The most significant thing I noticed at practice yesterday was that Jonathan Goodwin had been moved to left guard to compensate for the continued absence of Ben Grubbs. Goodwin took every single snap at that position with the 1s throughout practice. Interestingly, the guy he replaced in Senio Kelemete didn’t go to the bench but instead shifted over to center. That was a very curious move. Kelemete and Tim Lelito rotated with the 1s at center but as the practice wore on Kelemete saw more and more time there. I have to say Kelemete is a strong and wide body that has really looked strong and impressive. I suggested a while back that offensive line depth was a real issue, but I actually think the interior feels better now. Lelito feels like the 3rd man on the totem pole right now behind Goodwin and Kelemete. It remains to be seen which of those three would start at center when Ben Grubbs comes back. I still think it’s Goodwin, but the move to left guard at practice is a bit of a head scratcher. You could read that one of two ways. One, the Saints feel Goodwin is no longer really in competition and will clearly start, so they want him to get as many snaps with the 1s as possible, with Kelemete and Lelito rotating in and out. The other is the Saints are giving Goodwin some time at guard to be prepared as the primary utility backup for all three interior positions.
Ryan Griffin has also clearly emerged as the favorite to win the backup battle. He took every snap with the 1s and I assume he’ll start against the Rams as it’s looking more and more likely Drew Brees will be held out as a precaution. I’ve said this a couple of times but Griffin’s progress in just one year is very significant. He looks every bit as good if not better than Luke McCown already. How those two guys perform in the preseason will be the difference maker.
At kicker, Shayne Graham’s hopes got a huge boost. To this point I’d say he had been trailing Derek Dimke in performance at practice. Graham went 4 for 4 at practice yesterday and hit bombs from 51 and 53 yards. It was an impressive performance. Then, Dimke went up for his first kick and hooked a 37 yarder. It was his first miss of training camp that I can remember, but the group of players gave a collective sigh immediately after the Dimke miss and the entire team did wind sprints and practice was over. So Dimke had one kick, the miss, and that was it.
I will say that while I feel much better about interior depth on the o-line with the emergence of Kelemete, tackle depth is as big of a concern as ever. The Saints just put in a waiver claim for recently cut tackle Michael Bowie, previously of the Seahawks, but he was awarded to the Browns. This suggests they’re not crazy about the depth there either. Terron Armstead has looked terrific and we know Zach Strief is solid, but behind those two starters the lack of quality is unsettling. Bryce Harris hasn’t looked great and has struggled a bit in these practices, and behind him rookie Tavon Rooks just got back to practice healthy and is way behind, Ty Nsekhe just got injured and sat out practice yesterday, and Thomas Welch is a journeyman backup with 1 career start. As first and final cuts come around, I fully expect the Saints to pay close attention to what becomes available for a potential upgrade. I said a while back that tackle was the position the Saints could least afford injury (besides quarterback of course) and so far that seems to be holding true.