BALTIMORE — The New Orleans Saints’ first preseason game might have been costly for their first-team defense.
On the Ravens’ first possession — a 16-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown — weakside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and starting cornerback Brandon Browner went down on back-to-back plays.
Ellerbe made a tackle at the goal line, then came up with a gimpy knee and called for the trainers.
On the next play, Browner’s right knee appeared to take a shot from rookie linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, bending inward. Browner walked off the field, flexing his knee, and then left the sideline on a cart.
The third injury came on the next series. Delvin Breaux, who appears to be the starter at nickel cornerback, defended a deep ball down the sideline to Darren Waller and came up celebrating.
When he got back to the line, however, Breaux went down and called for the trainers. He left the field under his own power.
A source told The Advocate that Browner’s injury was not believed to be serious.
The Saints, like most teams around the NFL, held several key players out of action for reasons that had nothing to do with health.
Franchise quarterback Drew Brees went through a full warmup, but when the New Orleans offense emerged, veteran backup Luke McCown was the starter, adding Brees to the ranks of several star quarterbacks who get to take the preseason opener off.
Wide receiver Marques Colston, who has been at full speed for a week after starting the season on the physically unable to perform list, also sat out Thursday’s game, and starting defensive end Akiem Hicks, who appears to be healthy after missing two recent practices, was replaced by undrafted free agent Bobby Richardson in the starting lineup.
Too much yellow
Preseason games are supposed to be sloppy.
But the Saints had serious penalty problems in the first half, taking seven flags for 55 yards and costing the team dearly. An illegal contact penalty by Browner and an offsides on Anthony Spencer extended Baltimore’s first two drives, and the flags just kept coming, to the tune og 16 penalties for 143 yards.
Missing in action
Running back C.J. Spiller and safety Jairus Byrd headlined the list of Saints who didn’t appear to be available Thursday.
Neither was a surprise. Byrd has been doing rehab work but has not practiced yet, and Spiller wasn’t on the field in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, for Tuesday’s final practice before the road trip.
Beyond those two starters, wide receiver Jalen Saunders, linebacker Ronald Powell, offensive guard Sean Hickey and offensive tackle Nick Becton were out of uniform as the team prepared to warm up.
Out of those four, only Powell is a surprise. Saunders has been out for the past week, and Hickey and Becton missed the last two practices before the team left for Baltimore.
Rookie CB Damian Swann picked off a Matt Schaub pass in the second half. ... Dustin Hopkins took the first half in the Saints’ kicking battle, making both of his extra-point attempts. Zach Hocker got the second half, missing a 50-yard field goal attempt before knocking a 47-yarder through. ... Rookie return man Marcus Murphy got the start at kick returner and averaged 26 yards on five returns.