NEW ORLEANS New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton hit the pause button Tuesday, giving his team a well-deserved break before heading into six consecutive days of on-field work.
So what do we know at this early stage? I’ll begin with dollars and sense.
According to Spotrac, the Saints rank last in the NFL in cap dollars committed to their defense, which has been ranked near or at the bottom of the league in four of the past five seasons.
The cap breakdown of the entire training camp roster reflects two dollars spent on offense ($90.8 million, including $19 million earmarked for quarterback Drew Brees) compared to every one dollar spent on defense ($62.3 million).
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Only one position — defensive end — ranks in the upper half league wide, and that is skewed somewhat by Cameron Jordan’s $12 million cap figure this season. Lucrative contracts don’t guarantee success. Case in point: safety Jairus Byrd, who was a bust in every sense of the word and certainly didn’t justify his blockbuster six-year, $54 million deal before his departure in the offseason.
I contend, however, teams generally get what they pay for. Follow the money.
Other early observations:
▪ Brandon Coleman and Corey Fuller are waging a spirited battle for the fourth wide receiver spot on the depth chart, behind Michael Thomas, Willie Snead and Ted Ginn Jr.
▪ It appears the starting left tackle position vacated by injured veteran Terron Armstead is first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk’s to lose. Veteran Khalif Barnes waits in the wings.
▪ Free agent right guard Larry Warford, a self-taught guitarist and drummer, hasn’t missed a beat replacing future Saints Hall of Famer Jahri Evans.
▪ Filling in for injured center Max Unger has not been a snap for job temp Jack Allen, who’s had trouble getting the ball back to quarterbacks in shotgun formation.
▪ Linebacker Stephone Anthony, who led the team in tackles as a rookie in 2015, is being given every opportunity to redeem himself under first-year assistant coach Mike Nolan after a lost season in ’16. Anthony is working at weakside linebacker, his third different position in as many years.
▪ With free agent linebackers Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein currently working with the first unit at middle and strongside, it’s possible the Saints could open with three new faces in the base 4-3 scheme. Then again, it’s early and nothing is etched in stone.
▪ That said, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen also has shown a ready willingness to play five and six defensive backs depending on down and distance.
▪ Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the 11th overall pick from Ohio State, left practice early Monday. Payton provided no explanation during his post-practice briefing with reporters. It may be a simple case of dehydration. Then again, hamstring injuries limited his college career to one full season.
▪ Snowballs? Watermelon? Saints are giving new meaning to post-practice cooling off period.
▪ Free tickets to training camp practices are hard to come by, but they can be obtained by visiting Neworleansaints.com\trainingcamp.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.