The New Orleans Saints are heading into the '22 season with a monster change in the organization. After comfortably being the head coach of the Saints since 2006, Sean Payton decided to call it a career.
With a vacant spot at head coach, the Saints decided to go with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen for the job.
Although there's a new head coach in town, New Orleans is hoping to continue the success they've enjoyed through recent years. Over the last five-seasons, the Saints have not only had a winning record each year, but made the postseason four-of-five times. In those four playoff appearances since 2017, New Orleans has moved onto the second-round of the playoffs on three occasions.
If the Saints want to keep up that success, they'll have to work hard all season, starting with training camp. As camp rolls on in New Orleans, let's discuss some of the pleasant surprises that have developed for the Black and Gold.
Saints' Training Camp Surprises
3. First-team All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu is back
Mathieu missed the first week of camp due to personal reasons, but as of Wednesday, the All-Pro safety is back at practice.
Really, is there anything more pleasant than knowing your top-5 ranked secondary in 2021, per Pro Football Focus, likely won't miss a beat even with the departure of Marcus Williams? In case it isn't obvious enough, let's talk about why Saints fans should be jumping up and down with excitement due to Mathieu's return.
Here's what you should know about the Honey Badger. The first-year Saints' safety is a 3x first-team All-Pro, making the Pro Bowl as recent as 2021, and being an All-Pro last in '20. The reason the 30-year-old keeps piling up accolades? He does it all.
Throughout his career, the former LSU defensive back has logged 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 76 pass breakups and 26 interceptions. Mathieu has also totaled 610 tackles through his nine-years in the NFL.
Perhaps most impressively, Mathieu isn't just a first-team All-Pro at one safety position, but both free and strong safety.
Now, the veteran defensive back has returned to practice, and is ready to start working with the Saints.
2. Chris Olave turning heads
The Saints drafted Olave in the first-round of the 2022 NFL Draft. So far, the rookie has been exactly as advertised.
On Tuesday, Olave made the play of the day as he caught a 25-yard pass followed by a juke to get past Kaden Elliss and pick up another 10. On Thursday, Olave reminded us all why route running is an art when he created space against camp standout Paulson Adebo for a great completion.
That's just this week, though. Olave looked just as magical last week, creating space and catching deep bombs. He's even shown off his speed at times.
Jameis with a bomb to Chris Olave 👀
— PFF (@PFF) July 30, 2022
All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas took to the media to address Olave, giving the Saints' rookie some extremely high praise.
“I'm very excited, it's a blessing to have a guy like Chris Olave. To have the opportunity to have a guy like that, to train with him, to kind of see him before the draft even came. We trained together. It's an honor.”
The Ohio State alum has impressed each day, showing masterful route running ability with great hands. If this continues into the regular season, expect Olave to be in the mix for Offensive Rookie of the Year all season long.
1. Paulson Adebo is demanding respect
The biggest standout at Saints' '22 camp – Second-year cornerback Paulson Adebo.
I know what you're thinking, and yes, it wasn't long ago when I mentioned rookie receiver Chris Olave had a play of the day on Adebo. Stay with me, though; This is the star of New Orleans camp.
There's two parts of camp: With pads, and without. During both of these parts, Adebo has taken center stage. In fact, every day of camp, Adebo has swatted away at least one ball. The second-year cornerback isn't letting up, either.
— John DeShazier (@JohnDeShazier) August 4, 2022
Adebo is fighting to keep his job at cornerback no.2, but at this point, it isn't looking like much of a fight. Every day that goes by, Adebo is the star of the day, and things don't appear to be changing anytime soon.
Even on a day where he got beat by Olave (joining every other Saints' corner), he jumped a pass to Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, picking off starting quarterback Jameis Winston.
The 23-year-oild corner broke up 8 passes in '21, logging an additional 3 interceptions. Pro Football Focus gave Adebo a grade of 60.3.
New Orleans drafted cornerback Alontae Taylor in the second-round of the 2022 NFL Draft to give Paulson and veteran Bradley Roby competition. There's been no competition up to this point. Adebo has been an absolute star throughout camp, and subsequently the biggest pleasant surprise of the Saints' '22 training camp.