You turn the ball over, you make winning a football game – preseason, regular season, any season – exponentially more difficult.
Sloppy ball-handling dominated the storyline in Friday's home preseason opener for the New Orleans Saints, a 20-15 loss to Arizona in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Four turnovers, to be exact, made life miserable for New Orleans and undercut almost all the positives present in the game.
A few reflections:
- Taysom Hill didn't help his cause in the chase for No. 2 quarterback. That's about the nicest way to frame it, after Hill was credited with all four turnovers – the first, a tipped pass that should've been caught by Cameron Meredith, unfortunately goes on Hill's ledger even though he wasn't at fault – and three of them came within the first 16 minutes of game time. He had two interceptions and two lost fumbles and, simply, has to protect the ball better. Hill did have a fantastic 43-yard scramble and he completed 11 of 15 passes for 68 yards, but the lack of ball security was glaring and unacceptable.
- Jonathan Williams looks like he's doing everything right in terms of earning a spot at running back. He had eight carries for 37 yards against Arizona, after totaling 26 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville, and looks to be a worthy candidate to handle at least part of the workload when Mark Ingram serves his four-game suspension. The Saints were very effective in the run game Friday; even subtracting Hill's three carries for 43 yards, Saints runners totaled 140 yards on 25 carries. Williams provides some juice for the running game and his performances seem to be getting stronger.
- The No. 1 defense couldn't get off the field in the first quarter against Jacksonville. Against Arizona, the unit forced two three-and-outs to open the game and if the offense hadn't turned over the ball on each of its first two possessions – both times inside Cardinals territory – the Saints likely would've been working with a lead.
- It's impossible to know who has the lead in the race to be the Saints' returner, but it's very easy to say that Brandon Tate has looked good with the ball in his hands. His opening kickoff return of 40 yards, and punt return of eight yards, were all the work he needed Friday. It looks like the Saints will be in good hands if Tate is the man. Boston Scott continues to apply pressure – he returned three kickoffs for 87 yards and a punt for 13 – and he gives the added bonus as a running back (six carries for 28 yards). This one could go to the wire.
- For the second straight week, Coach Sean Payton has noted that Saints receivers haven't been able to line up properly and Friday, he also noted a couple of wrong routes. That shouldn't be happening at this point. It's a problem that, obviously, he believed was corrected in practice this week but since it wasn't, he said that the staff has consider if players are capable of doing what they're being asked to do. That's part of the coaching process, discovering players' strengths and playing to them. But transference from practice to games is players' responsibility and right now, that transference hasn't happened in the totality sought. That has to get better in time for the next preseason game, against the Chargers.
Game action photos from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the New Orleans Saints take on the Arizona Cardinals