Jeff Duncan: Whose stock is rising, falling after two weeks of Saints camp | Sports

We’re now two weeks and 13 practices into training camp. Time to take stock of the 2022 New Orleans Saints.

The early returns have been promising. We’ll know more once they start competing against an opponent, but the Saints appear to have answered many of the questions they had entering the offseason.

The roster is unquestionably deeper and more balanced than last season. Improving the level of competition across the roster was a goal of first-year coach Dennis Allen and general manager Mickey Loomis. The Saints are going to cut players who end up on other NFL rosters next month.

Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and down at the midway point of training camp.

Stock up

Michael Thomas: Rust? What rust? The former All-Pro receiver has looked better than ever since being cleared to resume practice last week. Thomas is in great shape and looks even more explosive in and out of his patented violent cuts. He’s improved with each practice and is catching every ball that comes his way, regardless of who’s throwing it. Thomas has looked like the best player on the roster.

Cornerbacks other than Marshon Lattimore: Paulson Adebo, Bradley Roby and Alontae Taylor have played so well that no one has noticed the absence of Lattimore, the injured Pro Bowler. Adebo is playing with supreme confidence. His daily one-on-one battles with Thomas have been a highlight of camp. Roby looks much more confident and comfortable with a full offseason under his belt. He’s spent more time in the slot this camp and looks equally confident inside as he does outside. Taylor has had his share of rookie moments, but they’ve been few and far between. He looks like the prototypical long, athletic, aggressive Saints corner.

Adam Trautman: The third-year tight end is finally healthy and comfortable in the offense, and it’s shown so far in his performance during camp. Jameis Winston targeted Trautman frequently before injuring his foot Monday, and the pair have developed a strong connection. Trautman also has earned praise from teammates and coaches for his in-line blocking. He looks poised for a breakout season.

Payton Turner: In a deep defensive end rotation, the towering second-year pass rusher has flashed throughout camp. He’s buried on the second unit behind starters Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport, but Turner has shown enough to validate his first-round selection and to earn a spot in the rotation this fall, especially in passing situations.

Trevor Penning: Don’t let the daily skirmishes overshadow the progress he’s made at left tackle. Penning has improved leaps and bounds since he arrived in New Orleans. There was a time when the staff thought he might be looking at a redshirt year. Now it wouldn’t be a surprise if he supplanted James Hurst and earned the starting spot in Week 1. Penning is a tremendous athlete and might already be the strongest player on the roster. He has all the tools. It’s just a matter of how fast he can put it all together. It’s coming — quickly.

Will Lutz: Like Thomas, Lutz has looked as good as ever early in camp. He’s been successful on nearly all of his kicks and showed off his powerful right leg by hitting a 55-yarder in practice Monday. Lutz will play a critical role this season because the Saints are expected to play a lot of close games while leaning on their stout defense.

Andy Dalton: The veteran quarterback has looked better than solid as Winston’s backup. The ball comes out quickly and decisively with Dalton under center. If something were to happen to Winston, Saints fans should feel confident in Dalton’s ability to run the offense in the interim.

Stock Down

Marcus Davenport: No reason to panic here, but Davenport’s slow return to the practice field cannot be discounted. Allen said Davenport’s issue was conditioning rather than anything related to offseason procedures to his hand and shoulder. This is a huge year for the former first-round pick, who has had a well-documented history of injuries during his four-year career. A long-term contract extension is on the line. Davenport’s season is off to an inauspicious start.

Kevin White: The former first-round pick from West Virginia was facing an uphill climb to make the roster with the additions of Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave to the receiving room, so he needed a strong camp. Instead, he’s been plagued by drops. White is a terrific athlete with the size-speed ratio desired for the position, but his shaky hands are a hindrance. At this point, his best chance to make the final roster might be as a gunner on special teams.

Kawaan Baker: The 2021 seventh-round pick already faced long odds in trying to make the roster. Then he compounded matters by earning a six-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Baker’s best bet to make the roster will be on special teams. Otherwise, he could be the lone member of the 2021 draft class to be released.

Backup linebackers: It’s not a good sign for this group when the Saints continue to sign new faces to compete at the position. First, Kiko Alonso. Then, Chase Hansen. Allen clearly wanted to increase the competition here. Eric Wilson, Zack Baun and Andrew Dowell have all had their moments during camp. All have experience in NFL games. But none of them have stepped forward enough to lock down a roster spot.

Ethan Greenidge: There’s a lot to like about Greenidge. He’s big, powerful and athletic. But he also could be caught in a numbers game along the line, with the addition of Penning and Nick Martin. The third-year tackle hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but he also hasn’t distinguished himself. In the competition for a roster spot at backup guard, Calvin Throckmorton appears to have a leg up on Greenidge.

Taco Charlton: The veteran end from Michigan has flashed the pass-rush skills that made him a first-round pick in the 2017 draft, but he’s buried behind Jordan, Davenport, Turner and Carl Granderson on the depth chart. Charlton might need to show out during the exhibition games to make the roster.

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