White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – There were positives, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said, from the Black and Gold Scrimmage on Friday morning at The Greenbrier.
From receiver R.J. Harris' deep reception against cornerback Brian Dixon even while Dixon was pulling him to the grass turf, to safety Vinnie Sunseri's bait and interception of quarterback Garrett Grayson that likely would've resulted in a Pick-6, to rookie Andrus Peat's extended look at left tackle while Terron Armstead was held out, there were highlights mixed in the reel.
But there were enough errors to raise the coach's ire, too, despite the scrimmage marking just the Saints' eighth day of training camp.
"I told the players afterward (that), pretty much like every first scrimmage there are going to be some things I'm sure we put on the tape that we're positive about," Payton said. "Obviously, a lot of things we've got to clean up. (It) seemed to move fairly quickly and yet, just from being out there, there are a number of things we've got to get better."
Specifically, more than execution, Payton referenced the Saints' inability to get the proper players on the field defensively on several occasions, a problem that managed to segue from practice to the scrimmage.
"We've got to be able to handle the substitutions better," he said. "That's one thing, for sure. Those are detail things and those are things that'll get corrected.
"It's not a fine line. It's a wide, bright line. It's obvious. You can't play in a game – it happened the other day in practice, we go three snaps in a row with 10 guys on the field defensively. We go out there today, we've got 12, we've got 12, we've got 10. That's got to be cleaned up. That's all of it, that's not just players."
The lack of precision also didn't go unnoticed by Saints players.
"A little sloppy," was Drew Brees' overall description of the scrimmage. "Any time you transition from practice to a game-like scenario where it's move the chains, you've got to get up and get lined up correctly, you've got to be sharp – there's just a lot more tempo and quick transition that happens in a move-the-chains type of period or scrimmage, as opposed to practice where you can stop it and make certain adjustments.
"So that part of it, I think, might have surprised some guys. So we weren't as sharp as we need to be. I think there were some good individual efforts – as we watch the tape, all that stuff will kind of show itself. But it just shows we've got a lot of work to do."
Brees said that the volume of information, for players who weren't accustomed to that amount of absorption under those circumstances, may have contributed to the errors.
"We tried to do a lot of situations," he said. "So it's, 'we're starting in our own territory and it's first offense against second defense.' And then we're at midfield, and it's second offense against first defense. And then the threes are out there and then, oh, let's work some red zone scenarios.
"So you're putting the ball all over the field and you're just trying to work situations so that you can get some of your 'shot' plays called, get your red zone gameplan call, get your third-down gameplan call. Again, I think that when we turn on the tape there are going to be some individual efforts.
"But overall as a team, the feeling I got from the sideline was, at times we were too slow offensively, at times we had trouble getting lined up, there were mental errors, there were some pre-snap penalties. Too much of that stuff that down the line will get you beat, now's the time to get it corrected."
One of the encouraging spots was Peat's workload.
Though he primarily had been working at right tackle behind Zach Strief after being drafted, he shifted to left tackle this week behind Armstead (with Bryce Harris, who has been a swing tackle, moving from left to right).
"We didn't rep Terron, he'll be back on Sunday," Payton said. "Any time there's a tackle or one lineman out, it just adds reps to the unit overall. So those younger guys got quite a bit of work, (Peat) and Bryce.
"I thought overall, focus was good. I thought guys tired a little bit because there are a handful of guys that didn't go, which increased the amount that others had to go."