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Saints 40 @ Raiders 20: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Unlike last week, we've got a lot more good things than bad to report from the Saints 40-20 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders last night.

Drew Brees was able to get the offense firing on all cylinders again as the running game shined, the offensive line gelled and receivers found holes in coverage. After a few more improvements on the defensive side of the ball, like stopping the run and better tackling, the Saints should be ready to take on Green Bay and begin their 2011 quest for another Lombardi Trophy.  

Make the jump to read my notes and observations from last night's regular season dress rehearsal. 

The Good

  • Saints running backs were the star of the show, particularly Joique Bell who rushed for 50 yards and caught for an additional 92 yards. The big play was his 60-yard catch and run when he hurdled a diving defender then stiff armed another away before getting angled out. Thing of beauty. All of this, too, with a brace on his leg. Patrick Cobbs looked impressive with some nice runs late in the game, Pierre Thomas hurdled for a touchdown and Mark Ingram looked good catching balls out of the backfield. 
  • The offensive line looked markedly better yesterday than in their performance last week against the Houston Texans. Pass protection was better as they allowed both Brees and Daniel plenty of time in the pocket and only gave up one sack. At the same time, they were opening up decent running lanes for the Saints RB's. We can all breathe a little easier now. 
  • Another thing we can all stop worrying about is Drew Brees and the offense in a funk. He came our firing, looking more like the Drew of old last night during the first three scoring drives, spreading the ball around, throwing the deep ball accurately and running the offense with a good, quick tempo. The offense as a whole looked much more in sync.. 
  • It's becoming pretty obvious that Drew is loving tight end Jimmy Graham. He caught five catches from Brees after dropping two initial attempts deep in the first series. Definitely looking forward to seeing what those two do together this season. 
  • Devery Henderson made a nice sideline catch to start the game. I disagree with anyone who thinks Devery doesn't make this team. That's crazy talk   
  • Adrian Arrington's numbers might look good on paper but keep in mind he was working against Oakland's second team defense and was the benefactor of blown coverage. 
  • Swanson Miller had a great series at the end of the game which included two sacks. He's not going to make the team but perhaps he just earned a spot on the practice squad. 
  • Finally saw some sparks from rookie linebacker Martez Wilson. He made two nice tackles, one in the backfield. He still needs to develop more. 
  • Other than Garrett Hartley, this remained a pretty injury-free game. Always good during the preseason. 


The Bad

  • Taiwan Jones and the Raiders offense made the Saints run defense look silly, pushing them around at will. The defensive line and linebacking corps both seem to have improved very little against the run at this point. 
  • Garrett Hartley tweaked/pulled something in his hip after his last field goal attempt, which was why the Saints went for two following their two touchdowns. Payton said Hartley should be fine which means...start panicking. 
  • I would really love to finally see something spectacular from Cameron Jordan.


The Ugly

  • The tackling still left much to be desired. Tracy Porter looked silly on the one pay, Jonathan Amaya got juked twice and Scott Shanle blew an opportunity in the backfield. Still needs to be cleaned up. 
  • We might want to keep in mind that the Raiders aren't necessarily the best team to use as a barometer for future success, though the Raiders did look better this time around than in 2009. 
  • The dirt infield in the middle of the football field is just plain ugly in the literal sense of the word. It's also probably not safe for players. Disguised concrete was how Cris Colinsworth described it.