Full coverage of the New Orleans Saints workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Monday, August 7.
1. Kicker Battle: As promised from Sunday's Keys, here are the total numbers through 11 practices of the hotly contested kicker battle between the incumbent Wil Lutz and the rookie Blake Grupe. Again, these totals are unofficial, but confirmed with other media members who have been there for every New Orleans Saints training camp practice. For Lutz, after his perfect 8 for 8 day Sunday, which was documented here on Keys, he is 34 for 37, with his only two misses this week coming outside Aug. 4. Another note is all three of Lutz's misses have come with the backup punter Lou Hedley holding, not the regular holder Blake Gillikin. The misses were an extra point (wide right) and a 41-yarder from the right hashmark (hit the right upright). During the last week also, Lutz has made kicks from 52 (left hash), 54 (left), 56 (right), 59 (left) and on Sunday a 62-yarder (left). Lutz also mentioned to the media Sunday it's nice to make those long kicks but it's more important to make the kicks under 55 yards in the NFL. As far as Blake Grupe after Monday's practice, his total is 33 for 36, after going 9 for 10 inside on Monday. Grupe has shown remarkable leg strength when you consider he's listed at 5 feet 7 and 156 pounds. He missed a 44-yarder (right) and a gasser-causing 48-yarder on Saturday, and a 45-yarder (right) at the end of two-minute drill work Monday. He has also connected from 51 (left), 54 (right), and on Monday from 59 (right) that just cleared the crossbar. It is going to be a fun watch to see these two continue to battle it out as the practices, and now preseason games continue.
2. Carr Nails Two-Minute Work: As the first preseason game is now in sight (Sunday), we're seeing more and more situational work during practice. For example, the Saints worked on red zone situations over the weekend and third down red zone Monday. Also on Monday, we were able to witness the Saints work on a two-minute drill for the first time. To set it up, Coach Dennis Allen mentioned this was at the end of the first half, where you're looking to get a field goal and not having to win the game. The clock was at 1:40 and the team started on the 25-yard line. Quarterback Derek Carr was all but perfect, as he hit three short completions to receiver Keith Kirkwood, tight end Juwan Johnson, and receiver Chris Olave. Then the big play happened. A seam route that Johnson made a great grab of 20 yards and immediately went down at the 26-yard line to stop the clock. Johnson would make another catch for 10 yards and get out of bounds with 28 seconds left. A completion then a handoff to running back Jamaal Williams would work the ball to the 10-yard line where Carr clocked the football with four seconds left. Grupe came in and made the 28-yard kick for a pretty near flawless drive. Carr was 6 for 7 on the drive (his only miss on the final spike) with Johnson hauling in three catches, including the big one to get the offense into field-goal range. Carr has been very productive in two-minute situations throughout his career (including a game-winning drive and two-point conversion to beat the Saints in the Caesars Superdome on Opening Day 2016). If Monday was an indication, look for more Carr magic at the end of halves when he has the ball in his hands.
3. Play of the Day: If this was a real game, then Johnson's catch in the two-minute would have taken the title, but on Monday we'll go back to one-on-one work between the receivers and the defensive backs where Olave stole the show. He won all three of his battles, including a left sideline catch for 10 yards against Bradley Roby, and a sweet inside outside move to the front left pylon of the south end zone for an easy touchdown against Alontae Taylor. The one that makes the cut though for the Play of the Day also took place against Taylor with Carr at quarterback. Olave would run a go route up the left sideline headed for that same front left pylon. Taylor had pretty good coverage as Carr would let it fly toward the two of them. Olave would not be denied. With Taylor in a solid position to defend the pass, Olave would leap over the back of Taylor, and come down with the catch in the end zone for the touchdown. You could make an argument it was one of the top three catches of the first 11 practices. Olave has had a very steady camp, just going about his business every single day. The second-year product from Ohio State definitely will be looked upon this season for more steady and sometimes spectacular play.
The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Monday, August 7.