WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The two players making the most noise in the passing game exist on opposite end of the spectrums.
On one end, the veteran tight end Ben Watson is catching everything thrown his direction at the New Orleans Saints’ training camp, and at this early juncture, with Josh Hill nursing an injury, Watson appears to be the early leader to get the bulk of the targets out of that position.
The veteran has unofficially been targeted 15 times during team drills at training camp and has made 13 receptions. Hill has only been targeted twice and made two catches.
Tight end Orson Charles has caught all six passes thrown to him, and Kevin Brock has caught four of five.
At the other end, wide receiver Willie Snead is doing his best to make his case in a crowded group of receivers. It will be an uphill climb to latch onto the bottom of the depth chart, but catching 12 of the first 13 passes thrown his direction could help Snead’s case.
The second-year player out of Ball State has drawn positive reviews from the coaching staff and his quarterbacks for how well he’s performed.
“He knows what to do on every play, and so now it is getting him in position, whether it is in the slot to take advantage of some of his strengths,” coach Sean Payton said. “He lacks some top-end speed and yet he has some ‘uncover’ skills. He has real good football awareness. Those are good things.”
Snead’s 12 receptions trail only Watson in training camp. While some of that is because of usage and opportunities, Snead’s consistency is notable.
Some other players fighting to get on the roster or make the practice squad — Lance Lewis (10 receptions, 15 targets), Joe Morgan (four receptions, nine targets) and R.J. Harris (five receptions, nine targets) — have not been able to match Snead’s consistency through the first week of camp.
The Saints aren’t afraid to adopt or try out technology if they believe it could help them improve their practices or illuminate a piece of information that previously existed in the dark.
During last year’s training camp, the team began using GPS readers to better understand how much stress players were putting on their bodies during each practice.
By better understanding which players are working too hard, and thus putting themselves at risk for injury, this technology has helped the Saints and other teams better circumvent soft-tissue injuries.
The Saints are growing more comfortable with the data after working with it for a full year.
“You are able to look for the exceptions when you are studying numbers,” Payton said. “You are able to study and see maybe something is unusual that stands out.”
NFL teams will wear GPS chips during games this season as well, and some of the data will be available to fans.
The Saints are also using virtual-reality technology that allows players to put on a headset and simulate plays and various situations.
“I think it certainly has a ton of benefits,” Brees said. “I think we’re in the process of figuring out all the ways we can utilize that from a teaching standpoint and learning standpoint and how we’ll carry that over to the regular season. But I think it’s extremely effective.”
The Saints have placed special cameras on the field behind the quarterbacks to capture the action in practice each day.