||08-06-2003 11:54 AM
Saints Training Camp Observations from ESPN!
Len Pasquirelli did this one...
METAIRIE, La.-- Five observations on the 2003 New Orleans Saints, gleaned from the training camp practices of Aug. 5:
Deuce McAllister rushed for 1,388 yards and scored 17 TDs last season.
1. Assuming that quarterback Aaron Brooks is recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery, and every indication in practices has been positive, the Saints should possess one of the league's most explosive offenses. The line is very good and every one of the skill-position guys has playmaking skills. Put down loquacious wide receiver Joe Horn for his usual 85-90 catches, 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns, which is about what he has averaged the past three seasons. Unlike the last couple years, however, Horn might get some help from the No. 2 wideout position. Sprinter Donte' Stallworth, who averaged a touchdown catch every 5.3 receptions as a rookie but struggled through the same kind of persistent hamstring injuries he experienced in college, worked harder in the spring on his conditioning. In terms of pure hyper-speed, the kind of explosiveness that can get him vertical separation from any corner in the NFL, few players can rate with the second-year burner. Given the camp performance of Jerome Pathon, a fluid wide receiver who has deceptive deep speed, the Saints might have a top three as good as any in the NFL. A five-year veteran, Pathon has been on a roller coaster much of his career but there has always been underlying promise. He wasn't especially impressive in a Tuesday night practice, dropping some catchable balls, but, as usual, running precise routes. Maybe this is the season he finally puts in all together. Don't undervalue the free agency addition of tight end Ernie Conwell, the former St. Louis starter. Conwell is an insightful guy, a terrific intermediate range pass catcher and, while this has nothing to do with physical prowess, is a great presence in the locker room. Tailback Deuce McAllister, who rushed for an NFC-high 1,388 yards in his first season as a starter, is a tough matchup for most defenses. McAllister is a lot stronger than some people perceive him to be and, when the Saints motion him to an "open" look, your defense better have more than just a safety trying to check him. This cautionary note, though, on the New Orleans offense: When the Saints slumped at the end of the season for a second year in a row in '02, the unit was equally culpable for the plummet. Only once in the final four games did the New Orleans offense register more than 300 yards. In the final three outings, the unit averaged a measly 203.3 yards. Mike McCarthy is a very good coordinator, one who will probably be a head coach someday, but his unit needs more consistency.
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Fair assessment of our Saints!
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