WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The Saints’ competition at wide receiver is heating up.
And a relatively unknown group of receivers has created a crowded battle for roster spots as the first preseason game — and first chance to maybe create some separation — looms large at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Baltimore.
“This wide receiver room we’ve got, I feel like all 12 receivers could play on any team in this football league,” Joe Morgan said. “We’re doing enough to make it a tough decision when cutting time comes.”
Beyond the obvious pairing of Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston, the Saints have a full complement of receivers bidding for a role in the offense, including Brandon Coleman, Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, Josh Morgan, Seantavius Jones, R.J. Harris and Willie Snead.
After Cooks and Colston, Coleman seems to be establishing himself as the No. 3 receiver, but the rest is very tight.
“For receivers, there’s usually high competition in every training camp,” veteran Josh Morgan said. “It’s going to make everybody better.”
Warming up on the sidelines, Keenan Lewis often wears a high-altitude training mask, an apparatus designed to simulate what it’s like to exercise in high-altitude conditions, where there’s less oxygen in the air.
“That’s something I’ve used all offseason, trying to get ready for the two-minute and no-huddle,” Lewis said.
The training facility at the Greenbrier is roughly 2,000 feet above sea level, already a pretty big change from what Lewis is used to experiencing back home in New Orleans.
But Lewis believes the mask — an apparatus used by players like Marshawn Lynch and James Harrison — gives him an edge.
“Around the league, a lot of guys are training with them in the offseason,” Lewis said. “I think it’s very beneficial.”
Four and out
The idea of shortening the preseason to two or three games has been bandied about the league in recent years.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he likes the schedule the way it is right now.
“I can think of so many players that made rosters during my time as a coach in week three or four,” Payton said. “Kick returns and punt returns and blocked punts and a quarterback that comes in. ... I just think that four is perfect. That’s me.”
Payton singled out former Saints running back Pierre Thomas, who made a push late in camp in 2007 to make the roster. Shortening the preseason to two games, Payton said, might cost a player like Thomas chances to prove himself under the lights.
“The most important thing we have to do in this camp is find the right 53,” Payton said. “I think it becomes more challenging to find the right 53 with two game exposures.”
The string of stars showing up at Saints camp continued with recording star Jimmy Buffett, a longtime Saints fan who stopped by the practice fields at the Greenbrier. ... Payton joked that he’ll send a gift basket to Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith in celebration of his retirement; Smith had a long history of big games against the Saints when he was with the Carolina Panthers. ... Rookie cornerback P.J. Williams has started running again, a signal that he may return soon. ... Running back C.J. Spiller, who has been limited in recent days, missed his second day of practice.