While the New Orleans Saints rookie class of 2017 has already made their way to the team's Practice Facility in Metairie, Louisiana for the start of Training Camp, the team's veterans still have another 6 days before they arrive to begin the entire organization's official start of full preparations for the upcoming 2017 NFL season.
And when they do so, it could mark the beginning of one young veteran's last few weeks in a black and gold Saints uniform, unless he has a phenomenal performance during Camp and the rapidly approaching Pre-Season games (3 weeks from today).
That young veteran is none other than 3rd year QB Garrett Grayson.
Once viewed as the possible "heir apparent" to Drew Brees as the next starting Saints QB of the future, Grayson has turned out to be a HUGE disappointment.
The Saints took Grayson in the 3rd Round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Colorado State, but it's stating it mildly to say that he has been anything less than impressive during his time with the team --- and his recent rough showing during team drills at Mini-Camp earlier last month didn't exactly do very much to help his cause.
The Saints released Grayson during the week of the team’s season opener in early September of last year, but re-signed him a day later to the Practice Squad where he spent all of last season.
Prior to that, Grayson struggled in the Saints' 4 four Pre-Season games last year, completing 39 of 70 passes for 409 yards with four interceptions and two touchdowns. He didn’t play a single snap of game action before that, during his rookie season in 2015.
Further complicating matters now for Grayson as he attempts to earn a spot back on the team's final 53-man roster : the Saints reunited with former veteran Chase Daniel to assume the #2 CB role in Free Agency which effectively kills any chance whatsoever he may have had of making a significant move up the depth chart.
And perhaps even worse now from his perspective when Camp fully gets underway next week: Grayson will be facing off against former Syracuse University star Ryan Nassib in a head-to-head battle for his old job during his 2015 rookie season: the #3 QB spot.
Nassib, who was a 4th-round pick by the New York Giants in the 2013 NFL Draft, has 4 years worth of NFL playing experience. Nassib has appeared previously in 5 career games and completed 9 of 10 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown while serving as Eli Manning's backup for the G-Men.
NOLA.com / The Times Picayune beat writer Herbie Teope noted that Saints head coach Sean Payton continues to be impressed with the 6-foot-2, 223-pound signal caller; and at the conclusion Mini-Camp said this to Teope and the rest of the assembled media about Nassib:
"He's a quick study, he's smart," Payton said. "He's obviously been in a pro offense in New York and I think he's picked it up very quickly."
That compliment is note-worthy, given the fact that Payton hasn't been nearly as kind in his evaluation of Grayson up to this point. Grayson appears to be headed into a legitimately tough battle with Nassib for not only the final QB spot on the roster, but perhaps even into a battle with himself --- to save whatever future of an NFL career that he still has left.
Is this the "end of the road" for Grayson's time in New Orleans?
That's hard to say at this point.
Some months back, Payton seemed to suggest some urgency when it came to Grayson, while discussing the 26-year old's current situation.
“Typically, this next year (which starts in less than 2 months from now) will be an important ‘here we go’ (year),” Payton said. “I think, from an offense standpoint, I think his ability to spit out what we are doing – I think he’s got a great grasp of the system itself. I think he is someone that moves well and throws the ball well on the run. I expect him to receive plenty of work here in the off-season heading into Camp.”
New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill notes that the most difficult part of the challenge for Grayson is that if he has made growth, he hasn’t been given many opportunities to showcase it since last Pre-Season.
Underhill notes that outside of a few practices where Brees was limited last year (which allowed Grayson to run the scout team), Grayson's passes that he was throwing during practice were during the “routes on air” period. During that portion of practice, quarterbacks throw the ball to receivers running routes without anyone in coverage.
Which is exactly what Grayson's been doing for the past few weeks, since that at-times dreadful showing at Mini-Camp. To his credit: Grayson has gone into full-desperation mode, and is pulling out all of the stops in a concerted effort to save his playing career.
Grayson has spent the past few weeks since Mini-Camp ended back in his hometown of Vancouver, Washington; which is just across the state line from (and the largest suburb of) Portland, Oregon where he grew up; practicing with with members of Mountain View High School’s football team.
Grayson's daily training regimen for the past month has seen him throwing passes to Mountan View's wide receivers for at least an hour each day, which is something that he's taken the initiative on his own to arrange in a sincere effort to jumpstart his career and get it headed back in the right direction.
It was arranged by Mountain View head coach Adam Mathieson and offensive coordinator Ben Matthias, an ex assistant at Heritage High School in Vancouver --- where Grayson threw for 81 career touchdowns as a three-year high school starter from 2007-’09.
Additionally, Grayson has spent most of the off-season before that in Gainesville, Fla., with his mentor and his ex-college coach during his time at Colorado State, Jim McElwain, who is now the head coach at the University of Florida.
Together, Grayson and McElwain have been going over and studying film from every 2016 Saints regular season game, while watching All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees run the Saints offense --- the same offensive scheme that Grayson's had so much difficulty trying to learn in his first 2 and a half years in the NFL.
“I went back and probably watched every game we played last season five or six times,” Grayson told Vancouver Columbian reporter Meg Wochnick recently, “and it was good to see what Drew was doing on every given play and every situation.”
Grayson told Wochnick that he's well aware of his inability to fully master running the Saints offense, which has now put his back firmly against the wall as he prepares to head back to Metairie and give it one final shot at showing the Saints coaching staff that he belongs in the NFL.
“I took a step back,” Grayson said, “and that looks bad.”
It certainly hasn't looked good, to say the least.
Nothing short of a "blow-away" performance by Grayson in Camp and the upcoming Pre-Season games right ahead, will likely save him in what has been his very sincere efforts to get better and prove his worth.
At this point, he can only hope that it'll be good enough of a showing to eventually get picked up by another team; and continue his growth development for which most NFL QB's who are starting-caliber, have already experienced.
Garrett Grayson is "standing at the crossroads" of his playing career, and the sport that he's loved to play since his childhood.
And if he isn't able to pull off what would be the biggest surprise of all of this year's 2017 Training Camp, it'll be the "end of the road" for his time in NOLA.......