Players and Positions

General Manager Mickey Loomis and coach Jim Haslett aren't afraid to make aggressive moves, and they did it again on the eve of training camp when they agreed to terms with defensive tackle Henry Ford.

A 10-year veteran, Ford will give the Saints more experience and depth in the interior of the defensive line. That's extremely important to them with the question marks surrounding Grady Jackson, and with young Kenny Smith and Johnathan Sullivan currently penciled in as the starters.

"We thought he was a good football player when we looked at him on film," Haslett said. "I don't think you can have enough good defensive linemen. We have a couple of unknowns there."

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Spencer Folau vs. Victor Riley for starting right tackle -- There were indications throughout the off-season that Riley would move into the starting spot this season, but Folau, the incumbent starter, was working with the No. 1 offense when camp got under way. Folau had a solid season in 2002 and likely won't give up the job that easily, even to Riley, who started 52 games with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1998-2001.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Ernie Conwell vs. David Sloan for starting tight end -- Conwell is expected to win the starting job after Sloan played with nagging injuries the entire 2002 season. But both should play a lot. ... Darrin Smith vs. Orlando Ruff for starting middle linebacker -- Smith moves back to the middle, where he played extremely well when the Saints won the NFC West title in 2000. He has the upper hand, but at 33, will likely share playing time with Ruff.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: LB Derrick Rodgers -- The Saints sent a seventh-round draft pick in 2004 to the Miami Dolphins to acquire this New Orleans native, and he quickly showed why during the first day of camp. He moved into the starting weakside spot and made some impressive plays in 7-on-7 and team drills that drew praise from defensive coordinator Rick Venturi.

ROOKIE REPORT: First-round draft pick Johnathan Sullivan remains unsigned and in danger of losing the starting spot he was penciled into at defensive tackle when he was chosen with the sixth overall pick. ... Tackle Jon Stinchcomb (D2) and guard Montrae Holland (D4) are working with the second-team offense, while middle linebacker Cie Grant (D3) is going to get an opportunity to work his way into the mix during camp.

INJURY REPORT: Backup tackle Scott Sanderson had hernia surgery on July 25 and is expected to miss one to two weeks of camp. ... Defensive end Melvin Williams, a fifth-round draft pick from Kansas State, continues to recover from a torn ACL in the Holiday Bowl. Williams failed his physical, but team officials are hoping that he'll pass another one in a week to 10 days and be cleared to practice.


Saints Insider Top Stories