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New Orleans Saints minicamp: John DeShazier's five takeaways from Thursday

Nick Toon looks ready for playing time

1.    Everything has to be prefaced with the "it's early" warning, but receiver Nick Toon looks poised to make an impact this season. Coach Sean Payton has said as much, and Toon absolutely looks the part. He also was strong last offseason – hence, the caveat – but the belief is that the third-year receiver is more ready to carry it over to the regular season this year. Not much thrown in his direction during minicamp found the ground.

2.    Just how good can Kenny Stills be? That's a question the New Orleans Saints will have fun finding an answer to. Stills said his head still is swimming a little bit as he continues to absorb the offense, and that's after he caught 32 passes for 641 yards and five touchdowns last season. As he figures it out even more, and gets a better vibe with Drew Brees, he could put up eye-catching numbers.

3.    The Saints' offense will be fine minus Darren Sproles. That's not to say the versatile running back easily can be replaced; that kind of suddenness and quickness isn't readily available, or every team would have a guy like him. But between running back Travaris Cadet and rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, New Orleans figures to have a couple of players who can fill Sproles' roles and create mismatches. And if that approach is slowed, the team showed it should be able to run the football consistently and effectively, if the playoffs last season are any indication.

4.    Three secondary starters from the 2013 regular-season opener are gone, and the Saints haven't missed a beat. Cornerback Jabari Greer and safeties Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins were valuable players, but New Orleans may be more athletic and have more ability to contest passes than last season. There's quality depth in the secondary, so defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should have any alignment at his disposal.

5.    Defensively, the Saints are champing at the bit for the regular season to start. They were a top four defense last season, Ryan's first. Now, they have a year of learning to fall back on and two injured players (cornerback Patrick Robinson and linebacker Victor Butler) returning after missing almost all season with injuries. Defenders want to see what they can do with everyone available and playing fast.

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