METAIRIE, La. — Chase Daniel has completed 75 percent of his passes during his first three years in the NFL, which would rank him among the league's top quarterbacks if not for the fact that he's only thrown eight passes.

Experienced he is not, having completed a career total of six passes for 45 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. And as Drew Brees' understudy, he's never had an opportunity to practice as the first-team quarterback — though that could change next week.

With Brees staying away from Saints headquarters during protracted contract negotiations, Daniel has been penciled in to take first-team snaps when New Orleans begins its first offseason practices, known as organized team activities, on Tuesday.

Daniel's eagerness is undeniable, but he remains mindful of the big picture in New Orleans, and his place in it.

"First and foremost, we miss Drew. This whole team, the community, the fans, everybody misses Drew, but we also realize right now we have to move on without him," Daniel said. "Is a deal going to get done? Yes, I have faith. But right now it's a great opportunity for myself to go in, show the type of skills I've (gained) ... and really earn the trust of the guys.

"I'm looking forward to it," Daniel continued. "Obviously, Drew runs the ship. I'm just here to get ready."

The 6-foot, 225-pound Daniel, who'll turn 26 on Oct. 7, was plucked off waivers by Saints head coach Sean Payton at the end of 2009 training camp, which Daniel, then a rookie, had spent with the Washington Redskins.

Daniel never played in his rookie year, when he was the Saints' third quarterback behind Mark Brunell and spent most of the season on the practice squad. He moved into the second-string spot in 2010, since which time he also has been the holder on field goals. All the while, he has watched and learned from Brees, seeking to match his intensity at practice while mirroring his work ethic and preparation. Apparently, even some of Brees' mannerisms have rubbed off.

"It's funny when you kind of listen to him and you're like, 'Is this Drew or is this Chase?'" Saints veteran receiver Lance Moore said. "There's a lot of things that are similar. You kind of listen to him and the way he runs the drills and stuff like that and gets guys organized on the field. You can tell he's been paying close attention to what Drew's been doing."

Despite Daniel's relative lack of regular season action, he has seen his share of preseason snaps the past two seasons and his teammates are well aware that, like Brees, Daniel was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Daniel went 30-11 at Missouri, where he was the first QB to throw for 3,000 or more yards in three straight seasons, twice surpassing the 4,300-yard mark and setting school records in the process.

"He hasn't played more (NFL) ball than a lot of the guys that are out there, but he definitely commands guys' attention and he's got confidence out there, so it's easy to go out there and play with him," Moore said. "He's not a slouch. He wouldn't be here if he was a slouch."

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said next week's OTA's won't be run any differently than they would if Brees were present. The offense will work on the same volume of plays.

So Daniel should get a genuine sense of what it's like to practice as the No. 1 QB — and a shot to show coaches he can handle it.

"This will be an opportunity for him and he knows it," Carmichael said.

Daniel regrets, however, that he won't be working with Payton, the coach who brought him to New Orleans and who has monitored his career since high school in Texas, back when Payton was a Dallas Cowboys assistant. Payton has been suspended the entire season in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation of the club.

"I have a pretty special bond with (Payton), as I do with Drew, so to have those two guys not here, it's tough," Daniel said. "But I tell you what, Pete Carmichael and (quarterbacks coach) Joe Lombardi, they've done an excellent job teaching me the ins and outs ... and moving forward I'm very comfortable with Pete."

While Daniel cannot speak to Payton because of the coach's suspension terms, he has kept in touch with Brees.

"He just says, 'Steer the ship,'" Daniel said. "It hurts him not to be there. It really does. We're like family to him and he's family to us and we miss him ... but he also realizes that this is a business and he has to get a deal done first."

Until then, Daniel stands to get some valuable experience.