All posts by Ramon Antonio Vargas

Ramon Antonio Vargas has covered the Saints for The Advocate since 2013. He can be reached at rvargas@theadvocate.com and is @RVargasAdvocate on Twitter.

On 2nd day of full drills, plays Saints safety Jairus Byrd is famous for arrive on the scene

Let the record reflect that the plays on the ball Saints safety Jairus Byrd is famous for arrived on the scene on just the second day the three-time Pro Bowler participated in full-team drills with New Orleans.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints S Jairus Byrd (31) works in special teams drills during Saints Camp practice Wednesday at their training facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Saints S Jairus Byrd (31) works in special teams drills during Saints Camp practice Wednesday at their training facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

Byrd stole the show during the Saints’ training camp practice at Sidney Theriot Stadium on Wednesday by accounting for two of four interceptions the defense produced. On one of those, in a seven-on-seven drill, he was in the end zone and snatched away a throw by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the man with the most yards (10,339) and second-most touchdowns (82) passing in the NFL since 2012.

On the other, in a full-team drill, he resembled a centerfielder in baseball, tracking an overthrown deep pass by backup QB Luke McCown and cradling it in around the middle of the gridiron. He topped off his dominant day by jumping in front of a pass aimed toward All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham at the goal-line and swatting it away for an incompletion during red-zone work.

Perhaps not one of the 6,600+ in attendance Wednesday doubted Byrd’s ability to swarm toward footballs tossed in his general vicinity. Otherwise, why would the Saints have signed him to a six-year contract worth up to $54 million annually and guaranteeing him $28 million? Otherwise, how could he have accumulated his 22 career interceptions, the most among NFL safeties since he entered the league in 2009?

But less certain at one juncture was how long the Saints would have to wait until they saw those plays. Byrd underwent surgery in May to address a problematic disc in his back, and the procedure sidelined him through the July 24 start of the first phase of training camp in West Virginia.

He returned in a limited capacity five days later, and it wasn’t until Tuesday that he lined
up for full-team drills, after he had already missed a pair of exhibition wins at St. Louis and at home against Tennessee. While Byrd’s ramping up activities Tuesday generated buzz, his play on the field wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary.

That decidedly changed Wednesday, when he attacked throws like the ball vulture he was in five previous seasons with the Buffalo Bills and gave the public its first taste of the marquee free agent the Saints splurged on shortly after the players market opened for business in March.

And it couldn’t come at a better time, with fewer than three days to go before the Saints travel to Indianapolis for their third exhibition this year, the closest thing they’ll get to a simulation of a regular-season game prior to their Week 1 trip to divisional rival Atlanta.

When he met with the media Tuesday, Byrd tried to temper expectations about how many snaps he may see Saturday.

“I guess it’s just the feel — I’ve got to go out and see how I feel first,” he said. “Just take right now and see where I’m at — I’ll know what I need once I get out there, see where I’m at to get a gauge.”

And it’s a point well made. Wednesday wasn’t a fully-equipped practice — players wore helmets, shorts and shoulder pads, and live contact wasn’t allowed. That obviously won’t be the case at Indianapolis.

But there’s no denying the Saints were pumped up at the early flashes Byrd delivered Wednesday night.

“It was good to have him out there,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. “He’s someone that covers a lot of ground quickly — he’s real smart with his eyes, and he’s a veteran player that understands formations and where the ball might be going.”

Linebacker David Hawthorne added, “He’s a ball-hawk. Everybody knows that. The wisdom and the level of play he brings will definitely make us better.”

Joseph Morgan’s big night against Titans was a long-time coming after tumultuous year

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan (13) beats Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (24) for a long catch to set up a New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) touchdown during the second quarter Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD — New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan (13) beats Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (24) for a long catch to set up a New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) touchdown during the second quarter Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Offensive assistant Carter Sheridan weaved in and out of the crowd inside the Saints’ locker room minutes after the team had beaten the Titans 31-24 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday night and didn’t stop until he found wide receiver Joseph Morgan.

