An opening glimpse of the 2018 edition of the New Orleans Saints is finally available.
For the next three days, the Saints will be on the practice fields at the Ochnser Sports Performance Facility in Metairie, out in front of the fans as long as the rain holds off and doesn't drive the team indoors.
New Orleans will face big-time expectations in 2018 after a resurgent season that ended with an NFC South title and a near-miss in the playoffs, and although the bulk of the team is back, there are more than a few faces to learn this week before the team breaks for a month or so leading into training camp.
With full contact prohibited, minicamp won't show all, but there's also a lot to be learned if you know where to look.
1. The quarterbacks, and not just No. 9
Watching Drew Brees go through practice is always enjoyable for Saints fans, and it has been for more than a decade, but there's intrigue when the other quarterbacks take their repetitions this week. Taysom Hill, the second-year passer who became a special-teams sensation last year, has all the tools and plenty of praise from New Orleans coaches. Tom Savage started nine games in three seasons with the Texans, and he's looking to get a fresh start with the Saints. Then there's J.T. Barrett, who went undrafted but brings a long list of accolades from his illustrious career at Ohio State. All three of the backups have their own strengths and weaknesses, and all three will be on display this week.
2. Marcus Davenport. Even after the news about his thumb
Davenport finds himself facing surgery after minicamp, but his injured thumb isn't expected to keep him off the field entirely this week. Davenport's the face of the 2017 rookie class after the gutsy trade the Saints pulled off to get him, and after a career at UTSA, this will be the first chance for most fans to lay their eyes on the prized prospect. With Cameron Jordan, Alex Okafor and Trey Hendrickson all in various stages of recovery from injury, Davenport got a lot of work against Terron Armstead during organized team activities. With the thumb injured, he might be limited, but it's still an opportunity to get a look at the rook.
3. Mark Ingram, and the men who might have to fill in for him
Ingram, who has been away from the team for the voluntary portion of workouts as he heads into the final year of his contract, will be back for the mandatory portion this week. What Ingram says if he speaks to the media will be interesting, as well as how much work he gets in his first action with the team this offseason. On the field, Saints fans will want to get their first look at sixth-rounder Boston Scott, veteran Jonathan Williams and the others vying for carries in Ingram's absence.
4. Mano e mano
Michael Thomas lined up against Marshon Lattimore. Alex Anzalone trying to keep up with Alvin Kamara. Natrell Jamerson, the fifth-round rookie from Wisconsin, out on an island as he makes the move from safety back out to cornerback. The defense is at a disadvantage in one-on-one passing drills, but that makes the secondary's wins more special, and when a player wins as much as Lattimore did in training camp last summer, it can be a sign of things to come.
5. The wonder that is Michael Thomas
Unlike the newcomers, Thomas is a talent Saints fans appreciate all too well after his first two seasons in the NFL. But in these non-contact workouts, it can be hard to take your eyes off Thomas. As good as he's been the past two seasons, Thomas has looked even more dominant this summer, and this is a good chance to see his talents up close.