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Saints' first offseason work sharpens focus on new faces

Thu May 24 8:29pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton walks on the field during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sophia Germer)


New Orleans Saints quarterback J.T. Barrett (5) stands by as running back Trey Edmunds is handed the ball by quarterback Tom Savage (12) during NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sophia Germer)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is handed the ball during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Sophia Germer)


METAIRIE, La. (AP) Patrick Robinson spied Drew Brees stepping up to throw deep down the middle, sprinted back toward his own end zone and made an outstretched interception of a ball that initially looked to be thrown beyond anyone's reach.

''Impressive,'' was how Saints coach Sean Payton described the play by Robinson, a cornerback who is one of several recent additions aimed at strengthening a club that nearly advanced to the NFC title game last season.

The onset of offseason practices this week has provided Payton and his staff a chance to begin forging roles for players such as Robinson, as well as fellow newcomers such as linebacker Demario Davis, safety Kurt Coleman, receiver Cameron Meredith and first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport.

It's also a chance to see if any of the club's younger running backs - such as rookie Boston Scott - might fill the void created by Pro Bowl rusher Mark Ingram's four-game suspension for use of a banned substance.

''Obviously, we hate to miss a guy like that. He's such huge part of what we do and such a great teammate, too,'' Brees said of Ingram after Thursday's non-padded practice, the first open to reporters this offseason. ''We'll manage.''

Alvin Kamara is on track to emerge as New Orleans' top running back after being selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season.

But while Kamara played a more versatile running and receiving role that Payton calls a ''Joker back,'' Ingram was a force on more traditional runs.

At only 5-foot-7, Scott is smaller than Ingram, but Payton won't discount the rookie's ability to compete for snaps Ingram might otherwise have gotten.

''He's shorter, but he's built pretty well. He is someone who has good instincts,'' Payton said.

''It's early, but he's done some really good things. There's a running ability he has as well. I wouldn't look at him as a ''Joker'' back, if you will. He's got some of those traits, but he does a pretty good job with some of the in-line runs.''

The preseason performance of Scott, a sixth-round draft choice out of Louisiana Tech, as well as that of Trey Edmunds, a second-year pro out of Maryland, could determine how the Saints cope with Ingram's suspension.

''I'm going to work, do everything I can to learn the playbook and just grind,'' Scott said. ''By the time preseason rolls around, I'll be ready.''

The Saints hope they've bolstered the passing game by adding receiver Cameron Meredith during free agency. Meredith led Chicago in receiving two seasons ago, but is coming back from a major knee injury that wiped out his 2017 season.

Meredith did some route-running and catching on Thursday, after which Payton pronounced him ''way ahead of schedule.''

''He's going to factor in this year,'' Payton said.

Meredith, meanwhile, discussed his motivation to regain his 2016 form.

''It was a major injury. I'm not going to downplay it,'' Meredith said. ''I'm excited to go out there and prove people wrong.''

On defense, the Saints cannot yet be sure how well 2017 starting end Alex Okafor will come back from his torn Achilles.

In the meantime, Davenport is expected to get a lot of offseason work as the Saints try to refine his pass-rushing skills in time for the fall.

''He's a tremendous worker,'' Payton said. ''He's coming along really well. There's a strength element you feel.''

The Saints expect the linebacker group to be strengthened by Davis, a former defensive leader with the New York Jets, as well as the return of second-year pro Alex Anzalone, who started four games as a rookie before the rest of his season was cut short by a shoulder injury.

Both can play multiple roles.

''I'm down with whatever my coaches want me to do,'' Davis said. ''I'm here to win.''

Robinson, Payton said, has returned to the club that drafted him in 2010 a more confident and capable player after winning a Super Bowl with Philadelphia last season.

Robinson ''has played on the biggest stages and had success,'' Payton said. ''It's good seeing him back in our building.''

Notes: Ingram was not at practice, even though the terms of his suspension allow him to participate in all offseason and preseason work. Payton said he disagreed with Ingram's decision, but respects it and has had friendly phone conversations with Ingram about it. Brees said he also has spoken with Ingram, adding, ''I know Mark's doing what he needs to do to get himself ready to play this season. He's doing what's best for him and therefor what's best for the team.''

