With Jameis Winston sidelined due to a sprained right foot, quarterback Andy Dalton took the starting snaps during training camp Wednesday and looked sharp doing so as the Saints prepare for their first preseason game in Houston against the Texans on Saturday.
"I feel really good about where I'm at," the 12-year veteran said. "I feel really confident with everything that we're doing, and I feel like I'm in a really good place."
Winston won't play Saturday due to the foot injury, so Dalton likely will get the nod. The former Texas Christian University Horned Frog was dialed in during most of practice, but he was exceptional in the team's seven-on-seven red zone drills, tossing five touchdowns — three of which went to Michael Thomas — and going a perfect six-for-six inside the 10-yard line.
"Mike's great," Dalton said of Thomas. "To watch all his success from afar to now get to see it and witness it in person, you can see why he's been one of the best receivers in the league for a long time."
A former first-round pick, Dalton started for nine years for the Cincinnati Bengals before backing up Dak Prescott in Dallas and competing with Justin Fields and Nick Foles for the starting job in Chicago. Saints Coach Dennis Allen said the quarterback's experience as a starter and as a backup was one of the appeals to bringing him into the organization.
"We wanted to bring a guy in who we felt was an accomplished veteran player, that's been a starter in our league but also has been the backup in this league and had to come in in a backup's role and have success," Allen said. "He was a guy we identified and luckily we were able to get him here."
The signing of Dalton provides some stability to the backup position that wreaked havoc on New Orleans last season. When Winston went down with a torn ACL on Halloween last season, the Saints proceeded to start a revolving door at quarterback. New Orleans went through three starters under center — Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian and Ian Book — after Winston was ruled out for the season.
"It doesn't necessarily change my approach," Dalton said on entering the season as a backup. "At the end of the day, it goes down to what Jameis feels comfortable with… from preparation to my mentality, my mind-set, it doesn't change."
It remains to be seen how much Dalton will play against the Texans, but Allen said the quarterback has done a good job grasping the system quickly this offseason.
"(He's a) smart guy," Allen said. "He's got a good feel for what we're doing offensively, and I'm sure as we continue to go through the process, I think he'll get even more comfortable."
Allen also said Dalton has been a great presence in the quarterback room.
"He comes out here and competes everyday, he had a really nice day today," Allen said. "I think he's been a great addition."
Getting healthy: Tight end Taysom Hill and defensive end Marcus Davenport continued to work back from their respective injuries Wednesday. Hill continued to wear his red non-contact jersey, but he participated in the team's seven-on-seven red zone drills. Meanwhile, linebacker Pete Werner is dealing with a groin injury.
Emotions running high: Tight end J.P. Holtz and defensive end Taco Charlton were kicked out of practice Wednesday after getting involved in a fight where punches were thrown. Allen said while he likes the competitive fire, the line has to be drawn somewhere.
"You can't do it in a game, so we're not going to do it out here," Allen said. "When you do, there's consequences to it."
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Wednesday, August 10.