Saints preseason game 1 vs. Browns – What did we learn?

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What did the New Orleans Saints learn from the preseason opener versus the Cleveland Browns? It’s only preseason, but there was much to be gained in the opening for the Black and Gold.

CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 10: Tight end Josh Hill
CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 10: Tight end Josh Hill /

The Saints first teamers didn’t disappoint.. We didn’t see a lot of starters as the Saints held out a bunch of guys on offense and defense. But that opened the door for a few more to have opportunities. Our center spot is going to give us some fits, but I think once Ryan Ramczyk and Max Unger are on the field the line will otherwise be fine. Alvin Kamara was exciting in his limited action and Daniel Lasco continues to be a fine player.

We learned Chase Daniel is still who he was when he left New Orleans – as good a backup as we need. We learned that 3 years later, Garrett Grayson is still not an NFL QB, not for this system at least. Time to cut this one loose. Ryan Nassib looked decent in his debut in Black and Gold. If we keep 3, he should be the third.

We learned Ted Ginn, Jr. hasn’t changed his stripes and we now know first-hand why he’s been easily cast off from 4 teams in 10 seasons, including one team twice.

We learned that we need health on the offensive line, because while the first unit is decent, it drops off precipitously from there.

CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 10: Running back Terrence Magee
CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 10: Running back Terrence Magee /

We saw one man in one game make this team with little doubt. Tommylee Lewis was open, made catches and carried a huge offensive role. He’ll never be Michael Thomas. He won’t even be Willie Snead. But he can be useful and he played his way onto this team against the Browns. Along with a really well put together and serious looking Brandon Coleman, we have our 5 – maybe 4.5 with Ginn – receivers for the season.

We saw a defensive line that looks to be solid. The threesome of Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison, and Alex Okafor looked like they were playing well together with Cameron Jordan sitting this one out. Hau’oli Kikaha will complement nicely on passing downs.

The linebackers played well also. We had a Stephone Anthony sighting that was great; he’s still got an uphill battle, but if he can play special teams and they keep 6-7 linebackers, he might get lucky. His knowledge of the system and his work with linebackers coach Mike Nolan seems to be paying off.

It’s hard to tell just how well the late game guys played, but according to coach Sean Payton, it was sloppy.

“There’s just some plays at the end there that were foolish and some substitutions that were troubling,” Payton said in the post game press conference. “We’ll get that corrected or we’ll find someone else.”

CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 10: Wide receiver Jordan Payton
CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 10: Wide receiver Jordan Payton /

Penalties were in abundance, as is expected. And going against Cleveland’s late guys muddies the waters. One guy who is on the bubble and did not enhance his chances was oft-concussed Damian Swann. He was torched at the end of the game for a huge play which set up the game winning touchdown.

Which brings us to our last point. The Saints lost their 10th consecutive pre-season game. Not only was it a loss, but it came at the hands of what is thought to be the worst team in football, the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns. A team that has had exactly 2 winning seasons and one playoff berth since returning to football in 1999. In and of itself, a preseason loss isn’t anything to worry about. But when you’ve lost 9 straight preseason games and you’re coming off a third consecutive 7-9 season, wins of any kind are important. Particularly over Cleveland.

Think last night’s win was important to a young Cleveland team that’s been mired in the cellar of the NFL for many years? You bet it was. Some of their young players showed well and that helps to keep the small flame stoked in Cleveland. The Saints players have scant few wins or great things to hang their hats on.

Preseason may not count in the standings but somehow you could feel that if you count that and think of them as games, now you’ve lost 27 times in your last 41 appearances on the field. The young players especially need victories to help them feel they’re accomplishing things and contributing.

And the way we lost – keeping in the game for 55 minutes plus, then giving up a big play to lose late – vintage Saints. So much like so many games last year. It just feels bad and like we’re in for more of the same.

When you consider the Saints didn’t play either of their penciled in starting cornerbacks, their starting QB, their top 2 RB’s, their potential starting left tackle, and the guy they expected to be their starter from the early offseason at defensive tackle, you may think the outing was not so bad. But when you think of it as you didn’t see the first or second draft pick, you must be at least slightly concerned.

The Saints have 9 days until their next preseason game, which is good – plenty of time to make adjustments. And they are needed; because while the front line players seemed to hold their own, the depth wasn’t there for the Who Dats last night.

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