In the third preseason game we finally got to see Drew Brees and the offense come alive. They were able to get into the endzone 4 times (one being a pick six), and went 3 of 4 on two point conversions. They used a variety of passing and run plays to keep the LA defense humble and off balance.
The first two point attempt was a success. The Saints line up with 11 personnel (one tight end and one running back)in shotgun formation. Thomas is split out wide at the top of the screen with Ginn and Carr lined up tighter to the line. Brees sends Thomas in motion pre-snap and snaps the ball as he is motioning towards him.
This motion sets up the “tunnel Screen.” Wide receivers Ginn and Carr are responsible for blocking the defenders in front of them in order to set up the tunnel for Thomas to run through. Ginn does an adequate job at blocking the nickel defender and maintains inside leverage to push him out of the way. Carr is lined up with a linebacker over him and has trouble sealing him off.
This is an area where Brandon Coleman’s blocking skills could be missed, and why many believe he will be back on the team when he is healthy. Thomas catches the pass in stride and dips his shoulder as he steps up field and breaks through a couple tackles to convert the two point attempt.
The next play we are going to look at is Taysom Hill’s 11 yard rushing touchdown. Once again they line up with 11 personnel on the field in shotgun formation. They have a compressed trips bunch formation to the left and Lewis split out wide on the field side. In the bunch, Smith is lined up to the outside, Tight End Arnold is at the point, and Meredith is the inside receiver. Lewis runs a slant, which appears to be Hill’s first read. The safety sees the slant developing and drops down to prevent a completion. Hill then progresses to the bunch side of the formation. Arnold runs a spot route while both Meredith and Smith run curls.
There seems to be some miscommunication on the play because they both break their routes in the same spot. It’s hard to tell who ran the wrong route without knowing the exact play call, but it seems Meredith should have run a route towards the sideline. Or perhaps it was a pivot route but the jam on Smith at the top of his route caused the timing to be off, forcing the two receivers to bump into each other.
After progressing to Vereen coming out of the back field, Hill scrambles to his left. The receivers go into the scramble drill and Smith does an exceptional job. He gets open running towards the sideline, although it would have a been a tough throw for Hill to make running to his left. When Smith realizes Hill is going to scramble, he does a good job at blocking the cornerback covering him, opening up the sideline for Hill to score the touchdown.
We got to see another peek into the Taysom Hill offensive playbook on the two point attempt the next play. The Saints line up in their 11 personnel. Scott is in the back field lined up to the quarterback’s left, and Arnold is aligned at the wing. The Saints call a read option. Hill will read the defensive end (#97) and decide if he should hand the ball to the running back or keep it and run around the edge.
The left tackle will allow the end to go unblocked as he works his way to he 3 tech defensive tackle. Arnold will go to block what’s known as “the most dangerous man” who is the safety in this play. The defensive end bites on the motion to the running back and crashes down along the line of scrimmage to make the backside tackle on the back. The edge is now open and Hill will keep the ball and take off, breaking the middle linebackers tackle attempt before crossing into the end zone.
The final play came late in the game. Hill threw a touchdown pass to Smith who was able to find a soft spot in the zone defense. The Saints line up in 21 personnel (two running backs and one tight end) with Edmunds at the fullback position and Williams at halfback. Smith is out to the boundary side and tight end John Phillips is lined up inline.
The Saints will run a passing concept known as “spot” or “snag” that gives the quarterback a triangular read. Phillips will run a corner route to the back pylon in the endzone, Edmunds runs a shoot route to the flat, and Smith will complete the triangle by running a mini curl towards the middle of the field. Not only does this play give the quarterback an easy progression, it is designed to put defenders in conflict.
The linebacker (#50) is slowed down by the threat of the fullback running towards the flat which gives Smith just enough time and space to sit in the vacated zone and present himself to the quarterback. Hill spots Smith and fires a laser into a tight window for the touchdown.
Hill continued to show progress and looked much more comfortable going through his reads in these last two preseason games. We also got to see some of the wrinkles that the offense would have with him under center. Tre’quan Smith continues to impress early into his rookie year, showing the savvy to know when to sit in a zone and when to turn into a blocker. He should be involved in this offense early and often. Sean Payton said the wide receiver depth chart was “written in chalk” so don’t be surprised to see Smith get more snaps than Meredith as he works to get up to speed with the offense.