Miles Travelled to date: 8,315
Apologies to those expecting an in-depth review of Saints practice today. Things didn’t quite work out that way but for all the right reasons. It was a very important day in both the history of the Saints and New Orleans itself as Friday July 27th was the day a statue of Steve Gleason blocking “that” punt was unveiled. Tom Benson, the Mayor, Drew Brees and all the Saints organization joined with Steve’s family and friends in a ceremony to commemorate the start of the city’s rebuilding that that moment symbolized. However, while that athletic feat itself was important, his indomitable desire, since being diagnosed with ALS, to make the lives of others suffering from muscular diseases or injuries better, is his real triumph.
Before the ceremony, because Peter King has been working with Steve for some time, I was lucky enough to also be invited into his house and had the privilege of meeting the man himself as well as his wife and mother. The whole family is an inspiration, truly beloved by the whole Saints organization and the best possible reason to take time out from football for the morning.
There was a practice late in the afternoon, but with the plane to Denver scheduled for early evening we only caught an hour and a quarter. So apologies for this shortened version, but I trust normal service will resume tomorrow.
1) Missing Payton
Well if first appearances were anything to go by, then this was an organization with both purpose and focus. The part of the practice I saw was well planned, crisp, and high on efficiency. After one more play was executed well, Jimmy Graham was sauntering back to the huddle when he found a pass from Drew Brees zinging straight at his facemask. He caught it a few inches in front of his eyes, but the message was clear: no dawdling, even for the stars.
2) Brees on Fire
Yes, so there was no real pass rush or pressure, but Brees put on a display that would be virtually impossible to better. I though Philip Rivers looked great yesterday but this was a step up even from that as the Saints’ QB displayed unparalleled accuracy in not just finding his receivers but leading them perfectly on their routes.
3) A Team on the Rise?
There seems to be a lot of concern about this team, but it’s possible the 2012 version of the New Orleans Saints may be the best one yet. So Robert Meachem was lost and Carl Nicks was replaced by Ben Grubbs, but with many considering Meachem the fourth receiver and the difference between the guards hardly huge, the benefits of another year of experience for the rest of the unit likely out-weighs the above.
On Defense the weakness was always the linebackers and although Jonathan Vilma continues to steal the headlines, many forget he was terrible last year and has never been much of a force against the run. Curtis Lofton is a massive upgrade in this regard and serviceable if not great in coverage. David Hawthorne was also better than anything they had and the only downside is that Scott Shanle, once more, hangs onto his starting role.
July 28 – Broncos (Englewood)
July 29 – Seahawks (Renton)
July 30 – 49ers (Santa Clara)
July 31 – Raiders (Napa)
August 1 – Dolphins (Davie)
August 2 – ?????
If you’ve got questions for Neil to take along to any of his upcoming camp visits, follow him on Twitter (@PFF_Neil) and let him know.