Jeff Duncan: Tyrann Matheiu picking up the defense and other observations from Saints minicamp | Jeff Duncan

June is always a dangerous time to make judgments on NFL teams. New rules negotiated by the league’s players association limit the amount of contact teams can have during offseason practices.

So basically we’re watching guys run around in shorts and shirts on air. Not the most effective way to evaluate football players and their skill sets.

But there were some things to be gleaned from this grueling early work in the unrelenting heat.

With that in mind, here are 10 observations from the Saints’ minicamp workouts this week:

1. Even veteran players go through a “feeling out” stage. That’s where Tyrann Mathieu is right now. For the New Orleans native, this offseason is about indoctrination: To the Saints’ culture, roster and defensive system. The more comfortable he becomes in his new surroundings, the more you’ll see the Honey Badger come out in him. Right now, he’s mostly trying to learn, fit in and feel his way along.


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2. Andy Dalton looks like he has been in this Saints system for years. The veteran quarterback is operating in his fourth different offense in four years, so he has learned to be a quick study. He’s decisive and accurate with the football. Saints fans should be encouraged by his play so far.

3. Keep an eye on Bryce Thompson. The second-year defensive back from Tennessee has the size and skill set the Saints like in their defensive backs. He’s a versatile chess piece in the CJ Gardner-Johnson/PJ Williams mold. He’s been working with the second team defense, a positive sign for a young player.

4. Paulson Adebo had a good offseason. The second-year cornerback has gained some strength in his upper body and is playing with confidence at his starting left corner position. Adebo, who was showing off his guns with rolled-up jersey sleeves throughout camp, looks primed for a strong sophomore season.

5. It’s always a good thing when the head coach gives you an unsolicited shout-out and that’s what Dennis Allen did with Carl Granderson this week. Allen praised the fourth-year defensive end for his progress this offseason. Granderson took advantage of the extra reps at end with Marcus Davenport and Payton Turner sidelined while recovering from offseason surgeries.


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6. The odds of Trevor Penning getting into a fight during training camp are even money. The rookie left tackle plays with an edge and until the echo of the whistle. It’s one of the reasons the Saints selected him in the first round of the draft. Allen chastised him for taking veteran Tanoh Kpassagnon to the ground during one drill. Those tactics aren’t going to fly when the pads go on during training camp.

7. Some young players who flashed during skeleton drills and full-team sessions: Lewis Kidd; Lucas Krull; Kirk Merritt; Nephi Sewell; Isaiah Pryor; and Kawaan Baker, who looks noticeably more confident in his second season. Kidd has good size and athleticism and can play multiple positions. On a field full of elite athletes, Merritt stands out.

8. Daniel Whelan can boom a punt. Consistency has been a bit of an issue for the undrafted free agent from UC Davis, but there’s no doubt that he has an NFL leg and can punt in the league. His hangtime on some punts topped 5 seconds. Whelan also won the award for shortest pants on the roster.


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9. Cesar Ruiz is the backup center behind Erik McCoy, but guards Forrest Lamp and Calvin Throckmorton were also cross-training at the position. With Will Clapp in Los Angeles, there’s an open roster for a backup interior lineman. McCoy and Ruiz are the only linemen on the roster with center experience.

10. Sean Payton was fond of stopping practices and calling the entire team together for a chat when he really wanted to emphasize a teaching point. But Allen conducts these full-squad sessions even more frequently. Otherwise, the practices under Allen and Payton are almost identical.

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