Since the first day of New Orleans Saints training camp, wide receiver Michael Thomas has been the center of attention. After a little bit of a respite from the spotlight with the return of safety Tyrann Mathieu, the trend continues. Thomas took a sizable step forward in today’s camp, as did Mathieu, in front of hometown fans. Here are our key takeaways from the Saints’ ninth practice day:
Biggest story: Michael Thomas looks good
Thomas took his first reps in 1-on-1’s today and got involved in 7-on7’s for the second time, first in pads. This was a huge step forward for Thomas and his practice participation thus far. After the day of outdoor work that enjoyed a little bit of rain, head coach Dennis Allen explained that they feel Thomas is closer to get involved in team drills.
That would be a welcome sight for the team, of course, but we have to imagine that is a goal in Thomas’ mind as well. As a premier competitor, it makes sense that it may be more of a challenge just keeping him off the field. This will be a major story to continue to keep an eye on throughout the coming days.
Thomas’s participation in showed a lot of promise. He caught a touchdown in 7-on-7’s at the near pylon, in typical Michael Thomas fashion. But in particular his first 1-on-1 rep brought excitement as the play of the day.
Play of the day: Michael Thomas' first 1-on-1 rep
Michael Thomas just went 2-0 against camp star Paulson Adebo. Great routes, violent cuts, and great hands. Both passes from Jameis Winston.
— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) August 5, 2022
You could feel the anticipation as Thomas lined up across from camp star, cornerback Paulson Adebo. Fans cheered Thomas on before the rep, but the eruption as he broke his route to the outside and made a sideline catch in the back of the end zone was unmatched.
For the rep, Thomas released pushing up the field and inside, broke down and pivoted to the outside, sprinting for the back pylon. A perfectly placed pass by Jameis Winston allowed the receiver to maximize the separation he created on camp’s best corner.
On top of the promising nature of Thomas’ trust in his body with violent cuts and smooth route-running, the connection between he and Winston is of the utmost importance. The two haven’t seen game action together since Winston went into a 2020 game for a half against the San Francisco 49ers after Drew Brees was hurt. Seeing them get on the same page this quickly is massively important for their success in 2022.
Tyrann Mathieu's progress: 7-on-7 participation
Thomas was not the only Saints superstar to progress in his status today. Mathieu returned to the Saints following his excused absence on Wednesday of this week. Since then we’ve seen him get more and more involved throughout practice each day.
Today, that trend continued as he took his first 7-on-7 reps. Doing so in pads. The Saints were working red zone drills on Friday, a situation that a defense needs the communication and experience of their starting safety. While it might have been a little bit of a “deep end” experience for other safeties around the NFL, Mathieu looked comfortable and moved well.
There were no moments of what looked like miscommunication or confusion. Mathieu even took some reps with the second team as well as the first. It’s good to see him continue to progress, much like Thomas. Hopefully we’ll be seeing both of them in team drills sometime next week. Though no timeline has been given.
Don't forget: Payton Turner keeps flashing
We have done a lot of talking about Adebo, Thomas, and Mathieu this week, and may have forgotten about the great camp 2021 first-round selection Turner has been having. It doesn’t help that he missed some practice early in the week either, but now that he’s been back out on the field two days in a row, he’s hard to miss.
He won a couple of pass rushing reps today that would have at least ended in flushing the quarterback out of the picket, perhaps even a sack or two. But he has also continued to provide steady play in the run game as well. Turner is having a great camp so far, good to see him back out there to help keep it up.
New face: Kiko Alonso gets meaningful reps
Kiko Alonso and his remarkable lettuce
— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) August 5, 2022
The newly-signed linebacker took no time getting in the mix this week. Alonso, who hasn’t taken an NFL snap since the 2019 season following an ACL tear in the Saints playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings, took snaps with the first-team defense during walkthroughs and spent some time working in various units throughout practice.
Rookie linebacker D’Marco Jackson was again out today, his second day in a row. Having Alonso in the building helps to keep the numbers where they need to be for practice. But his familiarity and comfort with the system is not lost on Allen, who complimented the linebacker’s knowledge of the defensive scheme and physical readiness to be back on a football field.
Attendance: No Marshon Lattimore
Players we did not see at today’s practice:
TE Taysom Hill (sidework)
DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson
CB Marshon Lattimore
DB Dylan Mabin
S Smoke Monday (IR)
LB D’Marco Jackson
OT Jerald Hawkins
WR/RS Rashid Shaheed (sidework)
DT Jaleel Johnson
DE Marcus Davenport
It looked like a light day for S Marcus Maye, but the standout takeaway in the secondary was the glaring absence of No. 23. Lattimore left the field early with a trainer in Thursday’s practice. While it didn’t look serious, it was reasonable to expect that he would not be present the day after. One can assume he’s unlikely to be out there on Saturday either before the day off, but time will tell. Losing Lattimore for any regular season games, considering the wide receiver talent the Saints are up against this year, would be of great detriment.
Per John Hendrix of Saints News Network, safety Smoke Monday has been placed on injured reserve. This was the fear from the very beginning. The talented UDFA safety will have to wait until 2023 after he’s healed up to get a run at the Saints roster, an opportunity he should get.
Hill and Shaheed continued working off to the side as they have the last couple of days.