The New Orleans Saints defense shined throughout the fifth practice of Training Camp 2018 presented by Verizon. It was a winning day for the defensive side with interceptions, a fumble recovery, and an overall dominance upfront. The weather presented another set of problems for the offensive side, too. Torrential rain provided some relief from the heat but also made for a challenging, and at times, sloppy finish to the session. Nonetheless, it has been a very positive start to camp for all the Saints through five practices. An off day for the players has arrived. Here's a glance at five big takeaways from camp so far:
- The defense has played very well. The unit is stacked especially at linebacker and in the secondary. The defense's showing does not mean there's concern about the Saints offense. That offense is proven. Its stars have looked very good. We know this offense with Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Max Unger and more will be just fine. The fact that the defense has started so fast is more important in evaluating what potentially this team will end up being.
- Rookie wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith is turning heads. The thirrd round draft pick from the University of Central Florida is catching everything around him and hitting for the big play, too. He got stronger in his lower half during the offseason and it shows. He has a lot of work to do in learning the playbook and fine-tuning his work at the line of scrimmage. He's made a statement early.
- Rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport is improving daily. The Saints chose him in the first round and have high hopes for him. He has shown how fast he is. He needs to add strength to an already impressive frame. Since the team went to full pads Saturday, he has flashed on several occasions, but he has also had to take some hard lessons from the very talented offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
- The jobs of punt returner and kickoff returner are wide open. It's been a shaky start for the group of candidates so far. Coach Sean Payton publicly has expressed a desire for a better performance and the need for someone to step forward. It will happen. The talent is there. Ted Ginn Jr, Alvin Kamara, Tommylee Lewis, Boston Scott, and Austin Carr are among those working on winning the jobs.
- It's great to see Armstead enjoying a healthy start to training camp. This is the first time since 2015 that Armstead has been able to start camp in good health. He's looked as good as he ever has and that's great news when talking about the man in charge of protecting Drew Brees' blind side. His return to his "old self" is big news for a pretty impressive starting five up front in the offense.