If you're going to be a backup offensive lineman in the NFL, you'd better be a jack of all trades.
The ability to play multiple positions is key, and LSU rookie Will Clapp, the New Orleans Saints' seventh-round draft pick, had a chance to show some of his adaptability during Saturday's practice.
Clapp mostly has been working at center during training camp, but on Saturday, he took reps at right guard and left guard as he attempts to claim one of the backup roles. Starting right guard Larry Warford missed practice (possibly a veteran rest day) and left guard Andrus Peat hasn't yet worked against the defense as he continues recovery from a broken fibula suffered in the Saints' wild card game victory in January.
"(Clapp) had a pretty good practice today," Coach Sean Payton said. "The versatility is important. Those guys are competing to be lineman 6, lineman 7, make the roster and if you can do more than one thing, it helps.
"I think there's pretty good competition right now for those guys that aren't in the starting group. There's a few guys that aren't practicing right now and I think this (preseason) game (against Jacksonville) is going to be important. The next four games are going to be important, just to see what we have with some young guys. There are some veteran guys. So we'll see how it turns out."
THE BREES REPORT: Saturday also was Drew Brees' media availability and, as usual, the Saints' quarterback provided thorough analyses of training camp. Among the more notable assessments:
Receiver Tommylee Lewis had a nice bounce-back practice Saturday, with several impressive catches. The highlight was a leaping, end-zone grap during the two-minute drill. "He made some plays today," Brees said. "I really have a ton of trust and confidence in him, and he's a smart guy. He can play every receiver position. His size, speed, quickness – you like to be able to move him around and create matchups with him. I think if you ask any of the DBs, I don't know if he's a real exciting guy to cover for them, just because he can do so much. And obviously, he's got some pretty good straight-line speed as well. When we needed him today, he made a ton of plays in seven-on-seven and then there at the end, making that big play in the two-minute."
The competition in practice is real, and welcomed. "When more install goes in, you're able to create more situations," Brees said. "So today was two-minute. So you talk about two-minute situations and how that's such an important factor in each and every game. I mean, look, throughout the course of the season, you say seven or eight games or more are going to be determined on that last drive, that last possession, and whether it's us trying to score it or us defending it. That's a key situation.
"We've been through third down and then you talk through base and then defensively they're adding new installs every day and we're adding new installs. And so, each day is like this new challenge. You're absorbing what you installed yourself and then you're having to recognize what the defense is now doing. They're just doing a good job mixing their personnel, doing a bunch of stuff. This has been a challenging camp and really competitive, but at the end of the day I feel like that's what really prepares you for the season."
Second-year safety Marcus Williams has raised his level of play. "I really love everything about him, as a teammate and as a young player who is just hungry to be great," Brees said. "He is definitely a presence and a force in the deep part of the field. You have to know where he is because he's got such good range and such good instincts.
"There are teams you play against where you can get away with staring it down for a little bit longer, but I'd compare him – just as you look at guys in history – you know, if you were ever playing against (former Ravens safety) Ed Reed. You had to do a great job of looking off and trying to get him leaning one way, and still you'd throw balls and be like, 'How did he get there?' Marcus makes some of those plays where you're like, 'How did he get there? Where did he come from?' So you just see constant improvement. A lot of that is just knowledge of the game. The best safeties are the ones that can anticipate. 'Oh, I've seen this before and I know where it's going,' and you get that extra step or that extra lean one direction or the other, that is the difference between making the play or not making the play."