The Greenbrier welcomes the New Orleans Saints.
As the offseason comes to a close, the New Orleans Saints will be departing for training camp at the West Virginia-based Greenbrier Resort later today.
Thursday will be a general "reporting day," where players are scheduled to undergo routine physicals and meetings, before the real action comes to a head on Friday with the team's first two-a-day workout of the summer.
As the opening of camp beckons, here is a quick update on where things stand...
The Saints announced four transactions on Tuesday, signing NT Tyrone Ezell and LB Marcus Thompson. In corresponding moves, the team waived DT Moses McCray and also released OLB Cheta Ozougwu as a waived/failed physical.
The 6-4 305 Ezell, a former undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh, had spent some time in the Houston Texans organization earlier this offseason. A former team captain at Pitt, Ezell recorded 77 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks over the course of his collegiate career. As a senior in 2013, he compiled 34 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks while appearing in all of the Panthers' 13 games, starting 12.
Thompson, a 6-1 250 undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, arrives after spending part of this offseason with the Miami Dolphins organization. The former Scarlet Knight recorded 91 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble during his career in Piscataway. The Florida native was named his team's co-defensive MVP at the conclusion of the 2013 season. He started all 13 games and recorded a team-high 5.5 sacks in his senior year. Thompson will join former Rutgers teammate Brandon Coleman, an undrafted wide receiver, at Saints camp.
McCray and Ozougwu had been added to the roster earlier this offseason and took part in the team's offseason program.
Now that Jimmy Graham's long-standing franchise tag saga has come to a successful conclusion, the Saints will head to West Virginia with a full roster. However, at least one notable player will enter the week on the training camp Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
DT John Jenkins, who looks primed for a big role in 2014, has been placed on the active/PUP list as he completes the home stretch of his rehabilitation from offseason pectoral surgery.
The 6-3 359 Jenkins missed all of the team's offseason workouts while rehabbing, and figures to be activated before the team breaks camp and heads back to Louisiana mid-August. John Jenkins is poised for a strong 2nd season in the middle of the Saints' defense.
The 2013 3rd round pick is expected to battle incumbent starter Brodrick Bunkley for the top nose tackle spot in Rob Ryan's base 3-4 defense. Bunkley took a pay cut to ensure his return to New Orleans this spring, but the Saints' coaching staff will likely be rooting for the younger Jenkins to unseat the veteran on the strength of a strong summer. Jenkins will, however, need to get back on the field sooner rather than later in order to maximize his chances of doing so. The former Georgia Bulldog recorded 21 tackles as a rookie last season, playing a total of 481 snaps, and saw a majority of those reps early in the year while Bunkley missed time with an injury.
Meanwhile, safety Jairus Byrd is set to return to the field following minor back surgery at the end of May. Byrd, the team's prized free agent signing, sat out the final two rounds of organized team activities while recuperating, but is now poised to enter camp healthy with an eye on teaming with Kenny Vaccaro to form a potent safety combo at the back-end of Ryan's defense. Jarius Byrd is healthy and ready to roll.
As a Buffalo Bill in 2013, Byrd recorded 48 tackles, 4 interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble across 11 games. He, Vaccaro and Rafael Bush give Ryan plenty of options as he looks to mix and match his coverages and alignments in the defense and secondary, in particular. The Saints played plenty of 4-2-5 last season, and having the aforementioned trio of safeties on the field at the same time should pose problems for opposing offenses. Byrd can handle the single high safety duties, while Vaccaro plays closer to the box; roles which suit both players well. Bush, meanwhile, can excel as a jack-of-all-trades.
Owner of 22 career interceptions across 5 seasons, Byrd's addition will hopefully provide New Orleans with more help in forcing turnovers. The Saints finished 2013 tied for 24th in the league with 12 interceptions as a team.
Greenbrier Ready To Rock
The Saints' impressive digs at the Greenbrier appear all set to welcome the team's arrival this afternoon. A fleur-de-lis logo has been painted on the practice field, and the team's gear has already arrived at the facility. Another fleur-de-lis was added to the rose garden in front of the resort, as players, coaches and fans will all descend upon the luxurious hotel and accompanying facilities over the next few days.
It's still hot outside, but Football is here. All systems go.