Brees' health will be tested

JACKSON, Miss. -- Here are six observations on the New Orleans Saints, gleaned from the training camp practices of Aug. 4:

1. Given that Sean Payton's brief playing career included stints in the Arena Football League and the CFL, and that he was an assistant for nine seasons each at the college and NFL levels before landing his first head coaching gig, one might surmise that the Saints' rookie sideline boss understands the importance of patience and perseverance. That's good. No cruelty intended here, but Payton is probably going to have to rely heavily on both those qualities in his debut season as a head coach. It's not that the New Orleans roster is devoid of talent. It's just that there isn't enough of it.

We have now seen all four NFC South franchises in camp and the Saints are the only one that seems to have no realistic chance of contending for a playoff spot. That's not to say they won't in another year or two, after a couple more productive drafts like the one that general manager Mickey Loomis and Payton seem to have pulled off in 2006, but the Saints, quite frankly, look to be the division's runt of the litter this year.