The defenses of the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers will continue to be the topic of major conversation when it comes to the joint practices across the street from Lambeau Field. However, on Wednesday, while both offenses struggled for the majority of practice, some of the stars and big names found ways to show out. Here are our key takeaways from Wednesday’s joint practice with the Packers:
Biggest story: Stars on offense find ways to shine
While the Saints and Packers offenses both found themselves often stymied again on Wednesday, big names still found ways to make their impact. Rookie wide receiver Chris Olave had a standout day making several big catches, undrafted free agent (UDFA) tight end Lucas Krull did as well including a long fourth down conversions, running backs Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and Tony Jones Jr. each had highlight moments as well. Of course, watching wideout Michael Thomas and his progress is always a highlight as well. It was interesting to watch the offense as a whole struggle, especially as injuries began to set in, but big names and fan favorites still show out.
Play of the day: Lucas Krull hauls in and holds on
Usually in practices we don’t talk about big hits. But from time to time, they happen. On Wednesday, Krull was the recipient of a big and very unnecessary hit from a Packers defensive back. Quarterback Ian Book launched a pass over the middle as Krull crossed the middle of the field. Upon making the catch, he ran right into a Packers defender who put a lick on the big pass-catcher.
The impressive part what Krull’s ability to hold on to the ball despite the fact that he was not expecting the hit. It was practice after all. Krull had a standout day as referenced earlier, including a touchdown pass from Andy Dalton. But this catch and maintaining possession through contact shows a lot to like from the UDFA.
Chris Olave is balling
When a team invests highly in a draft selection like the Saints did with the Ohio State receiver, you hope for performances like you’ve seen from Olave. His speed is incredible on the field, his route-running and footwork are mesmerizing. The guys is the real deal, simply put.
Wednesday he made some clutch catches in the team’s two-minute drill simulation and drew a defensive pass interference penalty in the back of the end zone during red zone drills. He also continues to find ways to work his way open with his explosiveness in and out of breaks at the tops or his routes. Wednesday may have been one of his best practices so far as a Saint even though there weren’t any dazzling 60-yard touchdowns. That’s a great sign for the rookie. His value to New Orleans is shaping up to be much more than that of a lone role as field stretcher.
Michael Thomas check: Internal competitiveness is clear
Everyone we talk to says that Thomas is back to his old ways as a dominant pass catcher and record-breaking receiver. We see it on the field each an every day, the evidence that confirms the claims. But to Thomas, he still has work to do. It’s the type of attitude that makes elite players. Internal competition. Sure, he looks great. He’s clearly going to be ready Week 1 if all continues to trend as it is. But for Thomas, that’s not enough. The All-Pro wideout wants to get better every day and it’s hard to argue that he isn’t doing exactly that. Thomas though has a higher standard for himself, one based on a bar that he’ll continue to raise.
Saints defense: Still dominant, but variance is key
What I’ve loved about watching the Saints defense in Green Bay is the variety of players making plays. You certainly have your stars: Paulson Adebo, Demario Davis and Cameron Jordan are easy examples. But what’s been special about this defense are the number of players that have stand out moments. One day it might be safety Justin Evans, another it’s interior defensive lineman Malcolm Roach and another it’s safety Marcus Maye. The latter two had great moments on Wednesday, a sack to end the Aaron Rodger-led two-minute drill by Roach and an interception early in team drills by Maye.
It means a lot to see different names pop up each day making plays along the defense. That’s what happened for linebacker Chase Hansen against the Houston Texans last week and now it’s hard to leave him off of roster projections. The talent on defense is deep in New Orleans.
Another reunion on the way?
The Saints recently brought back defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson after waiving him last week. Now, he’s been sent to injured reserve after missing Wednesday’s practice. Meanwhile, former New Orleans interior defensive lineman Malcom Brown has been waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Saints traded Brown to the Jaguars and he went on to start every game for them in 2021. Could New Orleans potentially look to bring the defensive lineman back to the Big Easy? It would certainly help them fill the Malcom Brown-sized hole on the defensive line rotation since they had to trade him away.
Trevor Penning update: Battling through a wealth of snaps
The Saints fanbase likely held its breath as reports shot out from camp that Penning had walked off the practice field with training staff on Wednesday. But a sigh of relief quickly followed as he went back out on the field. The issue though was that tackles James Hurst (foot) and Sage Doxtator (unknown) also left with apparent injuries.
That meant that UDFA Lewis Kidd and Penning got a lot of reps at tackle. Penning held down left tackle responsibilities while Kidd stood in on the right side. Both had up and down moments with the wealth of snaps they were given, but head coach Dennis Allen appreciated first and foremost their ability to battle through the amount of work they were handed.
Jameis Winston update: Don't expect to see him on Friday
While Winston was present both days of joint practices with the Packers, he did not participate in any team drills. He did throw more passes on Wednesday going through walk throughs and routes and on air, but he did not fully participate for the length of either practice. When Allen was asked if Winston would see game action during Friday’s preseason matchup he was quick to answer, “No. I don’t think so.” So, don’t expect to see Winston on the field Friday. But it does not seem that this is any indication of a bigger than expected issue. Makes sense to protect your most valuable asset at the most important position on the field ahead of the regular season’s Week 1.
Player we did not see during today’s practice:
LB Pete Werner
RT Ryan Ramczyk
OL Forrest Lamp
DT Jaleel Johnson (IR)
Players that were present but did not participate:
QB Jameis Winston
RB Dwayne Washington
LB Chase Hansen
OT Landon Young
LG Andrus Peat
Aside from Winston, the players present but not participating may have just been given light days. Werner’s continued absence is still concerning. Allen highlighted the play of Werner, Davis, and Kaden Elliss as being the players that the team seems most certain of at the position. Behind them, they’re trying to figure out what they’ve got. But veteran players like Hansen, Jon Bostic, and Eric Wilson have been playing well enough to feel good about what the Saints can field at the position on Friday.
The tackle position took the biggest beating on Wednesday. with Ramczyk and Allen out, Hurst, Doxtator, and Penning all ended up leaving practice at different points throughout the day with apparent injuries. Penning made it back out eventually. The Saints claimed Derrick Kelly off of waivers to help add to the position, something I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of depending on the prognosis of their tackles. Per NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill, early indications are that Hurst’s injury is not of major concern.
Other practice notes: Kaden Elliss receiving high praise
Allen spoke about the linebacker position being once that’s unique. Describing their veteran leader Davis as “proven” and expressing excitement about Werner’s early development as well. But the other linebacker Allen highlighted was Elliss. He said that the former Idaho Vandal “has made strides” over his time with the team. Particularly in the coverage game. Allen said that Elliss’ off-ball game has taken a step forward, that he’s moved very well and might have the “best hands on the team” when it comes to shedding blockers. High praise for the young linebacker on unit looking for impact players.
Davis spoke about the split focus that goes into join practices like these. Yes, the team is preparing for their upcoming preseason matchup with the Packers. But they’re also keeping their eyes on the regular season. “Staying steps ahead” is a focus for Davis and his defense.
Davis also gave a lot of praise to the defensive line. “Our unit doesn’t move without the d-line,” he said while expressing the value of Marcus Davenport and other defenders on the line. The team has always been one that believes games are won in the trenches. It’s clear that mentality remains consistent.