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The New Orleans Saints called up two players form their practice squad for Monday night’s game with the Indianapolis Colts, promoting defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth and safety T.J. Green. Green was waived on Wednesday to open up a roster spot for veteran safety D.J. Swearinger, who took part in a group workout at the Saints practice facility. Per a report from Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, that list included:

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While Swearinger signed with the Saints as a member of the 53-man active roster, New Orleans filled their two vacancies on the practice squad by signing Dalton and Johnson.

Dalton (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) is a rookie defensive tackle/end hybrid who can line up almost anywhere up front. He initially signed with the Chicago Bears after the 2019 NFL Draft, but was released during September roster cuts and hadn’t yet caught on with another team. With Sheldon Rankins ending his year on injured reserve and Stallworth called up to the active roster, the Saints needed someone to fill out snaps in practice.

Johnson (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) is also a rookie, though the small-school safety spent his summer with the Houston Texans before joining their practice squad after annual roster cuts. He was briefly a member of the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad before they released him as part of other personnel changes. Players signed onto NFL practice squads around this time of the year typically agree to futures contracts with those teams, but it’s unclear whether that’s the case with these two additions for the Saints.

All told, these signings bring the Saints practice squad back up to its 10-man capacity. Dalton and Johnson will join wide receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Emmanuel Butler, running back/wide receiver Taquan Mizzell, offensive linemen Derrick Kelly and John Leglue, linebacker Andrew Dowell, tight end Jerrell Adams, and tight end/defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen.

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The New Orleans Saints created a stir last weekend following a group tryout involving six different free agent wide receivers, the most notable of which was four-time All-Pro Antonio Brown. A few days later, the Saints signed one of the receivers they worked out, but it wasn’t Brown.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Saints added Cheap Tim White Jersey to their practice squad, a third-year pro out of Arizona State. White (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) initially spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before joining the New York Jets’ offseason 90-man roster in 2019. He was waived during final roster cuts and had been a free agent until the Saints signed him.

New Orleans had a vacancy on their practice squad after promoting rookie wideout Lil’Jordan Humphrey to the active roster (replacing Krishawn Hogan, who ended his year on injured reserve), and several of the free agents they tried out were practice squad-eligible.

That’s something Saints coach Sean Payton emphasized in his post-tryout media availability last Friday, when asked whether Brown’s involvement in the group workout prompted any plans to sign him: “No, not now. We had six guys in today, really. Six receivers that we worked out and a few of them are practice squad eligible. A few of them are veteran players. We worked them out, giving them physicals, mainly doing our due diligence on all of those players.”

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When jersey No. 30 became available Monday after the waiver of fullback Cheap Ricky Ortiz Jersey, Quinn suggested that it go to rookie running back Qadree Ollison as a way to honor his brother, who had worn the number as a youngster and died after being shot at a Niagara Falls, N.Y., gas station.

Lerowne Harris, Ollison’s older brother, died Oct. 14, 2017, after being shot three times, a crime for which Denzel K. Lewis of Niagara Falls pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in May, 2018. Three months later, he was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for what the judge said was “an assassination more than a murder.”

Police reports and accounts of the crime showed that Harris, who was 14 years older than Ollison, fled across the parking lot after being shot, then was placed in a car and driven to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where he died. A youth league star, Harris had dropped out of high school before his junior year; his younger brother later used football as a way out of housing projects in Niagara Falls.

“I grew up in a rough neighborhood, like any type of projects where drugs, and gangs, and violence are evident,” Ollison said, via ESPN. “Really, just to be blunt, my brother got caught up in that lifestyle.”

Ollison, a fifth-round pick by the Falcons out of Pittsburgh, and his father, Wayne, differed over Lewis’s punishment, with Ollison writing an emotional note to the judge explaining why he could not hate Lewis, with whom he had attended middle school.

“For some reason, you thought it was right to go and gun down my brother that morning of Oct. 14. You had that choice. My brother, at gunpoint, didn’t have a choice to live. It wasn’t up to him. He lost the two greatest things God gives us as people: He lost his ability to choose, and he lost his life,” Ollison wrote. “Now here I am, and I have this choice to hate you or not. I choose not to. I don’t hate you, Denzel. I hate what you did, most certainly. But I still think your life is just as precious as the next person’s. No life means more than another’s. None of us are perfect.”

