There's not much debate that the New Orleans Saints defense has had the upper hand in training camp practice the last couple of days, after a fairly nondescript start.
First, the unit wasn't producing pressure or forcing incompletions and now, defensive linemen are consistently in the offensive backfield and pass breakups are a norm.
Coach Sean Payton said that mirrors the ebbs and flows that can take place during a game, and that was the message he gave to his team after Thursday's practice.
"The main message was, in the course of these games in the regular season, there's always that pendulum that swings with momentum," he said. "And you're trying as best you can to keep it when you have it as long as you can, capitalize on it. And when you don't, that ability to correct, to get it back, to slow down what they're doing well.
"It happens in almost every game you play; rarely are you in a game where you don't see a couple different momentum swings. You've got to work on that, and today was one of those days. I just felt offensively, there was a period of practice where we needed to autocorrect a little quicker."
THURSDAY STAR: Right defensive end Marcus Davenport was impossible to miss Thursday. He had three plays (at least) which would have resulted in sacks and was a major influential presence.
"He's healthy, he's active," Payton said. "I think he's having a good camp. We're still one week in, but he's doing a good job. He's very explosive and I would say he's been a little bit more consistent."
PACKING POUNDS: Rookie defensive end Payton Turner played basketball in high school; you knew that. And, at a listed weight of 292 pounds, it's obvious he grew out of his hoops body. But how quickly did he do it?
"Back when I used to hoop, I was kinda skinny, played the 3 or 4 (small forward or power forward), running up and down the court," he said. "But I was always big, long. In college I got my weight up, started lifting more, eating more and here I am.
"Going into college, I played my senior basketball season (of high school) off my ACL (tear) at 220. Got up to 240 my freshman year when I reported (to Houston), and I got up to 290 by my sophomore year."
FRESH FACES: Newly signed linebacker Kwon Alexander was at practice Thursday, doing individual drills/conditioning off to the side. Alexander started all eight games he played for the Saints last season before rupturing his Achilles in Week 16. Also doing individual work was cornerback Grant Haley, who made his first appearance at training camp. Haley had been out due to a family tragedy; his father, Dr. Leon L. Haley, died the Saturday before training camp opened in an accident involving a personal watercraft vehicle. Dr. Haley, 56, was CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and had been lauded for his efforts in response to Covid-19.
FIRST IN: With Drew Brees retired, there's a new first-player-in-the-building leader. Unofficially, the title belongs to quarterback Jameis Winston and linebacker Andrew Dowell. Dowell said usually, they arrive around the same time but on a few occasions, he has clocked in around 6:45 a.m. When he does, Dowell said that Winston tells him, "You're late."
VET DAYS: The veteran maintenance rotation Thursday – i.e., no practice – included left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Andrus Peat, running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore.