-safety alignment. DE Hau'oli Kikaha did some individual work as he rehabs from ACL. WR Willie Snead was present but did not participate. DT Nick Fairley did not appear to be in attendance. Undrafted former Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas lined up as a WR.

Veteran Josh LeRibeus getting a look at center for Saints this summer with Max Unger out |
"It was really just the ballhandling, just learning how to snap," LeRibeus said. "Because at guard, you just block the guy, so now you have a little extra aspect, but my whole thing is repetition."

LeRibeus spent the entire 2016 season as a free agent, but with Unger's injury – the Saints' starter is expected back near the end of the preseason – there's an opening this summer to potentially fight for a roster spot. Veteran Tim Lelito, who backed up Unger last year, left for Tennessee in free agency, and Kelemete is the offensive line's sixth man.

Marshon Lattimore is trying to circumvent what can be a hard learning curve for rookie cornerbacks |
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that first-round pick Marshon Lattimore didn’t have a perfect showing during his debut practice before the media. He was never targeted during Thursday’s organized team activity and appeared to be in phase on each route he defended, but there were other moments when he looked like a rookie trying to figure things out.

One of those moments came late in the session when he failed to pick up his receiver coming out of the huddle, and the play had to be restarted. Lattimore was affixed to the right side of the field, and by the time he saw his guy lining up to the left and made his way over it was too late.

Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux: 'My confidence level is at an all-time high' |
"My confidence level is at an all-time high," Breaux said Thursday after Saints organized team activities. "I've worked my behind off this offseason just to know that it's time to be that Pro Bowl or All-Pro type guy.

"I just been working, man, and feel great."

Can Okafor Give the Saints Pass Rush an Edge? • Saints News Network
Okafor can play standing up or with his “hand in the dirt”, and it’s probably likely that the Saints will make him the new ‘official’ starter at that spot right out the gate; although he’ll more than likely fill a situational role as part of a 3-man rotation and no doubt will have to show everyone that he can avoid the nagging injuries that constantly plagued him with the Cardinals.

For Saints fans however, the addition of Okafor is looked at in a bit more simpler terms, which is:

Can Okafor be the “complementary” player on the opposite side of All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan that the team has lacked since the departure of former defensive end Junior Galette; and give their pass rush “an edge” that it has been sorely lacking for the past few seasons?

Adrian Peterson working on pass-catching skills, and other Saints OTA observations |
The Saints played primarily nickel defense throughout the practice. It looked like the familiar 4-2-5 defense we watched most of last season.

Alex Okafor, predictably, manned the defensive end spot opposite Cam Jordan. Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata took snaps with the first unit with Nick Fairley and Tyeler Davison not practicing.