WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — A Saturday six-pack of observations from Friday’s Black & Gold scrimmage:
1 Sean Payton is not a happy camper.
It was John Heisman who said, “It is better to have died a young boy than to fumble this football.” Payton probably has similar feelings about players who aren’t on the field when they’re supposed to be, and his anger about such occurrences came through early in his post-scrimmage remarks.
After the usual, “Obviously there a lot of things we have to clean up,” his response to a question about a number of players having problems with substitution situations, his answer was, “Don’t get me started.”
Too late. He came back to the issue several times, once saying that’s it’s not a fine-line problem but “a wide, bright line. It happened the other day in practice, we go three snaps in a row with 10 guys on the field. That has to be cleaned up. That’s not just players.”
Payton’s right. If you’re out there playing for your career, you should be expected to know when you’re supposed to be on the field.
I’d have hated to have been rookie free agent linebacker Markus Pierce-Brewster when defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called his name, along with a few unprintable adjectives, so loud you could hear it clearly, from more than 50 yards away.
Which brings up that many of the more-obvious problems between Payton and Ryan last year were precisely over such foul-ups happening in games. The defense did extra running Friday. Stayed tuned.
One positive though — most of the players who didn’t know where to be on Friday won’t be in Black & Gold come September.
2 Go-to guy: The place where Jimmy Graham is going to be missed the most is the red zone, where the ex-Saints tight end and Drew Brees developed a connection that was nearly impossible to defend.
Marques Colston doesn’t have Graham’s physical ability, but the Quiet Storm showed Friday that he’s likely to be No. 9’s top target when the opportunity arises.
In Brees’ only series Friday, he ended it with a too-easy toss to Colston in the back corner of the end zone. Of course, this was against the No. 2s, but still it showed the special kind of connection the two have had for 10 seasons and 666 completions between the two.
3 Catch of the Day — R.J. Harris : The rookie free agent from New Hampshire is a long shot to make the team, but he certainly impressed Friday when, on a deep route, he overcame being held by Brian Dixon to make a tumbling catch around the 20 on a throw from Garrett Grayson, got up and made it into the end zone.
“It was a significant play,” Payton said in one of his rare positive observations of the day.
Certainly enough to earn Harris more playing time in Thursday’s exhibition game at Baltimore.
4 Grayson’s pretty green: Someday Garrett Grayson may inherit Brees’ job.
But Friday, the rookie third-round draft pick looked very inconsistent.
Early on he under threw receivers, once notably in red zone, had a pass knocked down by Cam Jordan and was picked off for a long return by Vinnie Sunseri, a mistake Payton said happened because Grayson held the ball too long.
Later on, Grayson became more sure of himself and made some good plays, but the overall impression wasn’t good.
Surely Grayson will get better. But early on, it looks unlikely that the Saints will feel confident enough to cut both Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin, leaving Grayson as the only backup.
5 INGRAM COMING OUT OF HIS SHELL: In his early years on the team, Mark Ingram was a quiet, almost sullen presence in media gatherings.
Most likely he was feeling the pressure of not only being a Heisman winner but someone the Saints traded its first pick in 2012 to move up to get him in 2011.
Now, though, with a new contract and other positives going in his life, Ingram is downright bubbly to be around. When he scored a red-zone TD Friday, he punctuated it by doing a spin and spiking the ball.
This was a scrimmage. Imagine when something like that happens in a real game.
6 Patience is a virtue: Folks want to read too much in how an individual or unit did Friday, and things like too many substitution errors are cause for concern.
But that’s why NFL teams have 47 days of preparation time before their openers, meaning they can move deliberately in trying to get things right.
In contrast, some college teams have only 30 days between reporting and their first game.
And they don’t have four exhibition games to measure themselves against others. Or a chance to bring in new players.
These Saints have a lot of question marks about them. None of them were resolved Friday.