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The New Orleans Saints are trying to kick off their season on a good note for the first time since 2013 when the Houston Texans come to town for Week 1’s Monday Night Football matchup inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The reigning AFC South champions are coming off their third playoff appearance in four years, while New Orleans is the two-time defending NFC South champion and is coming off its second-straight playoff appearance.

A look at all the Saints and Texans’ position groups, the intangibles and who has the edge:

QUARTERBACK: It’s 19-year vet Drew Brees vs. third-year quarterback Deshaun Watson. The edge goes to Brees, but let’s analyze the stats.

Watson played a full season last year after missing the rest of his stellar start of a rookie campaign due to a tore ACL. The Clemson alumnus tossed for 4,165 yards — ranking 11th in the league — with 26 touchdowns and rushed for 551 yards with five touchdowns last season. Watson’s quarterback rating came out to 103.1, which was sixth among all quarterbacks.

Saints coach Sean Payton knows Houston’s dual-threat quarterback, who he likened to Carolina’s Cam Newton, isn’t to be looked over.

“The thing that’s impressive about Deshaun, he’s able to make plays outside the pocket when a play breaks down,” Payton said Thursday. “You have to be able to try as best you can to keep him from really hurting you in all areas of the field outside the pocket.”

Brees, as a 39-year-old, threw for 3,992 passing yards and 32 touchdowns with a league-leading 74.4 completion percentage. In total, Brees’ quarterback rating last year was a league-leading 115.7.

To quote Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, “He’s one of the best ever do it.”

The backups: New Orleans’ Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill. Houston’s AJ McCarron.

OFFENSIVE LINE: New Orleans’ offensive line returns both its starting guards and tackles, with the only new face to the pipeline being rookie center Erik McCoy. Payton said on Thursday that the team won’t announce the starter until gameday, but McCoy has solely taken reps with the ones since early in training camp.

The talent of Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Larry Warford and Ryan Ramczyk speaks for itself. New Orleans quarterbacks were only sacked 20 times last season, the second-lowest number in the league.
Compare that to the Texans, who led the league in sacks. Watson was sacked 62 times last season. That’s tied for the fifth-most ever for a single season.

To their credit, the Texans have made some personnel changes since last season. The Texans traded for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a first round draft pick out of Ole Miss in 2016. The Texans also drafted left guard Tytus Howard out of Alabama State with their first round pick in 2019, and he’s listed as the starter at that position on the game’s flipcard depth chart.

Even with a new-look offensive line for the Texans, it’s not even close. Edge goes to New Orleans.

The backups: New Orleans’ Nick Easton, Will Clapp, Patrick Omameh, rookie Ethan Greenidge. Houston’s Roderick Johnson, Senio Kelemete, Greg Mancz, rookie Max Scharping.

RUNNING BACK/FULLBACK:

The Saints start two-time Pro Bowler, do-it-all back Alvin Kamara. The starting running back listed on Houston’s depth chart is former Cleveland Brown Duke Johnson, after 2018 Pro Bowl running back Lamar Miller ended up on injured reserve for the season with an ACL injury.

Kamara totaled 1,592 yards from scrimmage last season (708 receiving, 883 rushing), while Johnson was primarily used as then-rookie Nick Chubb’s backup, totaling 630 total yards (429 receiving, 201 rushing).

Edge goes to New Orleans.

The backups: New Orleans’ Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, full back Zach Line. Houston’s Carlos Hyde, Taiwan Jones, Buddy Howell, rookie fullback Cullen Gillaspia.

WIDE RECEIVER:

The Saints and the Texans were neck and neck in the middle of the pack last year in reference to regular season receiving yards. New Orleans came in at No. 15 with 4,174 and Houston was No. 16 with 4,165.
So what makes or breaks the edge here is the individual talent. And both teams have plenty of that.

Fourth-year Saints receiver Michael Thomas used his statline and All-Pro and Pro Bowl accolades from last year as leverage to earn a blockbuster contract that’s set to begin next year. He had a league-high 125 receptions that went for 1,405 yards receiving on the season, which ranked sixth among league wideouts.

Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins brought in a career-high 1,572 yards receiving on 115 catches last year, earning his second first-team All-Pro distinction for his efforts. Hopkins’ yards receiving ranked second among NFL wideouts and his catches were third.

