<span style=""> <span style="">Metairie, La.</span> - The Saints not only returned home to their training facility this morning, but they also played host to the Houston Texans in a controlled practice session that was conducted in overcast skies and relatively muggy conditions on the Saints' two grass practice fields.
The morning practice, which last slightly less than two hours, was a crisp, efficient session that wasn't marred by any skirmishes or unruly actions that often detracts from combined practice sessions. The two teams will meet again this afternoon in a closed practice session that begins at 3:00 p.m.
"This (practice sessions) tells me something important about both of these teams," said NFL Network and FOX analyst Brian Baldinger, who was on hand this morning. "This tells me right off the bat that you have two well-coached, disciplined teams that understand what the term 'practice' means. I'm impressed with what I saw this morning. They got their work in and didn't get caught up in trying to do foolish things like push and shove and get the last word in."
The Saints and Texans began the session like any other practice, first with a brief walk-through period, then each team stretched, went though individual and position group drills and then broke off for some team periods, had special teams periods, and then finished with more team drills.
Both teams wore shoulder pads, helmets and shorts and were able to get work in on the Saints' manicured natural grass fields, which were a tad wet after an evening of showers and an occasional light rain early in practice. There was not any "live" tackling drills, and the players would simply get in position to be able to make a tackle and then allow the ball-carriers to continue on.
The Saints' offense worked against the Texans' defense, while the Saints' defense faced off against the Texans' offense. Some highlights from this morning's practice, with a particular emphasis on the Saints' defense against the Texans' offense:
*Rookie DT Sedrick Ellis started one of the team drills working with the Saints' first team defense and jumped right into the action by snaring RB Chris Brown at the line of scrimmage.
*MLB Jonathan Vilma, who worked with the first string defense in the absence of Mark Simoneau, reacted nicely to a cutback move by RB Chris Taylor.
*S Kevin Kaesviharn came up in run support to meet Taylor on a pitch out after a short gain.
*MLB Marvin Mitchell, who worked with the second team defense, had back-to-back tackles in team drills.
*S Josh Bullocks came up in support and helped corral former Notre Dame RB Darius Walker.
*DE Bobby McCray stopped a run by sealing the edge on a sweep and stopping Walker for no gain.
Play Action Drills:
*CB Mike McKenzie came up meet WR Andre Davis at the line of scrimmage on a quick out route.
*DE Charles Grant intercepted a QB Matt Schaub pass after he overthrew a running back coming out of the backfield and Grant had dropped into a short-zone coverage.
*DT Antwan Lake continued with his fine training camp by stopping rookie RB Steve Slaton after a short gain.
*DT Hollis Thomas stacked up Walker at the line of scrimmage after he beat his block.
*S Curome Cox recorded a pass defensed on a pass intended for WR Harry Williams.
After one-on-one pass rush drills, the teams returned to team drills. Some notable plays from the last period of practice included:
*LB Scott Fujita and Kaesviharn stopping WR Andre Davis after a short reception.
*Vilma meeting RB Chris Taylor at the line of scrimmage.
*S Roman Harper diagnosing a draw play and stopping RB Chris Brown before he could get started.
*Fujita collaring Taylor near the line of scrimmage.
*DT Kendrick Clancy fighting through traffic and cutting RB Darius Walker's angle off.
*DE Bobby McCray stopped a screen-play by halting Walker in the backfield after he caught a pass.
*LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar beat a blocker and stopped RB Steve Slaton in the backfield.
This afternoon I will focus on how the Saints' offense does against the Texans' defense.
Here are Saints Head Coach Sean Payton's thoughts on the practice with the Texans:
Payton: "A couple of notes, injury-wise – Adrian Arrington didn't practice; Mark Simoneau had a little lower back soreness and we kept him out; Jeremy Shockey we're still holding on right now, he's getting close; and then Hollis Thomas had a triceps strain in the very beginning of practice and we'll see where he's at for this afternoon. In the afternoon, we probably won't see Arrington, Simoneau or Shockey and then we'll have to get a feel for where Hollis is at. Overall, I thought we had pretty good tempo. Typically, the first practice back when you break camp is a difficult one because guys have transitioned back and are a little tired. I think the timing of working together with another team like Houston was good for us and the weather held out. It was good to see that both teams had good tempo and got through everything fairly rapidly."
