If the count is correct, 76 New Orleans Saints played in the preseason opener Friday night against Minnesota in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Lots of options to choose from when looking for a standout player for each unit. Here we go:
OFFENSE: I think we're getting a clearer understanding of why the Saints traded for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and what he potentially could bring to the offense if he's needed to step in and run it. Sure, we'd heard a lot from his teammates, to the point where it had become urban legend to a degree. But while Friday only was a preseason game – a 34-25 loss to the Vikings, Bridgewater's former team – it looks fairly obvious that Bridgewater can needle the ball into tight windows, he can make the back-shoulder throw, he can shift in the pocket to buy a little time and he can make the right reads. Will he want some throws and reads back? Of course he will. But he was 14 of 19 for 134 yards and a touchdown, and he looked very comfortable operating with the No. 1 offense.
DEFENSE: A couple of paragraphs above, I said there were lots of options to choose from when looking for a standout player for each unit. I may have overstated a bit. Defensively, the Saints surrendered 460 yards and 8.5 yards per play, and gave up six plays of at least 20 yards, so, obviously, there weren't a lot of head-turning plays made. But linebacker Vince Biegel provided a boost with his second-quarter fumble recovery. True, it was somewhat of an unforced error – Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah fumbled without being touched. But Biegel was on the scene to wrestle the ball away from Abdullah quickly, and give the Saints possession at their 21-yard line with 1:46 left in the first half. The offense took the turnover and wove a six-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to pull to within 14-12.
SPECIAL TEAMS: There'll probably be more opportunities to spotlight the standout production of kicker Wil Lutz, who kicked four field goals (including a 52-yarder) against the Vikings. For this game, we'll look to returner Deonte Harris. He's been dinged up and hasn't practiced a lot in training camp, but in his debut as a Saint, the undrafted rookie receiver returned three kickoffs for a 30-yard average. Just as much as the production, you can see the potential. If his teammates can give him a crease, he possibly can outrun an angle or two. He's got some juice and for an element of the return game that has needed it, it's refreshing. The job isn't his, by any stretch of the imagination, but the Saints are accepting applications and if he can have a few more pops, his application is one that could be separated off to the side for deeper review.
Take a look at the action from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the New Orleans Saints take on the Minnesota Vikings in week 1 of the 2019 NFL preseason.