1. Refs In Da House: As we near the end of this 2023 edition of New Orleans Saints training camp (only five official days left and two practices), the coaches are really trying to simulate game situations as much as they can in practice with only one preseason game remaining and the regular season just over two weeks away. On Thursday, (Practice 20) officials were on hand for the third time this camp. The other two occurrences were in Costa Mesa in the joint practices against the Chargers. Remember, joint practices were originally scheduled against the Houston Texans on Thursday and Friday before the coaches mutually decided to cancel them. Keep in mind, it's also training camp for the officials as well, so the players are getting somewhat of an idea of how games will be officiated and what they can do and not do on a football field with no consequences. The officials definitely were busy Thursday, having a part in a couple of unusual plays. During 11-on-11 drills and Jameis Winston at quarterback, Winston looked to dump the ball off in the right flat as a hard-charging Payton Turner was bearing down on him from his left side. Instead of throwing it away, Winston held onto the ball as his arm went full motion forward, ultimately losing the football and as it rolled to the left it was picked up by a defensive player. However the lead official ruled it an incomplete pass, much to the chagrin of linebacker Demario Davis who wanted a fumble ruling. Davis would come on the field from the sideline to plead the defense's case only to be shooed back to the sideline by Coach Dennis Allen, who was in conversation with the official getting the explanation. The other play occurred just a couple of reps later. Winston threw a high deep pass down the right sideline where tight end Lucas Krull and defensive back Anthony Johnson had a jump ball situation at the front right pylon of the end zone. The 6-foot-6 Krull would get a hand on it first and tap the ball straight up in the air, falling on his back in the process. Still on his back, the ball would come down in Krull's belly for a clean catch. Everyone went crazy on the offensive side until the play did not count because a holding call was made on the offensive line. Penalties have been an issue the first two preseason games (14 on Sunday vs the Chargers), but it's easier to clean up these issues in the preseason.
2. 7-on-7 Perfection: We've spoken often of 7-on-7 drills throughout Key Observations. We've even had a few plays of the day during these sessions. The period definitely favors the offense because the quarterback does not experience a pass rush so he can sit back in the pocket and take his time and wait for receivers to get open. That being said, the defense can and has made its share of pass break ups and interceptions during 7-on-7. On Thursday, however, a first of 2023 camp occurred. The three quarterbacks (Derek Carr, Winston, Jake Haener) were a combined 15 of 15 throwing the football as every pass thrown was caught and not one football hit the ground, quite the rarity for this drill. Each quarterback had five reps, and each completed all five pass attempts. The leading receivers were Michael Thomas (three), Jimmy Graham (three) and A.T. Perry (two). Perry and Jontre Kirklin had the longest receptions, both in the 15-20-yard range. The defense would get a measure of revenge in the final period during two minute 11-on-11 (not a point was scored), but for just a bit early in practice, the offense was perfect.
3. Play of the Day: This was pretty much a consensus from the media covering practice Thursday. During 11-on-11 drills, the No. 1 offense went up against the No. 1 defense. First-and-10 at the minus 25-yard line, and see how far you could drive the ball down the field. With the offense being led by Derek Carr, the defense held it to a three-and-out, but the offense would then continue the drill to get more reps. After a long completion to Keith Kirkwood and a check down to Thomas got the ball to the plus-30, Carr looked for the home run ball. Wide receiver Chris Olave ran a deep post coming from the right side to the center of the field. It appeared that Olave had a step on the covering cornerback, Alontae Taylor. Just as it seemed Olave was going to make yet another outstanding play during this training camp Taylor swooped in from underneath and made a spectacular interception near the goal line, touching off a loud celebration from the defense. Carr may have been a little late with the throw, but that should take nothing away from the play that Taylor made, who showed the athleticism and ball-hawking skills that will get him plenty of playing time.
Full coverage of the New Orleans Saints workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Thursday, August 24.