In the first chance the media had to watch him in action since he re-signed with the Saints on Tuesday after three seasons in San Francisco, center Jonathan Goodwin took reps with the second team at Thursday’s open organized team activities practice.
Goodwin's main competition, second-year offensive lineman Tim Lelito, worked with the first team, as he did in last week’s OTA practice that the media could attend.
Goodwin had been with the Saints from 2006 to 2010 before helping protect one of the NFL’s most intricate and effective run games in San Francisco from 2011 to 2013.
Right guard Jahri Evans is the only remaining Saints offensive lineman who started Goodwin’s last game in New Orleans, but Goodwin said he remains familiar with the team’s blocking schemes.
“There’s been a few instances where I’ve heard a new word and had to ask some questions, but I’ve been able to pick up on the counts and stuff — the play calls — as if I’d never left,” said Goodwin, who signed a one-year, free-agent deal after going to three NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl with the 49ers. “That’s a good thing — that’s less than I have to learn and reacquaint myself to.”
Goodwin, 35, also said he is looking forward to mentoring Lelito the way he mentored his younger backup in San Francisco — 26-year-old Daniel Kilgore — no matter who ultimately wins the Saints’ starting center job.
“This team will be straight at the center position,” Goodwin remarked.
Meanwhile, coach Sean Payton said the Saints waited to sign Goodwin until it did because veteran signings don’t affect teams’ chances to get compensatory draft picks after June 1. Payton also said he didn’t think it’d hurt if 13-year veteran Goodwin missed a handful of OTAs.
As expected, Saints rookie receiver Brandin Cooks (first-round pick) and All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham were absent Thursday. Cooks is finishing up his junior year at Oregon State; and Graham, who for now has an unsigned franchise tag, is not under contract.
Safety Jairus Byrd, who underwent surgery last week to address a problematic disk in his back, was present but unsurprisingly did not participate. It’s not believed he’ll be back before the start of training camp at the minimum.
As they did last week, undrafted rookie receiver Steve Hull, wideout Joe Morgan and defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker worked on the sidelines but did not take part in drills. Morgan missed last year with a serious knee injury. Walker was in and out of the line-up in 2013 with knee problems of his own.
Nose tackle John Jenkins was present but only observed things. He did not participate in last week’s open OTA, and no reason has been given as to why that was. At a charity basketball game on Wednesday night, Jenkins told The Advocate, “I’m fine, I’ll be back,” but he declined to elaborate on that point.
Outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu and defensive end Moses McCray also did not participate. That was the case last week as well.
+ Very quick observations from practice +
— Backup quarterback Ryan Griffin handled the work with the second team. The line in front of him was left tackle Bryce Harris, left guard Senio Kelemete, Goodwin, right guard Marcel Jones and right tackle Ty Nsekhe. Starting QB Drew Brees worked with the same line he did last week: left tackle Terron Armstead, left guard Ben Grubbs, Lelito, Evans and right tackle Zach Strief.
— At cornerback, Keenan Lewis and Champ Bailey were outside with the first team. Cornerback Corey White was covering the slot with that unit. Cornerbacks Patrick Robinson and rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste (second-round draft pick) worked with the second team.
Lewis started every game for the Saints last year. Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler, was acquired in free agency this offseason. White started opposite Lewis every game after former Saints cornerback Jabari Greer sustained a season-ending knee injury in November.
Robinson and Jean-Baptiste also figure to get lots of work in various packages as the season nears.
It should be noted that the Saints mixed personnel up quite a bit in drills. For example, Brees on one occasion threw a long pass to practice-squad receiver Charles Hawkins; and Kenny Stills (essentially the No. 2 receiver in 2013) ran routes for quarterback Luke McCown, who on Thursday was under Griffin on the depth chart.
— Running back Travaris Cadet got a considerable bulk of the work, whether on handoffs or screen passes. He had several decent to long gains; but, it bears noting that OTA practices are non-padded and non-contact.
On one play, Cadet fell down to the ground on a sweep to the left with several first-team defenders around him after it appeared he inadvertently bumped into someone, but the running back got up quickly and seemed fine.
Here are a few more interesting moments during a practice of almost two hours, so readers should not draw too many hard conclusions from them:
— Undrafted rookie receiver Brandon Coleman, working with the second team, dropped a short pass left from Griffin in front of the sideline. The 6-foot-6 Rutgers product later made up for it, though, coming back for and catching a low pass that would’ve gone for a first down on a play that was simulating a third-and-10.
— Backup cornerback Derrius Brooks nicely broke up a pass that McCown intended for Stills.
— On another playing involving Stills, he fell as Griffin threw him a pass, setting up what appeared to be an easy interception for White. White, though, dropped it; and he lamented by slamming his hand onto the ground.
Check back for more from The Advocate later.