Saints training camp: The New Orleans Saints have finally started training camp www.thesaintsfootballauthentic.com , which means the 2018 football season has finally started and we officially get relevant and interesting football things to talk about. Everything you will read below, and really anything you read online should be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons. First of all, unless you actually attended camp (I can’t), you are working off of reports, highlights, and clips, and secondly absolutely nothing is certain at this point in the process. With that said, that doesn’t mean the things we can see and toke note of at this point don’t matter. Below are my takeaways from the first four days of training camp. Tre’Quan Smith is making a lot of noise, and for all the right reasons. Smith has made at least one highlight play each practice, has consistently been able to get open deep, and more importantly has shown good hands and concentration to come down with the ball. Smith still has a long way to go as a player, as well as to prove he’s more than just the next ‘training camp all-star’ at the receiver position (just like his predecessors Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon were). Smith’s measurables and the attributes that got him drafted by the Saints in the 3rd round suggest that won’t be the case, but he will need to continue to build on his early success to not only develop chemistry with Drew Brees, but to earn the confidence of the coaches and his teammates if he wants to make an impact on Sundays. Michael Thomas is picking up right where he left off. Michael Thomas started his evolution from ‘breakout star’ to full fledged ‘super star’ towards the end of last season and into the playoffs. It’s very early, but Thomas appears to not only have not lost a step, but is getting even better. Thomas is one of the most driven players on the roster, and his work ethic and discipline are his greatest weapons. The sky is the limit for a guy like that, and Thomas is on the trajectory of being able to say he’s one of the very best in the NFL today. There is a LOT of depth along the defensive line. Take Cameron Jordan out of it since he’s a known commodity, the rest of the Saints young defensive line is deep, talented, and trying to become the driving force of this defense. From Alex Jenkins to Al-Quadin Muhammad to Trey Hendrickson all the way up to 1st round draft pick Marcus Davenport, the defensive end position is going to be a battle and has a lot of talent (remember, talent doesn’t mean finished, it just means potential). Even on the interior, Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata are battling for starting snaps and both look good early. The Saints youth movement is going strong. Tre’Quan Smith isn’t the exception, he’s the rule, or at least it feels that way watching the young guns at Saints camp. From last year’s standout special team’s ace Justin Hardee showing flashes as good depth at corner (as noted by Nick Underhill of The Advocate), to Arthur Maulet, to 2nd and 3rd year players like Ken Crawley and Marcus Williams. The list of names goes on and on, and most are not only players that you will recognize, but players we all expect big things from. It’s very early, and there is a LOT of football yet to play, but the Saints are quietly building one of the most young and talented rosters in the league. Deon Yelder was the darling, but Dan Arnold is making the noise. Arnold has managed to make plays every day so far, and while it is WAY too soon to start making insane predictions about his future or potential, or for any UDFA for that matter, it’s good to see that the Saints may have some good developmental talents at the only position where they still have holes on offense. The newest member of the Saints media coverage team, Zach Strief, seems to like what he’s seen so far from the young converted wide receiver.2018 New Orleans Saints Training Camp Preview: Cornerback The New Orleans Saints won the NFC South division last year for the first time since 2011, thanks in large part to a vastly improved defense that complimented their always prolific offense. The play and health of the Saints secondary, often a team weakness, was a major reason for the improvement. The team had an incredible Seven defensive backs miss significantly time with injuries in 2016 New Orleans Saints T-Shirt , severely limiting any consistent effectiveness. The Saints addressed the issue in a big way before entering last season, drafting a cornerback with the 11th overall pick and a safety, Marcus Williams, with the 42nd overall selection in the 2017 draft to add to their already very young defensive backfield. After previewing the safety position last week, we take a look at what could turn out to be one of the deepest positions on the team in today's training camp preview.CORNERBACK Key Losses: Delvin Breaux (free agent, CFL)Key Additions: Patrick Robinson (free agent, Eagles), Natrell Jamerson (draft, 5th round)Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesMarshon Lattimore surprisingly fell to number eleven in last spring's draft, and the Saints wasted no time in pouncing on the Ohio State star. Lattimore would not only win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, but became the first New Orleans cornerback since Eric Allen in 1995 to be voted to the Pro Bowl, and just the fourth cornerback in franchise's 52-yr. history to receive such an honor. Lattimore led the Saints in interceptions (5, including one for a touchdown), pass breakups (18), and quickly established himself as one of the league's top cornerbacks. He can play either outside or slot, is equally effective in man to man or off coverage, and would often lock on to the opposition's top receiver. He has the size, athleticism, and natural cover skills to match up with the NFL's best receivers. Lattimore was primarily responsible for limiting star wideouts Jarvis Landry, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, DaVante Adams, DeSean Jackson, and Mike Evans to an average of just 25 yards per game when facing the Saints last season, and not a single touchdown reception. Atlanta's Julio Jones, widely considered as perhaps the top receiver in the league, was held out of the end zone in two memorable matchups against the Saints star rookie in what looks to be a gripping rivalry for many years going forward. Lattimore's ability to take on the opponent's best receiver with little help has an effect on the entire defense. It allows coordinator Dennis Allen to employ more intricate coverage schemes, as well as freeing up extra defenders for run support or more aggressive blitz packages. