Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
METAIRIE, La. ― A lot of talk this preseason has been about linebacker Martez Wilson, the Saints’ third-round pick out of Illinois.
But the more I’m out at practice – which actually will be coming to an end tomorrow as the Saints move camp to Oxnard, Calif. – the more seventh-round pick Nate Bussey, also out of Illinois, catches my eye.
Bussey has been working with the third-team at weakside linebacker behind Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has both praised him during practice and called him out for doing the wrong thing. But Williams is paying attention.
On Wednesday, during 7-on-7 drills, the juxtaposition of the two rookie linebackers stuck out.
With the first-team out working against the first-team offense, Bussey stood by Williams, turning to him after each call to inquire about the coach’s thoughts. Meanwhile, Wilson was away from Williams, watching the plays and occasionally asking another coach for answers.
Wilson obviously has the greater upside athletically. But Bussey appears to have more “want to,” as coaches say, and in this game, sometimes that’s enough.
Bussey might not make the 53-man roster; he likely won’t. But he’s a perfect candidate for the practice squad and could be a diamond-in-the-rough pick.
Pro Bowl right guard Jahri Evans missed practice with what Saints coach Sean Payton termed knee swelling. But Payton said it was precautionary and that Evans likely would return to practice Thursday and play in Saturday’s preseason game at Houston.
Fifteen others missed practice, including safety Malcolm Jenkins (right knee), receiver Courtney Roby (left elbow) and cornerback Tracy Porter (left knee), who was out with a scheduled off-day.
For a complete report, check out the story at WWLTV.com.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma found himself wrapped up in the scandal that has erupted at the University of Miami. He spoke with media briefly after practice.
About his reaction to the Yahoo! Sports article:
“Right now that’s really not a relevance. Right now I have to get ready for what we’re doing right now with the Saints, with my defense, making sure that we’re doing the right things defensively to get better. I can’t let any distractions get in the way of that. “
About other players admitting to the allegations:
“That’s their business. Leave it at that.”
About whether a photo with him is misleading:
“You can go back and forth with someone that’s in jail and try to explain yourself. I really don’t want to do that. That’s very unnecessary. I’ll leave it at that.”
This and that
*With Evans out, Matt Tennant and Brian de la Puente split snaps at right guard. Zach Strief and Charles Brown did not split the right tackle snaps, lending me to believe that the job is Strief’s to lose. I could be wrong. I have been before. Mitch King also was getting some snaps with the first team at defensive tackle.
*With Tory Humphrey injured, the tight end group was down a player so the Saints moved long snapper Kyle Nelson there. He played tight end in college at New Mexico State. Can’t imagine that means good things for him in regard to making the roster, though it does show versatility.
* Quarterback Sean Canfield is getting better. He has his oops moments – having the ball slip out of his hand Tuesday as he took his arm back to pass or tripping over the turf Wednesday - but he is making throws the past week that he never would have made last year. He has practice squad written all over him again, likely in New Orleans.
*Quarterback Drew Brees rebounded mostly on Wednesday from a poor Tuesday. Well, poor for him. Other than throwing the ball either off an offensive lineman or off of defensive end Will Smith’s hand, he was on target and led receivers perfectly.
* Paul Oliver was working at free safety Wednesday in place of Malcolm Jenkins, who was out. He didn’t stand out, which is not necessarily a bad thing because it means he didn’t get burned by bad coverage.
1st and 10: QB Drew Brees check down to RB Pierre Thomas middle
1st and 10: RB Mark Ingram right side, nice cut back through hidden hole for 10-plus yards
1st and 10: Brees to TE Jimmy Graham in front of LB Scott Shanle
1st and 10: Brees toll out right, hits WR Lance Moore
1st and 10: Brees would have been sacked by DE Will Smith
*QB Chase Daniel throws high to WR Adrian Arrington, who makes the high catch over S Pierson Prioleau as he’s falling backwards.
1st and 10: Brees to Moore over the middle with CB Patrick Robinson in coverage
1st and 10: Brees to TE David Thomas deep right with LB Jonathan Vilma in coverage
1st and 10: Brees to WR Devery Henderson with Robinson in near perfect coverage. Back shoulder throw was a great placement and great catch by Henderson.
1st and 10: Brees intercepted by CB Jabari Greer. Athletic play Greer to get to pass, which was intended for Henderson.
The Saints will go at it again Thursday, working from 4-6:30 p.m. inside. The practice is closed to the public.