It had been almost 7 months to the date since the last time we saw the New Orleans Saints take the field against an opposing team. While I won’t bring up the details of that agonizing evening, a lot had transpired since that time. From the retirement of the franchise’s greatest player, to offseason antics from key players who will probably be suspended because of it, and then the bizarre circumstances surrounding it’s star wide receiver and his injury, let’s just say fans were anxious to see actual football being played. Saturday night we got what we wanted and here are some takeaways from it.
The Preseason is necessary
If ever a team needed a preseason to iron out the wrinkles before the season starts it would be the Saints. This is the first season in seemingly forever where Drew Brees won’t open the season as the signal caller. Couple that with there not being a clear cut successor at quarterback and you can see why the Saints couldn’t afford to have a preseason lost as it did last year due to Covid-19 restrictions. With other major position battles brewing at cornerback, linebacker, and receiver these live game reps are absolutely necessary for this team.
Saturday night proved this team isn’t exactly ready for prime time per se. The Saints started ugly and it only continued that way offensively to the tune of 4 first quarter turnovers. If there is one thing Coach Payton does not tolerate it’s turning the football over. The Saints at times Saturday couldn’t seem to get out their own way as turnover after turnover either stifled a promising drive or gave the Ravens a short field. The Saints finished the game with 6 turnovers and a loss heading back home. Having preseason gives the team film in hand to correct mistakes and see how they can put players in better positions not to make them.
Marquez Callaway is ready to hold down the fort until Michael Thomas returns
After news went down that Michael Thomas may miss some significant time this upcoming season, many wondered who or whom would be able to step up their production to compensate for such a loss. While no one currently on the Saints roster is expected to match the production lost by an All-Pro wide receiver, the mystery seems to be resolved as to who would be looked upon to be that number one guy. Coincidentally, he wears # 1 on his jersey.
Now wearing no. 1, Marquez Callaway was the no. 1 graded offensive player in yesterday's game against the Ravens.— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) August 15, 2021
Callaway earned an 89.3 OVR grade, after posting his 3 catch/61 yards stat line.
His 15.8 yard average depth of target was also encouraging to see.#Saints #WhoDat pic.twitter.com/58TnEAp2zd
Callaway was impressive in his limited playing time and he needed to be as the rest of the wide receiving corps left a lot to be desired. Aside from Callaway, no other wide receiver had more than 35 yards receiving and a couple of the turnovers the Saints had could be attributed to receiver mistakes. At any rate, as we await the return of Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris, it appears that Callaway will be the go to guy until Thomas returns, which will only make the receiving core stronger in the long run.
The Linebacker group could be a strength of the team
One of the biggest mysteries on the team was what the linebacker group was outside of All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis. While sweeping conclusions can’t be made after a preseason game, there were encouraging signs from the group. Zach Baun was a menace on defense and often was the one snuffing out plays and running the opposition down. Baun did well in pass coverage as well, allowing only 3 passing yards against. If the light bulb has finally gone off for Baun, this group can certainly go from a question mark to a strength.
Zack Baun led the way defensively with an ELITE 93.2 OVR grade on his 31 snaps played!— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) August 15, 2021
Baun was a busy man, totaling:
⚜️ 5 total tackles
⚜️ 1 QB hurry
⚜️ 1 Batted pass
⚜️ 3 yards allowed on 2 catches#Saints #WhoDat pic.twitter.com/aFnppZumxF
Kaden Ellis was also impressive in this one as he led the team in tackles (8), knocked a pass down, and recovered a fumble. This production was from a group that played without Davis, recently re-signed Kwon Alexander, and rookie 2nd round pick Pete Werner. Health and experience will be a factor for this group, but the sky could be the limit for them.
The Saints will regroup and get ready to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars next Monday night in the Ceasar’s Superdome.
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