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John DeShazier: Saints have plenty of room for improvement following practice with Chargers

Brees: 'I didn't think we were real sharp today'

Photos from L.A. as the New Orleans Saints join the Chargers for Training Camp on August 17, 2017.

Costa Mesa, Calif. – It was scratchy.

Not that there was an expectation of total fulfillment by the New Orleans Saints after the first of their three joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers, on Thursday at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Training camp, after all, is a time for the team to identify kinks, work to smooth them out, and continue laboring to lessen the kinks and the necessity to smooth as the season progresses.

But the Saints weren't all that ecstatic with the image that stared back from the mirror after the first installment of work versus the Chargers.

"The first two-minute drill, we had five penalties on defense," Coach Sean Payton said. "When a team is in a two-minute drive and you've got one timeout, now they have six timeouts because the clock's going to stop every time there's a penalty. The drill started with 12 guys on the field, so we've got to get that cleaned up.

"(We had a) turnover on offense the last two-minute drill. We have a couple of protection errors and I'm sure that as we watch the tape, we'll see more. The break-off periods that we started practice with, we'll look at as a staff as well. It's hard when there's so many different periods going on to keep track of how you're doing in each one. We'll see."

Payton wasn't alone in his assessment that there are areas that require improvement.

"I think there are some things we did all right but I think as a team, I think there's a lot of things we can work on from today," running back Mark Ingram said. "When we get a look at the film there are going to be some good things, but we'll also have a lot of things we have to work on, a lot of things we have to clean up. What's good about these joint practices is being able to come out here against another team and measure how you're doing, measure where you're at as a team. We're going to use this practice to get better.

"First of all, we've got make sure we've got all the basics – the snap, the protection for (quarterback) Drew (Brees), make sure the pocket is clean for him so he can make his reads and throw the ball downfield. Penalties – just small things that will get you beat in this league."

Brees, too, thought that the practice could have been tidier.

"I didn't think we were real sharp today," he said. "We'll go and look at the tape and as there always is, there's always things you want to correct and work on. Can't say much until we go look at that but, just the way that it felt, it didn't really feel like we had a whole lot of tempo and rhythm. Just didn't feel like it was real sharp."

But, too, Brees said there was some cause for that. The practice against the Chargers was the Saints' second work against an opposing team (they played Cleveland in the preseason opener) and there was no game- planning for what the Chargers might do.

"Inevitably, you're going to see some things you haven't seen before, you haven't really talked about," Brees said. "We've got some new guys up front (center Josh LeRibeus, left tackle Ryan Ramczyk and right guard Larry Warford) that we're still kind of building the rapport and creating the lines of communication and that kind of stuff. These are great reps for us, though. It's great opportunities to see and rep against a bunch of different looks.

"Things come up where it's like, 'Ah, I haven't seen that before. This is the call we're going to make, this is what we're looking to achieve.' That's part of the learning process.

"That's what training camp is for. You get used to practicing against your guys, so you kind of feel like you've got that down, the looks that you're seeing and that kind of thing. And then once you go play a new team, especially a team that – we didn't scout these guys, or go through a week of preparation against these guys. We just kind of show up today for the first time and it's like, 'OK, here's their personnel, here's the looks that we're getting, this is the stuff they've been working on in training camp that nobody's really seen yet.' So, it gives us a chance to get a lot of good reps."

Brees, in fact, said that the joint practices likely are more valuable for him than Sunday's preseason game against the Chargers.

"I'd say they're more beneficial than the preseason games, because you get a lot of reps," he said. "Who knows how many reps we will get in this game? But we're going to get a heck of a lot more reps doing this than we will during the game.

"There's no guarantee that you're going to get certain situations in the game, like two-minute (offense). We're probably not going to get a two-minute drive as the first group in this game, but we got two two-minute drives today. And you get a bunch of third-down reps and a bunch of red-zone reps. It's all good stuff.

"I think I know how to fix it. I know where we are in the process, too. I understand that a lot of this stuff is good – it's good that it's happening, it's good that we have a chance to look at it and learn from it."

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