Start with the good.
The New Orleans Saints gave a lot of young players a chance to prove their promise in the first half of Friday night's preseason game against …
The New Orleans Saints defense looked much better than it did a week ago. The group was organized, generated pressure and got off the field on third down on each of the first two drives it defended during Friday night's 20-15 preseason home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
It was about as good as you could ask for from the first-team defense.
One of the big takeaways from the performance is that defensive end Trey Hendrickson has probably flown under the radar too much in training camp. He was consistently in the backfield against Arizona and made a good play to get off the field on the Cardinals' second drive, blowing up tight end Ricky Seals-Jones and dropping Cardinals running back David Johnson for a 1-yard loss on third down.
Hendrickson had a similarly strong performance against Jacksonville. Right now, it looks like the Saints could have a decent rotation of defensive ends if Alex Okafor, who suffered an injury in practice Wednesday, gets healthy. It will be even better if rookie Marcus Davenport gets healthy and up to speed, but he remains out of action.
But the bad? The bad was probably as bad as it can be. Reserve quarterback Taysom Hill was as hyped as any player on the team, and he just didn’t look the part Friday night.
That didn't look like a quarterback who could develop into an eventual starter. He seemed like a guy who struggled with the moment. This might be an overreaction to the moment, of course, but the first impression was really bad.
Two fumbled snaps on play-action fakes. Two interceptions, one of which was Hill's fault. That isn’t good enough. That doesn’t look like a guy who you could trust to come in as Drew Brees' backup. Hill needs to do a lot of improving. The inclination was to focus on the good things he did against Jacksonville, but perhaps that was the wrong approach.
The public address announcer mistakenly introduced Drew Brees as the starting quarterback when the Saints offense took the field Friday night.
Williams starts well
Running back Jonathan Williams was rewarded for his performance in the preseason opener against the Jaguars by working some with the first-team offense against the Cardinals. He responded with two good carries while running behind the starting offensive line.
His first one gained 7 yards, and then he came back to pick up 19 on his next carry after breaking a pair of tackles on his way down the field. Things didn’t go as well once he was behind the second offensive line, and it looked like Williams missed a blitz pickup during the second quarter.
Mark Ingram still looked like the most dynamic back on the field. He picked up a solid 32 yards on seven carries. Williams had a pair of solid carries. Does that set him ahead of the others? He probably maintained his spot in the pecking order. Still, it would be good to see him get a couple more touches with the starters next week against the Chargers during joint practices and the game.
The Saints had issues defending bunch formations last year, surrendering 22 catches on 25 targets for 187 yards. The same problem showed up when Arizona's Gabe Holmes caught a pass out of the look for a gain of 17.
But perhaps New Orleans deserves a pass on this one: Linebacker Manti Te’o was picked, which freed up the wide receiver to get open down the field. Other than that, the first-team defense appeared organized and didn’t have the same issues it experienced last week against Jacksonville when it blew a couple of coverages. Positive steps forward for the group.
Hopefully it isn’t bad for Devaroe Lawrence. He was pretty far down the radar before the Jacksonville game. Then he showed up with a pair of sacks last week. He came back in the first half against Arizona with a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage and then put a linenab on skates for a pressure right at the end of the second quarter.
Lawrence had just made another tackle before being knocked out of action in the third quarter. This looked like a guy climbing the depth chart. The hope has to be that he avoided significant injury.
It was good to see Cam Meredith back in action for the Saints after he battled a minor injury last week. New Orleans is expecting him to be a significant piece of the offense. He's on the hook for one of Hill's interceptions. The ball hit Meredith square in the hands and then popped up for an interception. It was his only target of the game. Rookie Tre'Quan Smith, however, continues to impress. He made a 24-yard reception on an in route late in the first half, and then gained 17 yards on a crossing route. Smith has been the team's big-play guy this preseason.
Cameron Meredith's preseason debut in a Saints uniform seemed rather forgettable.
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