The Saints are now back home, wrapping up the last week of training camp in New Orleans, enduring the heat by downing salt tablets and hydration drinks.
While players are happy to be back in their own beds, this next week will be hardly a vacation. There is still much work to be done, and many decisions to be made, before roster cuts and the regular season. A lot of question marks still haunt this squad, on both sides of the ball.
“It was a lighter practice because of the game yesterday, but I thought that they handled it alright,” head coach Sean Payton said. “We got a pretty good lift in, then film study this morning. We worked on a few situations that we wanted to after the game.”
The Black and Gold certainly improved from last week’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. At the beginning of the game in his preseason debut, Drew Brees looked like his usual crisp self, going 8-of-10 for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“It was time to kick it up a notch,” Brees said. “I would expect next week to be even better.”
Second-year pro Brandin Cooks, proves a reliable target, pulling down 4 catches for 117 yards, including a touchdown. The 5’10” University of Oregon product was certainly promising last season as a rookie, but now with some finesse and awareness accompanying his speed and athleticism, Cooks is developing into a daunting threat.
“I’m glad we don’t have to play him twice a year, and that he’s not in our division,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said postgame. “He’s a really good player.”
Cooks has always played with determination, but now he’s also playing to make up for lost time after last season was cut short with a broken thumb.
“That injury has made me tougher,” Cooks said. “It was definitely a hard offseason. I worked my tail off to come back. I want to shock the world. That’s definitely the plan.”
Cooks is backing up his words with actions. He’s been the bright spot in both New Orleans’ two pre season losses, due in part to an off season spent in California, dedicated to working out with Brees.
“There’s not many guys that work as hard as him,” Brees said. “He’s so focused and has been since Day 1 of the offseason when he was calling me, saying ‘Let’s get back at it.’”
The Saints get Monday off, then return to public practices at the team facilities in Metairie Tuesday-Friday, before taking on the Houston Texans in a nationally televised game Sunday on Fox.
Veteran tackle Zach Strief is especially encouraged by the sense of urgency he saw skyrocket in pre-season game #2 vs game #1.
“There were a lot more positives, specifically in the first group,” Strief said. “When we get into a pace like that, we can be pretty good. It improved from Game 1 to Game 2 and that’s what we want.”