Beyond The Mic: 4 Biggest Saints Training Camp Storylines
New Orleans Saints training camp is a few days away, giving fans and analysts an opportunity to lull over how a player looks in practice, have nightmares about injuries and over analyze anything and everything.
These 4 stories will draw major headlines throughout camp.
1. ADRIAN PETERSON
"It's going to be weird," said Minnesota Vikings play by play man Paul Allen. "He's one of the greatest to ever play the game. It'll be odd to call a game with him on the opponent's team."
Allen joined my show last week, sharing his belief that Peterson still has plenty left in the tank, expecting to see it on full display week 1 of the regular season when New Orleans opens the season on Monday night football at Minnesota.
Peterson isn't the biggest key to the Saints success in 2017, but he's undoubtedly the biggest storyline at camp. The 2012 NFL MVP is coming off a knee injury that limited him to only 3 games last year.
How much does the 32 year old have left in the tank? Saints fans would love to know. Whether he looks dominant with his cuts in camp, or sits out a practice with a hangnail, the Who Dat nation will be dissecting his every move.
2. THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Look up the best seasons in Saints franchise history, and they all have one thing in common. A dominant offensive line.
Heading into camp, the big boys in the offensive trenches look far from dominant. When healthy, left tackle Terron Armstead is one of the most talented offensive lineman in the world. Problem is, the "when healthy" is now the most used phrase from New Orleans fans when discussing Armstead. He ended last season on injured reserve. Returning for minicamp this summer, he tore his labrum, forcing him to undergo surgery last month. The full recovery times ranges from 4 to 6 months. He begins came on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.
Who takes over at LT? Rookie Ryan Ramcyk was selected by the Saints with the last pick in the 1st round (32nd overall). He's been limited all offseason due to hip surgery, but he's expected to be full healthy for camp. Can he handle it? If not, New Orleans may be forced to move former first round pick Andrus Peat from left guard to left tackle, or go with an old veteran in Khalif Barnes. None of the options comes close to what a "when healthy" Armstead brings to the table.
Another question mark on the O-Line is the status of standout center Max Unger, who is also on the PUP list. After undergoing foot surgery in May, several reports suggest he would miss up to 5 months. However, coach Sean Payton expects him back by week 3 of the preseason.
With more questions than answers on the offensive line, a unit that generally prefers to be under the radar will be under a microscope at training camp.
3. THE LINEBACKER REALITY SHOW
Reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother and MTV's The Challenge (I still watch it...don't judge me) are similar to NFL training camp. Competitors are put through physical and mental challenges, all fighting to make it to the end and receive a payday. In training camp, the payday is making the 53 man roster.
No position is more of a wild card in terms of "who makes the cut" this training camp than linebacker.
In 2015, then rookie linebacker Stephone Anthony led the team in tackles, showing a promising start to a career Saints fans expected to reach greater heights. Now in 2017, he's fighting to make the roster.
Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is a difference maker when on the field, but has spent the majority of his two seasons with the Saints rehabbing from injuries. Similar to last year at this time, Ellerbe begins camp on the PUP list.
Newly signed Manti Te'o (obligatory Catfish reality show reference) proved to be valuable in San Diego, playing his best when new Saints LB coach Mike Nolan was coaching him. However, like Ellerbe, remaining healthy has been an issue.
Michael Mauti, a former special teams captain for New Orleans, re-signed with the club today.
Throw into the mix newly signed A.J. Klein, special team standout and versatile linebacker Nate Stupar, rookie draft pick Alex Anzalone and last year's leading tackler in Craig Robertson, the fight to make 53 at LB is anything but a cakewalk.
4. ROOKIE EXPECTATIONS
Regardless of the year, rookies will always be a focal point of training camp.
First round cornerback Marshon Lattimore is oozing with potential. His ceiling is higher than most, which has Saints fans drooling at the possibilities. However, he only played one full season at Ohio State and has a history of hamstring issues. At 21 years old, how will he assimilate to the pro level?
Second round safety Marcus Williams took the most snaps with the first team during mini camp, displaying a high football IQ and on field instincts that made him a standout safety in college.
Coach Payton loves his offensive toys, and 3rd round running back Alvin Kamara appears to be a shoe in for the 3rd down back spot. With potential to also make an impact on a special teams unit that has ranked poorly in New Orleans, Kamara will have a chance to make an impact that may surpass his expectations as a 3rd rounder.