No one will have to tell New Orleans Saints wide receiver Nick Toon to get on the field for the team’s first training camp practice Friday morning.
Toon, the Saints’ fourth-round draft pick in 2012, would probably roll out a blanket and sleep at the team’s Metairie training facility if he were allowed considering how his rookie season ended so early a year ago.
After taking part in only a handful of practices last summer, Toon injured his foot and missed the remainder of camp. When he returned for the preseason finale, he re-injured the foot and then had season-ending surgery.
Toon had an opportunity to show what he’s capable of in the offseason workouts and organized team activities this spring, but the chance to break out and earn a roster spot at a position of need makes this camp even more important for the son of former New York Jets’ star Al Toon.
As a result, Nick Toon is one of the young players fans will likely be tracking closely during 16 scheduled open camp practices — the first of which is Friday morning. Here are five players that fall into that category (in alphabetical order):
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER JUNIOR GALETTE: While he’s played three seasons with the Saints after making the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Galette will get a chance to spread his wings at a new position.
An undersized defensive end at 258 pounds, Galette, who had five sacks a year ago despite missing a month with a sprained ankle, was moved to the pass-rushing outside linebacker spot in Rob Ryan’s new 3-4 scheme.
That should help keep Galette from going snap after snap against huge tackles, allowing him the freedom to use his speed and quickness not only to rush the passer but to cover tight ends and running backs.
DEFENSIVE END AKIEM HICKS: Hicks, the Saints’ third-round draft pick in 2012, also will settle in at a new position after playing defensive tackle in the team’s old four-man front last season.
A 6-foot-5, 324-pounder, Hicks, like Galette, is better suited to play end in the 3-4 because of his speed and quickness. He has an 83-inch wingspan that could make it difficult for quarterbacks to throw the ball over him.
With his size, Hicks could be a key against the run after the Saints were gashed for 147.6 yards per game last season and were last in that category en route to allowing an NFL single-season record of 7,042 total yards.
RUNNING BACK MARK INGRAM: Saints’ fans have been waiting two seasons for Ingram to break out and be the productive back coach Sean Payton highly coveted in the 2011 draft.
Ingram had a rough rookie season with toe and heel injuries and last year got off to a slow start after offseason toe and knee surgeries.
But after rushing for 134 yards and one touchdown with a 2.9 average in the first seven games, Ingram netted 468 yards and produced a 4.3 average with four touchdowns in the final nine games.
While he won’t get a ton of carries sharing time with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, Ingram has to run the way he did in the latter part of last year to open some eyes.
WIDE RECEIVER NICK TOON: At 6-4 and 218 pounds, Toon will try to make a big first impression on Payton with his length and size — much like Marques Colston did back in 2006.
Toon will be vying for the No. 3 spot behind Colston and Lance Moore after the Saints allowed Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson to leave the team as unrestricted free agents the past two years.
Toon will try to hold off deep threat Joseph Morgan and fifth-round draft pick Kenny Stills, who will also be vying to be in the mix for Brees’ passes.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER MARTEZ WILSON: Like Galette, the 252-pound Wilson was out of position at defensive end last season after playing linebacker during his rookie season in 2011.
The speedy Wilson, a third-round draft pick, ranked fourth on the team last season with three sacks. He could have an opportunity for more if he wins the starting job with Victor Butler expected miss the season with a knee injury.