<span style="">The New Orleans Saints (1-1) travel to Cincinnati for a Saturday evening tilt against the Bengals (1-1) at Paul Brown Stadium along the banks of the Ohio River.
The Saints' starting offense, for one, hopes to continue rolling along at the pace they have set through their first two pre-season games. An inside look at the statistics shows that the Saints' starting offense, through six possessions, has scored five times and punted just once. The bottom line: six possessions, 27 points, and no turnovers from the starters and zero penalties.
Of the five scoring drives, the three drives that resulted in touchdowns have averaged slightly over 76 yards a drive. Leading the way for the Saints, as usual, is QB Drew Brees, who has completed 75% of his passes (18-of-24) for 187 yards and three touchdowns compared to no interceptions for a tidy passer rating of 136.6.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said that he'd like to see more from his offense this week at Cincinnati in terms of time on the field, although he has been relatively pleased with the tempo and overall productivity he has witnessed thus far this pre-season. "I'd like to (see them get some more playing time this week)," he said. "Generally in week three of the pre-season we try to get those first units in at halftime and back out to get some semblance of playing into the third quarter. Again, depending on how many snaps we have, that will be the plan this week. We'd like to play both first units more in this game and then keep track of the reps as to where we are."
Defensively the Saints' starters have been on the field through the first two pre-season games for six series and allowed 298 yards along with three touchdowns, a field goal, a forced punt and stopped the other team as the half whistle sounded. In addition the Saints' starting defense also has yet to commit a penalty.
But Payton said following the game that he believes the defense needs to pick up the intensity that is evident in practice translated to the games, regardless of who is on the field for a defense that has seen key players such as CB Mike McKenzie idled thus far.
"The only thing we can do is to go out there and try to work on those things (the things that need improvement)," Payton stated. "The one positive note is that it's a pre-season game and it didn't happen to us in the regular season, so we correct the things we see on tape, address them and really talk about them and move forward. I think the players understand that. There are some things that you come out of it with. You want to be able to correct the specific things that trouble you and continue the things that you believe you did a pretty good job with. We got back to the tape study offensively, defensively and in the kicking game and now you move forward. We'll look to improve on what we did last week. Defensively, I'm sure as a unit, they'll look to improve."
Payton also mentioned that the roster is far from set and that starting positions are still being evaluated, not just in the pre-season games, but also daily in practice.
"It's early in pre-season and there's a lot of competition at a lot of positions," Payton said. "We're nicked up at some positions where we may not have that luxury and we understand that, and then at other positions we're getting a look at a lot of guys. By the time we get into this game, we'll have a chance to see some things. There were some things that after watching the film were certainly disappointing and we talked about it after the game and we talked about it as a team."
"It's time for us now to move forward and make these corrections. I thought we had a pretty good tempo in practice yesterday and we're move on. The next three days for us are much like training camp in that we're not really planning the Cincinnati game yet – we're really working against each other and will do so through Wednesday's practice. It won't be really until Thursday's practice that we kind of shift gears to focusing on Cincinnati."
Much of the focus in the last few days has concentrated on the defense, and more specifically the play of cornerback Jason David.
"The one note would be the third downs," Payton mentioned of as an area of concern. "I think those are the ones that if you asked Jason, there was a series of third down plays that we feel like – and he feels like – that he can play better."
"We're back out here (on the practice field) and working on the technique on the details of what he wants to do and what we want to do overall as a team on third down defense. That one statistic (third down conversion percentage) wasn't real good – we couldn't get them off the field. I thought we held up pretty well in the run game, but when it came to third down Houston did a real good job of executing. We didn't force a punt until the third quarter so that was something that we worked on today and we're going to work on it some more this week."
David, a stand-up guy, mentioned that he knows he needs to improve and has set out to do just that.
"I'm at a point now where I have to do whatever it takes," David said. "Obviously, the time at practice I'm giving or the meeting room time I'm having is not enough, so it's up to me to be a professional and do what I'm supposed to do."
"I'm up to the challenge," he said. "I've had bad games before, and I've had bad seasons before in high school, college and at Indianapolis. The one thing I pride myself on, or what I did well during those times, is lean back and figure out what I'm doing wrong and just bounce back."
With injuries to cornerbacks McKenzie (who is expected to get his first extensive action on Saturday evening), Usama Young (hamstring) and Randall Gay (bruised triceps), David will certainly have ample opportunity, one would think, this weekend to regain his confidence.
The Bengals, with Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer, will certainly offer a stern test for the Saints' defense.
The two clubs met last pre-season, with the Saints capturing the contest, 27-19, in Cincy. The Saints hold a 5-1 all-time advantage in the pre-season series and will certainly look to continue to build on the impressive record.