In a series of games that don’t count, you might say that NFL Preseason Game 3 is the only one that actually does. That’s because we see the starting players on the field for a longer length of time than any other game. Most starters won’t play for a single snap in the 4th game and in the first two games, they might just play for the first quarter. But in the first half of preseason game 3 for the New Orleans Saints, we got a truer sense of what they’re made of. And I gotta say, I’m both delighted and horrified.
The Good (Offense):
Sean Payton is oh so anxious to play with all of his shiny new toys and the reliable old ones too! You can tell he was holding back so as not to reveal all the play-action tricks up his sleeve but still, there is no denying that we will be in for that same high-powered, no mercy Saints offense we’ve come to salivate over. Among the highlights:
-Pierre Thomas turned a 3-yard pass into a 50 yard touchdown.
-Drew Brees was 4-of-6 for 104 yards
-The Saints averaged a little more than 5 yards a carry in rushing yards
The Bad (Offense):
Despite the stats, the Saints had plenty of 0 yardage or negative yardage rushing plays. Not what you want to see from a team that has struggled to find offensive balance. It’s weird to me that Payton seems reluctant to give Pierre Thomas more touches up the gut. We keep trying to shove this Mark Ingram program down everyone’s throat and I’m not convinced it will be a successful tactic.
Furthermore, Drew Brees seemed under pressure early and often. He got sacked once and narrowly escaped a safety in the end zone. Not to mention the myriad of times I saw my poor QB getting slammed into the ground. Pass protection will be key if we want to light up the score board like in years past.
Oh…and Andy Tanner is still trying to win us over…and those two touchdowns helped!
The Ugly (Defense):
While the Saints’ rebuilding defense should get kudos for a goal line stand in the third quarter, it does little to wash away the pain of Ben Tate and Andre Johnson doing pretty much whatever the hell they wanted to do in the first half. The Saints defense still seems to lack the speed, power and intuitiveness necessary to take it to the next level. The Texans were pretty much having their way with us, racking up 200+ yards of offense in the first half. If we don’t want a repeat of last year’s tomfoolery, Rob Ryan better start cracking some skulls, Principal Vernon style. (Breakfast club reference. Holla!!)
On a positive note, the team did manage to make big stops when it mattered, despite giving up goo gobs of yards all day. And that’s a significant sign of improvement and something for Ryan to build open going forward.
The Saints play the Dolphins for their final preseason game this Thursday. It promises to be as exciting as watching Kris Jenner talk about her grandkid.