July 30, 2005

Saints Scrimmage In Jackson: First string has good, crisp performance on both sides; young QB's play

"I thought it was a great start," head coach Jim Haslett said afterwards. "The big thing I was looking for was that I didn't want to see dropped balls, penalties and presnap penalties."

Wayne Gandy gave a talk to the team before the scrimmage started. The elder statesmen of the team won't likely lose his starting job to rising young tackle Jon Stinchcomb.

QB Aaron Brooks looked sharp in passing drills. Backup QB Todd Bouman was off early on in drills but looked much better in the scrimmage. QB Kliff Kingsbury got a lot of work in the scrimmage. He seemed to run the team well but he failed to connect with Talman Gardner on a couple deep throws that floated on him. Kingsbury's label and what will limit his pro potential is a lack of arm strength.

The receivers looked good early on and we didn't see a lot of dropped balls until the last drive of the scrimmage. Adrian McPherson got to lead the final 15-play series of the series but was plagued by three different dropped balls. He otherwise looked good, his first pass was a beautiful deep out to Keron Henry that showed both his arm strength and timing.

Both Kingsbury and McPherson had opportunities to show off their short, medium and long-range passing and their escapability. McPherson looked superior in all facets.

"I thought we did some good things. I thought the offensive line did a good job," McPherson told Neworleanssaints.com after the scrimmage. "It's a building block. We just want to build on that and come back next Friday and make some plays... A scrimmage is a game for me."

Keith Joseph got a lot of action late in the scrimmage. The converted collegiate fullback has slimmed down and is the fourth string runningback for the Saints at this point. We'll likely see a lot of him preseason too as Deuce McAllister, Aaron Stecker and Antowain Smith don't need to do much proving.

Joseph is a big, tall runner who is a bit flat footed but has surprising speed and power. He reminds more of Smith than McAllister. Both his collegiate time and his performance tonight showed that he is a good receiver out of the backfield.

TE Zach Hilton was a target all night and looked good on mostly shallow routes. The one ball he dropped he failed to come up with in the flat, bobbled it into the air and created an interception for Fred Booker. Hilton is the team's second string tight end behind Conwell, who got open a few times including once deep behind the linebackers early on. Boo Williams also had a couple nice catches.

"The surprise to me was Kliff and Adrian," Haslett said after the scrimmage. "They played much better than they practice."

The offense didn't have a lot of success. There were a few field goals but the only touchdown was Bouman to Talman Gardner in the first series.

"I was impressed with the defense. They tackled well. You didn't see a lot of missed tackled. We hadn't tackle this week."

"If our offensive line can block our rushers," Haslett commented, "then that says something. We got pretty good rushers."

S Steve Gleason had a good stick in run support. CB Jimmy Williams wiffed on a sack of McPherson. TE Mike Banks had a drop over the middle from McPherson, and on the next play Chris Vance dropped a catchable ball after McPherson rolled out. Keron Henry dropped another ball from McPherson to end practice.

Backup kicker Nate Fikse sported tatoos on his right arm to go with a general physical appearance that is the polar opposite of John Carney. Fikse's kickoffs were short but he nailed field goals of 46 and 47 yards.

WR Joe Horn sat out of the main scrimmage but was playing in the early drills. The only injury known at this point is a minor ankle twist for WR Az Hakim. CB Jason Craft didn't make the trip because he had the flu.

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