With a game to be played Sunday night, one of the things the Saints must do early in training camp is identify their kick returners.
Reggie Bush will likely be the primary punt returner again, but wide receivers Lance Moore and Tramain Hall and cornerback Jason David were getting opportunities in early practices since you need more than one returner for exhibition games.
The Saints were auditioning several kickoff returners on Saturday. The team is trying to replace Michael Lewis, who was released in June, but the list of possible replacements is long unless although veteran running back Aaron Stecker is the likely starter because he's done it in the past.
--WR David Patten, who was signed as a free agent this off-season, was splitting time at the third wide receiver spot in the first few practices.
--WR Terrance Copper, who started four games last season when Joe Horn was injured, split reps with David Patten when the Saints went to a three wide-receiver set early in training camp.
--RB Reggie Bush, who was the Saints' top punt return man last season, will likely be the starter once again this season. He averaged 7.7 yards on 28 returns as a rookie.
--CB Jason David was among the players who were auditioning as a punt returner during the early stages of training camp. David returned nine punts for the Indianapolis Colts in his first three seasons in the league.
--WR Lance Moore, who returned six punts in four regular-season games last season before spending the rest of the year on the practice squad, will get a chance to return punts in the preseason.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK
Fred Thomas vs. Jason David for starting RCB spot -- This is the one Saints' fans have been anticipating since David was signed away from the Indianapolis Colts. Thomas struggled in the second half of last season and David was expected to walk right into the job, but Thomas has held his own in the first several days of training camp and doesn't appear like he'll be giving up without a fight.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS
Hollis Thomas vs. Kendrick Clancy for starting nose tackle spot -- Thomas was a starter last season and was thought to be entrenched in the position, but he came to camp at least 20 pounds over his reporting weight of 335 pounds and struggled in the stifling heat the first couple of days of practice. As a result, the coaching staff started rotating Clancy in to receive some reps with the first-team defense in Saturday's morning practice.
Josh Bullocks vs. Kevin Kaesviharn for starting FS spot -- The Saints brought Kaesviharn in from the Cincinnati Bengals for two reasons. One was to be insurance in case starting strong safety Roman Harper was slow to return from a torn ACL. The other was to provide some quality competition for Bullocks, a two-year starter. Harper, however, has shown no ill effects from his injury. Bullocks, on the other hand, is also rising to the challenge so far in camp and holding on to his spot.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
WR Devery Henderson -- The fourth-year wideout struggled early in training camp last summer with drops and some uncertainty with the offense. But he's been solid so far as a starter this year, catching almost everything in sight -- including a long pass from Drew Brees late in Saturday's second practice. On the play, he looked what appeared to be an overthrown ball in despite good coverage from the cornerback and tapped both feet down before falling out of bounds.
WR Robert Meachem (first round) is showing no ill effects from the arthroscopic knee surgery he had in June, but has a lot of catching up to do after missing most of the team's off-season program. ... CB Usama Young (third round) missed the first four practices with a strained left quadriceps, but was expected back early this week. ... G Andy Alleman (third round) is working with the second-team offense as is T Jermon Bushrod (fourth round). ... RB Antonio Pittman (fourth round) is getting some reps while biding his time behind Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. ... CB David Jones (fifth round) and LB Marvin Mitchell (seventh round) are getting reps with the third-team defense.
DT Brian Young is in a walking boot after having surgery on his fractured right foot three weeks ago. The Saints are hoping to have him back in time for the season opener on Sept. 6 at Indianapolis.
--CB Usama Young, who had a strained left quadriceps muscle, did not practice in the first two days of training camp. But he ran on the sidelines Saturday and participated in his first practice Sunday morning.
--DE Jon Hamm, an undrafted free agent, strained a quadriceps muscle on the first day of practice. He should return this week.
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