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Observations from New Orleans Saints training camp | Monday, Aug. 1

Saints hold first practice with pads

1. Pads are on:

I know I'm being Captain Obvious on this one, but it truly is the most important day of training camp. As multiple players mentioned post practice, including Coach Dennis Allen, this is when the real evaluation can begin, because you're actually playing football. We saw receiver vs. defensive back 1-on-1 drills for the first time in camp. We saw nine (offense) on seven (defense) run game drills for the first time in camp. Again, it's becoming a broken record early on in this training camp, but cornerback Paulson Adebo continues to make his presence known, knocking two passes away from receiver Jarvis Landry in 1-on-1 and in team drills. Receiver Tre'Quan Smith exacted a little revenge on Adebo in 1-on-1s fighting off very tough press, physical coverage making a difficult catch 15 yards down the field and spinning into the clear, drawing a nice cheer from the fans in attendance at the Oschner Sports Performance Center. In the very last rep, rookie receiver Chris Olave went up against Adebo. Quarterback Jameis Winston uncorked a deep ball down the right sideline. At about the five yard line Adebo batted the ball up and one step out of bounds Olave caught it one-handed, and fired the ball into the ground, knowing the catch didn't count.

The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Monday, August 1.

2. Gillikin begin again:

Second-year punter Blake Gillikin had an outstanding year in his first season with the Saints. Eighty-three total punts for an outstanding 47.7 yards per punt and even more importantly 29 punts downed inside the 20. You could make an argument that Gillikin's punting in the Saints' 33-22 win in Washington in Week 5 was the catalyst in the victory with his booming punts, consistently flipping the field and pinning Washington inside their own 5-yard line multiple times. During a lengthy punt protection/coverage period in Monday's practice, Gillikin continued to work on this tactic with end over end punts being downed consistently inside the 10-yard line. By my count he hit five in a row started by special teams ace J.T. Gray racing down the field to cover the punt and catching the punt himself on the 5-yard line. The only touchbacks in the drill were due to the gunners racing down and not being able to catch it cleanly or knock it back into play before going into the end zone. Special Teams coordinator Darren Rizzi's voice, despite being raspy, was still heard clearly throughout the drill, especially when cornerback Bryce Thompson was not able to catch a punt cleanly, allowing a touchback. "You gotta catch that!!" was heard from Rizzi before the next rep. Bottom line is, Gillikin is a special teams weapon, and just a part of what promises to be a stalwart season in that department for the Saints.

3. Attendance count:

For the first time since training camp started, second year linebacker Pete Werner was activated from the Non-football injury list and participated in walk-through and individual drills. We'll see as practices move along this week (no off days till Sunday) how his work load increases. Linebackers Zack Baun, Eric Wilson, and Kaden Elliss have been getting reps opposite Demario Davis where Werner normally would be having started eight games last season, playing in 15 of a possible 17. Tight end Juwan Johnson returned to practice on a limited basis as well. Still out were tight end Taysom Hill (ribs) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (excused absence). Also in attendance off the field were three generations of Mannings…Saints legend Archie, Cooper, and Cooper's son, Newman quarterback Arch. The three were on the second floor balcony of the Saints building which has a view of both fields. After practice Archie was seen conversing with Saints Owner Gayle Benson, President Dennis Lauscha, Coach Dennis Allen and fellow Ole Miss alum and Saints legend Deuce McCallister, and later Demario Davis, a fellow Mississippian ….Also there was former Saints Coach Sean Payton's son Connor, currently at Texas Christian University, who is interning with the scouting department.

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