The New Orleans Saints were all over the place last season thanks to the suspensions handed down by the NFL in the bounty scandal. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entirety of the season, but he's back on the sidelines now. With Drew Brees at the helm, the Saints are always dangerous.
But it does seem like their window is closing, and losing Payton for a season didn't help things one bit. Fortunately, they've been making changes and not just trying to win with what they've got. There's been some coaching switches, and the defense in particular has seen something of an overhaul.
Rob Ryan takes over for Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. Ryan previously worked for the Dallas Cowboys and will bring his 3-4 defense with him. Ryan runs an aggressive defense that the Saints have been used to, but the team doesn't have many options along the defensive line, so that should be interesting.
Kenny Vaccaro was the team's first-round pick, and Ryan has to be very happy with that. He'll earn one of the starting safety jobs, and cornerback Keenan Lewis, a free-agent signing, should also find himself in a starting role. The biggest change outside of those additions is the loss of left tackle Jermon Bushrod, which leaves an opening for a position battle we'll talk about later.
Training camp location and schedule
The Saints will kick-off training camp on July 25, with the first practice being held on July 26. They'll wrap-up camp on Aug. 15. All but three practices will be open to the public. If you want to attend, get there early, because admission is given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A full schedule can be found below, via the team's official website, here (all times Central).
|Date||Event||Time||Location||Status For Fans|
|Thurs., July 25||Report Day||Metairie||Closed to Public|
|Fri., July 26||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Sat., July 27||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Sun., July 28||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Mon., July 29||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Tues., July 30||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Wed., July 31||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Thurs., Aug. 1||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Fri., Aug. 2||Practice||Closed||Metairie||Closed to Public|
|Sat., Aug. 3||Scrimmage||TBA||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Sun., Aug 4||
|Mon., Aug. 5||Practice||Closed||Metairie||Closed to Public|
|Tues., Aug. 6||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Wed., Aug. 7||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Thurs., Aug. 8||Practice||4:30-6:30 p.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Fri., Aug. 9||
|Sat., Aug. 10||
|Sun., Aug. 11||Practice||4:30-6:30 p.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Mon., Aug. 12||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Tues., Aug. 13||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Wed., Aug. 14||Practice||8:50-11:50 a.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
|Thurs., Aug. 15||Practice||4:30-6:30 p.m.||Metairie||Open to Public|
Left tackle: The biggest spot open right now is the left tackle spot. Previously held by Jermon Bushrod, the Saints will hope that one of Charles Brown, Jason Smith or Terron Armstead can win the job. Smith struggled after being a first-round pick for the St. Louis Rams, but he might have the inside track for the starting job with this change of scenery. Brown will likely give him the most competition, but he hasn't lived up to expectations either. Armstead has some good upside, but is very raw at this point.
Safety: Between Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, the team had a pair of starting safeties, but the Saints went ahead and drafted Kenny Vaccaro anyway. They didn't use a first-round pick on him to have him sit on the bench, so he'll take one of those jobs. Vaccaro might be a better free safety, though Jenkins is better than Harper at this point in their careers, so we might see Harper lose his starting job.
Defensive end: The Saints are shifting to a 3-4 defense, so it's hard to really pin down who are the defensive ends and who are the outside linebackers. That said, it looks like both starting-end spots will be up for grabs between some combination of Cameron Jordan, Kenyon Coleman, Akiem Hicks, Tom Johnson and Jay Richardson. It's likely that Jordan will earn one of the spots, with primarily Coleman and Hicks facing off for the other one.