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Key observations from New Orleans Saints Training Camp: Day 10

Defense shines again Sunday; Lutz has a good day

The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Sunday, August 6.

1. Defense Does It Again: It's been a recurring theme in this New Orleans Saints training camp, but the defensive side of the football continues to be the more steady unit. Now traditionally when practice begins for real in late July, the defense usually has the advantage the first few practices. We have seen the offense have its moments, but there wasn't a whole lot of positive plays offensively during the 11-on-11 drills as the team moved outside at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. On the very first rep, quarterback Derek Carr would hand it off to running back Alvin Kamara, and almost immediately was meet in the backfield by safety Marcus Maye. That really set the tone, especially during this run heavy portion of practice. The linebackers were especially effective during the drill, with Zack Baun making two tackles for no gain against running back Jamaal Williams and running back Kendre Miller. Second-year linebacker Nephi Sewell also made an impact holding Kamara and Miller to very short gains on inside runs. The exclamation point came on the last rep of the drill as quarterback Jake Haener would hand it off to running back Kirk Merritt off and headed straight up the middle. Merritt saw a bit of daylight and made it about five yards, until rookie Nick Anderson, a rookie linebacker from Tulane, would get pad level and hit Merritt flush, stopping him in his tracks. The sound of the collision was so loud it brought ooohs and aaahs from all in attendance, especially on that side of the field. Anderson was a standout linebacker and captain at Tulane, and it was his first real welcome to the NFL moment and a fitting end to a defensive dominated period of practice.

2. Vet Day Reps: Vet days have become pretty commonplace throughout the NFL, and no exception with the New Orleans Saints. They are detailed and planned even before training camp begins and it specific to each individual who would garner such a luxury. Now in the last two practices on Saturday and Sunday, starting safeties Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu have had vet days on these consecutive days. It was interesting to see rookie Jordan Howden working with both starters at the safety position when one had the day off. Howden, a fifth round pick in the 2023 draft, was a standout defensive back at the University of Minnesota, who also excelled at special teams, and should contribute to both with the Saints. He made a nice tackle for minimal gain on 11-on-11's after a dump off pass from Derek Carr to Keith Kirkwood, and also worked as a gunner during the punt team drill. Howden quipped to the media after practice Sunday, that he basically went to the spot where either Mathieu or Maye told him to go to "because they are the vets," but he also mentioned in that crowded and talented defensive back room it was important to learn all the positions and have versatility. The fact that the coaches put him in those roles this weekend though was impressive and should only help his confidence in Howden's very first NFL camp.

3. Lutz To The Gasser Rescue!! Kicker Wil Lutz had a VERY good Sunday. We'll go over all the exact camp numbers between Lutz and rookie Blake Grupe in Monday's edition of Keys, but on this Sunday, Lutz would come up big when it REALLY counted. Lutz went a perfect 8 for 8 on Sunday, including a 62-yarder (as he admitted later there was a helping wind from the west behind him) as practice was winding down. The real clutch kick came at the very end of practice, when Lutz and holder Blake Gillikin lined up a 52-yarder from the right hashmark. Coach Dennis Allen called a timeout as if to ice Lutz before the kick, interesting considering there could be no ice in this heat. Lutz then stepped up, nailed the kick between the uprights and sprinted off the field with Gillikin holding the right index finger up high in the air and his teammates celebrated as well. Turns out that kick being good meant that the team would not run the five gassers we have seen after each training camp practice. Those gassers have gotten progressively difficult as the heat indexes seem to rise every day in New Orleans. Lutz's clutch kick put a little pressure on him, and better yet, saved a lot of huffing and puffing post practice. As an aside, rookie Blake Grupe missed his gasser or no gasser kick Saturday as he hit the left upright from 48 yards, and the team would run five gassers.

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