Morgan had just finished leading the Saints (2-0) with 108 yards on three catches — an astounding average of 36 yards per grab — in his first NFL game at the Superdome since 2012. Sheridan high-fived Morgan, leaned in for an embrace and told him, “You did yourself a favor tonight. You keep enjoying doing what you’re doing.”

Don’t mind if Morgan does. His outing Friday against Tennessee (1-1) and the quiet congratulations he earned from Sheridan vividly illustrate just how far Morgan has come in what for him has been a tumultuous 14+ months, which have seen him endure off-field legal problems, suffer a career-threatening injury — and persevere through both as he tries to reclaim his status as a tantalizing deep ball threat for the Saints.

That’s a status he earned in 2012, when he racked up a jaw-dropping 37.9 yards per catch and three touchdowns on just 10 receptions.

But then he endangered it with a Memorial Day weekend DWI arrest the following year. Bad became worse when he went to the Saints’ ensuing training camp and tore the meniscus and partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at an intrasquad scrimmage last August.

He spent the rest of the 2013 campaign recovering while the Saints’ passing game finished No. 2 in the NFL. It was the second complete season Morgan missed after a serious preseason knee injury sidelined him for all of 2011, when he joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent.

However, since then, Morgan has entered and been completing a diversion program to avoid prosecution in the DWI case. He’s patiently rehabbed his knee and more often than not been a full participant at 2014 training camp practices, which were at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia from July 24 to Wednesday but return to the Saints’ headquarters in Metairie on Sunday afternoon.

His diligence paid off Friday. With wide receivers Kenny Stills (quad) and Marques Colston (undisclosed) scratched, Morgan on a few occasions attracted attention from quarterbacks Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin, who are competing to be the understudy to Drew Brees (out with a strained oblique).

Morgan capitalized. With McCown calling the signals, he drew defensive pass interference on a first-and-20 from New Orleans’ 10 while being covered by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty, improving the Saints’ field position vastly.

He then roared past Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh and dove around New Orleans’ 30 to catch a 45-yard throw from Griffin. Morgan got back on his feet and gained an extra seven yards before he was hauled down.

That play set up a score for running back Mark Ingram, who ran in a short Griffin pass from 23 yards out to help give New Orleans a 21-17 lead.

Morgan later slipped behind Sensabaugh again to catch a 44-yard throw from Griffin around the Tennessee 40, a play that meant the receiver at that moment was averaging an obscene 48 yards per grab. That number became slightly more reason when Griffin connected with Morgan for 12 yards and a first down — but it was still enough to push the receiver over the 100-yard barrier.

That all could go a very long way for Morgan as he jockeys for a roster spot at receiver under Colston, Stills and rookie first-round draft choice Brandin Cooks. His chief competition as of Friday included guys like Nick Toon, Robert Meachem (who on Friday dropped a pass in the end zone), Andy Tanner, Seantavius Jones (who caught a TD against the Titans) and Brandon Coleman.

“It was encouraging that he got behind the defense and was able to make a few plays that we’ve seen him make prior to his injury,” Payton said. “I think more than anything what is important for us in the evaluation process is how is he moving and tonight we saw him do a few things that were encouraging.”

No one was more encouraged Friday than Morgan himself.

“With any rehab process, you’re not allowed to just go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye,” Morgan said to reporters afterward. “It’s been a long process, but right now it feels great.

“The hardest thing to do is make a team in the training room — the less time you spend in the training room, the better your chances to make the team.”

Note: Advocate correspondent Guerry Smith contributed to this report. This post has been updated since it was first published.

Saints TE Richard Quinn retires

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Six days after signing with the Saints as a free agent, tight end Richard Quinn retired Monday, according to the NFL.

Richard Quinn

Richard Quinn

Quinn went on the Saints’ reserve-retired list, meaning he will not count towards the team’s roster or represent any cap charges, though the organization will retain the playing rights to the tight end.

The Denver Broncos selected Quinn in the second round of the 2009 draft out of North Carolina. He remained with the Broncos through 2010, catching one pass for 9 yards.

