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What We Learned: If Saturday’s dress rehearsal any indication, Saints to deliver quality act in 2019

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A scoring threat on Special Teams and an ability to start fast were two new “personality” traits on full display against the Jets that the 2018 Saints team didn’t have.

NFL: Preseason-New Orleans Saints at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Saints had an ability to close games, but starting them off quickly wasn’t a specialty. In 16 games charted the Saints were able to win their first two series to go up 7-0 or 10-0 early in only two games (Redskins and Falcons).

In the rest of the games, they were either behind or could only muster ties or fragile three point leads.

In last night’s 28-13 victory over the Jets, New Orleans showed that they’ve added a new weapon to their arsenal in the ability to pounce on teams very quickly to put pressure on them while having the defense hold up it’s end of the bargain and not give up scores early.

To put it succinctly, all phases of the game were practically dominant and here’s why.

Offense

What more did you need to see? The Saints first drive with Drew Brees (4/6 for 68 yards and a TD with a 144.4 QB rating) at the helm saw them go 8 plays for 72 yards and a score in 3:08 seconds. The Saints triplets of Brees, Michael Thomas (2 catches on 2 targets for 39 yards and a TD), and Alvin Kamara (4 touches for 33 yards with a 25 yard rec) accounted for all 72 yards with Brees dropping dimes to the aforementioned at different points during the initial possession.

Even the tempo displayed came at a dizzying pace that shredded the announcers initial comments that Jets HC Adam Gase felt he did a good job preparing his team for that aspect of the Saints offense.

All of this, and Jared Cook wasn’t even used. In fact, Cook has all of 1 catch for 4 yards in the totality of the preseason with Payton seemingly keeping things close to the vest on how he’ll be used during the season.

On one of Brees’ incomplete passes the target was Garrett Griffin, and the location of the ball was about two inches out of his reach. Guaranteed the 34 inch long arms of Cook likely snatches that ball and it’s an even quicker red-zone TD.

The offense appears to have retained all of it’s qualities from last year with the only negative being that I didn’t see a lot of push in the ground game but that could be attributed to Gregg Williams’ defense consistently stacking the box and the presence of the new Williams wall in New York. Offensive Grade: A

Defense

The Jets didn’t score until their 5th offensive possession with 8:22 left in the 2nd Quarter, and that was with their 1st team offense still on the field against the Saints 2nd team defense. To put this into perspective, the Saints had the opportunity to score 35 points before New York was able to put up 7.

I could stop there and easily give them an A grade, but I’ll continue.

Right out of the gate, fourth-year Safety Vonn Bell shows up with sticky coverage that forces a tacky flag (one of 1,000 on the night) that appeared to simply be incidental contact. Nevertheless, on the very next play fellow OSU alumnus Marshon Lattimore shows up via a walk by snatch and grab of Jets RB Ty Montgomery to force a turnover for the defense and set the offense up on the Jets 30 yard line.

That’s complimentary football people, and last year that wasn’t always the case.

We needed to see this year’s defense have an ability to force turnovers and get off the field on 3rd down and both traits showed up consistently vs the Jets who went 4-13 (30%) on the former.

Defensively, the team tackled well and finished the night with 2 sacks, 6 QB hits, 1 FF. and 3TFL with the potential for several other turnovers via Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Ken Crawley who were each inches away from their own potential interceptions.

As a unit, they looked decisive and flew to the ball as Dennis Allen’s bend but don’t break style looked to be in peak form vs the Jets. Defensive Grade A

Special Teams

Where do I actually start? I know the easy route, but I’ll begin with kicker Wil Lutz who went 4/5 on FG attempts (80%) and attributed 14 pts all by his lonesome. Not to be outdone Thomas Morstead averaged a ridiculous 50.7 yards per punt with 2 of them landing inside the 20 and a long of 59 yards. In totality. he had 6 punts that covered 304 yards of real estate - insane.

If you take away the absurd number of penalty yards, the Saints cleanly won the hidden yards game within the game by a mile.

However, the biggest takeaway from the night is the fact that Deonte Harris is the spark-plug in the return game that the Saints have been missing since Darren Sproles. With Kamara having his most defined role in the offense yet, finding someone to take those special teams snaps was a necessity (Marcus Sherels signing) and 78 yards and 1 TD later Harris made the job his in dazzling fashion.

After looking close to popping one all night it finally happened with 4:27 left in the 4th Quarter when Harris broke four tackles en route to the end-zone. It was so smooth it’s the only highlight I’m attaching to this article because it’s probably the biggest addition to the Saints arsenal in 2019 outside of the ability to start fast. Special Teams Grade A

Last year around this time following their 3rd preseason game against the Chargers, I saw a team that would be fun to watch. They were a team who had built depth and had some pieces (Taysom Hill) that could be X-factors on their way to a playoff run.

This year I see a team that will be all business no suit and ties.

The talent is there, the coaching is there and everyone involved seems to be focused and dialed in to the task at hand. Operation “Get Drew a Lombardi” looks to be in full effect in the Big Easy and last nights rehearsal vs the Jets makes me feel as though what could potentially be the final act of Brees’ career will be an epic one to witness in all of its glory.