“I think he’s got very strong hands in traffic,” Payton said of Hopkins. “He’s very confident, a lot of catches in contested areas. (Watson) has got that confidence in him. And so the timing of watching those two work is very impressive.”

In all three phases of offensive production, the Saints ranked eighth last year in average yards per game (379.2). Comparatively, the Texans ranked 15th (362.6).

This one’s a close one, but based on last year’s stats, Hopkins gets the slight nod in Houston’s favor.

The rest of the WRs: New Orleans’ Ted Ginn, Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr, rookie Deonte Harris. Houston’s Keke Coutee, Will Fuller V, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter.

TIGHT END:

One of the other new faces to the Saints offense is veteran Pro Bowler Jared Cook. The 11-year pro comes to New Orleans from Oakland and he’s coming off a career-high 896 yards receiving on a career-high 68 catches. He also had a career-high six touchdowns receptions last year from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Cook didn’t play much in the preseason, seeing just 31 snaps and one catch for 4 yards, but fans shouldn’t worry about that. Cook and Brees’ chemistry was apparent at practice all camp long.

Houston’s starting tight end is listed as Darren Fells, who came to Houston from the Cleveland. Fells had 117 yards receiving last year, catching all but one pass thrown his way.

Edge goes to New Orleans.

The backups: New Orleans’ Josh Hill, Taysom Hill. Houston’s Jordan Akins, Jerrell Adams, Logan Paulsen.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

The Saints defensive line will look different for a bit. Starting defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles tendon during the playoffs and was limited in Thursday’s practice. Though, it is a good sign that the Saints elevated him to the active roster from the physically unable to perform list ahead of the roster deadline. Behind him on the depth chart is defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr., but he was not observed at practice on Thursday during the media viewing window and did not practice due to a hamstring injury.

In addition to Rankins, major role player David Onyemata is suspended for the first game of the season.

The Saints have All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan and PFWA All-Rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport anchoring the outside.

The Saints rush defense last year ranked second-league wide in total rushing yards allowed and average yards per opponent carry.

The key piece on the Texans’ three-man front is five-time All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. Watt led the league — alongside Kansas City defensive end Dee Ford — in forced fumbles last year with seven. Watt was second league-wide in sacks with 16. He was tied with Jordan for sixth in tackles for loss with 18, too.
“Number one, he’s a really athletic and talented player,” Payton said Thursday. “He can get on an edge. He can beat you with speed. He has great stamina, so you know you’re going to be in for a battle all day long. All those things, whether he’s lining up inside or outside, make him challenging to play against.”

Other than Watt, nose tackle D.J. Reader and defensive end Angelo Blackson round out the Texans’ line. The trio up front last year led the league in rushing defense, allowing opposing ball carriers just 3.4 yards per touch. As far as total rushing defense, the Texans allowed the third-fewest yards.

This one’s a push.

The backups: New Orleans’ Trey Hendrickson, Taylor Stallworth, Wes Horton, rookie Shy Tuttle. Houston’s Brandon Dunn, Carlos Watkins, rookie Charles Omenihu.

LINEBACKERS:

Saints starting linebacker Alex Anzalone returned to practice in a limited role on Thursday, due to a shoulder injury he sustained during training camp. And earlier this week, Payton said Anzalone is “going to be healthy” for the start of the season.

The third-year middle linebacker had 59 total tackles, six quarterback hits, two sacks, an interception, two passes defended and three forced fumbles in 2018. Those three forced fumbles were tied for 10th in the league last season.

Anzalone is joined by his fellow base defense starters, Demario Davis and A.J. Klein.

Davis had 110 total tackles last season and added 11 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, five sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Klein totaled 70 tackles in 2018, adding two sacks, seven tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one interception and three passes defensed.
The Texans run a 3-4 base defense, and have Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Brennan Scarlett listed as starters.

Mercilus, who’s been with the Texans since 2012, had four sacks, five tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and 39 total tackles last season. McKinney was second on the team last year in total tackles with 105, adding 1½ sacks, five tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, seven passes defended and a forced fumble.

Cunningham led the team with 107 tackles, and added three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. Scarlett started in just three games last season, totaling 18 tackles in his third season with the Texans.

If Anzalone plays Monday, the edge goes to New Orleans. If not, push.

