Offering some wrap-up thoughts from the second half of Thursday's preseason opener, based on television copy review:
QB Ryan Mallett struggled with his accuracy in the first half, but he didn't get any help from his receivers in the second half. Jeremy Ebert and Britt Davis both dropped passes. Mallett's worst throw of the half was on 3rd-and-5 from his own 36-yard line, when he sailed it over WR Jesse Holley. Overall, Mallett went 1-of-5 in the second half, and finished the game 8-of-19 with a 34.8 QB rating.
After a shaky first half, FB Eric Kettani had some better lead blocks in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, QB Ryan Mallett was in the shotgun for each of the third-downs he faced. On the final one, a 3rd-and-5, RT Marcus Cannon was beaten inside by DE Alex Daniels, who helped rush QB Ryan Mallett into throwing an incompletion.
After seeing time at tackle, Nick McDonald moved back to center late in the game. He was generally solid, but whiffed on a block of DT Akiem Hicks on a 2nd-and-4 late in the fourth quarter, causing a 1-yard loss for RB Brandon Bolden.
The top performer of the second half: DE Trevor Scott. In the third quarter, the veteran shed at least three blocks to make stops on runs. He was also the team's most consistent pass rusher. However, he appears to play 'high' when rushing the passer, 'dancing' on a few plays instead of making a move on the blocker.
Neither Justin Francis nor Jake Bequette, the rookie defensive ends, were able to get past their blockers in the pass rush. The lone exception was the final Saints possession of the game. On a 2-and-10, both Francis and Bequette (with a spin move) got pressure on QB Luke McCown, who started to scramble before being strip-sacked by Scott.
In the running game, Bequette showed some good hustle getting to the ball off the back-side of the play. Meanwhile, Francis appears less athletic than Bequette, and looks labored when trying to get after the quarterback. Francis has the build of a defensive tackle.
A couple of plays where DT Marcus Forston got some push against his blocker, but was not too much to write home about from him, Marcus Harrison, or Tim Bulman, who split snaps on the interior.
Along with Scott, the other top performer on defense was LB Mike Rivera, who seemed to get better as the game went on. Rivera is 6-foot-2, but looks smaller than that, playing with a low center of gravity. He proved tough to block on back-to-back runs, where he shed blockers and made stops on running plays. On an earlier blitz, Rivera was able to break free from the fullback and generate some pressure on the quarterback. Rivera lacks athleticism in pass coverage, and when lined up in coverage, was beaten by RB Travaris Cadet for a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-2.
Between LBs Niko Koutouvides and Jeff Tarpinian, it's Koutouvides who looks stronger against the run.
The team gave Ras-I Dowling and Sterling Moore a long look at cornerback, keeping them on the field until the final Saints possession (when Ross Ventrone and Derrick Martin took over). The Saints were fairly run-heavy in the second half, but nothing stood out for Dowling or Moore in the passing game.