Player Notes
Le'Veon Bell Oct 22 6:30pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell will not join the team for their Week 8 game against the Cleveland Browns. There had been a report a few weeks earlier that Bell would be back after the Week 7 bye. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport hinted on Monday that Bell may not join the team until after the October 30 trade deadline. Bell has missed all six of the Steelers' games this season to show his displeasure over the lack of a long-term contract. James Conner will remain the team's lead back in Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Marshawn Lynch Oct 22 6:30pm ET

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is headed to Injured Reserve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Lynch was ruled out for about a month last week after their game against the Seahawks and now officially on IR. He is able to return in 8 weeks, but until then the backfield work will be split by Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and potentially Deandre Washington, but their roles are unclear as of now.

From RotoBaller

Jamaal Charles Oct 22 5:20pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars released running back Jamaal Charles on Monday after he had only six carries in two games. With the team acquiring Carlos Hyde last Friday, there's no need for Charles on the roster with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) likely sidelined through the team's Week 9 bye.

From RotoBaller

Adam Vinatieri Oct 22 5:00pm ET

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said kicker Adam Vinatieri (groin) has been dealing with a groin injury, and the team will work out kickers in the next few days. However, no decision on whether Vinatieri will play in Week 8 against the Raiders will be made until later in the week. The ageless wonder made a 36-yard kick in the 37-5 blowout win over the Bills but missed two of his four extra-points attempts and aggravated his injury. The 45-year-old will remain a strong fantasy kicker against Oakland's porous defense if he's active, but it's looking like he might be held out.

From RotoBaller

Brock Osweiler Oct 22 5:00pm ET

Miami Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler has already been confirmed as the starter for the Dolphins Week 8 matchup against the Houston Texans. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) has been ruled out for the third-consecutive game. Osweiler has played well as a starter having thrown for over 600 yards and five touchdowns in the past two weeks. Osweiler is an option at QB2 but isn't an excellent option as the Dolphins receiving core continues to be littered with injuries.

From RotoBaller

Cody Kessler Oct 22 5:00pm ET

While Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will start in Week 8 in London against the Eagles after being benched in Week 7, backup Cody Kessler will receive practice repetitions with the first-team offense, according to a source. If Bortles struggles early again in London, the team could turn to Kessler again. Bortles has earned the short leash with his poor play this year. He's gone over 300 yards in a game three times but also has under 200 yards passing in three other contests, not counting Week 7. Bortles has nine touchdowns and eight interceptions and a 60.6 completion percentage. It hasn't helped that running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) hasn't played in a full game this year. Bortles will be a low-end QB2 for Week 8 across the pond.

From RotoBaller

Tom Savage Oct 22 4:53pm ET

Free-agent QB Tom Savage (49ers) was re-signed to an undisclosed deal by the San Francisco 49ers Monday, Oct. 22.

DaeSean Hamilton Oct 22 4:50pm ET

Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Daesean Hamilton (knee) is dealing with an MCL sprain after being injured in the Week 7 game against the Cardinals last Thursday. Hamilton has been serving as a punt returner and No. 4 wideout behind Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Courtland Sutton, so he doesn't have any immediate fantasy value to speak of. Expect Hamilton to be sidelined for a few weeks.

From RotoBaller

Derek Anderson Oct 22 4:50pm ET

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott announced that quarterback Derek Anderson will start in Week 8 against the Patriots on Monday night with rookie Josh Allen (elbow) set to miss another week. In his first start for Buffalo after signing the previous week, Anderson was pitiful, going 20-for-31 for 175 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and a lost fumble. Although New England's defense has been giving up a ton of yards and points, Anderson isn't a starting option, even in two-QB leagues. The Patriots defense/special teams will be a popular streaming option this week.

From RotoBaller

Amari Cooper Oct 22 4:43pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper was pursued by the Philadelphia Eagles before being traded to the Cowboys. Whether or not the Colts made an offer was not disclosed.