The backups: New Orleans’ Craig Robertson, Kiko Alonso, Kaden Elliss. Houston’s Barkevious Mingo, Peter Kalambayi, Dylan Cole, Jacob Martin.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:

New Orleans’ trio of Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams and safety Vonn Bell have all played together for three seasons now. And the chemistry between them is there. The fourth starter in the Saints’ base defense is safety Eli Apple, who came to the Saints from the Giants via a mid-season trade after cornerback Patrick Robinson broke his ankle and was placed on the injured reserve.

Collectively, the Saints gave up the fourth-most passing yards in the league last year and averaged the fourth-highest allowed passing yards per game. When it came to interceptions, the Saints were in the middle of the pack (T-18th with 12).
Lattimore led the league in one category: most interception return yards.

Houston’s starting secondary looks vastly different than last year.

Their starting unit is made up of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph, new-to-Houston corner Bradley Roby, new-to-Houston safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. and second-year safety Justin Reid.

Roby spent the first five seasons of his career in Denver and started in all 15 games he played in last season. In those games, he had two forced fumbles, 12 passes defensed, one tackle for loss and 50 total tackles. Gipson comes to Houston after a 3-year stint with the Jaguars. He started all 16 games last season, hauling in one interception, seven passes defensed, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and 54 total tackles.

As a rookie, Reid had three interceptions with one pick-6, 10 passes defensed, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and 88 combined tackles.

Edge goes to New Orleans.

The backups: New Orleans’ P.J. Williams, rookie C.J. Gardner-Johnson, rookie Saquan Hampton, Patrick Robinson, Justin Hardee, J.T. Gray, Ken Crawley. Houston’s Aaron Colvin, Keion Crossen, Jahleel Addae, A.J. Moore Jr., Cornell Armstrong, rookie Xavier Crawford, rookie Lonnie Johnson Jr.

SPECIALISTS:

Saints punter Thomas Morstead ranked sixth in the league last year in punting average (46.4) and made his lone field goal and lone PAT kick. Kicker Wil Lutz ranked fifth in field goal percentage at 93.3 percent, only missing two during the regular season Lutz also ranked fourth in PAT percentage, only missing one last season.
The new face to the specialists’ squad is rookie returner Deonte Harris. Harris went undrafted out of Division II’s Assumption College and had a stellar start to the preseason, leading the league in kickoff return yards and punt return yards. He was also one of four returners to return punts for touchdowns throughout the preseason.

Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn made 95.1 percent of his PATs last season (39-of-41) and converted 88.1 percent of his field goals (37-of-42). Punter Trevor Daniel was tied for 29th in punting average, booting the ball 43.7 yards per punt.

As a rookie playing for two teams, return specialist DeAndre Carter totaled 249 punt return yards and 425 kick return yards, ranking eighth in the league in combined return yardage.

Edge goes to New Orleans.

The backups: New Orleans’ holder Taysom Hill; punt returner Alvin Kamara, Ted Ginn; kick returner Kamara, Ginn. Houston’s kick returner Taiwan Jones; punt returner Keke Coutee.

INTANGIBLES:

The Saints haven’t won a season opener since 2013. Though, the Saints are in the Superdome for the first game since the NFC Championship game.

The Texans are in win-now mode, as they acquired both left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills during roster cuts weekend. They also have several additional new faces to the team, whether that be veterans or a few rookies.

Edge here goes to the Saints.

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been nominated for two ESPYs, Best Record-Breaking Performance and Best NFL Player, ESPN announced Wednesday.

Voting is under way here and all categories will close at the start of the live show Wednesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. central.

Brees surpassed Peyton Manning’s mark of 71,940 career passing yards on “Monday Night Football” during a nationally televised game against the Washington Redskins in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The achievement moves Brees into first place on the NFL’s all-time passing list. The game was paused late in the second quarter after Brees completed a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith to allow for recognition of the accomplishment, which came in his 18th NFL season. Brees began the evening third on the all-time list and passed Brett Favre (71,838 yards) midway through the second quarter.

For the Best Record-Breaking Performance category, Brees is joined by Oregon women’s basketball player Sabrina Ionescu, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, and high school track phenom Matthew Boling.
Along with Brees, there are three other nominees for Best NFL Player: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and Rams running back Todd Gurley II.

