It has finally arrived! The 2016 NFL campaign is officially underway with the Saints first two preseason game wrapped up. So what do the Saints rookies look like so far? Preseason isn’t always the best way to judge how your team will be in the fall, but after a few days of practice against a veteran Patriots team and the defense of the Houston Texans, as well as the first live action we can make some observations
In my very first blog I pulled for Sheldon Rankins to be the #1 pick overall for the Saints. They pulled the trigger under much scrutiny. It appears they are glad they did. Rankins has shown himself to be a playmaker in Saints OTA’s and practices, but he had some wonderful days against the Pats. Numerous sacks, putting pressure on the QB and stepping into the passing lane to intercept a screen were some of the highlights. He is quicker than most expected and his timing to the QB is impressive for a rookie. Unfortunately, a broken fibula will keep him out for six-eight weeks. That still puts him back around game 5, so he will still make an impact.
Michael Thomas (WR) has also shown skills down-the-field catches, back shoulder catches, good hands and nice route running. He may start as the number two receiver but he is earning Brees’ trust. In last two games he has had a great comeback for a long gain, dragging his toes to keep in bounds. He made a diving catch for another and recovered a fumble by Josh Hill. He finished with four receptions for 67 yards against New England! He continues to show impressive body control and strong hands. TommyLee Lewis, a speedy undrafted signing, had a two point conversion on a jet sweep against New England and has great speed. The Northern Illinois receiver also has made several good returns and has caught a fair share of passes.
Other new faces that are showing promise include CBs Ken Crawley, De Vante Harris, and Vonn Bell. All three have made some good hits, had a couple of interceptions in practice and are developing technical skills to go along with the physical style of play. Harris had a good pass defense in the endzone against the Pats. Trae Elston also showed flashes in the defensive backfield. Bell played well against the Texans with a sack. All of these rookies will definitely earn playing time by the start of the regular season. The fact that the Saints waived Keenan Lewis shows how much they like what they have seen so far.
We will take a look at the free agent signings next!