Blake Bortles Oct 22 4:40pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars will stick with Blake Bortles as the team's starting quarterback for the Week 8 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. Though the team benched Bortles during a rough Week 7 performance against the Texans for backup Cody Kessler, they'll keep Bortles in the starting lineup for at least another week. Don't expect much from Bortles in this matchup, and continue to monitor the situation to see if the Jaguars turn to Kessler if Bortles has another bad week.

From RotoBaller

Kenny Stills Oct 22 4:40pm ET

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (groin) has been ruled out for Week 8 on Thursday against the Texans and could possibly be out longer. It's been downhill ever since Stills caught four passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. He hasn't had more than three catches or 61 yards in any game since then and can now be dropped in most leagues. With Albert Wilson now possibly out for the season as well, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant and Devante Parker will be featured in three-wide sets on Thursday. Amendola is the most attractive fantasy option in PPR leagues and will be a popular waiver pickup this week.

From RotoBaller

Mike Gesicki Oct 22 4:40pm ET

In an estimation of the injury report, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder) and rookie tight end Mike Gesicki (shoulder) would've both been limited in practice on Monday. Both should be fine to play this Thursday against the Texans. With Albert Wilson (hip) and Kenny Stills (groin) both out, Amendola and Gesicki could see bigger roles in the passing game. Amendola will be a WR3/flex for PPR leagues as a waiver pickup, while Gesicki remains a desperation TE2. Tight end A.J. Derby (foot) missed practice again and seems unlikely to play this week.

From RotoBaller

Blake Bortles Oct 22 4:33pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles will return as starting quarterback in Week 8, according to head coach Doug Marrone. Marrone said he believes Bortles gives the Jaguars the best chance to win.

Fantasy Spin: Bortles has played abysmally in his last three contests, throwing two touchdowns and five interceptions. His rushing ability makes him more fantasy relevant, but he simply can't be trusted as a starting fantasy quarterback at this juncture.

Torrey Smith Oct 22 4:30pm ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith followed up his performance against the Washington Redskins in Week 7 with a decent showing against the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith finished the game with four receptions for 61 yards. Smith has largely been ineffective for fantasy so far this year, however, it cannot be ignored that Smith has had two good performances back to back. Smith isn't yet considered to be a good addition to fantasy rosters as of yet with receiving options Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Greg Olsen looking to try and compete with the current team leading receiver Devin Funchess

From RotoBaller

D.J. Moore Oct 22 4:30pm ET

Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet week against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7. Moore had seen an increase in this opportunity over the previous weeks since his bye week, finishing the Eagles game with 29 yards from three receptions. Moore will continue to struggle for fantasy relevance with quarterback Cam Newton preferring the passing options of Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey regularly.

From RotoBaller

Devin Funchess Oct 22 4:30pm ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess was able to take this team-high 11 targets to have a productive game against the Eagles. Funchess finished the game with six receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Funchess by far and away had the biggest opportunity in the game, attracting around a third of all of the pass attempts by quarterback Cam Newton.

From RotoBaller

Greg Olsen Oct 22 4:30pm ET

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen finished his game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a touchdown which enabled him to have some fantasy relevance. Olsen had a difficult outing in his second week from injury. Olsen finished the game with just two receptions for five yards and a sole touchdown. Olsen attracted five targets in the game, which was far off the team's target leader Devin Funchess but Olsen will attract enough targets to be fantasy relevant going forwards.

From RotoBaller

Brock Osweiler Oct 22 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins QB Brock Osweiler will be under center again this week as QB Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) remains sidelined.

Fantasy Spin: Osweiler has held his own in the two games he has started in place of Tannehill, throwing for 609 yards and five touchdowns in that span. Despite the recent success, he's not a recommended start versus the Houston Texans Thursday night.

DeVante Parker Oct 22 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (quadriceps) is expected to play in Week 8, according to head coach Adam Gase.

Fantasy Spin: Despite Parker's tenure to forget in Miami, the Dolphins need him with both Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson nursing injuries. However, it is best to wait at least a week before deploying Parker into starting lineups. He has played sparingly in 2018 as he has not been able to stay healthy.