We’re gearing up for the first preseason game of the New Orleans Saints’ 2022 season, so let’s cover five things we learned about the Saints during the 2022 training camp.
The Saints know how to draft defensive backs.
We all know that CJ Gardner-Johnson is one of the best (if not the best) nickel corners in the NFL. Marshon Lattimore is a former Defensive Rookie of the Year. PJ Williams is one of the most underrated depth pieces in the NFL. If we include former recent defensive backs, names like Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell come to mind.
Paulson Adebo, drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, continues to impress during training camp and looks to continue that trend. Adebo has been credited by many writers and analysts following camp as one of the better performers of training camp, and that means big things could be in store for the second-year player. Similarly, 2022 rookie Alontae Taylor also hopes he can add his name to the list of talented Saints defensive backs drafted in the past decade, and early accounts are that Taylor is playing well during limited snaps as well.
Michael Thomas should lead a productive wide receiver room.
Michael Thomas is finally fully participating in team drills.
We haven’t seen a fully healthy version of Michael Thomas in two years, but we’re talking about a former Offensive Rookie of the Year who is joining a quarterback with the arm strength of Jameis Winston, something that was missing in the final few seasons of Drew Brees’s time in New Orleans. A returning Thomas—who missed all of last season with an ankle injury—isn’t the only addition to this year’s wide receiver room compared to last year.
Former LSU star Jarvis Landry has shown to be a steady player since joining the team, and rookie first round pick Chris Olave has led the team in targets and catches during training camp, appearing to build early chemistry with QB Jameis Winston.
With Thomas, Landry, and Olave joining a 2021 wide receiver room that includes Pro Bowl return special Deonte Harty and last year’s number one receiver Marquez Callaway, the wide receivers could turn from a weakness last season to one of this year’s strengths.
Trevor Penning is going to be a monster.
We’ve talked about this before, but rookie offensive lineman Trevor Penning likes to play physical. Playing through whistles and/or getting a little “handsy” were some of the knocks on Penning out of college, where he racked up 34 penalties. This has continued into Penning’s time as an NFL rookie in training camp, where he’s already been a party of three different altercations with teammates. Two of these incidents were fairly mild, but one led to him being sent home from practice.
It will be interesting to see if Penning is able to reel in his physicality by the time the regular season starts, but his physical play on the edge of the offensive line will likely be something to keep an eye on.
Dennis Allen is going to have this team ready.
On the note of Trevor Penning, it was encouraging for Dennis Allen and his leadership to be willing to pull the trigger and send Penning (and co-instigator Malcolm Roach) home from practice. Allen isn’t technically a rookie head coach, having previously coached the then-Oakland Raiders for two seasons. But Allen hasn’t been a head coach in 8 years (minus one game stepping in for a sick Sean Payton last season).
Seeing Allen put his foot down and have the respect of his players is a good sign for his leadership in what could be an important season for both the Saints and Dennis Allen’s career.
Tight end production might be giving reason for concern.
The Saints recently signed tight end Chris Herndon IV to the roster, but the fact that the Saints are still adding to the tight end room likely reaffirms fans’ concern with the position.
Before Herndon, the Saints’ tight-end lineup consisted of Nick Vannett (a primary blocking tight end), Adam Trautman (a 2020 draft pick that failed to live up to his off-season hype last season), Juwan Johnson (a wide receiver turned tight end), and Taysom Hill (a “quarterback” turned tight end). Taysom Hill suffered a rib injury last week at camp and only re-joined the team yesterday.
UDFA Lucas Kroll is still in the picture, as is the newly-signed Herndon, but the fact that the Saints are still looking to address the tight end position could mean a lack of optimism around Trautman and Johnson and/or concern about Hill’s rib injury. In any event, it’s always good to see a team try to improve, but the reason for the improvement is unsettling.