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Saints training camp: Takeaways from the first 4 days

Needless to say, a lot has happened with the Saints in a short period of time.

NFL: New Orleans Saints-Training Camp Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have finally started training camp, which means the 2018 football season has finally started and we officially get relevant and interesting football things to talk about. Everything you will read below, and really anything you read online should be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons. First of all, unless you actually attended camp (I can’t), you are working off of reports, highlights, and clips, and secondly absolutely nothing is certain at this point in the process. With that said, that doesn’t mean the things we can see and toke note of at this point don’t matter.

Below are my takeaways from the first four days of training camp.

  1. Tre’Quan Smith is making a lot of noise, and for all the right reasons. Smith has made at least one highlight play each practice, has consistently been able to get open deep, and more importantly has shown good hands and concentration to come down with the ball. Smith still has a long way to go as a player, as well as to prove he’s more than just the next ‘training camp all-star’ at the receiver position (just like his predecessors Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon were). Smith’s measurables and the attributes that got him drafted by the Saints in the 3rd round suggest that won’t be the case, but he will need to continue to build on his early success to not only develop chemistry with Drew Brees, but to earn the confidence of the coaches and his teammates if he wants to make an impact on Sundays.
  2. Michael Thomas is picking up right where he left off. Michael Thomas started his evolution from ‘breakout star’ to full fledged ‘super star’ towards the end of last season and into the playoffs. It’s very early, but Thomas appears to not only have not lost a step, but is getting even better. Thomas is one of the most driven players on the roster, and his work ethic and discipline are his greatest weapons. The sky is the limit for a guy like that, and Thomas is on the trajectory of being able to say he’s one of the very best in the NFL today.
  3. There is a LOT of depth along the defensive line. Take Cameron Jordan out of it since he’s a known commodity, the rest of the Saints young defensive line is deep, talented, and trying to become the driving force of this defense. From Alex Jenkins to Al-Quadin Muhammad to Trey Hendrickson all the way up to 1st round draft pick Marcus Davenport, the defensive end position is going to be a battle and has a lot of talent (remember, talent doesn’t mean finished, it just means potential). Even on the interior, Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata are battling for starting snaps and both look good early.
  4. The Saints youth movement is going strong. Tre’Quan Smith isn’t the exception, he’s the rule, or at least it feels that way watching the young guns at Saints camp. From last year’s standout special team’s ace Justin Hardee showing flashes as good depth at corner (as noted by Nick Underhill of The Advocate), to Arthur Maulet, to 2nd and 3rd year players like Ken Crawley and Marcus Williams. The list of names goes on and on, and most are not only players that you will recognize, but players we all expect big things from. It’s very early, and there is a LOT of football yet to play, but the Saints are quietly building one of the most young and talented rosters in the league.
  5. Deon Yelder was the darling, but Dan Arnold is making the noise. Arnold has managed to make plays every day so far, and while it is WAY too soon to start making insane predictions about his future or potential, or for any UDFA for that matter, it’s good to see that the Saints may have some good developmental talents at the only position where they still have holes on offense. The newest member of the Saints media coverage team, Zach Strief, seems to like what he’s seen so far from the young converted wide receiver.