Lewis: What we’ve learned after 10 days at Saints camp

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael

You may be ready for some football.

But for Saints players, a brief respite after 10 straight days of training camp is undoubtedly welcomed.

It’s welcomed for those of us who feel wiped out after just watching them go at it in the heat and humidity, as well.

But that’s our job, and accordingly, here are 10 things we’ve learned 10 days in:

1. That conditioning test must have been a doozy.

The CrossFit-based drill the team went though when it reported July 26 (Drew Brees called it “a 10-minute wrestling match”) has already reached legendary status for its intensity, although the details have been about as available as the combination to Tom Benson’s safe.

Whatever went on, it certainly proved that the bulk of the players were in outstanding shape. The energy level has been high, and the number of players out of commission relatively low.

The fitness level is a good indication of the team’s motivational level.

2. Rob Ryan has accomplished what he was hired to do.

So far. The proof will come out on the playing field, but Saturday’s Black and Gold Scrimmage saw plenty of aggressive play, resulting in and handful of sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Turnovers and other big plays marked the defense in the Super Bowl XLIV season (the Saints were plus-11 in turnovers and plus-15 in sacks that year).

They’re vital if this team is to contend again.

3. Junior Galette is looking more and more like the man.

Rewarded with a new contact this spring, Galette is showing exactly the kind of ability he’d displayed in flashes in the past. Victor Butler might have had the initial edge at outside linebacker, but he’s probably out for the year, and Martez Wilson will make his presence felt once he gets back from injury.

But his performance Saturday (two sacks and another tackle for loss) showed that soon, we’ll be calling him Senior Galette.

4. Left tackle looks like it might be a problem.

The best thing that can be said about Charles Brown is that he’s still upright after 10 days. Rookie Terron Armstead is just that — a rookie. And Jason Smith better have saved his bonus from being the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft.

Sean Payton’s comment that he “wants to look at the tape first,” rather than give a quick evaluation after the scrimmage, is telling.

5. Keenan Lewis and Kenny Vaccaro are going to have big impacts.

Both are big, versatile and aggressive — qualities sorely needed in the secondary.

Lewis makes one wonder why the Steelers didn’t do more to keep him, and if Vaccaro treats opponents like he has his teammates in practice, he’ll prove a better first-round investment than any of the available rush ends or linebackers who were available at No. 15.

6. Some guys you’ve never heard of are going to make the team.

It always happens — especially with a defense in need of a talent boost.

Defensive end Jay Richardson, a five-year veteran who hasn’t made a final cut since 2009, ran with the twos Saturday and showed a lot of good movement. Cornerback Chris Carr, a nine-year veteran who was signed on the final day of OTAs, is a Ryan favorite since their days together in Oakland.

And rookie outside linebacker Eric Martin is looking better than all of the team’s drafted rookies, save Vaccaro.

7. And some guys you have heard of won’t.

The aforementioned Jason Smith leads the list. Patrick Robinson would be well-advised to get off the bike, lest he get crowded out in the secondary. Inside linebackers David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain were expensive free-agent pickups in 2012 who probably won’t challenge Jonathan Vilma and Curtis Lofton.

8. Nick Toon shouldn’t be confused with a kids TV show.

With Marques Colston still riding the stationary bike, Toon is getting some extra reps, and last year’s fourth-round draft pick — who spent his rookie season on injured reserve — is showing that he could be the eventual successor to No. 12.

9. Mark Ingram’s improvement continues to come in small doses.

When you’re a Heisman Trophy winner who was deemed worthy of trading away a future No. 1 to obtain, you’re always going to be judged by an impossibly high standard. While Ingram is approaching the line with more confidence and has been effective coming out of the backfield in passing situations, Pierre Thomas inspires more confidence as the go-to guy in the running game.

10. The Black & Gold Nation is something.

An estimated 5,123 fans showed up Saturday, lining up single-file for several hundred yards back as they were made to go through the ridiculous one-entry gate because of security reasons.

Then they willingly paid $5 for beer, $3 for Gatorade and $2 for water trying to stay hydrated while watching practice from low-level bleachers (many with obstructed views, thanks to us media types).

Drew Brees said he thought the line, which formed before 7 a.m., was to get into a Zephyrs game because it stretched back toward the baseball stadium. He rewarded as many as he could autograph.

Galette said the crowed made him “feel like a gladiator again,” and seeing the fans there actually made the heat bearable.

Sounds like the fans aren’t the only ones ready for some football.