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Saints vs. Chargers: Quick observations

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It was an up-and-down game but a few players made their case for a roster spot while a whole unit has some work to do.

NFL: Preseason-New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints were able to overcome a sloppy first half and three turnovers to get the team’s first win of the pre-season. While plenty of mistakes were made, a handful of players stepped up to help their chances at landing on the 53-man roster.

Here are some quick observations.

Kaden Elliss

With starting middle linebacker Alex Anzalone nursing an injury Elliss got the start and made the most of his opportunities. He led the defense in snaps played as well as recording a team high 6 tackles.

He showed good awareness in coverage, including chasing down a screen for a minimal gain.

Elliss was also a force in the run game, making good reads and flowing to the ball.

Hopefully Anzalone will be able to return sooner than later, but Elliss looks to fit the part should he need to step up and contribute on the defense.

Special Teams/Tackling

Yikes.

That’s how one can describe the performance of the punt coverage team Sunday.

Right before halftime, the unit allowed an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown that included a handful of missed tackles. Rookie Chauncey Gardener-Johnson whiffed on a tackle that would have dropped the returner for no gain, and he then made easy work of the rest of the team on his way to the endzone.

Later on in the second half the unit got bailed out with a holding call that would have been another big gain on a punt return.

This should get cleaned up within the next two weeks, but it is still worrisome to see so many missed tackles.

NFL: Preseason-New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Deonte Harris

The 5’6” rookie from division-II Assumption College assumed return duties for the second week in a row and only helped his chances to make the team. He fielded punts and kickoffs cleanly, and wasn’t afraid to call for a fair-catch when the Chargers coverage unit closed in on him.

When he did elect to return a kick, Harris showed some smooth moves and was able to break multiple tackles.

Cornerback Marcus Sherels was brought in to fill the role of returner, but through two weeks of preseason games he has been a no show. They say one of the best abilities is availability, and Harris is making his case for opening day returner.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Hendrickson

Most observers and fans have been waiting on second year first-round draft pick Marcus Davenport to take the next step, but its been the third year third rounder who’s been turning the most heads.

A healthy scratch for most games last season, Hendrickson’s roster spot was a question mark heading into the preseason. However, his performance during training camp and the past two games show his arrow is pointing up.

He was consistently first defender off the line, showing an impressive first step and ability to penetrate. Constantly putting pressure on the quarterback he showed improvement when defending the run, even seeing some double teams later in the game.

While it is unlikely he will challenge Davenport for the starting role next to Cameron Jordan, he could prove to be an effective rotational pass rusher that can create pressure when his number is called.