He subsequently spent time with Washington and Cincinnati.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Quinn spent training camp with Arizona last year and then returned to Washington for a bit. He was active for 30 games throughout his career and was considered to be a better blocker than receiver.

New Orleans acquired Quinn on Aug. 5 after rookie tight end Je’Ron Hamm was injured and a few bubble players were waived. He was in a position group that included All-Pro Jimmy Graham, veteran Benjamin Watson, second-year man Josh Hill, Hamm and rookie Nic Jacobs.

Healthier than he has been, Saints T.E. Jimmy Graham anticipates personal improvement in blocking

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs the ball during the teams NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley)

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs the ball during the teams NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley)

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — All-Pro Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has heard the criticism about his blocking loud and clear, and he wants his detractors to know two things.

He’s over wrist, foot and elbow injuries that held him back in that respect throughout 2012 and 2013, and he spent much of his offseason poring over game footage in a search for ways he could improve protecting both the run and pass.

“The last two years, everybody’s been knocking on blocking — I don’t know why,” Graham said Wednesday after the Saints’ 11th day of training camp practice at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, two days before New Orleans’ preseason opener at St. Louis. “I’m truly healthy now. I think that’s a big deal with that.”

He added, “The last two years with some major injuries have kind of limited that. I took the time this offseason to really look at some film and analyze myself as a player. I noticed that all of the times I was able to help the team the most was when I was blocking the best, because that helps out on play-action and it stops (defenses) from putting a corner(back) pressed up when I’m on the line (of scrimmage) with an outside (line)backer. It’s only going to help the team out, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

There’s an argument to be made in support of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham’s befuddlement at the criticism his blocking his drawn, especially as he negotiated the four-year, $40 million contract he received in July. That’s a deal he got after he led NFL tight ends in catches (270) and receiving yards (3,507) as well as topped the league in touchdown grabs (36) since 2011.

According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, in 114 snaps protecting the pass in his four previous regular seasons with the Saints, Graham has surrendered two quarterback sacks, three hurries and one QB hit. The site also gave him a negative grade in run-blocking (which he’s done on 597 snaps) in only one of those campaigns: in 2013, when he led the NFL with 16 touchdown catches and the Saints with 1,215 receiving yards.

Meanwhile, Graham has only been called three times for holding, often a desperate attempt by a blocker to prevent a play from ending in lost yardage.

None of that has prevented Graham’s blocking from being a topic of conversation in media sessions after training camp practices. On one occasion, fellow Saints tight end Benjamin Watson was asked what he could tell Graham to make him better at blocking the run.

Watson noted that he doesn’t have all the answers and is working on improvements of his own but replied: “One thing we really focus on is footwork. I think one thing that really we learned in blocking is that we’re overmatched by a lot of defensive ends, (and) a lot of linebackers.

“They’re much bigger than us, much stronger than us, but if we have our footwork right we can get in the right position and our hand placement helps us in the blocking game as you know. That is something that we work on, is our footwork and our hands, and really understanding the whole concept of the play too. Understanding that the back has to take certain steps or cut back or the backs aiming point is out wide, that helps us get defenses to move so that we can get in a position to block.”

After scuffle with first-string DBs, backup WR Charles Hawkins declares, ‘I’ll fight anybody’

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Saints WR Charles Hawkins (18) mixes it up with S Rafael Bush (25) before CB Keenan Lewis (28), right, joins in the scuffle from which the fighters had to be pulled from during Saints Camp practice Wednesday at their training facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS –Saints WR Charles Hawkins (18) mixes it up with S Rafael Bush (25) before CB Keenan Lewis (28), right, joins in the scuffle from which the fighters had to be pulled from during Saints Camp practice Wednesday at their training facility in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — It doesn’t matter if it’s two of his team’s starting safeties and its No. 1 cornerback trying to push him around — backup Saints wide receiver Charles Hawkins won’t stand for it.

He left no about that after hauling in a pass from fourth-string quarterback Logan Kilgore during a drill that pitted the signal-caller and several reserves on offense against the 1s on defense. Hawkins’ reception marked Kilgore’s third-straight completion of the drill, and the receiver was entangled with safety Rafael Bush at the end of the play.

