As the New Orleans Saints began their first day of Mini-Camp in preparation for the upcoming 2018 NFL season, all eyes were focused squarely on #92, rookie defensive end and 2018 1st Round draft pick Marcus Davenport — who is scheduled to undergo thumb surgery for a minor ligament injury on Friday, but is still able to fully practice and participate in team drills.
About halfway into the first practice session, Davenport showed everyone watching in attendance exactly why the Saints gave up this year's top pick and next year's to the Green Bay Packers, to move up and get him.
So much for the "injured thumb" -- Davenport with a FABULOUS bull rush that would have earned him a sack on Brees
— Barry Hirstius (@BarryHirstius) June 12, 2018
In the non-contact Red Zone portion of practice, Davenport blew past offensive tackle Terron Armsrtead with a powerful "bull-rush", and would have gotten an easy sack on QB Drew Brees. Unfortunately, Davenport left the field with another unspecified injury and did not return, though that injury also appeared to be of a minor variety,
In any event, Davenport's raw, natural, God-given and freakish athletic talent was CLEARLY on display — and the only concern that I personally would have for him is whether or not he can remain healthy for the duration of an entire season, for a young man who possibly seems as if he could be a bit "injury-prone".
Certainly, the Saints will be hoping that isn't the case.
Ingram and Okafor Return
Saints #1 RB Mark Ingram was back at the team facility after missing all of OTA's, and looked sharp in both team drills as well as during the Practice portion of Day #1.
Later after Practice, Ingram told reporters in front of his locker that he isn't upset with his current contract situation, and that he will serve the 4-game suspension that he's been given for using PED's, though he still vehemently disagrees with the League's final verdict on the entire situation.
"I fought the suspension hard, and I don’t agree with it; but I’ll serve my suspension and be back and ready to go at it. Obviously I want to get a new deal because this is the last year of my contract and I'd like to get an extension, but missing OTA's wasn't about my contract situation.
"It was about trying to get a new training regimen. I want to train on my own, and focus on things like speed work. And as of right now: I'm down to about 215 pounds."
Meanwhile, defensive end Alex Okafor also returned to the line-up for the very first time since tearing his Achilles tendon following a Week #10 win over the Redskins last year.
Okafor was with the 1st-team defensive unit for the start of team drills, and also participated in several snaps during Practice.
Okafor's return is an encouraging sign for his recovery process, and much like WR Cam Meredith, appears to be well ahead of schedule and looks as if he will indeed be ready for the season-opener at the Superdome on September 9th against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
THE BACK-UP QUARTERBACK RACE UPDATE:
Taysom Hill looked sharp on some plays during team drills, but seemed to falter (including an 0-for-3 stretch) during the Practice portion. Tom Savage got about the same amount of snaps as Hill, and though he wasn't spectacular by any means, seemed more at ease with running the offense than Hill did.
So far from what I've seen of Taysom Hill in team drills, I might have to reconsider my opinion of his capability to be a legit NFL starting QB
— Barry Hirstius (@BarryHirstius) June 12, 2018
Rookie UDFA JT Barrett only was allowed a handful of snaps, and it will be interesting to see if he gets a bigger opportunity tomorrow or Thursday.
PLAY(S) OF THE DAY:
During the first portion of Practice, RB Alvin Kamara defied both logic and the laws of gravity with a SENSATIONAL one-handed grab of a pass over starting middle linebacker Demario Davis, much to the delight of the few hundreds of fans in attendance.
On the flip side, CB Ken Crawley made a terrific interception of a Brees pass that was intended for Ted Ginn, Jr. in 7-on-7 drills, when he STRIPPED the ball cleanly from Ginn's hands. For Crawley, it's anther sign of his remarkable progression from his rookie season just 2 years ago.
MISSING IN ACTION:
Starting #1 WR Michael Thomas was not present, and later on after Practice head coach Sean Payton said his absence was excused. All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan was also excused from Practice, to be at the hospital with his wife for the birth of their new child.
— Jason Orillion (@JasonOinNO) June 12, 2018
A TRIBUTE TO "MISTER B"
Starting with today's Practice and likely throughout the remainder of the calendar year, the 50-yard line of the Saints Practice Field will be adorned with the capital letters "TB", in honor of late owner Tom Benson.
— Steve Geller (@SteveGellerWWL) June 12, 2018