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Center Erik McCoy holds own among New Orleans Saints' high-profile offensive line

'I'll be the underdog. I'll be the under-the-radar guy'

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New Orleans Saints center Erik McCoy took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Saturday, July 30

If and when rookie Trevor Penning joins the New Orleans Saints starting lineup at left tackle, center Erik McCoy will be the only starting offensive lineman who wasn't a first-round draft pick.

Left guard Andrus Peat (2015), right guard Cesar Ruis (2020) and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (2017) all were picked in the opening round.

"I guess I am the sucky one out of the group," McCoy said, smiling. "Yes, fly under the radar, that's me 100 percent. Four first-round guys, they're all dogs, I got love for all of them. I'll be the underdog. I'll be the under-the-radar guy."

Except, he's not really all that under the radar. McCoy was a second-round pick in 2019 (a year the Saints didn't have a first-round pick) who started his first NFL game and every game he has played since. He has provided New Orleans with a mix of run-block strength, nimble-footed pass protection and downfield athleticism – watch the highlight of Alvin Kamara's 52-yard touchdown reception against Green Bay on Sept. 27, 2020, with McCoy as his bodyguard – that is rare for the position.

"He's athletic. He's smart," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I think more so than anything, it's just kind of the consistency. You know exactly what you're getting with that player every time he goes out on the field, which is a really, really good thing.

"Any time we know what we're getting, we feel like we can work with that. Erik's been a good player for us and I'm excited about where he's at."

McCoy's reliability and durability were on display his first two seasons, when he played all 16 regular-season games both years and started in the playoffs. Last year was the first time he missed NFL games – five of them, due to a calf injury and Covid – before returning to finish out the year. Because being on the field is exactly where McCoy wanted, and needed, to be.

"I'm really simple," he said. "Looking at me, I want people to think that I think football is fun, because I still love the game. That whenever I'm on the field I'm giving everything I've got – every rep, every individual, and they can see the joy that I get from being on the field."

NO HONEY: Safety Tyrann Mathieu has missed the first five training camp practices with an excused absence. While Allen said that, at some point, missed time could prove to be a factor, the Saints haven't yet reached that threshold.

"We're really kind of allowing him the space to handle what he needs to handle, and we'll be sitting here with open arms when he's ready to come back," Allen said.

PAD DAYS: The unmistakable thud of pads smashing into other pads permeated the air Monday morning, the Saints' first training camp practice in full pads. Allen said the heat and humidity likely factored into the workout.

"I thought it was OK," Allen said of practice. "It's hot and you put the pads on, it's difficult. I thought there was maybe a little bit of a lull somewhere in there in the middle of practice, but I think overall they pushed through and did a pretty nice job."

McCoy and the linemen – offensive and defensive – looked forward to the padded practice, and to those in the coming days. Linemen, they said, best can be evaluated when physicality is involved.

"Got to love it," McCoy said. "The beating. Getting back to nine on seven (nine offense, seven defense) where they let us focus on the run game. We saw some good stuff. I watched the tape already, I'm excited."

"It's a lot different for an O-lineman," Penning said. "O-linemen playing with jerseys on, it's kind of hard to…the timing is all different. Grabbing guys. It's completely different.

"Timing. Timing your punches down is different, because they've got more surface area on them. You have to have a point where you can hit them, almost. There's just a bunch (that's different)."

New Orleans Saints fans check out practice at 2022 Saints Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Monday, August 1 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

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