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Training Camp

Emmanuel Sanders presence noticeable in New Orleans Saints camp

'A lot of little things just begin to pop up and you realize why he's been able to play at such a high level for so long'

On one of their reps in a one-on-one passing drill, New Orleans Saints cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins played it perfectly. Monday morning, the first day of practice in pads, Jenkins attached to Emmanuel Sanders' inside hip, slid underneath Sanders' break and was in such good position that he could have been the intended receiver for the pass breakup.

Next rep between the two, Sanders would have none of it. Similar-looking route, totally different result.

The veteran receiver got his hands inside on Jenkins and by the time he came out of his break and turned for the football, Jenkins was on the turf on the outside field at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

Clean, uninterrupted reception, and an indication why the Saints signed Sanders as an unrestricted free agent.

If he can do work against Jenkins, you like his chances against just about every other NFL cornerback.

"He's a pro," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "He's a pro. I think that's what you recognize with these veteran receivers. I recognized it with Ted Ginn when he came in three years ago. There's just a veteran presence, a mature nature and just a way that he goes about his work and his business and his preparation and his attention to detail. A lot of little things just begin to pop up and you realize why he's been able to play at such a high level for so long."

For Sanders, that has equated to 601 catches, 7,893 yards and 42 touchdowns – plus a rushing touchdown and a pair of scoring tosses – in his first 10 seasons.

For the Saints, it means adding another proven, productive player to an offense that already has several of them.

"I'm really excited to have Emmanuel," Brees said. "I think he's going to add a great element to what we do. He's another weapon, he's got a great skill-set and I feel like every day we're just continuing to get on the same page and work through the nuances of this offense and this system so that we're speaking the same language out there."

"He's a smart player, certainly played a number of years in this league," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's a guy that transitions well, I think he's a good route runner. He's fairly elusive and I think slowly but surely, he's picking up the terminology and some of the nuances relative to what he's doing."

GIMME THAT: Defensive back P.J. Williams was the defensive standout Monday, accounting for a forced fumble (a defensive teammate recovered) and interception on consecutive plays. Williams displayed his versatility at the end of last season, when he moved – midgame – to safety after having not played the position since high school. "I like the fact that he's smart," Payton said. "He's got good ball skills – he had a caused fumble today and an interception today. So he's one of those players that I think has good football IQ, so it's good to give him some additional work. He also is taking snaps at playing in the nickel, so he's got some versatility."

BACK IN THE RANKS: Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins already has been chosen once by his teammates to be the recipient of the team's Ed Block Courage Award, presented annually on each team to the player who has persevered through adversity. Rankins ruptured his Achilles in a playoff game in January 2019, and returned to play just over eight months later. He might be in line for the honor again, after suffering a season-ending injury against San Francisco last December and undergoing another Achilles surgery. Rankins is on the field for training camp, very much being the Rankins that his teammates have grown to know. "Rankins has the same face regardless," defensive end Cam Jordan said. "But the passion that he has for football, the work that he puts in every day. I mean, the last couple weeks leading up into training camp, it was me, Marcus Davenport and him doing get-offs, working on our hand-eye coordination, doing hand drills and really pushing each other. So how does he look? He looks like he's getting back to himself. The way he's exploding off the ball, the way he's being able to enter his fifth year, I think he's doing quite well."

NOTHING DEFINITIVE: On the first day in pads, second-year vet Erik McCoy (an every-game starter in 2019) lined up at center with the starters while first-round pick Cesar Ruiz played right guard. Drop the tea leaves right there; that's no glaring signal one way or the other. "We're evaluating both of them," Payton said. "They're both getting plenty of work; McCoy is getting work at center, Ruiz at right guard and then probably every second or third day, we'll evaluate flipping them around. So we're rotating those guys along with Nick Easton inside. We feel like all those reps are important and I think overall, (Ruiz is) a pretty quick study."

The pads are on at Saints Training Camp. Check out photos from Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

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