Jacksonville, Fla. – This one won't be easy.
In a 38-3 victory¸ against a team the caliber of Green Bay, there are more worthy performances than there is allowable space. The New Orleans Saints, on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, had a surplus of great plays and standout players in their season-opening win. Here are a few of them:
OFFENSE: Probably, any other game, the guy would be second-year offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz. Ruiz was drafted as a center but has learned right guard, mainly because Erik McCoy is one of the best centers in the league. But when McCoy was injured in the first half, Ruiz shifted over to center and the offense didn't miss a beat. Another candidate would be tight end Juwan Johnson, who caught a couple of touchdown passes in the red zone, both of them of the acrobatic variety, and showed himself possibly to be an emerging red zone target. But quarterback Jameis Winston was spectacular, to say the least. He threw five touchdown passes, becoming the fourth quarterback in franchise history to do so, and completed 70 percent of his passes. He totaled just 148 passing yards, but it's not the yards as much as it was the decision-making and the efficiency (two drops among the incompletions). And he also helped in the run game, with 37 yards on six carries. Winston will have to show consistency, but he obviously is off to a good beginning as New Orleans' starter.
DEFENSE: Probably, this honor should go to the collective unit. New Orleans' defense was as stifling as it has been in recent memory – and the Saints have put together some standout defensive games during the previous four seasons. But rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo stood out. The Packers went at him early, and all he did was continue to respond favorably. He picked up a pass interference penalty, but he also picked off a pass, defended a pass and had three tackles. The secondary's life was made easier by the pressure applied up front, but Adebo held up especially well in his regular-season debut, and showed the coverage skills that he displayed throughout training camp and the preseason. He can play, and he fits well with a talented Saints defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: New Orleans believes it has several qualified gunners on the roster to play opposite J.T. Gray, an All-Pro in 2019. It's a bit surprising that receiver Ty Montgomery is one of them, but Blake Gillikin's 45-yard punt with a 45-yard net, would have been a 50-yard punt with a 30-yard net if Montgomery hadn't hustled down and smothered it at Green Bay's 5. Plays like that show how invested everyone is in all phases, and all the little things add up to things that can sway the outcome of games.