Saints Final 2019 OTA Observations: Teddy Might Actually Be READY After All


Photo Credit: Phillip Petty III, JRNOLA

There’s a lot more than a few Who Dats who aren’t sold on the idea that Saints #2 QB Teddy Bridgewater has the capability to take over the reins once 40-year old and current 19th-year veteran Drew Brees decides to retire from the sport of pro football. But yesterday, as the team participated in one of its final OTA practices in advance of next week’s mandatory Veteran Mini-Camp and Training Camp at the end of July, Saints fans got an unexpected glimpse into the future — and the results were much better than anyone likely ever would have expected.

With Brees’ excused absence, the 26-year old Bridgewater took full command of Sean Payton’s high-octane offense and not only ended up doing an admirable job, but actually might have changed a few previously long-held misconceptions (mine included) regarding his abilities as a pure thrower from within the pocket and his potential to become a legitimate threat as one of the NFL’s top passers.

After missing a few earlier throws in 7-on-7 drills, Bridgewater began the best 11-on-11 drills/full team period with a perfectly-thrown ball to veteran TE Jared Cook for what have would have been at least a 35-yard gain down the left sidelines. After misfiring on his next throw to superstar WR Michael Thomas and then appearing to regress even further after throwing an incompletion behind a well-covered TE Josh Hill, the former University of Louisville star suddenly (and rather unexpectedly) morphed into the Second Coming of retired NFL legend Warren Moon.

As the team was instructed to begin their “red zone” period (inside the 25-yard line), Bridgewater hit 2nd year WR Tre’Quan Smith on a crossing route at the goal line for a 12-yard TD pass. On the next play, he faked a screen pass to Ted Ginn before placing a PERFECTLY-THROWN pass where only WR Austin Carr could come down with the catch, which he did while “toe-tapping” down in the back of the end zone for another 12-yard TD pass.

He saved his most impressive play for last; he rolled out to his right on a play that clearly showed he’s regained some of the mobility that many of his critics feel that he lost with the devastating knee injury that he suffered with the Minnesota Vikings during the 2016 NFL preseason as he threw a near-perfect “quick-strike” pass right past #1 CB Marshon Lattimore, who was in one-on-one in coverage against Thomas, for another 4-yard TD pass in front of the far right pylon of the end zone.

This was obviously not the same Bridgewater that we all saw in the regular season-ending loss to Carolina back in late December, and it’s quite evident how much more confident and comfortable he is with almost two years of learning Payton’s complex and diverse offense (and undoubtedly has picked up more than just a few pointers from Brees, in the process).

Am I saying that Bridgewater will actually become the next Warren Moon? Of course not; it would be foolish of me to even imply otherwise.

But the narrative among many Who Dats that Bridgewater can’t be the next starting #1 QB of the franchise is a false one — and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone when he actually does it sometime in the next decade.

ATTENDANCE:

Players not practicing yesterday: QB Drew Brees (court appearance/excused): WR’s Cam Meredith, Travin Dural and Keith Kirkwood (reasons undisclosed), RG Larry Warford (injury rehab).

UNDRAFTED ROOKIE FREE AGENT EDGE RUSHER / LINEBACKER PORTER GUSTIN IS AN EXTREMELY INTIMIDATING SIGHT TO BEHOLD

My apologies to our readers in advance for not getting a photo of him. Undrafted rookie free agent and former University of Southern California defensive star Porter Gustin might just be one of the most physically intimidating men that I’ve ever seen live in person, with the notable exception of the late, great legendary professional wrestler Andre the Giant.

Gustin stands 6-foot-5, weighs 260 pounds, and looks as if he’s literally been carved from a gigantic block of rock-solid granite. Imagine if I took 1980s pro wrestlers Lex Luger and Road Warrior: Hawk, and crossed them with legendary 1970s Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert. You have to see it with your own eyes to believe it.

While most respected NFL observers prior to the Draft were in total agreement over Gustin’s undeniable play-making ability, the primary concern with him had always been his lengthy injury history during his time with the legendary Trojans Football program, which includes a surgically-repaired toe, a torn biceps muscle, and an ankle fracture that ended his senior season.

It was the ankle injury specifically, however, that ultimately led to his being passed over by all 32 teams in the Draft. But, it now appears to be fully healed, although he’s mostly been relegated to working with the 2nd team unit. His real opportunity to shine will come during Training Camp and the preseason games.

It will be very interesting to see if the young man wearing #58 can become the next Brett Maxie, Sammy Knight, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, or Chris Ivory; all names of previous UDFAs the Saints have signed over the years who went on to become NFL stars.

A FEW OTHER OBSERVATIONS/HIGHLIGHTS:

A 34-year old Ted Ginn Jr looked like he was still 24-years old after he took a “jet sweep” play (or what old guys like me still refer to as an “end around”) for what have been an easy 14-yard TD (nobody laid a single finger on him).

Third-year safety Vonn Bell made several nice plays on the ball in both 7-on-7’s and best 11-on-11’s, as did 4th Round rookie safety/slot CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — who stood out once again yesterday.

Rookie 7th Round TE Alizé Mack made an impressive catch despite a bit-too-high and off-target pass from 4th string QB J.T. Barrett that he somehow miraculously caught in tight coverage.

Mack’s fellow 7th Round pick/teammate and rookie middle linebacker Kaden Ellis “turned a few heads”.

Expect newly-signed veteran RB Javorius “Buck” Allen to make a serious push for a Final Roster spot in the preseason. He scored a TD on a toss play in the final red zone period.

Fourth-year veteran David Onyemata got some well-deserved praise from Payton during the post-practice press conference for stepping up at the 3-Technique defensive tackle/interior pass rushing position while Sheldon Rankins recovers from off-season surgery.


Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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