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Training Camp Practice (August 2nd): Saints Linebackers Are LEGIT

The New Orleans Saints now have a week's worth (7) of Practices that they've conducted so far during their 2018 Training Camp, and each day there seems to be one particular player or position group that ends up "standing out" with a nice performance; and today it was the linebacker corps.

Even on a day where the Saints offense bounced back and actually beat the starters at LB on an occasional play or two, it was the LB corps' overall performance that impressed observers (myself included) most.

There was Mantai Te'o, beating back-up RB Jonathan Williams badly in a 1-on-1 blocking drill. There was LB position coach Mike Nolan, giving "hands-on" instruction to Craig Robertson.

There was Alex Anzalone with a nice goal-line run stop of RB Mark Ingram, who had tried to out-sprint Anzalone to the left-corner pylon but was denied entry.

There was Demario Davis making a "stuff" on a goal line rushing attempt by FB Zach Line. And there was starting "Sam" / strong side linebacker A.J. Klein with the "Play of the Day" — when he picked off a tipped-pass on a Taysom Hill throw near the end of practice in red zone drills.

This current collection of Saints linebackers might just be among some of the very best in team history, rivaling only the legendary days of the "Dome Patrol" (and yes, I was present for all of the 'Dome Patrol" games in those days; and this 2018 group potentially ranks right up there talent-wise with those famous LB's).

The starting trio of Davis at "Mike" / Middle LB, Anzalone at the "Will" / weak side spot, and Klein at the "Sam" are as LEGITIMATE of a starting group of LB's that you will find anywhere, League-wide.

And if they aren't the best, they certainly might rank among the fastest speed-wise.

Anzalone in particular appears to be an absolute "beast" when he's actually healthy, but unfortunately injuries in one way, shape, or form of another, have kept him from playing a full season since his sophomore year of high school.

If Anzalone can STAY on the field, he and Davis could be huge difference-makers this season — especially in pass coverage.



The Saints offense got in a lot of extra work on red zone drills today, and one thing that was obvious: the "connection" and comfort level shared between QB Drew Brees and RB Alvin Kamara remains intact, and is still doing very well thank you.

I counted on at least 3 different occasions in individual and team drills (I might have missed 1 or 2 more) where Brees hit Kamara either out in the flat on a screen, or crossing across the middle at the goal line for an easy TD. 

Make no mistake: the Saints offense may have "lost" to the Saints defense in Practice the past few days, but for the most part, today it was humming along like a well-oiled machine.



Photo courtesy of Getty Images

As noted by beat writer Josh Katenstein (which I can confirm having witnessed it a majority of the time): undrafted rookie WR Keith Kirkwood continues to have an impressive Camp, and you'd have to believe that even though he remains a long-shot to make the Final 53-man Roster, he appears to be a "lock" for the Practice Squad.

Kirkwood not only has been outstanding with hauling in one nice catch after another, but has shown his prowess on special teams coverage as well. If the Saints didn't have such a "log-jam" of talent at the WR position this year, you probably would be hearing Kirkwood's name mentioned a lot more than it has.



Photo by Michael DeMocker, | The Times-Picayune

For a 2nd straight day, rookie defensive end and top draft pick Marcus Davenport missed Practice; though today he was present and watching from the sidelines unlike yesterday.

There's still no word on why he's being held out, though I'd speculate that they merely might want to be slowly allowing him to "take in" all of what's happening around him thus far, since he appears (at least from my point of view) to be a bit overwhelmed by the adjustment to life (and competition) at the NFL level.

But unless we were to see him struggle in any of the up-coming Pre-Season games, then I'd say that there's no cause for Saints fans to panic — at least not yet anyway.

Besides Davenport: TE Ben Watson, RB Shane Vereen, CB Kamrin Moore, center Cameron Tom and WR Cam Meredith did not practice today.

The Saints will resume Practice tomorrow, but it will be CLOSED to the General Public (media only).........


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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