Today the Saints will experience the "Black and Gold scrimmage", which is of course the yearly traditional inter squad simulated game during training camp. The best part of this action is it will really put the lines to the test, as they get a real chance to collide with pads, and it will put live tackling to the test. The team has gotten a little taste of that, but to this point training camp has been more about installs, running, physical fitness, and pitch/catch/coverage. This will feel more like a live game, and here are five things I'm looking for:
1. Is Charles Brown adequate?
Left tackle remains the question mark of this roster, along with the entire defensive side of the ball. And so far, Charles Brown seems to have a strangehold over the starting spot. Jason Smith has been a disaster and Terron Armstead is still learning. So the job seems like Brown's by heads and shoulders to this point. That doesn't mean he'll be good, though. I'm looking forward to seeing how he fares. Flying colors would be nice, but I'll settle for adequate.
2. Is Will Smith adequate?
Like Brown, the idea of Will Smith starting at a new position where he actually has to run and cover is frightening. I'm curious how he holds up and if he'll have any impact from outside linebacker. I remain skeptical, so I'd like him to show me something. Everyone is raving about his weight and adjustments so far, but I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid until I see it in live games.
3. How does Ryan Griffin fare?
The quarterback from Tulane has really turned some heads with his performance lately and he's closing the gap with the veterans much more than anticipated. I'm still doubtful he wins the backup job as a rookie, but his grasp of the offense and improvement has been impressive. He's making a lot of plays out there. With Seneca Wallace banged up and likely sitting out this game, Griffin should see a lot of snaps. With so many opportunities it will be interesting to see what he does. If he continues to perform at a high level the coaching staff can't ingore the possibility that he just might be ready to step in to the backup spot earlier than we all expected.
4. How does the defense tackle?
Under the new CBA there's been no more two-a-days and a lot less practices with full pads. That means less injuries, thankfully, but also a lot less live tackling in practice. There's a reason offenses are putting up record numbers like never before in this day's NFL. New rules to protect passers, rules to protect defenseless receivers, teams passing more and the lack of reps tackling all add up to more points, more big plays, and more bad defense. We are all too familiar with that after the s#$%show experienced last season. Any improvement is going to start with tackling, though, something the Saints were positively miserable at last season. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram will make that task difficult, too, so it'll be a good test.
5. Who will be the surprise player that makes a roster case?
You know someone will step up and surprise us. Could be Rod Sweeting, could be Tyrunn Walker again, could be Eric Martin, or some guy even less predictable What I do know is this happens every year, and I'm excited to see someone we don't expect possibly becoming a prominent role player on the team.