Secondary depth an issue until free agents report to camp

Secondary depth an issue until free agents report to camp

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas (23) runs away from safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) during NFL football training camp at the team's NFL practice facility, Friday, July 29, 2011, in Metairie, La. This is the Saints first practice session.

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 30, 2011 at 8:44 AM

Updated Saturday, Jul 30 at 8:46 AM

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer

METAIRIE, La.  ― Malcolm Jenkins looked to his side Friday and saw No. 46, not No. 41.

DeAndre McDaniel, not Roman Harper.

He looked to his right and saw Patrick Robinson, not Tracy Porter.

And then he looked to the sideline, where he saw first-year secondary coach Tony Oden, not Dennis Allen, who left to become Denver’s defensive coordinator.

Only to his left, where Jabari Greer was holding the job at cornerback, was there any semblance of normalcy for Jenkins.

“Yeah, it’s a little weird,” Jenkins said. “I’ve got a rookie next to me and I’ve got to make sure he gets lined up and I’m still knocking the rust off a little bit. But that was anticipated with how the whole CBA worked out.

“Right now we’re just looking forward to getting the young guys some reps, get them acclimated and later next week when we get our guys back in, we’ll be back to normal.”

When Jenkins talks about getting “our guys back in,” he now includes strong safety Roman Harper, who agreed to terms with the Saints on Friday night.

If you don’t think Jenkins thinks that a big deal, you obviously don’t follow him on Twitter.

Soon after the agreement broke, Jenkins tweeted, “So glad to have my partner in crime @Harp41 back with us... now im really ready to get it in! Who Dat nation should be as excited as me!!”

Oden likely also looks forward to the expected arrival of veteran free agents late next week.

His job was made more difficult thanks to the lockout. Oden was promoted to secondary coach after the lockout began and had no ability to contact any of his players. And once the lockout ended, all but Jenkins, Greer, Porter and Robinson were unrestricted free agents.

Friday was his first day in charge of the defensive backs and he was working with a group that included undrafted rookie free agents McDaniel, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Josh Gatlin along with draft pick Johnny Patrick. None had ever practiced with a professional team before.

“It was very, very interesting,” Oden said. “It’s challenging.”

Still, at least for Patrick, this summer’s workout sessions at Tulane paid off handsomely.

Oden noticed how far ahead the rookie was when practice started.

“He knew the verbage,” Oden said. “He knew all the calls.  He knew the communication already based on things we did last year. … He already knew to talk the same language.  He already knew what we called our personnel groups. He knew what we called our defenses and some of our checks. It was a big difference.”

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