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Key observations from New Orleans Saints Training Camp: Day 7

Thomas vs. Lattimore battles continue to impress

The New Orleans Saints took the field for workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Wednesday, August 2.

1. Thomas vs. Lattimore: You've heard the expression iron sharpens iron. We've heard it often during this New Orleans Saints training camp from players and coaches alike. Nowhere is this more evident than the daily battles between the Saints' best wide receiver and best cornerback. During one-on-one drills, every time wide receiver Michael Thomas is matched up against cornerback Marshon Lattimore, everyone in attendance edges a little forward to get a closer look. To this point of camp, there has been a lot of opportunities presented to both to make a play. Seven practices in, Lattimore (who has had a near flawless camp) has had the edge on his fellow Ohio State Buckeye teammate. On Wednesday, the two were matched up during the always popular WR vs. DB drills. The two were matched up against each other three times, all with Derek Carr at quarterback. As the action moved right to left as we viewed it at the indoor facility of the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, the very first rep saw both line up with Thomas to the left of Carr on the line of scrimmage and Lattimore directly in front of him. Carr would try a 15-yard throw to the left side but in stepped Lattiimore to knock the ball away for a pass break up (PBU), denying the catch. The second rep would come nine snaps later, this time Carr threw a deep slant with Thomas cutting left to right 15 yards away. Thomas was able to get a bit of space and Carr delivered the ball on time for the completion (a rare one against Lattimore this camp). The final rep came as the period was ending. Thomas sprinted down the left sideline with Lattimore on his back. Carr thought that Thomas was going to run a straight fly pattern and aired it out. Both went for the ball but ultimately Thomas wasn't able to come down with it, giving Lattimore the win on the rep. As a frustrated Thomas headed back to the huddle he exclaimed rather loudly that it was supposed to be a back shoulder throw (which Carr brought up later as a miscommunication) which would have given him a better opportunity to make the tough catch. It really has been fun to watch these two highly competitive (and close friends) battle each other every day up close. These individual battles will only help to make both players better.

2. TQS Had A Day: Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith is starting his sixth year with the franchise. His numbers as receiver have never really popped off the page, but he has always been known as a tremendous run blocker, and someone that does the dirty work that the average NFL fan rarely notices. The coaches, even going back to Sean Payton, and players have always had the highest respect of what Smith can do. During Wednesday's practice, though, it was his pass catching that took center stage. He won all three of his one-on-one battles during that period, as was discussed above. He went up against cornerback Alontae Taylor, making a nice play on a 10-yard pass to the right side from Carr. Later on, Smith was matched up against cornerback Isaac Yiadom with Carr at quarterback. This time, the two would connect on a perfect 15-yard back shoulder throw on the right sideline. Smith would not be done, however. On the final rep pf the period and with Carr still at QB, Smith was matched against cornerback Troy Pride. It really wasn't much of a match this rep. Lining up on the right, Smith would run a deep post, blowing right by Pride, and creating enough separation where Carr just had to deliver the ball on target, which he did, and Smith would waltz into the end zone for an easy TD. Smith would mention to the media post practice that he has been taking pride on winning his individual battles in camp (he also beat Lattimore on a deep middle route in the same drill on Monday), to go along with his above average blocking skills. Hopefully this will continue as camp pushes on, giving Carr more and more options.

3. Play of the Day: Not really a copout, but since nothing really stood out during 11-on-11 drills, we're going to give this award on Wednesday to Saints Coach Dennis Allen for moving the entire practice inside for the first time in seven practices, thus staying out of this brutal heat we've been experiencing in NOLA since camp began last Wednesday. The players experienced a bit of that on Tuesday's practice for the last half of it, and the energy boost was palpable. That energy and physicality remained for the entire workout Wednesday, and thankfully everyone got to experience some good old fashioned air conditioning instead of melting in the heat. Speaking of melting, shout out again to DA who had a snoball truck brought in for the media contingent post practice. DA chuckled afterward that he didn't know at the time it was planned for the truck to come to the facility that we would be inside that day, but just the same it was a much appreciated gesture by the media contingent that has been at every practice for the last seven practices. There will also be a slight adjustment to the practice schedule during the rest of camp because of the heat. Now the Saints will start practice indoors and only work outside for one hour maximum, and all fans who attend the upcoming practices are encouraged to arrive an hour later than the first week that was open to the public on Friday, Saturday, and Monday. The team is off on Thursday, and will be back for an open to the public practice on Friday. Enjoy the off day!!

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