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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
Sam Bradford Jun 17 9:33pm ET

Arizona Cardinals QB Sam Bradford (knee) saw more reps during team drills as minicamp progressed, and he said limiting his reps has helped him prepare physically and mentally. 'I can really build on what we had done here and coming to training camp ready to go,' Bradford said. 'I feel like we've done a great job of sticking to the plan,' Bradford said. 'I think the plan has worked and my body feels really good right now.'

Brandon Marshall Jun 17 8:33pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR Brandon Marshall (hamstring) skipped organized team activities and the minicamp, but coach Pete Carroll indicates the team is fine with this as long as Marshall keeps recovering.

Ben Roethlisberger Jun 17 8:13pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger won't pursue an extension on his contract, which expires in two years, over the summer months. Roethlisberger said he prefers to just play football and let his representation worry about the money.

Keke Coutee Jun 17 6:13pm ET

Houston Texans WR Keke Coutee might be the team's answer in the slot, according to ESPN's Sarah Barshop, who notes the rookie has 'stood out among the young receiving corps.'

Chad Hansen Jun 17 6:03pm ET

New York Jets WR Chad Hansen is one of the most improved players on the team - looking stronger and faster than last year - and could play his way into a prominent role with a good preseason, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini.

Tom Brady Jun 17 5:33pm ET

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady acknowledged in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired on her network Sunday, June 17, he knows he is getting closer to retirement as he nears his 41st birthday in August, telling Winfrey he is 'seeing that there's definitely an end coming, sooner rather than later.' However, Brady also added he wants to play 'as long as I'm loving the training and preparation and willing to make the commitment.'

O.J. Howard Jun 17 4:33pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard 'showed how versatile and explosive he can be during minicamp,' according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.

Zay Jones Jun 17 4:23pm ET

Buffalo Bills WR Zay Jones will have to 'earn his way' and 'not necessarily go right to the top of the line' after a mostly disappointing rookie season, according to general manager Brandon Beane.

Ronald Jones II Jun 17 2:23pm ET

Tampa bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones could post the biggest numbers of the team's defense-heavy draft class since he should get 15 to 20 touches per game, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.

Sam Darnold Jun 17 2:03pm ET

New York Jets QB Sam Darnold 'hasn't flinched' and has 'handled everything (the team) has thrown at him' since rookie minicamp, according to offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.

Josh Allen Jun 17 2:03pm ET

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen has 'mesmerized fans with his big arm in practice' and, although he'll start the preseason third on the depth chart behind AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, he also 'has a real chance to be the Week 1 starter,' according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe.

Michael Gallup Jun 17 1:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WRs Michael Gallup and Lance Lenoir as well as TE Blake Jarwin seem to be the three players who have shown the most chemistry with Dak Prescott through the end of the team's offseason workouts, according to Bryan Broaddus and David Helman of DallasCowboys.com.

Baker Mayfield Jun 17 1:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield 'still has a long way to go' to unseat Tyrod Taylor as the starter, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe.

Mike Gesicki Jun 17 1:43pm ET

Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki is a 'big man that can run and has really good hands' and had some 'really good days' toward the end of the team's offseason practices, according to head coach Adam Gase.

Jason Verrett Jun 17 12:03pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers CB Jason Verrett (knee) was a full participant in practice Wednesday, June 13.

Jun 17 9:33am ET

Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers LB Dekoda Watson (calf) sustained a strained calf muscle during practice last week but should be ready for the start of training camp.

Richard Sherman Jun 17 9:33am ET

San Francisco 49ers CB Richard Sherman (Achilles') is expected to resume taking part in 11-on-11 drills at the start of training camp.

DaeSean Hamilton Jun 16 11:53pm ET

Denver Broncos WR DaeSean Hamilton should 'play plenty' this season, according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com.

Corey Coleman Jun 16 11:23pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Corey Coleman 'work ethic and football intelligence' continue to be questioned by the coaching staff, according to Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram.

D'Onta Foreman Jun 16 11:03pm ET

Houston Texans RB D'Onta Foreman (Achilles') is unlikely to be 100 percent by the start of training camp.