I’m sure by now everybody has heard the news on Will Smith injuring his ACL; I have been critical of his move to OLB and thought he should have stayed at DE. But I have to say it, this sucks for this man to go out like this. He is the longest tenured Saint and has been a steady force in the trenches for years. I know his career was winding down and this was probably his last year but damn I didn’t want to see him go out like this. Will Smith, here’s to you and hoping for a full recovery, thanks for all the years.
Ok on to the game. To me it was a mixed bag, after watching the tape a couple of times it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was watching live, it never is. The Saints really started out cold and were basically pushed around on the offensive line and the defensive line. When the Saints finally started moving the ball Ben Grubbs gets beat forcing Brees to throw an incompletion before he was slammed to the turf. The very next play Eric Olsen gets manhandled bad giving up a sack on Brees, drive over. I can say this; they better not start cold against the Falcons. They will need to score early and often the first few games until this defense get its feet under them.
Keenan Lewis had a long day back there, simply put; he couldn’t cover Andre Johnson at all. And for the life of me I cannot figure out why the coaches think Roman Harper can cover a tight end one on one, he can’t. I cringed when I saw Owen Daniels running by himself with Harper in pursuit. It wasn’t all bad in the first quarter as Cam Jordan did get some pressure and Hicks did get his hand on a ball, Hawthorne even made a nice play shooting the gap and stripping the ball from Tate but the ball bounce right back to him. I did notice John Jenkins drawing a lot of double teams also which is exactly what you want him to do in this 3-4 defense. I also noticed they move Jordan around a lot, my guess is that Duane Brown is so good that cam would get better pressure from the left side, it worked on his sack where he over powered RT Derek Newton. Will smith also had a nice play on an end around where he stayed his ground and shed a block by their TE to make the tackle for minimal gain.
The Second quarter is where the Saints started to come alive. On a 29 yard gain by Mark Ingram on a screen Pass, Tim Lelito got out front and made a great block to spring Ingram, after he got past his blockers Ingram show a nice burst for 15 extra yards. And then in a perfect play call Brees sees Pierre Thomas one on one with ILB Joe Mays. After PT makes the catch he sheds the tackle of Mays and then with a great move made FS Shiloh Keo look foolish as he juked him with Keo closing in and then he was off to the races….this was classic Pierre Thomas, it was all on him. That touchdown would be Drew’s last as he called it a day after that.
Enter Luke McCown; I have to say ole Luke is winning me over as a solid backup quarterback. He was sharp all afternoon, even the drops (Toon) were on the money. Kenny Stills also continue to impress snagging a nice TD catch with a really good route; he made the DB bite hard to the outside before breaking inside untouched. I think Sean Payton deliberately targeted him when the Saints where deep in their territory facing a 3rd and 6. He didn’t disappoint hauling in the deep sideline pass with one hand and somehow managed to keep his feet in bounds all the while being blanketed by the defensive back. Kenny Stills will be a major factor this year and as you can see, Drew and Payton have full confidence in him to get the job done.
Speaking of getting the Job done, how about that Andy Tanner? What do you do with this guy, you can’t cut him, and he’s been money all through camp and preseason. His first touchdown was all will, he was hit by three players and still managed to punch the ball in. On his second touchdown he had great concentration to tip the slightly overthrown ball and haul it in, really nice catch. What do you do with him; I think if you try to put him on the practice squad someone might pick him up, heck he’s better than any wide out on the Jets team, seriously he is.
A couple of other players worth mentioning are Kenny Vacorro and Ramon Humber. Vacorro was all over the field as usual and even got bloodied up on their goal line stand. Humber while he didn’t have that monster performance of a week ago, he was still solid. His stuff on 4th down was text-book perfect, it’s going to be interesting if he wins that ILB spot by himself or rotates with Hawthorne. With the way the injuries at LB are piling up I would not be surprised to see Hawthorne back up all the linebacker positions as he did last year. Well this Thursday’s game will be battles of bubble players, most people hate the 4th pre-season game, and I actually like it. This will be a lot of these players I followed in camp last shot to impress, I have my favorites and some tough choices are to be made. Strap em up and let the best man win.