Was David Patten held out this morning?
Payton: "Yes, he was held out for no reason other than we're just on a one-a-day with him and we will be until we start the season. He'll go this afternoon. No injury, just age."
Do you think the team enjoyed having someone else to practice against?
Payton: "I think it's a new look. You see your own team for so long and there are just some little quirks on both sides of the ball that are different for both teams and you're having to make decisions and make adjustments quickly and I think that's good. It's certainly good for both squads to get a different look of route combinations, coverage looks, and the kicking game the same way. I thought it worked out well. The fields were in great shape. We had some rain earlier this morning but Terry Ashburn and his crew have done a great job. These fields were fantastic."
Jonathan Vilma has been rested periodically throughout camp. With Simoneau out today, does that give him more to do?
Payton: "He'll get more reps. If there is one at the position who's not going, there are going to be more reps for everyone at the position who are going."
Does that hurt Simoneau's standing?
Payton: "No. He has gotten a ton of work and this is the first practice that he's missed in ages. It's just an opportunity for the rest of those guys – not only Vilma – but Marvin Mitchell to get more reps. That's what happens when someone in the group isn't able to go."
Have you considered putting Drew Brees on a "pitch count" at this point of camp?
Payton: "He's in pretty good shape and he's smart. When you look at the repetitions of practice, it's really everything leading up to the team drills that you have to monitor. But his arm is doing well and he's in real good shape. As we get through this week and get into the one-a-day schedule, I think that will naturally take place."
What is your approach going into the second preseason game and what are you looking to take away from the game?
Payton: "Typically in game two we'll go a little bit further with that first group. Whether or not it's to the half will really depend on the reps they're getting. Last week, the offense had more reps than the defense so we kept the defense out a little longer. We'll be flexible that way and then in week three we go into the second half with that group where they go in at halftime and come back out and have to play some, and then back off in week four. That format has been kind of what we have stuck to. There's not an exactness to it; some positions will have to play more, just based on injuries or depth."
Do you expect some of the players that were held out of last week's game to play this week?
Payton: "Yes. I think you're going to see Devery Henderson, Tracy Porter, Marques Colston; you're going to see a number of the guys that we didn't see in week one up for week two, barring any injury right now."
Is Deuce McAllister one of those that will play?
Payton: "Yes. Right now the plan is for him to play. We'll see where he's at. We want to make sure he gets enough carries either in this preseason game #2 or #3 before we move on."
Adrian Arrington earned a lot of reps early in camp. Should he be concerned by the time he's missing?
Payton: "For a young player, it's always challenging when you're injured because you're missing time and you're missing opportunities to prove yourself. Hopefully we get him back soon enough to see where he's at."
After reviewing last season, what do you need in terms of production from your running game this year?
Payton: "I think it helps you in a lot of ways. It complements you in what you're trying to do defensively as far as time of possession. Last week our first drive was 13 plays and whenever you can control the time of possession, it keeps your defense rested and gives them a chance to play better."
What do you want to see from Robert Meachem as he progresses through the preseason?
Payton: "All the little things that are hard to see from a fan's eye. All the details in splits and alignments, any adjustments – all the intricacies that involve playing receiver and playing 'Z'. He's working hard and gaining confidence and making progress and he just has to keep that up."
Is Tracy Porter catching up from the time he missed?
Payton: "Yes. He and Devery both are getting more work. They got a full day's work today and they both seem to be recovered fine and doing well."
Will they get extra work on Saturday?
Payton: "I don't know if you'd say extra – we have to be careful and mindful of fatigue with the injuries they had, but they're going to get plenty of work."