Jonathan Vilma: He's 100 percent healthy and 100 percent in charge of the starting job at middle linebacker, despite head coach Sean Payton's assertion that it's a competition. Vilma was brought here to play and so far he's proved he has the potential to elevate the position. He's going to be well worth the draft pick the Saints gave up for him. Shame on Eric Mangini for not keeping this guy.
Pierre Thomas: With Deuce McAllister fighting his knee issues, Thomas is going to get every chance to earn more playing time. He's not as big as McAllister, but he can play that big, plus has a gear that McAllister doesn't. The Saints want McAllister to play, but if he can't Thomas will benefit from increased reps and playing time in the preseason. He's a guy to watch.
Antwan Lake: The absence of Sedrick Ellis is allowing Lake to regain the notice of the coaching staff with some eyebrow-raising plays on Sunday. Now with DeMario Pressley out for the year, Lake's presence — and progress — inside is especially important.
Robert Meachem: Veteran David Patten said that the former first-round pick is finally starting to look the part, showing explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and improved route running. That's music to the Saints' ears, given their investment in Meachem.
Jeremy Shockey: The fact that he finished near the front of the pack during Sunday afternoon's practice-ending gassers may be a sign that Shockey is nearly 100 percent from his injuries of a year ago. The Saints have been cautious with him. Shockey has also handled all the extra media attention well.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: The free-agent rookie is drawing some raves for his play as an outside linebacker. He won't steal a starting job, but he will definitely content for a roster spot.
Deuce McAllister : It was encouraging to see McAllister come back immediately after his MRI on Saturday and participate. But the Saints are going to be extremely cautious with him.
Drew Brees : Looks as steady as always. And with improved weapons this year, he's poised for a monster season.
Sedrick Ellis: He's fallen well behind thanks to his holdout. It's strange to think that with Glenn Dorsey signed the Saints and Ellis can't get a deal done. The Saints needed him in camp three days ago as they remain cautions with Brian Young.
DeMario Pressley: So much for one of my five players to watch. Pressley has a fractured foot and will be out for the rest of the season. That's a blow this early in camp, considering that Sedrick Ellis still hasn't signed.
Devery Henderson and Tracy Porter: Both have hamstring injuries and will be out for a few days. That's especially damaging to Porter, who was expected to contribute immediately. He can't afford to fall behind.
Usama Young: His lukewarm play is threatening to leave him the odd man out in what has become an extremely competitive cornerback position.
Matthew Postins is the publisher of saintsinsider.com.