In case you haven't heard, the Saints defeated the Bengals 27-19 last night, giving the team a 1-2 preseason record. Drew Brees only played one series, completing 6 of 6 passes for 55 yards, before yielding to Jamie Martin. Reggie Bush had 6 touches for 29 yards and a score; Deuce McAllister touched the ball 4 times for 25 yards and a score. The starters banked about 19 total minutes, to rave reviews. In a word, both starting units looked sharp.
MLB Mark Simoneau left the game after being kicked in the right shin. He was spotted on the sideline later in the game; the injury is not expected to be serious. As of now, that was the team's only injury.
Team MVPs: Lance Moore - 6 catches for 70 yards, 1 KR for 47 yards. Charles Grant - 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble forced. I'll leave the third MVP (necessary for the purposes of the Saints Soothsayer contest) up to the voters. See the poll below.
The Saints' reserves looked less impressive. At times they were downright awful. In particular, the offensive reserves looked uncoordinated and unproductive. They allowed five sacks, including two on Matt Baker's first series.
The problem is becoming more apparent: the reserve offensive linemen just aren't playing at a high level.
It's a bit like the restaurant scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, when the snotty host remarks that he "weep(s) for the future." Only in this case, the future involves a spate of serious offensive line injuries, and the weeping is more like a terrified whimper. Let's face it, at this point, the Saints don't have very impressive offensive line depth. Don't believe me? Check this out:
These are the team's rushing totals for backs not named Bush and McAllister. The reason that those two are filtered out is because they have done most of their running behind the starters. By the time Pittman, Stecker and Thomas are in the game, the team is using all backups. Note the 2.56 yard average and the long of 11. Yikes. And it's not just one back: even though Pittman has received the lion's share of the carries, the team has struggled across the board. In fact, the team's best rusher isn't even a running back, it's Tyler Palko. Even with Palko's gaudy numbers factored in, the Saints' reserves haven't been very efficient at running the ball. Nor have they been particularly good at passing:
Extrapolated over a 16-game season (specifically, last season), the 6.17 yard average figure would have ranked 29th of 32 qualifiers, between Eli Manning and Vince Young. The 57.8% completed would have ranked 21st, between Alex Smith and Eli Manning. Obviously, this is also an indictment of the quarterback play so far (as well as Eli Manning), but combine the two tables, and the picture of the offensive line is not a pretty one.
Now, the usual qualifiers about small sample sizes and the worthlessness of preseason stats do apply. It also doesn't tell the complete story. Pittman, for example, looked awful in trying to pass block, and allowed two sacks on his own because of it. The line certainly can't be held responsible for that. But the fact remains: while the starters look excellent, the Saints' backup linemen have struggled. Luckily, these are the backups, and they are (mostly) youngsters. As the season progresses, expect them to improve with increased coaching. If there is an injury, I would expect them to perform much better.