The Saints defense finally showed up just enough in a season opener to keep the game competitive. But just like in years past it all fell on the shoulder of Drew Brees to get the team in position to rely on the leg of Wil Lutz to seal the win as time expired.
Here are some quick observations:
Hendrickson lit up the field during the preseason and continued his stellar play into week 1 against the Texans’ retooled offensive line. Already down three key members of the defensive line rotation, Hendrickson lined up at multiple spots along the line and helped the defense record six sacks total.
His second sack of the day happened on the Texans’ second to last drive on a third down that would lead to a punt.
Going up against Laremy Tunsil, Hendrickson uses a club/rip to blow by the tackle and get the sack.
If Hendrickson can keep up this level of play, the defensive line should be even more solid going forward, especially with the return of David Onyemata next week and Sheldon Rankins later down the line.
The Houston Texans boast a three time NFL Defensive Player of the year, but you wouldn’t know it Monday night. Right Tackle Ryan Ramczyk had one of his best performances of his career going up against J.J. Watt and completely shutting him down.
In tonight's loss to the Saints, J.J. Watt failed to record at least 1 tackle or 1 QB hit for the first time in 105 career games.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 10, 2019
The rest of the offensive line did a fairly good job opening running lanes and allowing only one sack and three quarterback hits. Rookie center Erik McCoy also played seemingly mistake free in his NFL debut, calming any worry Saints fans may have had about the rookie filling Max Unger’s shoes.
The line faces another test next week when they travel to Los Angeles to face Aaron Donald and defensive guru Wade Phillips.
It wasn’t perfect, but the special teams unit turned out to be a key contributor to the victory. Minus a couple mental mistakes, Deonte Harris looked solid in his first NFL game gaining 20 yards on 3 punt returns. His two fair catch debacles did not turn out too costly, and should be considered just rookie errors that will be cleaned up heading forward.
The unit also took advantage of a 15 yard penalty, having Thomas Morstead kickoff from the 50 yard line and pinning the Texans within their own 20 with a nice tackle from CJ Gardner-Johnson.
Gardner-Johnson would later commit an egregious penalty by running into the kicker when the Texans miss the PAT that kept the game tied at 27. In the end his mistake didn’t affect the outcome, but he’ll still hear from his coaches this week.
And of course, there’s Will Lutz who went 3-of-4 for field goals, missing a 56-yarder right before halftime. He would make up for that miss by setting his new career long field goal with a walk off 58 yard field goal for the win as time expired. Not much else needs to be said about the best kicker in the Sean Payton era.
Kamara is still the spark plug
Most of the talk surrounding the offense this offseason centered around Jared Cook and who would be the number 2 receiver next to Michael Thomas. Cook had a quiet Saints debut and while Ted Ginn Jr. had a solid 101 yard game, but this offense still leans on Kamara to get things going.
Kamara was held to only 29 yards in the first half while the offense was only able to put up 3 points. However in the second half Kamara was unleashed and got the offense rolling again. In the second half alone the former rookie of the year had 81 rushing yards and 59 receiving yards. A few of his plays led directly to a Saints score, including Latavius Murray’s first in New Orleans.
Brees may have more weapons to work with this year, but this offense will still depend heavily on the third year running back.