By Mark Robinson
The New Orleans Saints have used their two weeks in White Sulphur Springs to prepare for the 2016 season of the National Football League, and the next step happened Thursday evening, Aug. 11, when they played the New England Patriots in Foxboro, MA. The team was scheduled to practice two days with the Patriots before the game, then travel back to White Sulphur the day after the game. Practices at the Greenbrier Sports Complex resume Saturday, Aug. 13.
The roster has named about 90 players through camp, but that number will be reduced to 75, and then on down to 53 by the time the season begins in September. Three quarterbacks have taken reps throughout camp, starter Drew Brees, backup Luke McCown, and third-year player Garrett Grayson.
The quarterbacks are throwing to a corps of receivers that includes last year’s starters, Willie Snead, Brandin Cooks, and Brandon Coleman. Others fighting for a slot on the team and for time on the field are rookie Michael Thomas, R.J. Thomas, Reggie Bell, Jared Dangerfield, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Tommylee Lewis, and Jake Lampman.
Cooks is the veteran of the group, playing in his third season, though he is only 22. Last season he caught 84 balls for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns, putting him among the elite receivers in the league. In Wednesday morning’s practice in New England, Cooks burned the Patriots best cornerback Malcolm Butler for several nice catches, including a go route for a touchdown. After practice, Butler commented about Cooks, “He can run fast, he can stop on a dime, he’s strong. He’s got it all.”
Michael Thomas is a rookie out of Ohio State, a second round draft pick. Williams-Lambert is a rookie out of Ball State, Lewis a rookie out of Northern Illinois, and Lampman a rookie out of Ferris State. R.J. Harris and Reggie Bell are in their second year, and Willie Snead is in his third year.
In a few weeks, some of these players will be cut, and the others will have sorted themselves into the depth chart. If they play like they did last year, they will produce a lot of yards, and a lot of touchdowns.