METAIRIE, La. — For nearly 30 percent of the Saints roster, it would seem that organized team activities and the five minicamp practices aren’t very worthwhile.
After all, for the offensive and defensive linemen, very little is allowed.
But while positions aren’t won during this time of no touching, linemen certainly can get ahead.
“To say you can’t touch each other is a little bit of an understatement,” center Brian de la Puente said. “You’ve got to find a tempo and you have to work on your initial footwork, you initial pad level and your assignment. That’s really what you go off of.”
While strength and conditioning are certainly big parts of gauging how a lineman can do, footwork and knowing assignments are just as important.
That’s why OTAs and minicamp are important for these players. While few outside of the team will know who has an actual edge at left tackle, per se, the coaching staff and players will know behind closed doors who is operating like they’re supposed to be.
“I think you are able to see assignment-wise are they on the right guys?” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Are they going to the right spot? Are they on the right person?”
And then there’s a separate 18 percent of the roster who can benefit most from this period – the rookies, both drafted and undrafted.
None of those 17 players have ever been through an offseason like they’re going through now. It’s a perfect time for them to get acclimated to not just the speed of the game, but the mental portion of the game.
“Everybody’s fast,” receiver Kenny Still said. “It’s a fast game at this level. That’s kind of the first thing that I learned and saw.”
Meanwhile, Payton said his message to those youngsters in an NFL locker room for the first time was not to worry about a roster spot at this moment. Worry about getting ready for training camp.
“I’ve said to them in meetings though the positions and the rosters sports won’t be made until we get into pads,” Payton said. “That being said, everyone is trying to prepare themselves as best they can for when we are in pads and we are in training camp. That’s not only on the field, it’s in the weight room, too.”