Sometimes it can be difficult to discern whether a player is performing well in training camp or if it’s just that his competition is sub-par. Today, we don’t have that problem as we’re going through the 3 most obvious producers through 5 days of camp.
From being a 2nd round pick, to being an enormous contributor on a rising young defense, and then to being the centerpiece of an unbelievable up-and-down playoff game, Marcus has had quite the past 14 months. What’s clear about the 21 year-old Mr. Williams is that he’s intent on transitioning from good young player to an absolute terror in the middle of the field. After seemingly living in the gym during the 2018 offseason, he’s translated his year of experience and NFL-caliber training into a 5-day training camp performance worth writing about.
One of the best compliments you can make towards a defensive back is that he is always around the ball. With Marcus, it’s not that he’s just around it, he’s making contact with the ball every single day in practice. Whether that’s breaking it up or intercepting the
pass, his propensity to be at the catch point from sideline to sideline in the deep part of the field is something opposing offenses will have to contend with in 2018. Dennis Allen’s defense already deploys a top-tier cornerbacks duo of Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley, making the passing windows already tight. The presence of Marcus Williams makes it so that the smallest of errors turn have serious potential to turn into big defensive plays.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to find something to complain about when it comes to Michael Thomas. Mike gives maximum effort even when the ball doesn’t come his way, lines up all over the field, and he’s always elated to share in the success of his teammates. All of those compliments don’t even address how dominant he is as an actual receiver. He can run every route in the route tree, has a genuinely elite catch radius, and almost never drops a pass. What more do you want from your #1 wide receiver?
Mike’s performance through the first week of training camp is what it looks like when a player in his physical prime has become a master of his craft. I think it can be dangerous to try to gleam too much from 1-on-1’s in training camp, however I can’t in good conscience write this article without showing this route.
Michael Thomas uses his outside arm to club Crawley towards the middle of the field, implying that Mike’s intention is to gain separation before he breaks outside. However, as soon as Crawley turns outside to play the out, Mike takes advantage of Crawley’s blindspot and breaks inside on the dig route. That type of attention to detail and route running mastery, using his hands and feet in unison to set up the defensive back, is the sign of a wide receiver that is primed to abuse defenders on the way to another Pro Bowl berth in 2018.
This one isn’t necessarily about him being the most impressive player out there, but about being most impressed in the incredible jump he seems to have made in the past 8 months. David Onyemata has been a top-tier athlete at the defensive tackle position since entering the league 2 years ago, but his pass rush toolkit has been rather limited in terms of variety. He’s been a bit of a brute-force rusher for the past 2 years but since camp started last week, he’s been able to show that his hand usage is starting to match his physical abilities.
Onyemata has been consistently re-adjusting his hands in the middle of the rush to regain control of his blocker and give himself a better chance at getting pressure when his initial rush plan falters. If Onyemata performs as well as he did last year, the Saints are looking at perhaps the best defensive line in the Sean Payton era; if Onyemata matches his physical potential with the same level of technical proficiency, he can help propel the unit to being the best defensive line ever fielded in the Saints 51 year history.