The New Orleans Saints offense looked solid last night against a legitimate San Diego Chargers defense, thanks in large part to the excellent performances from running backs Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush as well as quarterback Drew Brees. On the other side of the ball the Saints defense showed reason for optimism as well, looking good against the run but still leaving room for improvement, particularly in pass coverage.
All in all, it was a good win for the team. I don't want to say any more without giving away my first-hand observations below so let's just jump straight into my bullet points. Follow me, won't you? Then share your own thoughts in the comment section. Personal pictures from the game will be posted in a little while.
- I think it's official and we can all go ahead and pencil in Chris Ivory as the No. 3 running back on the Saints depth chart. Ladell Betts looked halfway decent in the limited action he saw last night but Ivory has been beastly this pre-season. He's earned his fair share of carries this season if not for his talent than for his hard work.
- I was pleased with Patrick Ramsey's play. It wasn't amazing and he threw an interception, but he just looks way more comfortable back there in the pocket than Daniel and it looks like he throws with a little more velocity. This one is too close to call by me. Ramsey may have the edge because of his experience.
- Freaking Jonathan Casillas. I said before the game that if he played well last night I would support him and if he played poorly I would forever doubt him. What does he do? He plays so-so. Now what? I'm at a crossroads of epic proportions. You tell me what I'm supposed to think about this guy because I have no idea anymore.
- Adrian Arrington got some work returning punts - which was a little surprising - and didn't do that great. It's actually got me wondering if the coaches have told him that he needs to do more than just catch passes if he wants to make this team. Having not done so well at those non-pass-catching activities, I'm a little worried that he actually won't make this team. Is Arrington versatile enough?
- Meanwhile, return specialist Courtney Roby was doing the exact opposite and showing that not only can he return kickoffs well, but he can also catch passes. Roby hauled in two passes for 45 yards, and missed another big one thanks to a Patrick Ramsey overthrow. I truly think this game was planned to purposely sort out the battle for that fifth wide receiver spot and to help coaches make a final decision. The contrasts were stark. Advantage: Roby
- The Saints made zero improvement in cleaning up their act and taking less penalties. Yet another sloppy game with a lot of free yardage handed to the Chargers. Even more surprising, it's veteran guys like Jahri Evans and Marques Colston getting flagged for false starts. Maddening.
- Other than the 47-yard kickoff return the Saints let up, special teams was much better in most phases. Glad to see some improvement there. Thomas Morstead in particular looked like he was really booming his punts last night.
- The Saints defense started off looking like crap. The Chargers offense pretty much had their way on the opening drive but they tightened it up as the game went on. Particularly good to see the Saints continue to do a better job of stopping the run, holding the Chargers to less than 70 yards rushing. As Grandmaster Wang would say: High five!
- Unfortunately, the Saints pass defense left a little to be desired. Greer looked sharp and nearly had that early interception but they were definitely feeling the effects of not having Tracy Porter in the lineup. I think it was Malcolm Floyd who was wide open in the back of the end zone for the Chargers touchdown pass and Antonio Gates seemed to catch the ball at will. If the San Diego receivers could actually hold on to the ball, it would have been worse.
- By my count, Patrick Robinson had one good play: a nice pass deflection. But there's a margin of error on my calculations of +/- 1. The rest of his performance was more of the same we've seen thus far. He also got a chance to return a couple of kickoffs with unimpressive results. If the Saints have to pay this guy so much money for being a first round pick, they might as well get more out of him, right?
- If there is anyone you could label as consistent so far this pre-season, it might definitely be non other than Reggie Bush. Once again I was very, very happy about what I saw from him, even exceeding my expectations as he put together another fine football presentation both on the ground and through the air. This is probably the last we'll see of Reggie before the regular season begins but I cannot wait to see the way he gets used this year and I now trust that it will only be positive. I can't emphasize my newfound respect for Reggie enough.
- I couldn't believe my ears when I heard Colston get called for an unsportsman-like penalty. Quiet Storm never does anything naughty or outspoken on the field. Then he got flagged for a false start. Very unusual.
- Both Jonathan Vilma and Zach Strief went to the locker room after their injuries. Courtney Roby limped off the field later in the game. Let's hope that all of them, Vilma in particular, will be fine and ready to go by September 9th.
- Usama Young may have had an interception but it wasn't that impressive. The throw was a floater and nobody was anywhere near him. His special teams play looked good, however, from what very little I noticed.
- I received several text messages and emails about this. If you have the CBS broadcast of the game on tape, feel free to skip to the crowd shot taken with 8:27 on the clock in the 4th quarter. You can catch 3/4 of my face for about .05 seconds. Enjoy.
- I'm not sure if anyone else noticed but Montez Billings quietly put together a nice game for himself. He had two catches on the night, one of which was an impressive, bobbling number as he was falling down. He also made a sweet tackle on a special teams return. He even got a chance to return a punt himself, probably as a reward for his good play on the night. Billings may have earned himself a spot on the practice squad with his performance.