In 2010, Brees received three ESPY trophies – Best Male Athlete, Best Championship Performance and Best NFL Player.

The interactions were, in a word, “golden.”

Alex Anzalone smiled easily, laughed genuinely and operated dutifully while he nuzzled, hugged and steered. The dogs with which he was being photographed weren’t totally attentive to all commands, and perhaps that made the session at Animal Rescue New Orleans all the more adorable.

Imagine the New Orleans Saints’ 6-foot-3, 241-pound linebacker talking baby talk, trying to convince each of six dogs (in separate photo shoots) to look toward the camera, or sit still long enough to strike a pose, or not wriggle as he cradled them or, in one instance, held one up for a Simba-style presentation.

This isn’t the Anzalone that Saints fans are accustomed to seeing.
That guy – blonde hair flowing from beneath his helmet, almost lengthy enough to cover the name across the back of his jersey – doesn’t handle opponents with any measure of delicacy.

The fumbles he forced against two elite receivers in 2018 – pounding Minnesota’s Adam Thielen in the second quarter with New Orleans trailing 13-10, and walloping Atlanta’s Julio Jones in the second quarter while the Saints led 17-3 – were indicative of the level of wrath Anzalone can unspool.

But there’s no wrath-unspooling when he’s at ARNO. There, Anzalone is, well – you knew it was coming, but it’s appropriate – a Saint.

If he’s not a lead spokesman for the organization, he likely is its most notable and recognizable.

“There are tons of different charities but it’s something that really strikes my chord,” Anzalone said. “It’s something I love to do, and I like spending time with animals and people who love animals, as well.”
It’s no act. He linked with ARNO in his rookie season, 2017, and has been a regular presence since. He takes the relationship personally, for good reason.

“It’s something that I got into in college,” he said. “I have a rescue dog myself – Sammy – and just learning throughout the process how adopting an animal works and everything like that kind of drew my interest.

“My fiancé (Lindsey Cooper) kind of introduced it to me a little bit. She grew up adopting animals. But doing it myself, and with her, kind of opened my eyes up to it. And then, kind of just researching it more and more kind of opens your eyes that there are dogs out there you can adopt, pure-bred dogs that you can find that are perfectly normal and not spend a lot of money on, either.

“When I got drafted here I came out, checked it out and met up with everyone there. I try to help out where I can. I’ve taken pictures with dogs, tried to incentivize adopting an animal – ‘You can adopt this dog and get this picture with myself.’ Just try to give back like that.”

The level nearly is immeasurable of appreciation for his work.
“He’s our only (athlete spokesperson),” said Ginnie Boumann, vice president and one of the directors of ARNO. “And we call him the biggest animal lover in the NFL. And I haven’t been challenged yet, so I’m going to keep saying it. He and his fiancé are so devoted to animals.

“Alex comes here every so many months in order to do a photo shoot. However, he tweets, he retweets pictures of the animals, he comes by to help out. When we have a call for ‘laundry angels’ because we’re trying to get enough people to help out, because it’s cold and we have all these extra blankets, he and Lindsey are angels and they help us in any way they can.”

Boumann said Anzalone’s celebrity status obviously works to their favor.

“It’s extraordinary,” she said. “There’s such a following for the New Orleans Saints, that the moment you put a dog or anything about ARNO with Alex, it’s retweeted all over the place. There’s such a following. It’s really significant, and it helps bring about more awareness to the need for rescue – not only adopting, but volunteering here or at events.

“Lindsey is incredible. Her grandmother is into rescue, so she has it in her blood. So even as they’re making all of their own (wedding) plans, they’re always checking in on us, always seeing how they can help.”
Anzalone appears to have found his sweet spot there, as much as he did on the field last year, his second in the NFL. He played all 16 regular-season games (he had a season-ending injury in his fourth game as a rookie) and totaled 59 tackles, two sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and two passes defended.

For ARNO, he isn’t able to invest as much time as he’d like, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

“I spend time with the animals, just showing everyone that these dogs are lovable,” he said. “It’s fun to do and it’s good to give back.

“I’m able to come every once in a while per my schedule. When I do, I try to put some time into it and do some things that help out and give back. A little bit goes a long way.”

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NASHVILLE, TN (KTRE) – Erik McCoy does not show emotion. Friday night he did.

