It seems that everything the New Orleans Saints are doing this preseason isn’t about going all the way, but about keeping things, schemes and plays under a lid. Restraining Drew Brees and their revamped defense, in hope it’ll pay off once the regular season starts.
They did finish with a 31-23 win over the Houston Texans in their third preseason game, but most of the job was done by backups, as Brees himself lasted only three possessions. The Saints don’t feel like their first team offense needs a lot of practice, and they’ve been quite coy on showing what the new Rob Ryan defense has that last year’s D, the worst in the NFL, doesn’t.
Brees finished with 4-of-6 for 104 yards and a touchdown; a 51-yard connection with Pierre Thomas, who also rushed the ball four times for 19 yards. Mark Ingram also did a good job on the ground with 24 yards on 4 carries, as the Saints continue to look like a team that doesn’t plan on having one clear #1 running back.
For now, it seems the Saints are more concerned about guys stepping up on defense, and a few more playmakers clinching the final spots on the roster at running back and wide receiver.
Of those on the attacking end, Andy Tanner certainly helped his own cause with two touchdown catches (one from Luke McCown, one from Ryan Griffin). Kenny Stills is also in the running to remain in the squad that will soon be sized down, catching 2 passes for 54 yards, including one for a touchdown off of McCown.
Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson are in competition for what will likely be the final running back spot on the team. Cadet ran for 16 yards on 4 carries, but also caught 3 passes for 37 yards out of the backfield, and seems to be leading the competition against the rookie. Robinson didn’t do as well when running the ball (11 yards, 5 carries), and caught one pass for 10 yards.
On the defensive end, Will Smith leaving the field in the second quarter with a limp had to be a very worrying sign to a team that’s already missing quite a few players on that end of the field. The Saints’ defense allowed 164 yards in the first quarter, but things improved from that point.
Cameron Jordan was probably the one who put in the most impressive display, and is showing all the positive signs of someone who is going to excel as a defensive end in the 3-4 system. He and Glenn Foster, an undrafted rookie who has been lighting it up so far this preseason (4 sacks) each got one on Matt Schaub. David Hawthorne did a good job stepping up for the injured Vilma, while cornerback Patrick Robinson looked a lot better during the second half than he did last season.
This team is still about the way Drew Brees works the offense, that hasn’t changed. But that’s also the part the Saints are most confident of. The defense, the running game, and the players Brees gets to work with are the unknown, that’s getting a bit clear day by day, but we won’t see the complete picture until we’re in week 1, facing the Atlanta Falcons.