White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. - Another progressive step.
The Black and Gold Scrimmage on Saturday at The Greenbrier resort gave the New Orleans Saints, and the fans who filled every available seat and stood seven- or eight-deep on the sideline nearest to players, a glimpse of the work the Saints have been fine-tuning this offseason and through the first seven days of training camp.
"I feel like any type of change is good for us, just not being repetitive and doing the same thing over and over, just kind of getting a game flow," outside linebacker Junior Galette said. "It was good for us, regardless of how we expected to do.
"We didn't quite match (how well we wanted to perform), but made progress. We didn't go backwards today."
While quarterback Drew Brees sat out the scrimmage as a precaution – he strained the oblique on his left side Friday morning and possibly will return to practice next week – Coach Sean Payton said he saw some inconsistencies that will require improvement.
"I thought it was up and down in the run game," he said. "I thought we had some real good runs, guys up front did a good job. And then at times, I think we missed some holes. But we'll see all that on film."
Payton also said the tempo was a little "sporadic."
"At times it was good and then at other times one of us was shouting in there, 'Let's Go!' " he said. "It's not just the quarterback, it's the veteran lineman that can help.
"Get in and out of the huddle, up to the line of scrimmage quickly to function. I think it's an area that we still need to work on and yet, it didn't just drag. Overall, I thought it was better than it's been earlier in the week."
Also improving daily appears to be rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, who was one of the standout performers of the scrimmage. Cooks displayed the traits – speed, route-running versatility, sticky hands, agility and football IQ – that the Saints suspected they were getting when they moved up in the first round to take him with the No. 20 overall pick.
He showed the speed on a deep catch that saw him tackled a couple of yards from the goal line, and the agility when he caught a pass on the right sideline, juked a defender off the field and streaked to the end zone.
"He's explosive and he's a guy that, if you can get the ball to him in space, he has the chance to give you some run after the catch," Payton said. "And he did that. We've just got to keep working with him on a lot of the nuances and the specifics with the passing game. But it was good to see him make a few plays.
"Most of these young players, these rookies, understand how much they have to get up to speed with and where they're behind. Every one of them has got a lot of work to do, including Brandin. (But) if you're around him long enough, you get a sense from him that he understands that."
Said linebacker David Hawthorne of Cooks: "I see he's 0 to 60 (mph) real fast."
The Saints will return to practice Monday, looking to add another progressive step as they build toward the regular season.