Mutual shoving ensued. Then, star cornerback Keenan Lewis got in Hawkins’ face. And Hawkins subsequently re-engaged Bush and clashed with safety Kenny Vaccaro, exchanging pushes and the like before the rest of their team rushed over to separate the fracas.

“DBs stick together!” Vaccaro was overheard shouting in Hawkins’ direction as things calmed down.

Hawkins afterward assured his differences with Bush, Lewis and Vaccaro ended on the practice field at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where training camp has been held since it opened July 24.

“It’s just a part of the competition — we are all brother, teammates,” he said. “It’s just friendly competition. We left it all on the field.”

Yet he also said, “Everyone on this team has a chip on their shoulder. I do, too. I’ll fight anybody.”

A native New Orleanian and alum of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Hawkins is vying for a spot under virtual roster locks Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks at receiver. He’s seen a lot of action returning punts and kickoffs in drills, and he’s had success with long catches and ones in traffic throughout camp.

His main competition includes Nick Toon, Joseph Morgan, Andy Tanner, Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones.

Saints bracing for Gregg Williams blitzes, reasoning, ‘That’s who he is’

St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams speaks during NFL football training camp at Edward Jones Dome Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams speaks during NFL football training camp at Edward Jones Dome Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — As they prepare to face their former defensive coordinator for the first time since he left the team, the Saints fired up some infamous game film: the one where Gregg Williams ordered blitz after blitz in the 2011 preseason opener against San Francisco, All-Pro New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham said Wednesday.

“It was (an all-out) blitz like four times out of nine, so we know it’s going to be great work for the quarterbacks, for the (offensive) line, for the tight ends, for everybody,” said Graham, whose Saints play their first exhibition of the 2014 season on Friday at St. Louis, where Williams is now the defensive coordinator.

Williams was in his third and final year with the Saints when New Orleans hosted San Francisco in the first week of the preseason and unleashed a pass rush that racked up six first-half sacks and 10 quarterback hits en route to a victory for the black and gold. Riding an offense that set all sorts of NFL records, the Saints made it to the divisional round of the playoffs — and lost at San Francisco, where New Orleans’ defense failed to protect two leads in the last four minutes of the game.

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ--  New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks the ball over the goal posts after his first quarter touchdown as the New Orleans Saints defeats the Tampa Bay Bucs 42-17 in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ– New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks the ball over the goal posts after his first quarter touchdown as the New Orleans Saints defeats the Tampa Bay Bucs 42-17 in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

Williams and Saints coach Sean Payton were then suspended from the NFL following the bounty scandal. In 2013, four seasons after they won Super Bowl XLIV together, Payton returned to the Saints, and Williams joined Tennessee as an assistant coach. Williams is now entering his first year coordinating St. Louis’ defense.

It remains to be seen how zealously Williams sends his charges after New Orleans’ quarterbacks. But, in reviewing film from the exhibition against San Francisco three seasons ago, the Saints are accounting for the possibility that he could throw everything and the kitchen sink at them.

The Saints also rehearsed blitz pickups for a period of practice Wednesday at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, where training camp has been held since July 24.

“That’s who he is, and he brings it, so we have to be ready for that,” said Graham, who led New Orleans with 1,215 receiving yards and the NFL with 16 touchdown grabs in 2013.

It’s not known how much that wariness of Williams will factor into this decision, but Payton on Wednesday said he hadn’t decided on the availability Friday of franchise quarterback Drew Brees. Brees has been nursing a strained oblique since Aug. 1 but was feeling “much better,” Payton said.

Nonetheless, it would be surprising if Brees participated in Friday’s game at all. Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown — auditioning for the No. 2 quarterback job — have been alternating reps with the first-team offense in light of Brees’ absence.

