Now, Brees lines up every day in practice and looks across the line of scrimmage at a pair of young stars in second-year cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and second-year free safety Marcus Williams.
When it comes to impressions of Williams through nine training camp practices, the Saints signal-caller didn't hold back on praise and likened the young safety to one of the NFL's all-time best.
"I compare him just as you look at guys in history, you know if you ever played against Ed Reed," Brees said Saturday. "You had to do a great job of looking off and try to get him leaning one way, and still you'd throw a ball and be like, 'How did he get there?' Marcus makes some of those plays, where you're like, 'How did he get there? Where did he come from?'"
The comparison to Reed will likely raise eyebrows given the most recent memory of Williams, whose missed tackle against Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs in the NFC Divisional Round resulted in a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds of a 29-24 loss.
But there is more to Williams than one play from his rookie season, as he produced a strong campaign with 15 starts and totaled 73 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes defensed.
Williams has repeatedly declined to discuss what happened in Minnesota, telling reporters on July 27 that he has moved on.
"The play is over with," Williams said, via the Saints' official website. "It's a new year."
Whether the young safety is using the play dubbed the Minneapolis Miracle as motivation is unknown, but it is clear he won't let the missed tackle define him.
Instead, Williams has let his play do the talking for him as a disruptive force throughout training camp. He has consistently knocked away passes and secured interceptions, including one Saturday off Brees in the end zone during an 11-on-11 drill.
So, it doesn't surprise when one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks takes notice and makes a mental note to be cognizant of where Williams lines up on the field.
"Continuing to take his game to another level," Brees said. "I really love everything about him as a teammate and as a young player who is just hungry to be great. He is definitely a presence and a force in the deep part of the field. You have to know where he is because he's got such good range and such good instincts."
After years of finishing at or near the bottom of the league against the pass, the Saints finished the 2017 regular season ranked 15th in the league and Williams played a large role in the improvement.
With the ball-hawking Williams patrolling the back end of coverage and Lattimore shutting down opponents' top receivers, the Saints' pass defense should only be better in 2018.