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsKen Crawley was literally thrown into the fire in 2016, his rookie season. After making the team as an undrafted free agent from Colorado, Crawley was pressed into a starting role due to the team's mounting injuries in the secondary. The result was a predictably uneven performance, but one where Crawley showed potential as he gained valuable experience. After an inconsistent performance last preseason that caused him to be inactive for the first two games of the season, Crawley was inserted back into the the starting lineup, where he and Lattimore formed one of the better cornerback duos in the league. Due to Lattimore's lockdown skills, Crawley was often targeted by opposing offenses, and responded with the second most pass breakups on the team, along with his first career interception. He was particularly tough to throw against near the goal line, giving the opposition fits with his tall frame and long reach. Crawley does struggle with smaller, shifty receivers, but performs his best against big physical wideouts, a trait that certainly suits him well against the bigger targets through the NFC. Like Crawley, De'Vante Harris was pressed into action during his rookie year of 2016 after making the team as an undrafted free agent. Unlike Crawley, Harris has not progressed New Orleans Saints Hats , struggling mightily a season ago. He opened up the year as a starter in the first two games against Minnesota and New England, both losses. Harris was benched after those two contests, as the New Orleans defense surrendered a combined 692 yards passing, six touchdowns and 80% completion percentage. His defensive snaps were limited after that, but in two games when Harris did receive more extensive playing time, the Saints gave up a combined 665 yards and five passing touchdowns in games against the Redskins and Rams. Although he will be given an opportunity to compete for a roster spot again, Harris seems likely to be the first veteran cut from this group. Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsAfter playing in less than six quarters in his first two seasons due to injury, P.J. Williams played in all 16 games in 2017, starting six. Although he had 2 interceptions and nine pass breakups, Williams' performance was inconsistent, and he often struggled in man coverage. Arthur Maulet looks to make a bid for extensive playing time this season, after making the squad as an undrafted free agent last year. The native of Kenner, Louisiana is a bit undersized, but is an aggressive man-to-man defender with explosive leaping ability. He earned a roster spot last season with solid coverage during the preseason and standout special teams play. Another special teams standout was reserve cornerback Justin Hardee, who had the third most snaps on the team on special teams, providing solid kick coverage, and blocked a punt against Tampa Bay, returning it for a key touchdown. Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesPhoto by Abbie Parr/Getty ImagesPatrick Robinson returned to the Saints this offseason, where he played for five seasons after being drafted in the first round (32nd overall) in 2010. Robinson was often inconsistent during his first stint in New Orleans, and has played for three different teams in the previous three years, but was one of the better slot corners in the league last season with the Eagles. Natrell Jamerson was drafted in the 5th round this spring, in part because of his outstanding special teams play, and also for his versatility in the secondary at Wisconsin. Jamerson, who was recruited to the Badgers as a wide receiver, played both safety and corner during his final three collegiate seasons. He will likely see snaps at both cornerback and safety this preseason, and shows natural defensive back instincts despite his inexperience. Crawley, Harris, and Maulet all made impacts as undrafted college free agents, and the latest player to watch may be former University of Cincinnati star Linden Stephens. Stephens has both the size and athleticism to match up with most receivers, and exhibits the aggressive coverage style that Dennis Allen and secondary coach Aaron Glenn prefer to play. The top three roster spots at cornerback look set, with Lattimore, Crawley, and likely Robinson. The major questions at this position are this:1) Will the Saints get the erratic Patrick Robinson of 2010-16, or the Robinson that starred for a tough Philadelphia defense a year ago?2) Will any of the young New Orleans corners (Maulet, Jamerson, Stephens) be able to take spots away from more established veterans like Williams, Hardee, and Harris?Competition for those final 2-3 cornerback positions should be fierce throughout training camp and preseason games. The performance of Lattimore and Crawley helped spark a major defensive improvement in 2017, but the defense struggled when either of the two were out of the lineup. The improved depth of the Saints cornerback unit could be one of the keys to a championship run in 2018.