The weather was surprisingly beautiful. The crowd was polite but excited. The stadium beers were flowing, and on Sunday night, Tulane University hosted the New Orleans Saints for a free and open practice for the public.
After the freakish storm and flash flood Saturday night, it was lovely sitting on the bleachers at Yulman Stadium getting to watch the Saints players practice up close. It’s really amazing to see how efficient professional football practices are run. No time is wasted, and the entire field is put to use by as many as four different position groups at a time.
The team started with stretching and a thorough warm up before settling into a quality practice. The secondary worked on breaking on the ball and catching interceptions. It was great to see most players moving and getting involved in well designed drills that highlighted the skills needed for each position group.
The most exciting portion of practice of course was the offense versus defense scrimmage up and down the field. Drew Brees took the first team snaps. He looked well, like Drew Brees. He connected on most passes and one of his best dimes of the night was barely dropped by Michael Thomas’ outstretched hands.
When Thomas did catch the ball, however, he sure as hell didn’t shy away from contact. He ran after the catch like he was on the attack.
In another play, Brees may have been assumed sacked, but he threw up an awesome bomb that was caught by Brandon Coleman in the corner of the end zone.
For years now, pundits have thrown shade at Brees’ arm strength, but 2016’s 5th ranked deep passer can still throw it right back at them. He was never a running QB, yet he displayed good shiftiness in the pocket as well as the ability to run for a first down in these two clips.
The wide receivers looked great all practice. Brandon Coleman was an absolute beast and seemingly scored multiple times. His work on crossing routes was particularly devastating to the Saints beleaguered secondary.
My favorite play of the night for Coleman was when he knocked the stuffing out of safety Vonn Bell as he tried to take the 6-foot-6 wide receiver down.
There wasn’t much positive to see with the run game, but Mark Ingram kept stride with Saints receivers with this tough catch and run. After a quick bobble, he made the play anyway.
The gents beside me were quick to point out that our pass offense looked to be humming and they were already worried about our secondary this season. Fortunately, there were some good plays in the secondary, especially this great pass breakup by cornerback De’Vante Harris.
After bringing back Justin Drescher as long snapper, the kicking game looked good too. Kicker Will Lutz did appear to miss one of his kicks, but barely. Later, while attempting a 47 yarder, Lutz redeemed himself and sent it straight down the middle of the uprights.
It was worth noting that Garrett Grayson received the second string snaps while Chase Daniel took the third string snaps. Grayson did not impress, but Daniel made several good back shoulder throws in traffic and scored a TD to tight end Clay Harbor who then channeled the former number 80 by throwing down a dunk over the crosspost. I apologize, but I didn’t catch the dunk at the end of the video. Promise it felt good to see again though.
Other highlights included seeing Tom and Gayle Benson proudly ride their golf cart up and down the field, surveying their stock of players as head strength and conditioning coach Dan Dalrymple showed off his growing man titties from the sideline. Hint, it was not me who was screaming “fire Dan Dalrymple!” towards the Benson chariot.
I also really enjoyed watching pass rush specialist coach Brian Young and defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen spending extra time with the rookies on the sidelines, showing them counter and swim moves to employ on their next drill.
Of course, the ultimate experience was wedging myself between two dads and their sons as we gathered for autographs following the final huddle break. The fans I met were passionate and thoughtful for the most part. One dad asked if he could help me by handing my hat to Willie Snead for his signature.
The other dad instructed his son on who to ask for their sig based on whether they were making the team or not. Hint, don’t do it so openly. I felt really bad for the rookies and UDFA’s this man was directly insulting by telling his son their sig wasn't worth anything. I watched one Saints player go up to sign this kid’s crap, and the kid literally pulled the item away. Don’t be an autograph a**hole, please.
Oh, and I got Cam Jordan’s sig too. Twice. And barely legible because he tried to use a black pen on a black hat and exclaimed, “this doesn’t work.” I offered him the pen I specially bought which I thought would look really nice under the bill of my new Saints cap.
Cam chastised me for having a crappy silver pen and asked, “where’s a real pen at?” So including my former Cam Jordan signature, now I have three; though I am really starting to only love him for his play on the field and not for his actions in life. Win me back Cam.
All in all, it was a fantastic, non-humid, and finally dry night in a beautiful stadium with passionate Saints fans and our beloved players who looked like they really enjoyed themselves the entire time. Who Dat?!