The New Orleans Saints left us with more questions than optimism from last night’s 27-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a game riddled with sloppy play, and head coach Sean Payton summed it up when he said the biggest concerns were being three preseason games in and taking issue with pass protection and pass rushing. It wasn’t all bad, but here’s a glimpse at our list of winners and losers from Friday’s game.
Willie Snead - Snead led all Saints receivers with 4 receptions for 58 yards, but it was the touchdown grab that had us all picking our jaws up off of the ground. It was a fantastic individual effort from the second-year wide out, but perhaps something lost in the shuffle was this play. With much of the attention going to Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas, Snead could be in for a huge season.
C.J. Spiller - It’s evident that this is the player the Saints and its fans were expecting last season. Spiller didn’t play much (14 snaps), but his burst was on full display. As many times as the Saints offense ran the screen (and failed), Spiller was one of the exceptions. If the team can get their offensive line issues fixed, then Spiller could really turn some heads this year.
Tommylee Lewis - If you didn’t believe Lewis had a spot on the final 53-man roster before last night, then you got your confirmation. Although he’s a very diminutive wide receiver, the fact is that any time he gets his hands on the ball big things can happen. I thought to myself when the Saints failed to convert a 4th & 1 deep inside Steelers territory, why didn’t they try a Lewis jet sweep?
Obum Gwacham - In a game where there wasn’t much to celebrate in terms of pass-rushing, I saw some positives out of the second-year player. Gwacham had a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage to force a Steelers punt, and had some good rushes off of the edge during the game.
Chris Manhertz - The injury to Michael Hoomanawanui doesn’t look good, and Manhertz might be the team’s No. 3 tight end to start the season. In 16 snaps last night, Manhertz had some pretty good blocking and had a 12-yard reception. He has athleticism, and the converted basketball star (this again) has shown a lot of growth from last season.
Garrett Grayson - I was impressed with what Grayson was able to do in his first couple of drives. I saw a player that displayed some good pocket presence, and it’s clear that his mobility is something the Saints like. It looked like he was riding the ultimate high after connecting with Tommylee Lewis for a 31-yard touchdown pass, but what we’ll remember is his two interceptions. I said in my players to watch article on Friday that Grayson had to deliver, and he didn’t do it.
Davis Tull - I don’t see Tull as an edge rusher, and honestly, what has he done to say that he belongs on this year’s squad? This is a player that has all the tools and skills, but just hasn’t put it together. He’s going to have to bring it to another level if he wants to stay on this team.
Damian Swann - I get that Swann hasn’t been in the mix due to injuries, and maybe he was just shaking off the rust. However, there were two plays in particular that may cause us to not project him on this team’s final 53-man roster. Swann was burnt on a 58-yard pass completion to Sammie Coates, and he was also guilty of a pass interference (which was called a personal foul). He doesn’t belong on the outside.
The offensive line - It’s not worth singling out one single player, because it was frankly all bad. Sean Payton said in his post game press conference that Andrus Peat and Tim Lelito both had swings and misses in the game. Tony Hills wasn’t impressive whatsoever, and Terron Armstead didn’t look himself. The fact that Payton’s very concerned means there might be some moves coming. Penalties once again wiped out big plays, and there was a severe lack of protection. I’ll be interested in seeing CSC analyst John Sigler’s breakdown and charting.
The Saints fans - If last night was built up as the dress rehearsal game where we get a glimpse of what this year’s squad is going to be like, then I’d say fans have a considerable amount to worry about. Payton sounded very dejected in his press conference, and that’s not encouraging for anyone. The Saints defense didn’t gain any support after last night, and it only creates doubt for this season.