METAIRIE, La. – When the New Orleans Saints released their training camp schedule, the one thing that stood out more than any other was the lack of two-a-days.
Thanks to the collective bargaining agreement last year, padded, full-contact two-a-days are a thing of the past and the Saints responded by scheduling all afternoon practices. But while that’s nice for the players, it’s harder for the coaches to install a new defense and get a full view on rookies.
At least, that’s conventional wisdom.
According to acting Saints head coach Joe Vitt, that’s not necessarily true.
“This is the fourth install,” Vitt said. “So is there going to be a learning curve? Are there going to be mistakes? Absolutely. That’s why we have a job as coaches. But this has been well prepared during the offseason. It’s been well addressed.”
The defense has gone three other installations of new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense – once when players got playbooks, once at the beginning of organized team activities and once at minicamp.
Safety Roman Harper said that while on-the-field drills will be down, there will be more classroom sessions, which could help.
The defense will learn the plays in the morning, go through it in a walk-through afterward and then go through it full-speed in the afternoon practice.
“Think that’s how you have to go out there and learn it,” Harper said. “So we’ll actually be learning it two or three times every time we go out there.”
Still, with fewer padded practices and fewer practices altogether, you’d expect the rookies to get shortchanged.
Vitt said that’s not so.
“We have always assessed our rookies and first year players and that come new to the program really based on their game performance and that is not going to change,” Vitt said.
He added, “Really you are still going to evaluate your rookies and young players based on how they play in these preseason games. How they handle the pressure and how they handle the install or how they handle the speed and formation recognition and all those things. That is not going to change.”