The New Orleans Saints take the field on August 26, 2021 for Saints Training Camp presented by SeatGeek at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.
Time for football
Since July 29, there have been 21 Saints Training Camp presented by SeatGeek practices at the Oschner Sports Performance Center (12 inside and eight outside) and the Caesars Superdome, and two preseason games. The team has battled the heat (those first week outside practices were brutal), the grind of camp, players retiring, and in some cases, the injury bug. We have seen free agents come into camp to tryout, and subsequent signings, as the Saints continually try to upgrade the roster. The biggest takeaway I can give you from this edition of training camp is that despite the major roster turnover from last year's team, it was a very business-as-usual approach. Even early on, where there seemed to be would be distractions each and every day, the coaches and players never let it affect them on the practice field. This is a testament to the culture of the team and the veteran leadership that is still here. Alvin Kamara, Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramczyk, Cam Jordan, DeMario Davis, Malcolm Jenkins have shown all camp long that they are team leaders and have been tremendous influences to the younger guys to maintain the winning culture. Now we'll see how it translates on the field when the games count for real on Sep 12 vs Green Bay.
To borrow one of my old lines, it ain't even a debate, it's wide receiver Marquez Callaway.The undrafted free agent from Tennessee a year ago has moved up the ladder so rapidly it's hard to believe at times. The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder started to come along at the end of the season last season, but now he is realizing his potential. We all know that Michael Thomas is the proven commodity at WR1 when he returns from ankle surgery. Callaway has basically taken that spot from early on in camp, with the absence of Tre'Quan Smith and with his on-field performance in practices and in both preseason games. He's shown the ability to get open, inside, outside and deep, and even more important, you can count the amount of drops he has had all training camp on a couple of fingers. Obviously the two TD catches in the game against Jacksonville were the big highlights, but it's the daily consistency and reliability to all the quarterbacks that have thrown to him that makes Callaway the 2021 Training Camp Offensive MVP.
This one took a little more thought. I came up with a few possible candidates - defensive end Marcus Davenport, linebacker Zack Baun, defensive back Paulson Adebo - but when it's all said and done, we're going to go with cornerback Ken Crawley. One of the biggest questions before training camp began was who was going to be the starter at cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore. In the first few practices the answer, according to first team reps, was Patrick Robinson. Then on Aug. 10, Robinson unexpectedly announced his retirement, thereby vaulting Crawley into the starter's role opposite Lattimore. Crawley has definitely performed as such. Numerous pass breakups during drills, a couple of interceptions as well (including a pick-6 inside) have highlighted his camp, and he has reverted back to his 2016-2017 form. What makes him the MVP of camp was that it was so unexpected that he would revert back to form. The ability has always been there, but the confidence level had wained culminating in his release from the Saints in October 2019 and his bouncing around to three teams immediately after. Crawley was signed to the Saints practice squad last September and has elevated his game enough to get back to his starting role. Unfortunately, he was injured in the preseason game vs Jacksonville and may miss the opener against Green Bay, but what Crawley has done during the last month has earned him the 2021 Training Camp Defensive MVP.
Visitor at practice
So early on during practice Coach Sean Payton was seen conversing with someone who we have not seen all training camp. After further investigation, it was determined that the visitor was Mike Martz, former offensive coordinator/head coach of the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams. After practice on Thursday, Payton told the media that he picked up his phone and texted Martz, living in San Diego, to come to New Orleans for a few days to watch practice and study film and sit in meetings and give his input on ways the Saints can use their offensive talent. Payton mentioned that Martz is one of the all-time great offensive minds and whose better brain to pick if he had any suggestions. That's it for Takeaways, hope all of you have enjoyed this column for the last month.