Ask Alontae Taylor about the physical aspects of playing cornerback, and the New Orleans Saints rookie flashes a megawatt smile that shouts over any words he calmly shares.
He likes mixing it up. He likes putting his hands on receivers. He likes the bumping and running.
"I love it," Taylor said. "That's my game. I always said I was the most physical corner coming out of the draft. A lot of people doubted that, but I feel like you turn the tape on, it speaks for itself.
"Coming out here against some older guys, the veteran guys, and kind of showing them my strength and my ability, I feel like they're seeing that themselves, too."
Taylor, the Saints' second-round draft pick (No. 49 overall), has fit well with what the Saints want from their cornerbacks: tall (6 feet), long-armed, willing and able to jam receivers at the line. The traits that were flashed during rookie minicamp and minicamp have been amplified since the team put on the pads in training camp.
"Football is all about pads," he said. "Everybody talks about the T-shirt and the panties that you wear while you're out there running routes and doing one-on-ones. It's a whole different ballgame when the pads come on.
"I feel like the receivers are feeling that, I feel like a lot of guys are feeling that even on the defensive side of the ball, as far as our bodies and understanding the contact and things like that."
But Taylor hasn't only been a factor at the line. He has been just as visible down field, and his confidence only has grown.
"I feel I always had the confidence in myself coming into camp," he said. "Talking to (cornerback) Paulson (Adebo) and understanding that when pads get on, things are a little bit different. So just being able to show my physicality at the line of scrimmage and win some plays early on. Today I felt like I took a small dip in my technique, but that's something that's easy to fix."
The fixes are made easier via helpful teammates in the secondary. The Saints have a tight-knit group that willingly assists each other despite the fact that competition for snaps is fierce.
"It's huge," Taylor said. "A lot of guys help each other out out there. (Cornerback Bradley) Roby talks to me. I feel like a lot of the veteran guys are kind of seeing my potential now that we've got pads on and we're actually playing football. Those guys are helping me in the meeting room, helping me understand the playbook a little bit more.
"But Paulson is my guy, a guy that I cling to, a guy that I ask a lot of questions to, and he gives me the right answers. He's not out there being selfish. I know we're in competition, but he helps me, I help him so we're becoming better as a group."
ON THE CUSP: Coach Dennis Allen said receiver Michael Thomas is close to joining team drills in practice. Thomas, who's rebounding from an ankle injury and surgery that cost him the entire 2021 season, already has participated in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills.
"I think that's coming pretty soon," Allen said of Thomas in team drills. "I don't want to put an exact timetable on it, but I think that's coming pretty soon. I think the reps that he's gotten, I think he's looked pretty good."
WELCOME BACK: Linebacker Kiko Alonso, who last played in the NFL for the Saints in 2019, was on the field for practice Friday after signing with New Orleans on Thursday. He tore his ACL in '19 and missed the next two seasons. Allen was the Saints' defensive coordinator when Alonso was on the roster.
"What drew us to him was we have some familiarity with the player," Allen said. "He did a nice job in his workout, he was in shape, he looked good and when he's been healthy, he's been a productive player in our league. He looked like he moved around pretty well today."
OFFENSIVE GROOVE: Allen said he liked what he saw from the Saints' offense in Friday's full-pads practice. The team worked on red zone offense, and is scheduled to do so again Saturday. "I thought there were some good plays in the passing game," he said. "I thought there was some timing, some rhythm, some accuracy in terms of what we were doing in the passing game. I thought the tempo overall was pretty good."
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Friday, August 5.