WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Things have grown a little stale.
Defensive linemen know the tendencies of offensive linemen. Cornerbacks know how the receivers are going to attack. It’s the same faces, at the same spots, lining up day after day after day. There are no more secrets hiding in the hills at The Greenbrier.
“It’s a new defense you get to go against, and it’s an opportunity that you once again showcase to the coaches what you do throughout the rest of the week and into the preseason game,” wide receiver Brandon Coleman said.
An injection of life will enter camp this week, as the New England Patriots are coming to town for the final two days of practices before the Saints head back to New Orleans. Players said they are happy about taking reps against different players, and the coaching staff is looking forward to mixing things up.
Coach Sean Payton said he does not expect there to be a disruption to how the team has been doing things in recent weeks. There will still be a team period each day, seven-on-sevens, special teams and some situational work.
The major difference is there will be 90 more players and another coaching staff to work with. But Payton said he and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have already discussed the protocol for the next two days, and noted the teams were successful practicing with one another in 2010 and 2012 in New England.
“When you get a team like New England, I feel like we have worked so well together in the past; there hasn’t been any issues, there hasn’t been any fighting or any of that other stuff. It’s really been about football and guys getting better,” Payton said. “So when you have that type of success with prior practices, it is easy to commit to another one.”
The benefits of the practices are numerous. Not only will it help raise the intensity level, it helps the coaches see their players in a new light and see how they perform against an opponent and scheme that is unfamiliar. So in that regard, getting some new tape will be beneficial.
What is currently unclear is if that tape will include New England quarterback Tom Brady. He was previously expected to miss at least Wednesday’s session to attend a hearing in New York with the NFL stemming from last season’s deflated ball scandal. It has since been reported that Brady is considering skipping the hearing and could join his teammates in West Virginia.
Payton said he has not yet talked to the Patriots about who would be in attendance for the practices. The Saints, however, are not concerned about whether Brady will be in attendance. It’s bigger than that.
“I look at it, to some degree, like we get a chance to see a team who just won the Super Bowl,” Payton said. “Back in 2010, it was flipped around. When we went to New England, we’d just come off of a Super Bowl season, and we practiced up there for three days. The bigger picture is the vision that both staffs and both organizations have for what you’re trying to accomplish.”
For Payton, beyond the aspect of preparing his team for the upcoming season, he sees it as an opportunity to spend some time with another coaching staff and talk shop. He said he’s picked up things from other coaches in the past, and given that he’s long admired the way Belichick runs his team, it’s likely he’ll be keeping a close eye on how the Patriots handle business.
“Shoot, everything from how he acquires personnel. I think he is very good at identifying what they are looking for,” Payton said. “They have a role for a player when they sign him. There has been a ton of things just when you watch what they have put together over the years. They have kind of been the benchmark.”
The Patriots will certainly be the benchmark against which the Saints compare themselves over the next few days.