Saints work against Chargers will be the most significant of the preseason
METAIRIE – There are 46 days from the time the New Orleans Saints reported for training camp until the season opener against Houston.
That’s a lot of time, featuring all of training camp, four preseason games and roughly two weeks of practice after camp officially ends next week.
Out of all of that, the most intense, significant stretch takes places Thursday through Sunday. The Saints left town Wednesday for Los Angeles, where they will practice against the Chargers on Thursday and Friday in advance of a preseason game between the two teams Sunday.
This is the third summer in recent seasons that the Saints and the Chargers have practiced together in advance of a preseason game.
Saints head coach Sean Payton and Chargers coach Anthony Lynn are friends from their time working together as assistant coaches in Dallas, which helps when finding the opponent to work against.
“I know him well, we know their staff well,” Payton said. “I feel like our last two times we’ve been with them have been real productive. It also provides a climate change at the right time, where all of a sudden you get out of the humidity for four or five days. So, it has just worked and I know that they feel like they have gotten something from it.”
The Chargers, like the Saints, were a playoff team last season. They defeated Baltimore in a wild-card game before losing to New England in the divisional round.
“They’re one of the top AFC teams,” Payton said. “So, that’s good when you’re putting two good teams together and there is an understanding of what we are trying to get out of these three days.
“We are trying to improve each other. We’re not on the schedule and if we end up playing each other, there’s only one way that happens and I’m sure both teams would be happy about it.”
In other words, neither team will be giving away any secrets first-hand to a 2019 opponent unless they meet in the Super Bowl.
Payton said joint practices can sometimes be more useful than preseason games.
“You might receive more reps at something that you might not receive in the game,” he said. “You can essentially script out what you want to see and then who you want to see do it for your own team. And sometimes it’s a little bit more difficult in the course of a game.”
The Saints still appear concerned about depth on offense, especially at tackle and running back.
They placed T Ulrick John on injured reserve Saturday, a day after he was injured in the preseason opener against Minnesota. On Monday they signed New Orleans native and McDonogh 35 product Chris Clark, a 10-year veteran tackle who has played with Tampa Bay, Denver, Houston and Carolina.
“He’s a guy that can come in right away without as much of a transition maybe as some others,” Payton said.
Payton said it’s “a little harder to find” linemen at this time of year.
The Chargers have one of the best defensive-end tandems in the NFL in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
The Saints added RB Kerwynn Williams last week, just a few days after they signed Jacquizz Rodgers to replace former Tulane RB Rob Kelley, who was released.
When the Saints get home, they will have passed the halfway point of the preseason and have just three more practices before breaking camp even though the regular season doesn’t begin until Sept. 9.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…