Certainly, he’s a no-brainer. Michael Thomas was targeted six times on the evening, and finished as the Saints’ leading receiver with 4 receptions for 67 yards. The one thing that stood out to me in watching Thomas was his ability to keep focused on the ball. Thomas adjusted to where the pass was thrown, and it’s clear that this guy can play football.
Punters rarely get respect, but Thomas Morstead deserves some praise from the extensive work he put in last night. Morstead punted five times and netted a 44.2-yard average, including a long of 54. The Saints hurt tremendously in kickoffs and punting when Morstead was out of action last season. He just didn’t look the same after straining his quad in 2015.
Fans may have to quickly adapt to Nathan Stupar playing more if Stephone Anthony is out for any amount of time. However, Stupar put together some good tape last night. He had a nice pass breakup, and had some good run stops in his time played. One of the biggest things the Saints defense needs is linebackers that can provide coverage, and you have to be somewhat encouraged by Stupar’s play and attitude.
Sean Payton said, “Anytime the ball is on the ground I’m not particularly happy about it because the next time that happens there’s someone on the coverage unit that picks it up.” Despite that blunder by Murphy, he had some strong returns in both kickoffs and punts. Not to mention, Murphy had a few good plays on offense. I’ve often claimed that him being a one-dimensional player isn’t too useful, but he showed up last night.
As noted in our snap count piece, Tommylee Lewis appeared in 52 percent of the team’s offensive snaps last night. Lewis was used on a jet sweep on a 2-point conversion, was targeted three times and caught all passes for 38 yards, and had a punt return for 19 yards and kick return for 24 yards. Lewis has been flashing in camp, and it carried over to the preseason, which is a good thing.
Parting thoughts: The first team defense played particularly well, but you have to remember that it wasn’t against Tom Brady. The Patriots only went 3-for-14 (21 percent) on 3rd down on the night, and finished 1-for-3 (33 percent) in the red zone. Linebacker Craig Robertson gets an honorable mention as a player that stood out, and the depth behind the starters is encouraging, but needs some polishing. The four turnovers were killer, but I’d say it’s better to get those out of the way now. Although the final score says 34-22, you do have to remember that the Patriots scored twice on defense.
The Saints (0-1) now turn to their next foe when they take on the Houston Texans on Saturday, August 20.