The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Wednesday, August 10.
1. Cant Guard Mike:
You've heard the expression, countless times during the seven years wide receiver Michael Thomas has been in New Orleans. As the days and practices of Saints training camp start to flow into the next, the well-earned nickname for No. 13, comes to light time and time again. On Wednesday, Thomas had his best practice of camp, making catch after catch, contested or not, good throws or not. Three touchdowns during 7-on-7 drills (all from quarterback Andy Dalton, more on him later), short yardage possession receptions, deep sideline routes keeping two feet in (according to the officials), the entire arsenal was on display. The best part about Wednesday's practice was that before the lightning horn sounded at 11 a.m., in essence ending the workout, the 2,000 fans in attendance at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center got a bird's-eye view of the Michael Thomas Show. The praise was high post practice for all who addressed the media, and it fully appears the ramp-up process is nearly complete as Thomas prepares to suit up for his first regular season game in two years on Sep. 11. We'll see how much he plays in the preseason, but anyone who has watched every rep Thomas has taken during camp, is pretty certain he is ready to go for real.
2. What a luxury:
When Dalton signed with the Saints in the offseason, there was no confusion as to the what the quarterback hierarchy was. Jameis Winston was the starter, and Dalton was the backup. Of course, in the difficult position of quarterback, you never know when your number is going to be called to play meaningful snaps. With Winston missing his second straight practice due to a sprained right foot, Dalton had his best practice in what has been a very solid training camp. He was nearly perfect in 7-on-7 red zone situational drills, throwing five straight TD passes and 7 for 7 completions overall. The TDs - first down at the 20, slant to Thomas; second down at the 15-yard line, left side slot to tight end Adam Trautman; first down at the 9, right side comeback route to Thomas (with an emphatic spike at the end); third down at the 5, back right pylon throw to Thomas with tight coverage by safety Justin Evans; first down at the 15, back right end zone throw to tight end Taysom Hill who fell backward to make the catch, again with tight coverage by Evans.
3. Play of the Day/early exit:
We'll go two-for-one here on the Wednesday edition of Observations. Of course, the many Thomas catches and TDs could be used, along with a nifty Chris Olave left/right move for a touchdown in receiver vs. defensive back one-on-one drills, but we'll go with this one, during team drills a few minutes before the lightning horn sounded, quarterback Ian Book threw a perfectly set up screen pass from (approximately) the 40-yard line to running back Tony Jones Jr. Jones then looked up the field and without a defender in sight scampered up the right sideline for an easy touchdown (though the officials blew it dead for situational purposes). Perfect timing and blocking is the key to the screen, and it was there for really the first time during all of training camp
Much has been said about left tackle Trevor Penning's "playing through the whistle" prowess the first few practices leading to his ejection from practice after three consecutive days of skirmishes. Well, we had two more ejections during Wednesday's practice after tight end J.P. Holtz and defensive end Taco Charlton REALLY got into it after a short-yardage situational rep. Punches were thrown by both players, maybe a foot stomp or two were witnessed as well as Holtz's concussion protection headflap ending up over his face mask. Bottom line is, both were asked to leave the playing field. Coach Dennis Allen downplayed it saying it was "intense and guys were getting after it, but the line has to be drawn." Practice resumed quickly after the biggest skirmish of camp.