Backup QB battle takes turn against Texans _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- New Orleans Saints quarterback Luke McCown (7) scrambles to the sideline with Houston Texans defensive back Eddie Pleasant (35) riding his back for a 5 yard gain in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015.

The battle for the Saints’ backup quarterback job took a surprising turn against Houston.

Drew Brees only got one series, Luke McCown played the rest of the first half and rookie Garrett Grayson played almost the entire second half, leaving Ryan Griffin only 42 seconds.

Griffin may get more time on Thursday in the Saints’ preseason finale against Green Bay.

“When you’re trying to play a bunch, generally, it’s more difficult,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He’ll play more in this game coming up Thursday.”

McCown completed 8-of-14 passes for 117 yards, Grayson completed 7-of-8 throws for 96 yards and Griffin finished 1-of-3 for 12 yards, ending the game by tossing the Saints’ first interception of the preseason to Jumal Rolle.

“I think (offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael) and (quarterbacks coach) Mike (Neu) have done a good job in practice of saying ‘Hey, here’s who’s getting a lot of the work with the twos and the threes,’” Payton said. “If you’re trying to get four in, it’s hard.”

Flagged again

Two weeks after a penalty-marred preseason opener in Baltimore, the Saints couldn’t stay ahead of the law against the Texans.

New Orleans was flagged 11 times for 148 yards, frustrating Payton once again, particularly a sequence where rookie punt returner Marcus Murphy had a 13-yard return nullified by offsetting penalties that included an illegal block by Davis Tull, then Murphy returned the ensuing punt into field-goal territory, only to get it called back because of an unnecessary roughness call on linebacker Jerry Franklin.

“Penalties are still troublesome,” Payton said. “The hidden yards tonight were pretty significant. ... That’s one area that I brought up postgame with the players that we’ve got to get cleaned up. That’ll cost us a game.”

Safety down

Backup Saints safety Vinnie Sunseri, in the midst of a battle for a roster spot, was carted off the sideline during the second quarter of Sunday’s preseason game.

Sunseri injured his leg covering a punt, and he got helped to the sideline by trainers before the leaving the field.

With three spots at safety occupied by Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and Jairus Byrd, New Orleans was planning to take a close look at the rest of the safeties, including Sunseri, as they fight for a roster spot, but Sunseri’s injury left the Saints relatively thin at safety. Jamarca Sanford, Pierre Warren and Kenny Phillips, who started in place of Vaccaro, had to rotate most of the game.

Roll call

Vaccaro, who went through the full week of practice leading up to Sunday’s preseason game against the Texans, was not in uniform in the pregame.

Cornerback Brandon Browner and linebacker Ramon Humber remained out, although they’ve been in uniform and practice in the past week.

The rest of the list — C.J. Spiller, Khiry Robinson, P.J. Williams, Ronald Powell, Dannell Ellerbe, Nick Toon and Anthony Spencer — did not practice this week at all.

Byrd remains on the physically unable to perform list. Byrd will not be available until he comes off the PUP.