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Five players to watch during Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon

McCoy, Crawley, Sherels, Gardner-Johnson, Cam Meredith should be watched

In no particular order of importance, here are five New Orleans Saints players who bear watching in training camp.

1.     The Saints didn't draft Erik McCoy in the second round so that the Texas A&M center could watch and learn. He'll play, obviously; it's just a matter of whether he can wrestle away the starting position, and the guess is that he can. Still, he plays an impactful position and he'll have to adapt quickly. There's a ton of experience along the line to help him, but it's still up to him to grab hold and take command. Cohesion always is important, so he'll need to work on his chemistry, especially with guards Andrus Peat and Larry Warford.

2.     In 2017, Ken Crawley proved to be a better-than-average cornerback in his second season, who held his own as the designated target for opposing offenses that learned to stay away from Marshon Lattimore. In '18, Crawley was a confidence-less player who fell out of the starting lineup and, eventually, a guy who few wanted to see on the field. The former undrafted player may not be as good as he was in '17, but he can't be the player that he was in '18, can he? We'll find out, because he'll have to earn his keep during training camp. The Saints need a reliable outside corner behind Lattimore and Eli Apple (the Saints traded for Apple last season, in large part, to fill the role they'd hoped Crawley could handle). Crawley's roster spot with the Saints probably is tied to a solid camp.

3.     The thing about punt returns during training camp is this: Rarely are there live drills. There's a lot of technique work and visualization, but it's difficult to get a feel for progress until a preseason game or two is played. That said, the Saints brought in Marcus Sherels, Minnesota's all-time leader in punt return touchdowns (five) and average (10.4 yards), to shore up the punt return game. Sherels can be a consistent threat and if he – or someone else – can flip field position a few times, it will give the Saints an element they haven't routinely had the last few seasons.

4.     Don't watch C.J. Gardner-Johnson because he's a "bubble" guy. That isn't the case with the rookie defensive back. Watch him because defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and secondary coach Aaron Glenn plan to use Gardner-Johnson in as many roles as he can handle. The rookie is physical and has cover skills, so it simply is a matter of how much can he digest and still be effective. The staff is convinced that he can do it; the fun will be in watching him try, especially as they get deeper into the defensive playbook.

5.     Saints fans still haven't seen the true "Cam Meredith." He never fully was healthy last season, but hopefully he has had time to heal and be ready for training camp. The receiver is a big target and receivers coach Curtis Johnson has a good idea of what the Saints have in Meredith (Johnson coached him in Chicago) if the team can get him on the field and pain free. We're eager to see his gifts.

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