The Saints started the preseason by winning at home, which was cool, but the biggest take away will be the Chiefs' opening 14 play 80 yard drive to score with ease on the Saints' starting defense. That drive, where the defense was abused and slowly bled to death, was a painful experience that suggests they are not much better than what we saw on the field last year. Hopefully they can use the tape as a learning experience to improve. The starting offense was rusty, too, but as the game wore on more positives starting to emerge. Here is my good, bad and ugly on the game:
- The receiver battle is kicking into high gear and it's going to be fun to watch. It's pretty clear Sean Payton views Kenny Stills as the heir to Joe Morgan's vacated role because he gave him every chance to get involved in the offense early. Nick Toon was fantastic, Preston Parker was even better, and Andy Tanner showed some nice things too. It's going to be really hard to cut any of these guys.
- The Ben Watson addition is already showing some nice potential. Brees used him to move the chains on a couple third downs. He's already proven to be a reliable target.
- The backup defensive line got tons of penetration. Tyrunn Walker, Greg Foster and Jay Richardson all three looked awesome.
- I thought the Saints clogged the middle well throughout the game, controlling the line of scrimmage on running plays. The Chiefs had 59 yards on 17 carries, but 14 of that came on a Chase Daniel scramble. Take that play away and it was 16 carries for 42 yards. Brodrick Bunkley looked good as a nose, and John Jenkins played well too. Jenkins also showed exceptional quickness and power to get a sack up the middle.
- Will Herring played a lot and surprisingly looked good. He made a good case for making the team.
- Khiry Robinson moved the chains effectively late with some terrific runs. I wonder if he doesn't pose a serious threat to Travaris Cadet for a roster spot? He looked much better than Cadet between the tackles.
- Charles Brown held up pretty well at left tackle.
- Luke McCown had excellent command of the offense. He aired out the ball all game long, he made tons of good decisions, showcased his strong arm and made a ton of plays. I was super impressed with McCown overall. He had the one very bad interception, but otherwise he performed very well and drove the Saints down for their two touchdowns. He finished 18-28 for 216 yards, 2 touchdowns and the interception. I think McCown has all but won the backup role with this performance.
- Kenny Vaccaro was heavily involved, led the team in tackles, and showed nice physicality.
- I don't think the Saints sustained any major injuries.
- Ryan Griffin didn't throw the ball that well at all. He looked uncomfortable and nervous. He finished 4 of 9 for 27 yards.
- The backup offensive line didn't impress too much. The Saints were fortunate the receivers were playing well and McCown did a decent job of getting the ball out quickly, but they didn't open up many lanes for Cadet. I noticed major whiffs on key blocks by Terron Armstead, Jeremiah Warren, Bryce Harris, Tim Higgins and Ben Grubbs (starter).
- Kenny Stills was involved a ton early, and even had a nice 22 yard reception. He showed an ability to get behind the defense with his speed and stretch the field. Unfortunately, though, he dropped a perfectly thrown long ball by Brees and fumbled the football badly on an end around. The potential is there for sure based on what I saw, but he's clearly not ready. He's going to have to clean things up if he wants to be ready by week 1. Major lapses in concentration. Too bad because he would have had a monster game without the miscues.
- Isa Abdul-Quddus, not because he did anything wrong, but because he didn't play. He seems like a complete afterthought after being so good last year. Is he on his way to being cut?
- Travaris Cadet between the tackles wasn't too impressive. Take away one 17 yarder, which was nice, and he had 12 carries for 23 yards. Not good.
- The starting defense was horrific. More specifically, the linebackers covering backs and tight ends were a complete disaster. Will Smith looked slow and uncomfortable pursuing the play. This game confirmed for me that Smith just can't cut it at that position. They're asking him to do things he's just not even close to athletic enough to pull off. David Hawthorne was slow to the ball, and Curtis Lofton was roasted by Jamaal Charles in coverage. The pressure wasn't impressive either, and the back end coverage was barely better.
- The coverage units on special teams was an epic disaster. The Chiefs had punt returns of 55, 22 and 16 and kick returns of 79 and 31. The Chiefs averaged 45.3 yards per kick return and 17.7 per punt return. That is astronomical and unacceptable. The team seriously needs to clean that up. That's going to be a major problem in the regular season if the Saints can't contain the return game. And as much as Thomas Morstead's punts were awesome, he did outkick his coverage to set that up on a couple punt returns. More hang time and less yardage would be preferred.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Preston Parker, who had 4 receptions for 43 yards and 2 touchdowns.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Tyrunn Walker, who had 3 tackles and constant push and pressure on the quarterback all game long from various positions on the d-line.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE GAME: Thomas Morstead, who boomed the ball perhaps too much at times. He had a 61 yard punt (all in the air!) at one point.
The take away for me is that the backups and depth performed very well, especially in the second half, but the starters got beat pretty badly. So there's a lot to work on.
Your thoughts on the game?
I think it was a decent game in which some people showed skill, others failed. The game itself is meaningless but it does leave a bad taste how the starting defense crumbled facing a mediocre (at best) offense. Well ok they have Smith, he is not that bad, though in 2 years Daniel will be the starter :-P