Before we begin to take a look at the Philadelphia Eagles and the next game on the slate, I wanted to hit on a couple of remaining points from the Lions matchup and offer them up for discussion. I know at least one of these topics ought to get a lot of people riled up. I would, however, like you to keep in mind that I personally view this weeks contest against the Eagles to be the unnofficial start of the black and gold 2009 season. Though the Saints made sure not to look past the Lions on Sunday, it might not be completely accurate to use the game as a barometer by which to predict the success of the Saints season. Cautious optimism still prevails until further notice.
Heath Evans vs. Mike Karney
During the postgame podcast on Sunday evening, CSC member coldpizza asked me whether or not I thought Payton was trying to prove something with the way in which he utilized Heath Evans against Detroit. Of couse I can't speculate on the motivation behind what we saw on the field but I will say that Payton seemed to incorporate Evans much more than he ever did Karney.
On top of that, I think it's safe to say that Evans is a certain upgrade. Karney gained only ten yards on eight carries last season and only averaged 2.0 yards on his eighteen catches. Heath Evans has nearly doubled Karney's receiving production in just one game and I can't imagine Mike being able to tiptoe his way into the endzone as Evans did on New Orleans' final score. Whether he's just better or he's being given better opportunities by Payton is up for debate but I expect to see more of Evans this season.
Running Backs and Reggie
I think Who Dat Nation is expecting to see Pierre Thomas ready to go for this Sunday's game against Phildelphia but I am doubtful. The seriousness of Pierre's knee injury has still got me skeptical. Whenever he does return, however, the Saints will have a wonderfully tough decision to make with Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas and their running back rotation. How will it work and who is considered the starter? Embedded in that same question, of course, is another old, old question, though it's an implied one: How does Reggie fit in and how should the Saints use him? Personally, I think the way Payton used Bush and Bell on Sunday was ideal. It's what I've been hoping to see for a while now.
Reggie was given his obligatory number of handoffs which is necessary to keep a defense honest but when it was obvious he wasn't getting it done between the tackles, the switch to have Bell carry the load was made and sucess was attained. In fact, Bush still managed to be a threat in the receiving game, picking up 55 yards through the air and second most on the team. He is a luxury, sometimes a liability; not a necessity.
In reality, it was Reggie's special teams play that was the problem on Sunday and no doubt that needs to be cleaned up. But what was great to see last week - and this is very important - was improved play calling and an absence of stubborness on the part of Sean Payton to force Reggie into this offense; something I have always felt has held them back. It has taken the Saints only one game to achieve something that took them thirteen weeks to accomplish last season: Have a player rush for over 100 yards.
Inside the Numbers
The Saints ran off the right guard, Jahri Evans, fifteen times on Sunday; three times more than any other direction.
Sean Payton has a 100% success rate in video challenges so far. Probably won't last long.
Surprisingly, Tony Romo currently leads all quarterbacks with a 140.6 passer rating despite the fact that Drew Brees threw for more yards, twice the number of touchdowns and a higher completion percentage on Sunday. Brees' 137.0 passer rating was brought down by his one interception. What's a guy gotta do?