WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — While Saints players had Tuesday off to get away from football, it provided an opportunity for the coaching staff to look over procedures and evaluate players.
With 90 players on the roster, the coaching staff takes time to sit down with the scouts, who are in West Virginia for another week, to discuss the personnel and restack the depth chart. We’ve already seen the results of some of those moves with players like linebacker Kasim Edebali and defensive tackle Bobby Richardson moving up the depth chart in recent practices.
“Every third or fourth night we’ll have that meeting, and that might go until, last night, 11:40 or 11:45,” coach Sean Payton said. “You’re going through each position group, and you’re just talking about the progress of each player. So, when you’re at 90, obviously, that can take a while.”
The coaching staff also planned to work ahead on getting familiar with New Orleans’ Week 1 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, and the first preseason game against Baltimore. It also will lay out the practice schedule for the next two weeks, as well as Friday’s Black and Gold scrimmage.
While the players had the opportunity to get away from the game, they were expected to come in for treatment and to work out.
There is no shortage of applicants to handle return duties this season.
Jalen Saunders is back after offering an exciting taste last year. Marcus Murphy, a rookie from Missouri, has a lengthy résumé in the field.
And a few key players on offense — namely C.J. Spiller and Brandin Cooks — could also factor into the mix, opening a potential roster spot.
Five days into training camp, though, the return men remain hard to evaluate.
“We haven’t really had a live bullet,” assistant coach Joel Thomas said. “That’s the one thing we’re really looking forward to when we get to scrimmage situatons, and obviously the preseason.”
Spiller, who has two return touchdowns in his career, can be a dynamic kick returner.
“With C.J. on kick returns — you can go back to YouTube and find his clips, and he’s changed games for the Bills when he was there,” Thomas said. “He can be a straight-line guy, yet run through an arm tackle as well.”
Thomas is intrigued by the rest of the return game talents, too — even if the mix won’t start to separate until the Saints can see them in live action.
“Murph, the way he did in college — I watched it first-hand when we were at Arkansas, playing against them, and I was nervous in the punt return game and the kickoff return game,” Thomas said. “Obviously Jalen rejuvenated some things, Brandin is very focused back there as well, but they’re all just a little bit different as far as their styles.”
Saints offensive line coach Bret Ingalls said he’s optimistic about how the offensive line will perform next season, but he’s been more impressed with how some guys further down the depth chart have performed.
One of the things that stood out to him through the first week of training camp is the way interior lineman Senio Kelemete has performed. A backup guard last year, he’s trying out at center, and Ingalls is pleased with what he’s seen.
“He was a backup guard and we didn’t know if he could play center, and we didn’t have time to find that out,” Ingalls said. “Now he’s playing center, and now his value is a lot higher because he can play both positions and is doing very well at center.”
Ingalls also said he’s pleased with the growth of Bryce Harris, who served as a backup tackle last year, and interior offensive lineman Mike McGlynn. McGlynn, who was signed this offseason, received some reps at left guard during a walkthrough before he was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
As for the other guys deeper on the roster, Ingalls said one of the traits he most values is versatility.
“You have to have versatility,” Ingalls said. “The ideal thing is to get your next best guy on the field.”