Saturday, August 23, 2014
Observation Deck: New Orleans Saints
By Mike Triplett
Bring on Week 1.
It only took one quarter for Drew Brees to prove he's ready for the regular season on Saturday night. And the rest of the New Orleans Saints' starting units didn't look too shabby themselves in a 23-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Saints weren't perfect -- especially in the penalty department (10 for 84 yards), which has been a maddening problem this preseason. But they did most of the important things right while cruising to an early 20-7 lead.
Here are some other thoughts on the Saints' third preseason game:
- Apparently Brees didn't have to shake off too much rust after missing the first two exhibition games with a strained oblique. He led the Saints to touchdowns on their opening drive and their third drive, throwing TD passes to fullback Austin Johnson and receiver Marques Colston. Brees finished 9-of-15 for 128 yards and even ran 10 yards for a first down. ... He called it a night before the first quarter was over and probably won't play in the preseason finale on Thursday night. He certainly doesn't need to.
- The Saints' starting defense looked dominant at times, highlighted by safety Kenny Vaccaro's diving interception in the first quarter and a nearly spectacular interception by cornerback Keenan Lewis, who ran step for step down the field with receiver T.Y. Hilton and tipped away a deep ball. Safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Patrick Robinson and cornerback Champ Bailey also made healthy returns to the lineup, helping New Orleans hold Luck to a mediocre night (10-of-18 for 103 yards, one touchdown, one interception). Luck's TD came on a blatant breakdown in coverage, when nobody picked up wide-open tight end Coby Fleener on a 21-yard pass. ... Defensive end Cameron Jordan was also outstanding with one sack, one near-sack and one pressure into an incomplete pass during a goal-line stand.
- Receiver Kenny Stills left the game with trainers during the first half, which was the biggest negative of the night. According to the CBS broadcast, Stills aggravated the quad injury that has plagued him throughout the preseason. It's unclear how long he may be out, but if he's in danger of missing Week 1, the Saints do have plenty of experienced depth at the position.
- Neither of the Saints' backup quarterbacks did anything to cement their job as Brees' understudy. I found it odd that veteran Luke McCown came in first for the third straight game; I thought it would be more of a 50-50 split during the preseason between he and Ryan Griffin. McCown finished 3-of-10 for 45 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, though he did lead the Saints on two field goal drives. Griffin, meanwhile, led the Saints to just three points during the entire second half, finishing 8-of-13 for 46 yards with an interception.
- In other position battle news: Center Jonathan Goodwin started ahead of Tim Lelito and appeared to play well while the offense was rolling. ... Kickers Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke were both perfect (Graham made field goals of 39 and 24 yards; Dimke a 45-yarder. ... The running backs aren't exactly jockeying for roster spots, but they again proved that there should be a three-way timeshare between Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson. Thomas had the best night with four catches for 66 yards and three runs for 13 yards. Ingram had a 17-yard run and finished with eight carries for 46 yards. Robinson had eight carries for 21 yards and one catch for 4 yards.