Mike Hoss: Here are 5 things I'm watching for at 2021 Saints training camp

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Writing this now as opposed to two weeks ago makes a big difference, doesn’t it?

Two weeks ago, while we all might have included the wide receiver position and interior defensive line as areas that could use some support, they’ve now climbed well up the ladder.

Losing wide receiver Michael Thomas likely into October as he recovers from ankle surgery came as an unwanted jolt, for sure. And it followed the news that defensive lineman David Onyemata would miss the first six games after testing positive for a banned substance. That’s all the reason I need to keep a keener eye on those two positions at training camp.

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No. 2: WHAT HELP IS ON THE WAY?

One thing that’s a given: The Saints aren’t done bringing in players to work out and see if someone can help them at either of those two areas of need. But since you don’t necessarily need that person for the whole season, it can get tricky. The beauty is that should a high-caliber wideout or interior defensive lineman come available, the Saints have some cap room to make a move.

In my opinion, this team makes moves for the long haul and does not simply slap on a BAND-AID in these situations.

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No. 3: OH YEA, THE QB BATTLE

If you need help understanding the gravity of those losses, consider that we’ve gotten this far into my training camp column before first mentioning the quarterback battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.

It will be the most scrutinized of positions all camp, literally throw by throw. That being said, I feel it will be the battle we know the least about throughout camp. We can discern some news by who’s running with the 1s and who’s out with the 2s most often, but I believe we will know little about who’s leading, or winning, the battle for the starting job. And frankly, I’m ok with that. I can think of no way the Saints benefit by declaring a starter until they absolutely have to for the Green Bay opener.

It’s not about telling or not telling the media; let the other 31 teams wonder who the starter will be. It’s a situation we haven’t dealt with in 15 years. Embrace it.

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WHICH ROOKIES WILL STEP UP?

I’ll also, of course, be looking at the 2021 rookie draft class and players at certain positions who will see more action than others because of need. Third-round pick Paulson Adebo out of Stanford will get plenty of reps to test if he can be the cover corner across from Marshon Lattimore. I felt his draft stock improved in the days and weeks after the draft when analysts truly started looking at the player the Saints got at No. 76 overall.

The Saints second-rounder, Pete Werner out of Ohio State, will be another player to be tested early and often. The team needs him to see his share of reps as they search for depth at linebacker.

And yes, the same goes for 7th-round pick Kawaan Baker out of South Alabama. His position alone will get him opportunities in camp. Let’s see what he does with them.

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WHO WILL BE THIS YEAR'S CAMP (UDFA) DARLING?

There is always one guy in camp who becomes the talked-about, must-see player. He’s usually from a small school and undrafted but does things in practice or preseason games that make you sit up and notice. He’s the underdog you hope finds a way onto the 53-man roster. In other words, who is this season’s Deonte Harris or Marquez Callaway? The Saints have done very well with undrafted free agents during the Mickey Loomis/Sean Payton era, and I expect that to continue. Some teams just have a way of finding diamonds in the rough. Players who have that little extra, extra ounce of heart to overcome. The Saints are one of those teams.

There are only three preseason games and the team must cut to 53 players before August 31. There isn’t as much time for the young guys to impress, but the clock starts tomorrow.

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Follow Mike Hoss, the new Voice of the Saints, on Twitter @MikeHossComm

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