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Minicamp analysis: With Saints’ makeover complete, camp competition is next

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METAIRIE, La. — After a lot of changes on both sides of the ball during a long and torturous offseason, the New Orleans Saints are ready to make amends for a disappointing 7-9 season in 2014.

The Saints wrapped up their offseason program on Thursday with the final day of a three-day minicamp looking forward to some rest and relaxation but still focused on what they’ll have to do when they report to training camp in late July at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

After a busy offseason in which the Saints parted ways with All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, wide receiver Kenny Stills, running back Pierre Thomas, former Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs, linebacker Curtis Lofton and kicker Shayne Graham, head coach Sean Payton certainly has everyone’s attention.

“We’ve had good focus and attendance has been outstanding,” Payton said after sending his players away for about five weeks. “More than anything else, when you are out here at practice you want to see the details handled. You want to see guys learn from the mistake they made before and not repeat them.”

He apparently has seen enough of that in the two months the new-look Saints were at work.

During the offseason makeover, Payton guaranteed that there would be competition at almost every position and that should play out more in training camp.

But it started during the OTAs and the veteran minicamp with the goal of making everyone sharper and more focused mentally.

“I don’t think it’s a question when there’s competition at anyone’s spot, no different in your industry or in any industry … there’s a heightened level of performance,” Payton said. “Certainly that’s something that takes place.”

With a defense fortified by the addition of cornerback Brandon Browner and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer via free agency and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in a trade with Miami, the Saints will have some healthy competition at those two positions.

Six of their nine draft picks this spring also came on that side of the ball and several of them could be in the mix to help turn around the league’s 31st-ranked defense. The question is how fast they will be able to mesh.

“I think it’s been good. … It’s hard to tell until you get the pads on to really begin to see, but I think overall the work we’re getting in is helpful,” Payton said.


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