After the 47th pick in the NFL draft was made, McCoy sitting on a coach surrounded by his mom, dad and girlfriend, received a phone call.

“Hello, this is Erik…. Yes sir coach…. Thank you…. I am in Lufkin, TX with my family…,” McCoy said to the voice of Saints Head Coach Sean Peyton on the other end. After about 4 minutes, McCoy said thank you and hung up the phone. About a minute later his named was called to a ruckus crowd in Nashville.

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“It was overwhelming,” McCoy said. “Just to say I finally got the call was unreal. All the hard work pays off. It was a commitment I made a long time ago. Those were early mornings. All the hard work, all the years, all the sacrifices people made to get me to work outs. I didn’t have a car. To take care of me and get me to where I am today, I am grateful.”

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— Caleb Beames (@CalebKTRE) April 27, 2019
“It is a feeling I can’t describe right now,” McCoy said. “There was a little disappointment last night. I won’t lie. I had my hopes high but I figured I would go in the second. Honestly I am just looking forward to this opportunity.”

VIDEO: Learning more about New Orleans Saints’ Erik McCoy
Erik McCoy’s path to the NFL started at a young age
The 6 foot 4 inch tall, 315 pound offensive lineman’s path to this point began at a young age. He played multiple sports growing up.

McCoy talked to several NFL teams, including the Rams and Panthers. He told reporters tried not to look at the mock draft because he’s only worried about what he can control.
“I did not think it was going to be that emotional,” McCoy said. I am not an emotional person. It just hit me all at once. I have worked 12 years for this… My mom is super emotional. My dad is like me. My mom is whispering in my ear, ‘You made it, you finally made it.’ My dad is not saying anything. It is good I had both of them here with me. I am just happy. Dreams come true.”

INTERVIEW: Lufkin coach talks about Erik McCoy, NFL Draft
“I am just happy, just happy,” McCoy said. “I is a great feeling. There are plenty of guys that come out of Lufkin. My good friend Keke Coutee came out last year. To finally say I have finally made it and reached the highest level of play will put a bigger light on the o-line in college station and just put some East Texas pride back around here.”

McCoy will join a team with Drew Brees and an offense that made the Saints a title contender last year. There would also be the chance to play with Dez Bryant if the Saints chose to resign the veteran.

“That would be awesome,” McCoy said. “You know Dez Bryant, that is a guy that every Lufkin Kid looks up to growing up. Being an offensive lineman, I didn’t have the body of a receiver, but if I got to play with him that would be freaking awesome.”

McCoy will celebrate for a short time and then get to work to prove the pick is not a bust.

“I went to the city once on my way to Florida,” McCoy said. “I don’t know much about the city so I am excited to get there. I will go in, put my head down and work. That is something I have done my whole life. Go in, shut up, do what I am supposed to do and do the best to be the best player I can be.”

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Marcus Davenport makes a splash in his debut as a New Orleans Saint

Drew Brees ‘chomping at the bit’ after preseason debut lasted 17 plays

Saints quarterback Taysom Hill bounces back with performance that highlights his unique potential

Marcus Davenport holds his own in his Saints preseason debut; plus other observations

Defense dominates: 8 takeaways from the Saints-Chargers preseason game
Saints cornerback Marcus Williams boosts roster case with pick-6

Marcus Williams’ inner circle confident ‘fluke thing’ will not define Saints safety

Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore: An encore or even more?

Nothing routine about it: Drew Brees strictly follows his formula for success

Photos: Preseason Game 3 – Saints at Chargers – Game Action – 1
Photos: Preseason Game 3 – Saints at Chargers – Game Action – 2

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METAIRIE, La. — The legend of Taysom Hill just keeps growing in New Orleans.

Now it’s time to find out if he can live up to it.

“I was kind of joking around with a few guys that this is the first opportunity I’ve had to take a rep at quarterback in the New Orleans Saints’ offense. So these last [two weeks of OTA practices] have been a ton of fun,” said the second-year quarterback, who managed to create an enormous amount of buzz last fall — even though he barely even saw the practice field as the Saints’ third-stringer.

For those who might have missed it, here’s how this unique and surprising tall tale started:

Hill, an undrafted dual-threat quarterback out of BYU, had an impressive preseason with the Green Bay Packers in 2017. But the Packers let him go when they cut their roster to 53 players in September, and the Saints quickly snatched him off the waiver wire.

