Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
*Correction in this and that. Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas are running weakside linebacker while Will Herring, Danny Clark and Martez Wilson are running strongside. I wrote it backwards on accident.
METAIRIE, La. ― For much of the past two weeks, our inbox at Handwerger Headquarters has been filled with questions or statements about fullback Heath Evans.
The man is a fan-favorite, having been an integral part to the early-season success the Saints’ offense had in 2009, the Super Bowl season.
He was a fantastic mentor for younger running backs in his two years with the Saints. He was good for the community. He was a quality ambassador for the Saints.
But he’s also not back with the Saints for a reason.
The Saints targeted free agent Korey Hall immediately, making him the first free agent who wasn’t a Saint to sign with New Orleans. Jed Collins was with the team on the practice squad at the end of last season. And they brought in Kolby Hurt, an undrafted rookie free agent from Missouri State.
Hall, though, is the guy. He blocks well and, maybe just as importantly, he gives the Saints a strong presence on special teams, a part of the game Saints coaches weren’t happy with last season.
And if you don’t believe me, believe Saints coach Sean Payton.
“We are three deep right now and we are comfortable with that depth and who’s here right now,” Payton said Sunday. “I don’t expect us, anytime soon, to look outside the building.”
For the first time in more than a week, there were no transactions. And I think that means only that general manager Mickey Loomis is getting a fresh of air before diving back into this crazy free agency period.
For the third consecutive day, receiver Marques Colston missed practice as he continues to rest his right knee, which he had surgery on early in the offseason.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Mitch King, a free agent the Saints signed early in the free agency period, missed for the second day in a row with what Payton termed “heart-chest.” Eventually asked about what “heart” meant, Payton explained that King suffers from something called atrial fibrillation, which is an arrhythmia of the heart. Payton said King will be OK.
Running back Chris Ivory (left foot, sports hernia), cornerback Tracy Porter (left knee) and defensive end Greg Romeus (right knee) all remain on the failed physical list. They are still allowed to go to the physically unable to perform list as long as none practice during the preseason.
Porter, however, is expected to be back by either the Houston preseason game on Aug. 20 or the Monday after, Payton said.
Others missing: linebacker Ezra Butler (left hamstring), receiver Jarred Fayson (left ankle), Arrington (ankle), cornerback Fabian Washington (hamstring) and offensive tackle Alex Barron (left knee). Additionally, linebacker Ramon Humber (quadriceps) and cornerback Johnny Patrick (wrist) didn’t finish practice. Patrick tweeted late Sunday night that he was OK and wouldn’t miss any practice time.
I know we’ve waxed poetic about young running back Mark Ingram. And we’ll likely do it again.
That’s because the guy is legit.
I’m hesitant to call anyone great, especially so early in training camp; we’re only 10 days and nine practices into the 2011 preseason and really, what is great?
So I’m not going to say that Ingram is great. What I am going to say is that every time I’m watching him during practice thus far, he’s making an eye-popping cut or he’s physically running over someone or he’s outrunning people.
The Saints have been missing his running style. Sure, Pierre Thomas can run between the tackles and Chris Ivory has tremendous ability there too.
But no one on the roster possesses the power and athleticism that Ingram appears to be bringing to the backfield.
Take his 50-yard touchdown run in Sunday’s practice.
He took the handoff and was supposed to go off tackle. But the hole was plugged so he cut back, darted into the secondary and then outraced free safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Patrick Robinson to the end zone.
This and that
*The Saints will lead the league in backside yards gained. Running back Darren Sproles and Ingram have the cutback down pat. Might as well let the beefy offensive line clear out the defensive line and give room on the backside.
*Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb was back working with the first-team offense after plying his trade with the second unit on Saturday. Not a huge surprise.
*Jonathan Vilma is the only linebacker with a position set. Everyone else is battling for two spots. Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas are fighting for the weakside linebacker spot while Will Herring, Danny Clark and Martez Wilson are all going after strongside. My bet, right now, is that we see Shanle and Herring get first dibs.
*Kicker Garrett Hartley went 5 of 6 on Saturday, missing a 33-yard kick from the right hash wide left. It was his first miss left in the past four days. He’s 26 of 30 the past four days.
*Talked with punter Thomas Morstead after practice. Don’t expect him to go tackle anyone on a punt return or kickoff this year during preseason. He has been warned by higher ups. That said, Morstead also won’t have to worry about teammates harassing him should he let a returner get past him. He earned his stripes on the first punt of preseason in 2010 when he dislocated his shoulder against New England.
*Tight end Jimmy Graham still has a bright future, but Sunday was not one of his better days. He dropped several passes in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills that were in his hands.
*Undrafted rookie free agents John Chiles and Joe Morgan continue to impress at receiver. Chiles, though, had the play of the day, coming up with a catch of cornerback Mark Parson while falling backwards.
*I think Payton is having a hard time showing how much he loves the acquisition of running back Darren Sproles when asked about the 5-foot-6 speedster.
*I’m calling it now: receiver Adrian Arrington will not be on this team come Sept. 3 and the cut-down to the 53-man roster. You gotta get on the field to even have a chance. He hasn’t stayed healthy since signing with the Saints in 2008.
1st and 10: QB Drew Brees to TE Jimmy Graham for 10-plus yards; SS Roman Harper on coverage
1st and 10: RB Mark Ingram makes nice cutback, sliding past defenders for 10-15 yards.
1st and 10: RB Darren Sproles toss sweep left, cuts through a hole for 12-15 yards.
1st and 10: Brees swing pass to RB Pierre Thomas for 11-13 yards. Thomas showed the quickness and tight-roping that has made him a threat in the screen game in his career.
1st and 10: (DT Tom Johnson, DE Junior Galette, CB Johnny Patrick at the nickel) Ingram cuts back at tackle, darts through a hole and outruns FS Malcolm Jenkins and CB Patrick Robinson to the front left pylon for a 50-yard touchdown.
3rd and 2: Brees to WR Lance Moore over the middle with WLB Will Herring in tight coverage; well-placed pass for 25-plus yards.
3rd and 3: Brees to WR Devery Henderson in front of CB Jabari Greer for 10-plus yards
3rdand 7: Brees to Moore for 10 yards
3rd and 9: Brees to Henderson in front of Patrick; pass dropped for incompletion
3rd and 5: Brees over the top swing pass to Thomas for 15-plus yards
3rd and 7: Brees to Graham for 5-7 yards
3rd and 9: Brees to WR Robert Meachem
3rd and 10: Brees to TE David Thomas right for 5-plus yards
The Saints will have Monday off. Practice resumes Tuesday afternoon from 4-6:45 p.m. It’s outdoors and open to the public, weather permitting.