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CheramieIII 08-08-2004 11:06 PM

Training Camp Observations.
I posted the entire article from the Houma Courier, so everyone does'nt have to register:
First impressions a week into Saints camp

The New Orleans Saints have been in training camp for a little over one week, but already there have been some clear developments on the squad. Here’s my early take on the this year’s team:

Ernie Conwell, Boo Williams, and Donté Stallworth.

Last week, I mentioned just how impressive the tight-end duo of Conwell and Williams was, and the two continue to be a cut above what you normally see in an NFL training camp. Stallworth, the speedy wide receiver, has stayed healthy and continues to impress everyone with his big-play ability, and his ability to run with ball after making the catch.

If these three players stay healthy and two-time Pro Bowl running back Deuce McAllister continues to play as well as he has during his four-year career, the Saints’ offense will be quite formidable.

Fakhir Brown and Brian Young.

There is no question that defensive ends Charles Grant and Darren Howard are the Saints’ stars on defense, but Brown has had an eye-catching training camp.

After bouncing around the league for a few seasons, the former Grambling State standout has really blossomed into a good cover-cornerback.

While I’m still not completely sold on Brown as a starting corner, I have no doubt that he is a very solid No. 3 corner.

Young is not the biggest or most talented defensive tackle in the league, but I just can’t imagine too many players who practice with the same intensity and motivation the former St. Louis Rams lineman does.

If you are looking for a veteran leader to emerge on defense don’t look any farther than him.

Johnathan Sullivan and Devery Henderson.

The Saints paid a heavy price to move up to the sixth spot in last year’s draft to select Sullivan out of the University of Georgia, and he has done little to justify the Saints’ decision.

Not only did Sullivan show up some 20 pounds overweight, but the second-year defensive tackle has done little more than lean on opposing offensive linemen in practices.

Heavy-duty defensive tackles like William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Gilbert Brown and Tony Siragusa also constantly fought battles with their weight, but they flashed big-play skills and plugged up the inside running lanes.

Whether Sullivan’s problem is his weight or a lack of motivation, it is obvious he is being pushed around regularly in practice.

General Manager Mickey Loomis said the team has not started fining Sullivan for being overweight and out of shape.

I just wonder what kind of signal this sends to the other players.

Remember, coach Jim Haslett was supposed to be much tougher on the team than in years past.

Henderson, the fleet-footed, rookie receiver from LSU, was fighting an uphill battle to gain extensive playing time. But his weeklong salary dispute has really left him back in the pack of receivers.

Henderson is a lock to make the team, but his extended holdout has cost him just about any opportunity to see much playing time early in the season.

Anyone who watched the former Tigers running back in college knows he is a slow starter and takes a few weeks of camp to get in the football groove.

One week into training camp none of the Saints’ outside linebackers have stood out.

They’re either too old to consistently make plays or don’t have the instincts to get to the ball carrier quickly.

James Allen, Sedrick Hodge, Derrick Rodgers and Darrin Smith all struggle in pass-coverage situations also.

Unless the Saints’ front four can generate a really strong pass rush, you can bet opposing teams will try to exploit that weaknesses.

Rookie middle linebacker Courtney Watson has the intelligence and instincts to develop into a really good player, but remember that he is a rookie and he will make mistakes along the way.

Second-year middle linebacker Cie Grant has had some impressive moments, but gets bounced around by bigger blockers because of his lack of size and is constantly battling the injury bug.

There is no question that Grant has excellent speed and a "lower-the-boom" type of attitude. But I have a strong feeling he will continuously be down due to injuries.

While plenty has been written about the team’s depth along the defensive line, the same can be said about the offensive line. I have also been impressed with the play of backup running back Aaron Stecker, quarterback Todd Bouman, and there are several receivers with big-play capabilities.

I’ve covered this team for 20 years, and I can’t remember the Saints being this deep across the board.

I just wish they could add a playmaking outside linebacker and another quality starting cornerback to play opposite Fred Thomas.

Nathan Black.

Black, a receiver out of Northwestern State, has excellent hands and he is a very sure route-runner.

He looks like a more athletic and quicker version of former LSU and Saints wideout Brett Bech.

Black is still facing tough odds on making the 53-man roster, but he looks like a good bet for the developmental squad.

Howard Green.

The former LSU defensive tackle weighed around 340 pounds early in the year, but a strict diet and excellent training regime has Green weighing around 315 and with a real shot at seeing extensive playing time this season.

Green will never be much of a pass-rusher, but he is good at stuffing the run and clogging the inside.

He has really taken to new defensive line coach John Pease’s method and continues to improve with every practice. With Green’s development and the play of Rodney Leisle, a rookie defensive tackle out of UCLA, fourth-year defensive lineman Kenny Smith looks like a good bet to be on the trading block in the very near future.

Special mention should also go to defensive end Tony Bryant and cornerback Keyou Craver, both of whom are having good camps. Craver will miss a week with a sprained ankle. But before the injury, he was really making strides in his bid of getting back on Haslett’s good side.

Talman Gardner.

Last season, the second-year receiver from Florida State struggled catching the ball in practices and preseason games. But he looks like a much more confident player this year. Gardner has the size and big-play skills the coaching staff covets and looks to be on the verge of developing into a really good NFL player.

NFL analyst Mike Detillier is based in Raceland.

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