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Saturday, August 29, 2009
Observations on Saints' preseason game

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As I'm watching the New Orleans Saints this afternoon, I'm thinking about changing my predictions for our upcoming season preview package.

I won't reveal who I have picked to win the Super Bowl at the moment -- that will come in early September. But I'm thinking about changing it to the Saints. I'm also thinking the Saints just might go undefeated.

Then again, part of me realizes this is just a preseason game. More importantly, the Saints are playing the Raiders, who are far worse than I imagined and I already thought they were pretty bad.

The Saints are winning 31-0 at halftime. It's not going to be this easy all the time. But let's give the Saints credit for being just about perfect so far.

Drew Brees has been just about flawless, but we've come to expect that from him all the time. The most encouraging thing I saw out of the offense was the play of tight end Jeremy Shockey. He's healthy now and he's playing like the guy who used to be a Pro Bowler for the Giants. If Shockey can play anything like this during the regular season, he'll be going to the Pro Bowl for the Saints.

The other impressive thing out of the offense has been the running game. We've talked all offseason about the Saints wanting a short-yardage running game and it looks like they've found it. On their first drive, Mike Bell converted a third down into a first with a strong run. The next play, fullback Heath Evans scored a touchdown.

Talk all you want about Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, who are sitting out today. But I think it's safe to say Bell and Evans will be getting the short-yardage carries.

Enough with the offense because we already knew that would be a good unit. I think the defense is showing its potential today. Gregg Williams was pretty conservative in the first two preseason games, but he's called some blitzes today and that's brought some results.

Safety Roman Harper and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove both caused fumbles and the pass rush, particularly end Bobby McCray, has been very impressive.

Again, it's a preseason game and it's the Raiders, but you couldn't ask the Saints to look any better than they have.