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Sean Kelley's observations from Thursday's Saints training camp presented by Verizon

Offense has a strong practice

The New Orleans Saints returned to full pads on the outdoor practice fields at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. It was the eighth day of Training Camp 2018 presented by Verizon and it was the seventh practice. Notably absent again was tight end Benjamin Watson. First round pick Marcus Davenport was present but did not participate for a second straight day. Here are some other observations:

The Saints offense enjoyed their best day yet of camp. The offensive line carried a big load and was seen opening some big holes for the running backs. Quarterback Drew Brees and the first team especially shined in the red zone. The red zone was the main feature of practice. The ball was spiked with some joy and relief by the likes of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. It was a nice collective bounce back after some recently rough outings versus the defense.

There's a lot of strength at the top of the wide receiver and defensive back depth chart. That means that any of the pass defenders and pass catchers further down the list will have to make a big splash on special teams. A couple of names who are in this situation would be defensive back Arthur Maulet and wide receivers Keith Kirkwood and Josh Huff. All three have shown some nice things during camp, and all three should be on your radar during special teams play in next week's preseason game at Jacksonville. Maulet, a New Orleans native, had an especially good practice Thursday.

Saints linebacker A.J.Klein picked off a deflected pass for an interception during red zone scrimmaging. By my count, that's four takeaways for the linebackers alone this week in full team periods. Klein says the defense is miles ahead of where it was just one year ago. Klein attributes the jump in performance to the stability of so many returning starters and the comfort level found together in becoming so familiar with what defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is scheming.

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