The New Orleans Saints started off their preseason right with a 17-13 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The offense had some new wrinkles and is still trying to find the right guys for the scheme this year. The defense is trying to improve from a forgettable year last year. Having said this, here are some takeaways from last night’s game.
This game was the first installment of information of the wide receiver battle. Stills was the only one who got significant time with Brees and caught a nice back shoulder throw. Despite his one catch, he showed that he can have big play ability as he was targeted deep on many occasions, drawing one pass interference and dropping one pass. The receivers that stood out were Andy Tanner, Nick Toon, and Preston Parker, who did most of their damage with Luke McCown. Tanner showed even greater comfort with his routes and was looked to on 3rd down a lot. Toon showed good command of all his routes and showed that he can use his size to his advantage. Parker threw his name into the mix with two touchdowns and 43 yards. It does not seem like anyone separated themselves yet. We will need more film to see who wins this job.
The first team defense gave up an 80 yard drive with little resistance as the Chiefs offense ate up yards like Rob Ryan at New Orleans restaurants. However, some bright spots, as expected, were Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks, who were able to get pressure and make some plays. Another moral victory is the fact that no receivers caught any balls, just running backs and tight ends. However, one glaring thing is that this Will Smith experiment needs A LOT of work. The Chiefs took advantage of Smith’s lack of speed with swing passes and tested his ability to get to the perimeter, which he failed at miserably. I would not be surprised if Ryan favored a younger quicker guy on the outside at the end of the day.
However, after the first drive, the Saints defense got it together, not allowing a 3rd down conversion until the 3rd quarter. They racked up 4 sacks with 10 quarterback pressures, including an impressive display of strength from rookie John Jenkins. Though the defense needs a lot of work, there were quite a few guys who showed flashes of activity and brilliance, which was more than last season. Also, one must remember that Ryan is not showing much with his defense right now and is playing mostly base defense; this will change come the regular season when he will start unveiling the more exotic looks which he is known for.
Finally, a few more tidbits about the offense. Ben Watson made his debut recording 3 catches for 24 yards. Though it is not a lot, Brees shows a high level of comfort with Watson, looking for him on third down twice. Mark Ingram got most of the first team rushing attempts. He averaged 4 yards a carry, but I believe he looked a little more nimble and more comfortable with the offense as a whole. Luke McCown showed a nice grasp of the offense. Though we never want to see him in the regular season, it seems that he has the backup role locked up right now. Khiry Robinson looked impressive running with the third team and looks to be the next diamond in the rough running back the Saints seems to find every year.
The Saints will continue their preseason schedule in the AFC West, staying at home to face the Oakland Raiders in Week 2.