Saints CB Derrius Brooks missed practice Tuesday with a nicked shoulder

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Saints cornerback Derrius Brooks sat out Tuesday’s practice with a nicked shoulder he sustained when a player fell on it during drills Monday, The Advocate was told.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- New Orleans Saints cornerback Derrius Brooks takes part in a drill at minicamp at the Saints Training Facility in Metairie, La. Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON– New Orleans Saints cornerback Derrius Brooks takes part in a drill at minicamp at the Saints Training Facility in Metairie, La. Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

The hope is Brooks could be back to work Wednesday. He was among several players to not participate in Tuesday’s practice, the most prominent of which were quarterback Drew Brees, veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, fullback Erik Lorig and linebacker Victor Butler.

The Saints have not publicly commented on Brooks’ condition.

Brooks is among 10 cornerbacks at Saints training camp, which opened at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on July 24. He’s mostly worked with the reserves as he competes for a roster spot.

Brooks spent 11 games with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 2013. He recorded 35 tackles, three interceptions and six pass break-ups.

Rob Ryan gets a hearty ‘Thank you’ from Aeneas Williams in Hall of Fame induction speech

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan instructs the team during the teams NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) ORG XMIT: WVCT303

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan instructs the team during the teams NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) ORG XMIT: WVCT303

Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, former Cardinals cornerback and New Orleans native Aeneas Williams was afraid to return to Arizona.

It was 1994, and Buddy Ryan had become head coach of the Cardinals. Ryan put his cornerbacks on an island, and Williams feared he wouldn’t be able to handle the assignment.

Aeneas Williams

Aeneas Williams

But — at the urging of his wife, Tracy — Williams returned to the Cardinals to work under defensive backs coach Rob Ryan, one of Buddy’s sons and now the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. And, in his first year with the Cardinals at the time, Rob Ryan gave Williams the words of encouragement he needed to make his first All-Pro team, the cornerback recounted in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech on Saturday.

“The first time I went back and he got the job as defensive backs coach, (Rob Ryan) put his arms around me and he said, ‘Aeneas, you can lead this league in interceptions, because I saw you do it in college,’” said Williams, who tied the NCAA Division I-AA single-season record for picked-off passes with 11 his senior year at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

Williams went on to make a personal-best nine interceptions and earned Second-Team All Pro honors for the first time in his career after his pep talk from Rob Ryan.

Williams on Saturday said, “Thank you, Coach Rob. … Thank you.”

The Advocate’s Sheldon Mickles had much more on this episode of Williams’ and Ryan’s careers recently.

Williams distinguished himself with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams during a 14-year NFL career that began in 1991. The cornerback and safety had 55 career interceptions for the Cardinals and Rams, was First-Team All-Pro three times and went to eight Pro Bowls. He attended Fortier in Uptown New Orleans for prep school.

Rob Ryan, who became the Saints’ defensive coordinator in 2013, attended Williams’ induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday. He received loud applause when Williams expressed his gratitude toward him.

Ryan was at the Saints’ annual intrasquad scrimmage just hours earlier, which this year was held at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, site of the initial portion of New Orleans’ 2014 training camp.

He commanded a Saints defense that allowed the fourth-fewest yards in the NFL last year.

Rob Ryan and his father were in Arizona from 1994 through 1995. Williams left the Cardinals for the Rams in 2001, last played in the NFL in 2004 and was chosen for induction into the Hall of Fame in February.

To approach goal of being best to ‘ever play the freakin’ game of football,’ Ingram says he must not press

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball during the teams NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) ORG XMIT: WVCT312

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball during the teams NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) ORG XMIT: WVCT312

Saints running back Mark Ingram spoke plainly on Friday about his ultimate NFL career goal: “I want to be the best back to ever play the freakin’ game of football.”

He’s fallen short of that loftiest of goals; but, to inch ever closer to it, Ingram entered his team’s preseason training camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia having made this vow: “Don’t press.”

“I think sometimes I press because sometimes I don’t have as many opportunities,” Ingram said after the Saints’ seventh training camp practice Friday. “Sometimes I get in and press and try to make a big play when I should just go with the flow of the game and just make my read and take three yards or two yards.”

Ingram’s impatience is easy to sympathize with. After earning the only Heisman Trophy awarded to a player at Alabama and helping the Crimson Tide win a BCS title, the former 2011 first-round draft choice has shared carries with Saints running backs such as Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.