Flash forward to December, when two eye-opening things happened.

First, Hill started playing on special teams — and actually thriving in kick coverage — after the Saints found a rare way to use his skill set as a big, athletic, 6-foot-2, 221-pounder.

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Then the Fox broadcast team revealed that Saints coach Sean Payton was absolutely enamored with Hill’s potential, with Payton even going so far as to suggest in their production meetings that Drew Brees’ heir “is in the building.”

Of course, Payton tried to walk those comments back a little bit. How could the Saints be convinced Hill is their next starting quarterback when he hadn’t really even practiced running their offense yet (only doing a little work with the scout teams last season)?

But make no mistake, the Saints’ coaching staff is extremely excited about Hill’s potential, as quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi continued to demonstrate in comments made to the New Orleans Advocate during the first week of OTAs.

“The guy is a freak athlete. I’ve never seen anyone like him at this position,” said Lombardi, who said Hill “might be the strongest guy on the team” — at least “pound for pound.”

“He might be the strongest squatter,” Lombardi said of Hill’s weight-room prowess.

Lombardi also tried to tone down the hype a little bit when I followed up with him a few days ago. But he didn’t shy away from the fact Hill has some athletic traits that are rare for the position, including his blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds at his pro day.

That helped Hill run for 2,815 yards and 32 touchdowns in college, to go with his 6,929 passing yards and 43 TD passes. He also threw for two touchdowns and ran for another during the Packers’ preseason last year.

“You just don’t see guys that are as strong and as fast as him very often. … Oftentimes those guys are playing safety or running back or receiver,” Lombardi said. “A guy that can run like that obviously causes problems for a defense, in a different way than maybe a Drew Brees does.

“So he has traits that can help him be successful. And obviously his job and our job is to help him mold those traits into a guy that can effectively play the position.”

Lombardi also mentioned to The Advocate that one of the strengths Hill has shown so far in practice is the ability to make throws down the field while on the move outside the pocket.

“Every great quarterback has to have a way of making a play when the play call isn’t perfect,” Lombardi said. “Someone’s not open right away, or the pressure gets to you, and you have certain guys like Tom Brady or Drew, they do it by finding these creative throws or getting the ball out so quick and having that sixth sense of where to go with the ball. Other guys get away from the rush, and they get outside the pocket, and they create. You see Aaron Rodgers and those kind of guys make plays that way.”

Only two of the Saints’ OTA practices have been open to the media so far. But Hill has turned heads on a couple of plays — one when he took off running down the field and one when he made a strong throw across his body.

“He looks good,” Payton said. “We like where he’s at. He’s grinding, working hard. You guys saw maybe a play where when he does get outside the pocket, he can run — I mean real fast. So that presents a new challenge for the defense.”
New Orleans found a way to use Taysom Hill’s skill set as a big, athletic, 6-foot-2, 221-pounder beyond playing quarterback. Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports
Hill, now 27 after a five-year college career and a two-year Mormon mission, said it has been “big” for him to finally start translating everything he learned last season onto the field.

He has continued to do a little bit of work on special teams, but the plan is for him to spend more of his time on his primary job — where he is trying to earn the backup role in a competition with newly signed veteran Tom Savage and undrafted rookie J.T. Barrett.

Savage, a former starter for the Houston Texans, doesn’t have the same fanfare around him as Hill right now. But he has significantly more experience as the two are splitting time with the No. 2 offense.

“He throws the football really well. He throws a pretty ball — and accurate,” said Lombardi, who noted that Savage has been working on some fundamental things like changing his footwork to fit the Saints’ preferred drops.

A trio of newcomers behind Brees is a big departure for the Saints from years past, when they had established veterans such as Luke McCown or Chase Daniel in the backup role.

But Hill clearly learned one thing from Daniel last season. Hill has been racing Brees from drill to drill during OTA practices, fighting to be the first guy to step on a certain marker — continuing a heated competition that Brees and Daniel used to have among many others on a daily basis.

“Usually you’ve got to fight for body position a little bit to touch the [marker],” said Brees, who has also learned to appreciate Hill’s unique athletic makeup.

“He’s a little bit bigger and stronger than who we’ve normally had around here,” Brees said. “So I’ve got my work cut out for me now.”