It wasn’t pretty, but the New Orleans Saints defeated the Tennessee Titans in their second preseason game 31-24 in front of Who Dat Nation. After trading several scoring possessions, the Saints would score at the end of the first half courtesy of a 23-yard Mark Ingram receiving touchdown, and would never trail again. Overall, the game was sloppy thanks largely in part to 32 total penalties.
After watching the game again, here are my five observations from Friday night’s game:
5. Still question marks for position battles
As for the kicking competition, both Derek Dimke and Shayne Graham were perfect. So, we don’t have a clear player emerging as the team’s favorite, yet. The linebacker and secondary battles have been intriguing. We saw safety Vinnie Sunseri and linebacker Kyle Knox shine on Friday. Arguably, Stanley Jean-Baptiste had a much better showing than last week against the Rams. With these types of players performing, it makes the roster decisions a little tougher, as there have been few ‘clear cut’ candidates.
Although rookie wide receivers Brandon Coleman and Seantavious Jones put together a better effort than their previous game against the Rams, the team looks to have their wideout situation fairly decided. In my opinion, the final six wide receivers the Saints carry into the regular season are without a doubt: Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Robert Meachem, Nick Toon, and Joe Morgan. Andy Tanner did not show much on the night, which could signal the final end of his run for the team.
As for the other position battle still up in the air, keep reading.
4. The backup quarterback job still isn’t decided
Both Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin performed on Friday night, and had very respectable stats on the night:
Griffin: 13/19, 179 yards, 9.4 average, 2TD, 133.4 QB rating
McCown: 12/20, 117 yards, 5.9 average, 2TD, 109.8 QB rating
There’s no doubt that there were a few throws that I’m sure McCown would have loved to have back and do over again. McCown scrambled out of the pocket more, while Griffin stood tall in the pocket more. Griffin followed up last week’s outing with nothing short of excellence. There is a level of respect that people need to show Luke McCown in regards to his abilities and veteran leadership. However, Ryan Griffin is consistently executing, which in turn could give him the final edge. Personally, I’ve seen enough from Ryan Griffin that warrants him as the team’s backup. Whether he ends up backing up Drew Brees at the end of it all is not any of our calls, but is quite intriguing.
3. We’re overjoyed that Keenan Lewis is OKAY
I was sitting on the Saints side a few rows up from the field on the 10-yard line. I saw Lewis limping to the locker room and reported the information accordingly as he went back with the trainers. He had a very disappointing look on his face, and it instantly brought up fears of the worst case scenario.
Fortunately for the Saints, Lewis was at practice yesterday, and he posted on Instagram that he was ready for the season. If we were to be without Keenan Lewis, this team would have a serious hole in the secondary, which in turn would really hurt the team’s chances at a Super Bowl run. Yes, Keenan Lewis is that important.
2. Turnovers, but…
Forcing so many turnovers during the course of any regular season game is great, but five during a preseason game? It’s nearly unheard of. The defense was able to get forced fumbles and an interception (Jean-Baptiste’s play was ruled a fumble). Let’s also not forget that one turnover was taken away when Vaccaro forced a fumble (I can’t wait to say that more this year), but the play was ruled incomplete upon further review.
It’s a great sign to see the type of intensity around forcing turnovers, but it was overshadowed by the 22 penalties. That’s right. 22. That’s a typical amount of first downs a team gets in a game. In fact, the New Orleans Saints had 22 first downs in the game! For some perspective, the Oakland Raiders set a league record in 2011 with the most penalties by one team with 163. The Saints racked up 13% of that number in one game. Sean Payton wasn’t happy, and you shouldn’t be either. Again, you can say that ‘this was just a preason game’, or ‘Jimmy Graham’s two were garbage anyway’. However, the fact remains that more discipline is required and demanded from this team, and Sean Payton was quick to acknowledge this in his post game interview. Payton called it ‘ugly’, and accepted all responsibility.
1. Joe Morgan puts it together; builds confidence
Joe Morgan reminded everyone that he’s more than capable of making big things happen. Morgan was targeted four times on the night, and hauled in three receptions for 108 yards. Morgan boasted a modest 36.0 yards per reception. Morgan’s ability to ‘get it going’ is extremely encouraging for a New Orleans Saints offense that will likely call upon him more than a few times during the season. If Morgan remains healthy, that’s one more element in the Saints offense that teams will struggle to account for.
What stood out to you Friday night, Who Dat Nation? What are your feelings on the win? Sound off below!