He also missed a total of 11 regular-season games and two playoff contests with foot injuries. Those are all reasons why Ingram is averaging a pedestrian 118 carries and 487.3 ground yards per regular season while scoring an unremarkable total of 12 touchdowns (including the playoffs).

Ivory and Sproles have moved on from the Saints; but, barring something unexpected, Ingram will be sharing New Orleans’ backfield with Thomas, Robinson and Travaris Cadet in 2014.

He’ll also remain part of a pass-happy offense that’s under the direction of quarterback Drew Brees, who’s thrown for the NFL’s most yards (10,339) and second-most touchdowns (82) since 2012. That means a multitude of touches will be benefiting players like All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham; wideout Marques Colston, owner of the Saints’ major receiving records; and rookie Brandin Cooks, the first-round draft selection out of Oregon State who was named the best receiver in college football last year.

Ingram, therefore, is fully intent on upping the quality of touches because he knows the quantity likely won’t be bountiful in the upcoming campaign.

“Just being patient, being confident and just going through my reads and just sticking to them” will be key, Ingram said. “Don’t try and press and make plays when they’re not there.

“The big plays will come — you just have be patient,” Ingram said.

The Saints had the option to exercise a fifth year on the rookie contract Ingram signed, but they opted against that. As a result, Ingram is set to hit free agency in March.

For Travaris Cadet, zealous film study is producing decisiveness carrying the ball

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Twice Friday, Saints running back Travaris Cadet took a handoff right; halted on a dime; cut left and was only stopped by his pursuers after long gains.

New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (39) runs the ball during there NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) ORG XMIT: WVCT282

New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (39) runs the ball during there NFL football training camp in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley) ORG XMIT: WVCT282

The confidence and decisiveness Cadet showed on that pair of snaps commanded the attention of observers, for he’s only carried the ball in a regular-season game once for 5 yards since making the Saints as an undrafted rookie out of Appalachian State in 2012.

Cadet was less surprised about that speaking to reporters after the Saints’ seventh training camp practice at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. What everyone had just seen were the desired effects of a learning process that’s required hours upon hours of watching game tape.

“It goes back to the film room,” Cadet said Friday. “(I’m) seeing things, and (it’s resulted in me) being on the same page with my offensive linemen, me reading the same thing they’re reading, how they’re using their techniques to engage their blocks, and me knowing how they’re going to engage their blocks, and me knowing where they expect me to be at (any) point in time.”

That’s not to say Cadet all of a sudden expects to become a traditional tailback. He’s spent the vast bulk of his NFL career returning kickoffs (35 for 929 yards) and covering kicks on special teams (12 tackles). Every once in a while, he’s been called on to catch passes (seven for 49 yards).

“I know what my role is, and I know I’m going to be used in a whole lot of different situations,” said Cadet, who accepted his value to the Saints so far has largely depended on his willingness and ability to do a tad of everything.

But he wanted to give himself the best chance of maximizing what he’s aware will be limited touches on an offense that includes higher-profile pass catchers such as Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks.

It’s an offense that features higher-profile running backs in Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson.

Cadet likened the prospect of defending the Saints’ offense to trying to guard a house against people who have nine sets of keys to it.

“At any given time, anybody can strike (at any door),” said Cadet, the first-choice kickoff return at this year’s training camp. “You don’t know which door to cover.”

So he assigned himself the task of better understanding how his offensive linemen open holes and where on the field they do it in the ground game. His laboratories for that were film and meeting rooms; and, after lots of viewing and asked questions, it’s paying dividends for Cadet, according to Ingram.

“When he sees a little crease, he’ll stick his foot in the ground and hit it,” Ingram remarked. “He’s not just a receiver anymore. He can run inside, he can run outside, he can take the toss, and he can still do everything he can out of the backfield as far as running routes.”

Cadet said, “You just have to take advantage of your opportunity. If I can have two (handoffs) for 100 yards or two catches for 100 yards, that makes it a lot easier.”