Small time guys making huge plays and big time players still throwing off the rust, it’s been a long offseason for the NFL. Now that it returns, some players are pouring their blood sweat and tears to fight for the division title in the NFC South.
Training camp for the dirty birds is underway. Yesterday things got off to a rocky start after Julio Jones reportedly hurt his knee on a play. He requested to be replaced and took a breather from practice. Although on day two Julio came back to camp still running routes, he was reportedly visibly on a lighter routine. Things got rocky again after Mohamed Sanu dropped over three passes in practice. The adjustment to a new offensive scheme is still visible and quite frustrating for Atlanta. Add on a few more drops from other wideouts and a fumbled snap from Matt Ryan, it equaled a terrible day at the office for the offense. But to lighten the mood, fighters from UFC 201 made a visit, shaking hands with Devonta Freeman, Matt Ryan, and Ben Garland. Hopefully they take some of that fighting mentality to the gridiron come Sundays.
For Carolina, it was all about the fame and flashy highlights in their epic run last year. That still hasn’t changed as Cam Newton showed up to camp sporting a blonde goatee and black, fashion straw hat; not only that but his practice jersey donned the name “chosen” followed cleverly by his signature number one, adding more ego to the fire. However, it wasn’t his name on everyone’s lips during camp, but rather Kelvin Benjamin, who is returning from an ACL tear he sustained last season, keeping him out the whole year. According to reports Benjamin has worked effortlessly on the field in his return, running routes as if he had never lost a step in the first place. Ted Ginn’s performance was off compared to his form last season, dropping a few passes but it was credit to the defense as well, intercepting Cam several times over the course of the day.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have a knack for bouncing back from the rough days, and this training camp could be a familiar foreshadowing. The defense had several reports outlining their ability to rush Drew Brees, who now enters camp saying he can play “at the highest level for the next five years,” according to ESPN. One standout was Nick Fairley, who consistently blew by the line and used every inch he could get to dominate. Yet it was an unexpected member of the offense who stole the headlines, as rookie Michael Thomas made an acrobatic catch one-handed for an amazing play.
Saints rookie Michael Thomas with a one-handed grab today https://t.co/IJngnlZEaa
— Amos Morale III (@Amos_MoraleIII) July 29, 2016
This type of playmaking ability is what the Saints and Brees need to revive what was once an unstoppable offense, especially with time ticking down on Sean Payton’s tenure. Good news also came again as Jairus Byrd attended and practiced again, as he had not done so the past three training camps in his career. So far comes pleasing results for the boys from the “Big Easy”.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Slowly tiptoeing their way into the mix are the Bucs, who are starting to tie the strings on young talent showing flashes of stardom. Tampa went no pads the past two days, opting for cooler attire under the sizzling and murky Florida heat. They plan to go no pads until Sunday. Winston made his role as a leader even more defined as he showed up early for for the first practice, putting in time with rookies. He also had a rusty shake from the offseason, throwing a pick and almost a couple more throughout the entire day.
Video: Bucs QB Jameis Winston has deep ball intercepted by a leaping Brent Grimes. pic.twitter.com/lVS2Ie1rIs
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 29, 2016
Noah Spence and Kwon Alexander were observed by multiple people as the impressive players on defense, disrupting the line and route runners to make it an overall difficult day for the offense. Defense has been the biggest project for the Bucs the past few years and the pieces could be coming together. As for the offense it looks like Jameis Winston and Mike Evans have a little more developing to do, but plenty of promise to show for it.