East Rutherford, N.J. – Things couldn't have gone much better than they did for the New Orleans Saints starters in the team's 28-13 preseason game victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night.
With Drew Brees guiding the offense, it scored on the opening possession of the game (he completed four of six passes for 68 yards and the touchdown). The efficiency was such that Brees didn't play another snap after the first series. The defense, which played the first quarter, forced a turnover and two punts. And special teams got in on the act at the end, when Deonte Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown.
The penalties (16, for 142 yards) were unnerving but all in all, it was a good performance by the Saints in the most time that we'll see the starters on the field this preseason.
OFFENSE: We already mentioned Brees' surgical precision, but let's not forget the Saints totaled 405 yards and converted 8 of 19 third-down attempts. The first-team offensive line handled everything the Jets threw at it, and handled it well, but the dip was noticeable once that unit left the field. It was good to see some plays made by the young receivers (five catches for 83 yards by tight end Dan Arnold, four catches for 27 yards by receiver Emmanuel Butler, two for 53 yards by Cyril Grayson Jr.). And the Saints may have the best quarterback room in the league: Teddy Bridgewater (15 of 26 for 143 yards) and Taysom Hill (8 of 13 for 127 yards) give New Orleans an admirable backup situation. The linemen who struggled will have one more preseason opportunity to impress before cut day.
DEFENSE: For the second straight outing, the starters played really well. New York's first three series went this way: Turnover, punt, punt. The Jets totaled just 300 yards and the Saints posted stops on nine of 13 third-down attempts. Six quarterback hits and a couple of sacks were nice, too. New York really didn't get much offensive traction until the starters went to the sideline for good and even then, New Orleans did a good job, on several drives, of bending but not breaking. Allowing field goals isn't the worst result in the world for a defense. There were a couple other opportunities for turnovers and, frankly, those plays have to be made. But other than some penalties (a few of which probably fall under the "questionable call" umbrella) it was a solid, all-around effort. The quarterback pressures in the fourth quarter, one of which led to a safety, were especially noticeable.
SPECIAL TEAMS: It wasn't all rainbows for the units. The Saints allowed a long punt return (27 yards in the second quarter, and it would've been more if not for a Jets penalty) for the second straight game. Wil Lutz missed a field goal attempt (a 43-yarder, right before halftime). And Deonte Harris fumbled a kickoff return in the third quarter, which really would have been exacerbated if he hadn't recovered the ball. So there's a decent amount of cleaning up to do there. But Harris' 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was a pretty big squirt of cologne for the units, as were Lutz's four made field goals. Harris had been on the verge of breaking one, and he did it against the Jets, but he has to hold on to the ball. That, obviously, is imperative. And the punt coverage has to be better. Coaches don't care where a player's name is listed on the depth chart or if his roster status is shaky, they expect application of what's being taught and discipline. And on at least two plays in the last two preseason games, that was missing.