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Ups and downs from the Saints vs. the Chargers

Which players are on the rise and what will the team need to work on?

NFL: Preseason-New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints beat the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday 22-17 with a game-sealing interception by Lonnie Johnson Jr in the last minute of the fourth quarter.

Up: Kendre Miller

Saints third-round pick Kendre Miller carried the ball 10 times for 23 yards and a touchdown. Miller also brought in three receptions for 36 yards, including a 27-yard reception over a defender. The former TCU running back wasn’t used often in the receiving game in college, but after learning from veteran Alvin Kamara during training, Miller's route running and impact in the receiving game seems to be taking a step up.

Up: Jake Haener

Quarterback Jake Haener struggled last week against the Chiefs; however, it was his first professional NFL snaps. During the Chargers game, the fourth-round pick looked more comfortable and confident in his pass attempts. Haener started the whole second half, passing the ball 17 times completing 11 of those passes for 118 yards. In his first play of the game, Haener threw a 55-yard pass to Jontre Kirklin while rolling to his right and avoiding pressure. Haener will have one more chance this preseason to show off his skills conducting an offense, but through two games, he's shown improvement and willingness to learn.

Up: Niko Lalos

Niko Lalos was one of the main factors preventing a comeback from Easton Stick and the Chargers. Lalos recorded three sacks, four TFLs, and a knocked-down pass at the line of scrimmage. All three of Lalos’ sacks came in just two drives, including one on fourth down that put the Saints’ offense in a good enough position to get a field goal on the next drive. The Saints are looking for help rushing the quarterback, and a three-sack game may have led Lalos to a roster spot.

Down: Penalties

By far the biggest outcome of Sunday’s game was the penalty problem. New Orleans was flagged 14 times for 141 yards. Last week against the Chiefs the Saints also had penalty issues being flagged nine times. Over the last couple of years, the Saints’ offense has suffered a terrible number of drive-killing penalties on offense and penalties that would keep the opposing offense on the field. No matter, if it’s your second or third-stringer players, having discipline issues is never good. During his press conference, head coach Dennis Allen said, “It’s way too many [penalties]...we’ve got to clean it up.”

Down: Containing the QB

Chargers’ quarterback Easton Stick ran seven times for 63 yards and two touchdowns. The majority of Stick’s rushes would come from escaping pressure and turning an almost sack into positive yards. Although the team had five sacks, there needs to be an improvement in containing the quarterback. Stick averaged nine yards a carry on his seven attempts, meaning he averaged almost a first down on each rush. The pressure was there, but the team needs to be better at finishing.

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