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New Orleans Saints fans will get their first look at the black and gold on Wednesday when the team opens its Metairie practice facility to the public (well, those with tickets) for a minicamp practice session. It’s a great opportunity to scout the new players and check up on those returning from injuries and rough 2021 campaigns — and, yeah, the perfect time for fans to snag autographs and selfies with their favorite players.
There’s going to be a lot going on when the Saints take the field at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 15. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
Can Jarvis Landry keep up the momentum?
Few free agent pickups have made a stronger impression in practices open to the media than Landry, whose exploits have included one-handed receptions deep downfield and flipping into the end zone after securing a loose ball that got tipped on its way to him. He’s stepped up as the elder statesman of the receiving corps while Michael Thomas continues to recover from injury, and more strong play over the summer could set him up for a big year once the regular season starts.
Will Michael Thomas make an appearance?
Mike Thomas is watching practice in uniform
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) June 14, 2022
Thomas has been receiving treatment at the team practice facility and working on his own with the training staff to recover from a series of surgeries stemming from his complicated ankle surgery back in 2020, but he joined his teammates on the sidelines in the final stretch of Tuesday’s practice session as an observer. That’s already more than fans saw from him throughout the 2021 season. It isn’t much, but it’s a step in the right direction. The plan is for him to participate in training camp in late July; let’s see if that holds true.
Where do all the different safeties line up?
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) June 14, 2022
If all goes according to plan Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are going to play a ton of snaps for the Saints this year — but who lines up where? None of them possess the range Marcus Williams brought to the table, and which Dennis Allen built his secondary around, but the decisions to sign Mathieu and Maye in free agency show us he’s willing to make changes. That likely means more two-high looks, more Cover 3, and maybe more alignments for Gardner-Johnson than the slot coverage we’ve come to expect from him. Seeing how these different pieces mesh together should be fascinating.
Which of the tight ends can stand out?
Juwan Johnson is heading into Year 2 as a TE. He says he’s feeling a lot more confident in his role this time around, and he’s bulked up to 250 pounds to help be more effective in the run game (he was playing at 235 last year). #Saints
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) June 14, 2022
Taysom Hill is still on the mend after shifting his focus to tight end earlier this offseason, which isn’t surprising: he finished the 2021 season with serious injuries to both feet (including a Lisfranc break in his left and partially-torn plantar fascia in his right), mallet finger in his throwing hand, and, let’s not overlook this, a monthlong absence with a concussion that gave him some memory loss. His contract and past usage ensures he’ll have a role once healthy, but in the meantime the Saints need some players to step up. You’d hope that means Adam Trautman finally hits his stride, but Juwan Johnson has also been training for this. And undrafted rookie Lucas Krull has drawn some attention early on, too. It’ll take more than Nick Vannett to make this unit a strength.
How does Jameis Winston look?
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) June 14, 2022
We know it’s a work in progress — Winston is still recovering from a complex knee injury which tore his ACL and damaged his MCL, and he’s been noted to have a hitch in his step while wearing a bulky leg brace. Nothing is unusual about that, and the expectation is that he’ll progress a long way come training camp. In the meantime, we’ll be watching to see how well he and Alvin Kamara are linking up (10 of Kamara’s 25 receptions in the first six weeks with Winston came in one game), and whether he’s able to push the ball downfield with much consistency. It’s worth noting that Winston has been held out of 11-on-11 drills to this point, as has Marcus Maye (who is recovering from a torn Achilles).