Hot spots for the New Orleans Saints

METAIRIE, La. -- I’m about to head out to watch the New Orleans Saints practice. But, before I go, I’ll leave you with a list of things I’ll be keeping an eye on.

The left tackle situation. The Saints are letting Charles Brown, Jason Smith and rookie Terron Armstead compete for this starting job. Early indications are that Brown is in the lead. But I don’t think this competition is over with just yet. I think the preseason games will be a big factor.

The defense. It’s well known that the Saints had the worst defense in the league last season. When I visited for minicamp in June, it was hard to get a read on if the defense coordinator Rob Ryan was installing was any better because the players still were learning the system. They’ve had more time in it now, so I’m curious to see how the defense looks.

Will Smith at linebacker. Smith spent his entire career at defensive end. Now, he’s been moved to outside linebacker in the team’s new 3-4 scheme. Smith primarily will be asked to be a pass-rusher. But I want to see how he looks against the run and in coverage.

The running game. Coach Sean Payton has said he wants to run the ball more effectively this season. I think that probably means more carries for Mark Ingram, and I want to see how he looks in camp.

Kenny Vaccaro. The safety was New Orleans’ first-round pick in this year’s draft and early reports out of training camp indicate that he’s been very aggressive. That goes hand in hand with Ryan’s approach to defense.