The New Orleans Saints played preseason games on Aug. 9 and 17 and still, they’re salivating for outside competition.
Those matchups against Jacksonville and Arizona didn’t put much of a dent in the fact that for months, it has been Saints vs. Saints in OTAs, minicamp and training camp. So when the team leaves for California on Tuesday ahead of joint practices against the Los Angeles Chargers on Wednesday and Thursday, prior to a Saturday night preseason game, the level of anticipation is apparent.
“I don’t want to say ‘complacency’ when you go against your own team, but it kind of ramps up the competition,” safety Kurt Coleman said of a joint workout. “If you look at what’s happened over these last couple of weeks when teams have been practicing, it’s been several fights because it’s very intense.
“But I think the one thing that you want to be able to come out of it is, going against a different opponent, different people, and pushing yourself. You want to be able to grow. Obviously, fights will happen but that’s not what you want.
“You want to have good, hard, competing practices. And hopefully, both teams will come away saying, ‘We learned this.’ You’re going against a certain wide receiver – I mean, (the Chargers’) Keenan Allen is a really good wide receiver. Hopefully, whether it be (Saints cornerbacks Ken) Crawley, Marshon (Lattimore) or whoever it is, you can learn some things from great wide receivers.”
What the Saints have learned, after having joint practices with the Chargers last year, is that quality work can be achieved.
“When you get a chance to practice with another team, you get different formations offensively, different type of schemes defensively, a different system,” Coach Sean Payton said. “Our experience last year with them was real good – competitive and those guys do a good job. Our guys practiced hard, both teams. So I think it’s a good work week.
“Both teams have the same interests. In other words, we’re trying to improve, we’re also trying to make the right decisions relative to our rosters and be healthy coming away from the practices and the game. It’s just being smart and understanding what the common goal is. I think we can compete, play hard and I felt like a year ago, that happened.”
Coleman said the caliber of the opponent will help as much as the circumstances.
“It increases your focus a little bit, it’s a whole new setting,” he said. “We want to come out of this trip from out West and you want to be able to say that we got better. We want to take some steps forward because I think the Chargers are a really good team, you’re going against a great quarterback (Philip Rivers) with an offense that’s very experienced in running it. I think defensively, we’ve got a challenge and I want us to be able to rise up to the challenge every single day that we’re going against them.”
For veterans like Coleman, whose snaps have been abbreviated in the first two preseason games, that kind of competition almost can as beneficial as game reps.
“I am of the belief that sometimes the practices are very, very intense, almost game-like at times,” he said. “I’ve even talked to some people (with them) saying, you know, if you just had a couple of these joint practices, you really don’t need a game because they are very intense.
“And like I was saying earlier, you’ve had teams that are fighting because it is mano y mano. You don’t know this guy, and you want to win. You want to show off for your coaches, you want to perform for your team. So it is a game-like atmosphere going against those guys.”