Getting an eyeful
JACKSONVILLE -- Pre-season football games in the NFL are really and truly not about wins and losses, but more about evaluating talent and desire in order to pair down the roster to the numbers needed for opening day.
And so, after finishing up their first pre-season game, a 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars here Thursday night, the New Orleans Saints got a first chance to see who is ready to show enough ability and drive to garner a spot on the final team roster.
Going into the game against the Jaguars, everyone pretty much knew that future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees would probably not take a snap, and true to form for head coach Sean Payton, he did see a down of play. However, that gave the Saints coaching staff a chance to evaluate the other three signal callers vying for an opportunity to be Brees’ back-up.
Getting the nod at starter was veteran Tom Savage. As the first half progressed it was obvious that Payton and his offensive staff wanted to see how Savage could handle things under center and stuck to a more conservative game plan.
Savage was as efficient as he has been all training camp long, completing 10/14 passes for 70 yards. Even though Savage was off on a few throws that should have been made, he did show poise in the pocket and most importantly, he did not make a mistake in the game.
Playing most of the second half was second year pro Taysom Hill. The BYU product went 8 for 9 throwing the ball, but was also able to show his ability to run the ball on run-pass options, as he had 52 yards on seven carries and a touchdown.
Rookie quarterback JT Barrett played mostly in mop up duty in the fourth quarter, leading New Orleans to a touchdown late in the game on a short 11 yard drive.
Two young talents on the offensive side of the ball showed a little more brightly for the Saints. Rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith had four grabs for 48 yards and showcased his great hands and his ability to rack up yards after the catch.
Jonathan Williams, a second year player out of Arkansas, opened some eyes after a couple of hard runs in the second half, bowling his way for 26 yards on just four carries. He also scored a touchdown late in the game.
With a little amount of actual playing time on the field, returning starters Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Mark Ingram looked like they never left the field after last year’s breakout seasons. All three showed that they were more than ready to play this upcoming season.
Defensively, New Orleans did not look as efficient as they hoped to be. But to be honest, three of the Saints’ top defensive ends were not on the field of play. And, the New Orleans did little in terms of scheme.
Nevertheless, Jacksonville quarterback Cody Kessler and the rest of the Jaguar offense were able to give the Saints fits in their first three drives, especially on third down, an area that New Orleans really needs to improve on from last year.
There did seem to be some miscommunication in the defensive secondary at times during the first half of play. But, that should fade away by the time the season starts in September.
The defensive line looked impressive in some spots, especially the play of returner Sheldon Rankins and un-drafted pick-up Mitchell Loewen. Rankins is one of the main cogs in the Saints front four and is expected to contribute heavily.
Loewen was on the team last year but was unable to complete the year due to an injury.