Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. ― If you’re one of the Saints coaches, you likely never know what's going to happen when you see a pass going to Jimmy Graham.
You absolutely have no idea what you’re going to get. But we’ve got to remember he’s only in his second season in the NFL and played only one year of college football.
And yet, you see how he ended team drills Wednesday and realize that the good is way more worth remembering than the bad.
The Saints were in second-and-10 at the 11 with 1 second left in the two-minute drill. Quarterback Drew Brees scrambled to his left, buying time as the buzzer rang.
Brees spotted Graham in the end with cornerback Patrick Robinson in coverage and lofted a pass toward the end zone.
Graham leapt high, with Robinson tumbling to the ground beneath him and nickel back Leigh Torrence behind him. He clutched the ball, coming down in the end zone for a touchdown and adding a highlight, albeit in practice, to his reel.
Graham emphatically spiked the ball even as the defensive backs claimed that the tight end came down out of bounds.
“I’m just hoping that the DB coach sees that on film tonight and can rehash those memories again,” Graham said afterward.
So, sure, he has dropped easy passes throughout camp. But he also has come through with some acrobatic and athletic catches this camp that whet the appetite for what is assuredly a standout career.
The Saints cut veteran linebacker Danny Clark to make room for offensive tackle Jordan Black, who was signed Wednesday. Black gives the Saints depth at tackle while right tackle Jon Stinchcomb rests his left leg, which he had surgery on in the offseason.
Eleven players missed practice, including receiver Marques Colston and Stinchcomb. Colston missed his fifth straight practice while Stinchcomb sat out his second in a row.
For a complete report, check out the story at WWLTV.com.
Kicker Garrett Hartley spent much of last season trying to live down his missed 29-yard field goal in New Orleans’ third game against Atlanta. It ended up costing the Saints the game.
But he came back and had a good season, going 20 of 25 while hitting all 40 extra points. He signed a five-year contract before the lockout began.
And yet, you get the impression that the coaching staff isn’t going to let the preseason finish without making sure Hartley is confident from inside 40 yards.
In 2010, Hartley was 28 of 33 from between 20-39 yards, but 12 of 13 from beyond 40.
Thus far into practice, of the days I’ve charted Hartley’s kicks, he has attempted 31 field goals from between 20-39 yards. He has taken only three from 40 yards or farther.
Something tells me this isn’t being done on accident.
This and that
*Punter Thomas Morstead has been practicing end-over-end punts a lot more this year from about 50 yards and in than I can remember. Not sure the significance of this but it sticks out in my mind that this is an important thing.
*Cornerback Leigh Torrence had a standout practice Wednesday. It’ll be interesting to see the battle at nickel back when Tracy Porter comes back to the lineup. Cornerback Patrick Robinson has been having a good camp, as well, and could be utilized at nickel.
*Keep an eye out for right tackle Jon Stinchcomb. He had offseason surgery to repair his left quadriceps, which he tore against Cleveland on Oct. 24, 2010. He has missed the past two days. The Saints have signed three tackles in the past week, including on Wednesday Jordan Black, who started the final nine games for Jacksonville in 2010.
*Linebacker Jonathan Casillas still knows how to bring the wood as the kids says. During 7-on-7 drills, Graham caught a pass and turned up-field. But he met Casillas, who knocked Graham to the ground like the tight end was all of 120 pounds. Hit of the day in a non-contact practice.
1st and 10 @ -20: QB Drew Brees to RB Darren Sproles underneath left, dropped
2nd and 10 @ -20: Brees to Sproles left; interference by LB Scott Shanle (first down)
1st and 10 @ -25: Brees to TE Jimmy Graham for 12 (first down)
1st and 10 @ -37: Brees to WR Lance Moore right, CB Leigh Torrence breaks up
2nd and 10 @ -37: Brees darts a ball to Graham with SS Roman Harper in coverage. Great pass, great catch, good coverage. 21 yards (first down)
1st and 10 @ +42: Brees scrambles for 16 (first down) [timeout]
1st and 10 @ +26: Brees to WR Robert Meachem for 8
2nd and 2 @ +18: Brees’ pass batted by DE Alex Brown into Brees’ hands, runs for 7 (first down)
1st and 10 @ +11: Brees incomplete in end zone to Graham, broken up by Torrence
2nd and 10 @ +11 (1 second remaining): Brees scrambles to his left, lofts pass to Graham, who jumps over CB Patrick Robinson and in front of Torrence for 11-yard touchdown.
The Saints will go Thursday afternoon in the indoor facility. It’s not open to the public.