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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

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
Anthony Brown May 24 4:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys defensive back Anthony Brown was working as the first team slot cornerback in OTAs. Brown allowed the most touchdowns in the entire NFL last season while playing as an outside corner, so the move makes sense. When filling in at slot corner last season, usually for the injured Orlando Scandrick, Brown looked much better. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones were seen being used as the outside corners on the first team defense.

Terrance Williams May 24 3:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams contradicted an earlier public statement regarding the car accident he was involved in. He was charged with public intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident when his Lamborghini was found crashed into a light post. At the time, he said he'd walked home and was on his way back to the scene to meet with a tow truck. Now he's saying that he was not driving the car at all and instead says Kendall Wright was the driver, and that Williams was not in the car when it happened. This seems like mostly a non-story, but the plot is certainly thickening.

Tavon Austin May 24 3:20pm ET

Dallas Cowboys offensive weapon Tavon Austin will be used all over the offense. According to quarterback Dak Prescott, "Coaches have a great plan, whether it's getting him out of the backfield, lining him up at X, lining him up at Z, putting him in the slot. He's a guy we get the ball in his hands, he'll score some points and get a bunch of yards in this offense." Austin was acquired from the Rams during the draft. Despite his failure to become a legitimate NFL player so far in his career, the Cowboys seem set on making Austin a major part of the offense. The offensive weapon is much more likely to turn into the foam dart gun he's been since drafted than anything else.

Duke Johnson May 24 9:50am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson told reporters on Wednesday that he is optimistic on ongoing contract extension talks with the team that drafted him in 2015. Johnson, who will play out the final year of his rookie contract in 2018, would become an unrestricted free agent after the season if the two sides don't hammer out an extension. Johnson said, "I'm very optimistic [we'll get a deal done]. I believe that not only the [coaching] staff but the front office wants me here. It's just about both sides coming to an agreement." The Browns added Carlos Hyde and rookie Nick Chubb this offseason, but Johnson's role as the team's third-down back should be secure heading into 2018.

Antonio Gates May 24 9:23am ET

The Los Angeles Chargers are likely to consider re-signing free-agent TE Antonio Gates, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gates had previously been told he would not be brought back, but TE Hunter Henry (knee) suffered what's believed to be a season-ending knee injury Tuesday, May 22.

Hunter Henry May 24 3:03am ET

Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry (knee) did suffer a torn ACL GM Tom Telesco confirmed on Wednesday, May 23. Telesco said Henry sustained the injury while running a route during practice. Henry's surgery has not yet been scheduled.

Andrew Luck May 23 11:50pm ET

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich told the media on Wednesday that the team is "not worried at all" about how quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) has yet to resume throwing. Luck also explained how he is following a timeline that included when he would start throwing, but wouldn't share it. If he can manage to throw without restrictions by the fourth week of July, Luck will be able to fully participate in Colts training camp. Only then will fantasy owners be able to slowly regain their confidence in the sixth-year pro.

Corey Graham May 23 11:43pm ET

Free-agent FS Corey Graham (Eagles) is a player that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson would like to re-sign this offseason.

Geronimo Allison May 23 11:33pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison appears to be the leading candidate for the No. 3 receiver job entering organized team activities.

Dez Bryant May 23 11:23pm ET

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said he does not expect the Packers to sign free-agent WR Dez Bryant (Cowboys) this offseason.

Mychal Kendricks May 23 11:13pm ET

Free-agent LB Mychal Kendricks (Eagles) does not appear to be an option for the Los Angeles Rams at this point, but he could be pursued if defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is interested in him, in the opinion of the Los Angeles Daily News' Vincent Bonsignore.

Brian Robison May 23 11:03pm ET

Minnesota Vikings DE Brian Robison has agreed to restructure his contract, which saves the team $2.38 million in salary cap space. He was originally scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2018 but will now make $1.015 million.

Geoff Swaim May 23 10:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim worked with the first-team offense during organized team activities Wednesday, May 23. TE Blake Jarwin was on the field when the team lined up in two-tight end sets. TE Rico Gathers worked with the second-team offense.

Rishard Matthews May 23 10:33pm ET

Tennessee Titans WR Rishard Matthews (undisclosed) is dealing with a minor undisclosed injury but should return to the field before offseason workouts end.

Andrew Luck May 23 10:23pm ET

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) did not throw during organized team activities Wednesday, May 23, and head coach Frank Reich said he is not sure if Luck will throw before the end of June minicamp but is confident that Luck will ramp things up in time for training camp.

Stephon Tuitt May 23 10:13pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt said he played most of the 2017 season with a torn biceps.

Josh Rosen May 23 10:03pm ET

Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said he has not ruled out QB Josh Rosen being the starting quarterback this upcoming season.

Baker Mayfield May 23 9:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions during organized team activities Wednesday, May 23, with two of the three interceptions tipping off receivers' hands.

Howard Wilson May 23 9:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns CB Howard Wilson (knee) did not participate in organized team activities Wednesday, May 23.

Antonio Callaway May 23 9:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns CB Denzel Ward (hip) and WR Antonio Callaway (toe) participated in organized team activities Wednesday, May 23. Both players suffered injuries during rookie minicamp.