The Saints wrap up their third preseason game with a big victory over the New York Jets. There were a lot of storylines heading into this game, so let’s go over some of the most prominent with initial reactions following the flag-filled contest. Check back tomorrow for a more in-depth recap by Dom Lewis.
Drew Brees gets the start
Brees opened up action right away after the Saints won the toss and led a beautifully executed 8-play drive that resulted in a touchdown to the 96.25 million dollar man Michael Thomas. Brees put on a clinic with his trademark pin-point passes in traffic hitting Kamara on a well-run wheel route, Thomas in the middle of double coverage, and then Thomas again in the endzone along the boundary for six.
Of the opening eight plays, the ball found it’s way to Kamara or Thomas seven times by pass or run. The lone outlier was an incomplete pass to Garrett Griffin. Brees finished his day going 4 for 6 for 68 yards, a touchdown and a 144.4 passer rating. After that successful drive, he, Kamara, Thomas, and Armstead found their way to the bench and in baseball caps.
The Teddy-Taysom Battle Continues
This is more so a battle of the fans more than it is actually one within the organization. Both of these guys have shown and impressed throughout three preseason games but after a down game last week, the eyes were critically glued to Bridgewater’s performance against the Jets.
Teddy started off struggling not able to complete on four of his first five passes, but not all were his fault. The second string offensive line was given fits by the Jet’s starting unit that stayed out for an oddly long time deep into the second quarter. He was hit a couple of times on his opening drive and also saw a couple nice passes dropped by Dwayne Washington who also suffered a concussion in this game. Teddy got back on his rhythm it seemed with a nice looking two-minute drive that unfortunately yielded no points.
That rhythm started off with a sliding connection to Emmanuel Butler and then another deep ball to Deonte Harris who had just about the most successful night of any Saints player. When it was all said and done, Bridgewater didn’t grab a touchdown but did complete 15 of 26 passes for 143 yards taking only one sack. He also led two scoring drives, both field goals as well as that missed field goal to end his final drive of the game.
Taysom also led two scoring drives, both field goals in his second half of play. He started out his night with a three-and-out with the offense to open up the second half but he, much like Bridgewater looked to settle in and get more comfortable as the game went on. He did miss a touchdown to Alizé Mack who was wide open in the endzone, but Hill just missed the mark wide left on the throw. Three plays later he runs in for a touchdown and the offensive line gets called for holding. Then a false start.
This was a storyline of it’s own that I’ll get to in a moment. But Taysom connected on a couple of great looking throws including a couple nice ones to Dan Arnold who Hill clearly has developed a rapport with, and Cyril Grayson on a 49 yard deep ball down the sideline. Taysom finished with 127 passing yards and probably more astounding only 15 rushing. While he threw 13 passes (completing eight) he only ran twice. Looked like he was looking to get the ball downfield and make plays with his arm this game. He did so well.
More Redzone Allergies
It seemed like every time the Saints found their way into the redzone, the offense would find a way to stall. Either by not executing well or penalties, they would find some way to shoot themselves in the foot. This was a game in which the Saints committed 16 penalties for 142 yards. All told among the two teams there were 31 for 270 yards. Of their share, the Saints committed four penalties in the second half in the redzone threatening to score. One penalty by Patrick Omameh nullified Taysom’s touchdown run. Outside of Brees’ touchdown pass, the Saints only put field goals and a safety up on the board in this game. Now, will these redzone woes transfer to the regular season? Likely not with what we saw from the first-team offense. However, not having a QB outside of Brees that can close the deal isn’t great.
Deonte Harris: 53-Man Roster Maker
Deonte Harris should have sealed his fate tonight after a third straight game impressive as a return specialist for New Orleans. There was a moment of pause when he fumbled a kick return which he had to scramble to recover on his own. However, redemption came quickly in the fourth quarter when he took bak a 79 yard punt return for a touchdown right up the middle. Harris continues to impress with his vision. Past Saints returners would have tried to get outside on the two coverage defenders closing in on him from either side, but instead he used his speed to split them and blow by the rest of the Jets’ would-be tackler including a diving attempt by the punter. All was to no avail though as Harris glided into the endzone after discussing that he was felt he was very close to breaking one last game.
Harris hasn’t really had any competition at the return specialist spot this preseason even though Cyril Grayson has returned a few as well. Marcus Sherels still has a game to get involved if he can get back from injury, but even still I think it’s safe to assume that Harris will lock his position down – especially after gifting the Who Dat Nation with its first punt return TD since Week 3 of the 2015 season.
Harris also saw tie as a receiver working in the offense catching two of three targets for 18 yards.
Emmanuel Butler SZN
Butler finally got a chance to get into the mix after a rough return last week against the Chargers. Butler was one of 17 receivers in this game with a target, one of 13 with a catch. He had five total targets with four catches and 27 yards. He was the second-most targeted player behind leading receiver Dan Arnold, as were his four catches.
Now while a four catch 27 yard stat line is not the most impressive day at the office, you can see all of the things that have drawn Butler so much attention throughout camp on tape now. The way he attacks the ball, his violence off the line (he drew a holding penalty late in the game after winning on a double-move), and the way he uses his size and reach.
Disappointingly he didn’t get a look with Drew Brees. But if he improves again going into the Dolphins game like he did this week, it could earn him a shot going into Week 1.