If you have the ability like I am fortunate enough to, I suggest you rewatch the New Orleans Saints preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens a second time. Not because I think you are all gluttons for punishment, it’s quite the contrary. I found that after watching it again (and knowing that our injuries are likely not severe) that I am in far better spirits about the game than I was in the time both during and immediately after watching the game. If any of you follow me on twitter you probably noticed some highly ‘doom’ centered posts that came right around the same time as the 1st quarter.
I was certainly not alone in my opinion on the team’s performance, and that really hasn’t changed. I wasn’t impressed. However, after looking back over it I have decided to give you a list of my ‘five highs’ and ‘five lows’ from the New Orleans Saints first preseason game’.
Now without any further gilding the lily (name the movie) here’s our list:
No. 5, Wide Receiver Depth
Of the guys currently vying for spots 3-5 (possibly 6?) on the roster, not one of them played well. The only receiver who came out and tried to make a statement was the same guy who has been putting on a show all camp, Willie Snead. Other than him, I am left woefully unimpressed by the Saints receiver player after the first game.
With that said though I still expect the final lineup to be Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones, Joe Morgan, and possibly Willie Snead. It’s the first preseason game, and the sub-par performance of the offensive line early in the game pretty much eliminated some of the wide receivers from making any kind of meaningful play. It’s certainly disappointing, but we all have to remember that it is still very early and a lot can change in a week.
No. 4, Defensive Line
There were flashes of good play, but for the most part I walked away mostly unimpressed by the New Orleans Saints interior line. I will say that the absence of Akiem Hicks should be considered significant, and that all in all I didn’t consider the interior play to be horrible, but it was far from what I would deem acceptable either. The hope of course is that the young players along the defensive front continue to get snaps and to develop so that they can provide the team with adequate depth for the season.
The preseason is a long process and camp is far from over, but with that said I really wish they would have given us more reasons to be optimistic outside of a few flashes. The interior defensive line as of this moment is the single biggest weakness that the Saints have.
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No. 3, Guard Play
In particular it was Jahri Evans who just did not look good from my viewpoint. I remember seeing some comments that his leg was taped up during camp, so he may be fighting through/recovering from something. Until I have an official report of that, he gets graded based on what he put on film and it wasn’t good. Evans was far from the only offender though. I can honestly say that I wasn’t really impressed with any of the New Orleans Saints guards including presumed starter on the left side Tim Lelito. There was simply way too much push up the middle from the Ravens front early, and that HAS to be corrected. Arguably, the single biggest contributor to Drew Brees’ poor moments at the end of games last year was the absolutely abysmal blocking that the Saints interior offensive line showed at the end of games.
I still have hope that they can get it corrected, and fortunately it’s very early in the process so I am doing my best not to become overly concerned with what could prove to be an aberration. However, it certainly bears watching going forward as the interior offensive line play was supposed to be a major area of improvement this year (Max Unger was a beast by the way).
No. 2, Penalties
Seriously…it wasn’t as bad as last year’s 22 flag game, but it wasn’t far off either. The very first thing Sean Payton talked about in his post-game press conference was the 15 (actually 16) penalties the team had. Some of them were somewhat excusable as they were the result of young players being aggressive, however the false starts by veterans (Jahri Evans again I believe), and worse the neutral zone infractions by Anthony Spencer are totally unacceptable.
There is no way this team wins 5 games, much less the division, if they can’t clean that up. Now with that said, this is of course the preseason and it’s where mistakes are acceptable so long as you get them fixed by the time you travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals Week 1. The bottom line is that penalties was an area of emphasis last offseason as well and at some point you have to stop making so many mistakes. On the other hand we as fans have to remember that this year’s team has a lot of turnover and a lot of young players…it’s going to get worse before it gets better folks.
NFL Spin Zone
No. 1, Injuries
This was going to be so much more of a major issue if I had written this immediately after the game. Up until the point where we got tweets from Delvin Breaux, Brandon Browner, and Dannell Ellerbe stating that they were okay, myself and the rest of Saints Nation were trying not to lose our collective minds. The defeatism and memories of last years horrendous defense flashed through each of our minds more and more as each player went down.
If I remember correctly, the New Orleans Saints had seven players in total leave the game, and ideally you lose none in the preseason. That adds to Jairus Byrd, Akiem Hicks, and C.J. Spiller who were already out for the game nursing various levels of ‘hurt’. The fact is that we might be able to survive without either Breaux or Browner, but if we lose both this team is in SERIOUS trouble. I simply can’t stress enough how important a little good luck going forward is going to be to this team. Fortunately it seems we lucked out this time, but for the sake of my heart (and my liver) can we not go through this anymore this preseason…please?