Monday, July 27, 2009

Saints Nation: Things to look for as training camp approaches

With training camp now just days away from commencing (it's officially open on Friday), here's Saints Nation's top 10 questions to look for. You can also check out the Saints' camp roster as of today HERE (minus #36 Darian Barnes who was just released).

1. Who will win the battle for the starting punter job between veteran Glenn Pakulak and rookie Thomas Morstead (pictured)? Based on how awesome Morstead was in college and based on the fact that the Saints moved up in the draft to get him, he's got to be the favorite, but you can't rule out an experienced veteran like Pakulak who's been down this road before and has a strong leg in his own right.

2. Who will win the battle for long snapping duties? You guys can tell I think special teams are important, right? Will Jason Kyle, who is the obvious favorite, win the job - or will the Saints feel that Rob Ninkovich gives them more versatility based on his ability to play at defensive end? With Will Smith and Charles Grant set to be sidelined in games 1 through 4, they could use more depth at defensive end and Ninkovich would be a nice luxury if he can cut it as the long snapper.

3. We know Bush and Thomas are locks, but who's behind them? Mike Bell is currently leading the way, but he has gained weight and Sean Payton wasn't thrilled about it. Lynell Hamilton, PJ Hill and Herb Donaldson are all still in the mix here and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

4. How will the Saints fare with injuries? The Saints were crushed by key injuries early and often last year. The main thing you always want to hope for in training camp is that you get out of it healthy. So many freak injuries happen on the practice field you have to hope for some luck. The health of a lot of people is important, but Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma especially. As the season progresses you know guys are going to go down because of the physical nature of the game, but you can hope that training camp runs smooth so you go into the season healthy.

5. How quickly does Malcolm Jenkins sign, and how quickly does he pick things up? There's A LOT of depth at cornerback this year and it'll be interesting to see if Jenkins performs at a high enough standard to stay in the mix. First and foremost, he needs to come to camp on time because we've seen that can really put players behind the eight ball if they start missing package installments. Will he battle for playing time with Gay, Greer and Porter, or will he suffer the "red shirt" type season former 1st rounder Robert Meachem had as a rookie? Don't forget Jason David and Leigh Torrence are also guys that Jenkins won't necessarily pass on the depth chart.

6. Speaking of Jason David, what are the Saints plans for him? Is he really going to get a fair shake in camp? Will the Saints continue to pay him that handsome contract as a number 4 or 5 corner? Based on the injuries at corner last year, you figure David has a shot if he can stick around long enough and someone goes down... but he's going to need to play out of his mind in camp, and really contribute on special teams.

7. How does the depth at defensive end look? We know Smith and Grant and goners for games 1 through 4, so the progress of the Bobby McCrays, Paul Spicers and Jeff Charlestons are even more important. Anthony Hargrove too, who will get his shot to make this team given the scenario. They'll need to play well and hold down the fort until the high paid starters come back.

8. Can Adrian Arrington finally make a statement? Everybody loves him and thinks he's the next Saints star, but the reality is he's spent the entirety of 2008 on injured reserve, and he got banged up in mini camps this year and didn't participate much (hamstring). Can he step up and secure the #5 spot at receiver, or will his inability to practice eventually cost him his job?

9. How quickly does Usama Young adjust to the move at free safety? Does he play so well he gives Darren Sharper a run for his money at the starting position? Does he struggle so much he jeopardizes his roster spot?

10. Can Rod Coleman still cut it in the NFL? With Hollis Thomas and Bryan Young both goners the depth at DT is looking pretty thin. I've said it before and I still believe the Saints will look for players at DT on the waiver wire to bolster depth if they feel their guys aren't cutting it. Coleman was a superstar in his NFL prime, but he's been out of football and came back this year to give it another shot. Based on what they have at DT it looks like the Saints are counting on Coleman to log a good amount of snaps. The hope is he'll be the rejuvinated Rod Coleman of old, the fear is he'll only be a shell of his former self.