August 5, 2007

Scouting the Saints: Preseason Week One vs. Steelers

Looks like the rain stopped just before the game started and the field was slick but it wasn't actively raining during the game... Starting defense was Shanle, Simoneau, Fujita, Grant, Hollis Thomas, Lake, Will Smith, McKenzie, Kaesviharn, Bullocks, Fred Thomas. First play of game Charles Grant showed the run stuffing ability that earned him a fat new contract, meeting Najeh Davenport in the hole... On second play of the game, Cedrick Wilson blows by Mike McKenzie with a double move and Kevin Kaesviharn can't get over in time... Nate Washington drops a catchable ball when Fred Thomas had fallen down... McKenzie falls down and Wilson beats him on the slant, takes it inside the five. McKenzie dove for the ball but wasn't close, it was pitch and catch for Roethlisberger... Shanle and Kaesviharn can't stop Davenport in the scrum on the touchdown run.



The first drive saw the Saints secondary get beat all over the field in man coverage. It was ugly.

Lance Moore and Aaron Stecker are back to receive the first kickoff, and Moore is the designated handler.

Starting offense is Henderson, Colston, Campbell, Brown, Nesbit, Faine, Evans, Stinchcomb, Brees, Karney, Bush... Reggie Bush looks great on his first two runs, making sound decisions and showing vision, control and power... Bush's was one for two in blitz pickup, one catching a blitzer low and knocking him out of the lane, and a second time whiffing on the incoming pass rusher... Brees' first pass off play action to Marques Colston was his only completion. Brees then threw balls that were tipped, behind his receiver, late and into the path of Polamalu, late and got Colston rung, late and wide right of Colston. He had good reason to look ticked off all night on the sidelines. Knowing Brees, he'll be a lot sharper in practice and on Friday night...

Weatherford's first punt was an excellent directional kick. Wouldn't see any reason that Hanson should beat him out for the job... The starting defense remained on the field through the first quarter... Will Smith swam past Max Starks to drop the runningback for a three yard loss. That's two great plays in the run game by the star Saint DE's, need to see more of that... Josh Bullocks certainly should have been called for pass interference on the deep pass to Wilson. Tangled feet aside, Bullocks had his hands all over him. Prevailing trend is that the refs were letting them play today... Lance Moore showed good speed on the first punt return...

Saints called a lot of pass plays with the starting offense without McAllister in. When Bush is in the game, logic would dictate the Saints would pass more often... Brees' timing is obviously not on yet. His throws are late... LB Dhani Jones took a dandy cheap shot from WR Walter Young on a punt return after RB Jamaal Branch made the tackle on the returner... Shanle with a nice tackle on elusive Willie Reid... Fujita reads the screen and engages the blocker, but he has no help as the play results in a good gain... Maybe its just because Davenport is huge, maybe its that Bullocks is a weak tackler, but Davenport just ran him over. Fred Thomas, on the other hand, knows how to meet someone in a tackle even if he should have been a little lower... Simoneau and Fujita blitz, up the middle and off the edge respectively, while Charles Grant drops shallow in pass coverage on the other side of the line. Hollis Thomas collected the left tackle, Scott Fujita took the tight end wide and Simoneau runs in unmet to collect the sack... On the next play, Will Smith and Hollis Thomas collapse the pocket while Lake and Smith crush Batch. Lake drove Kendall Simmons straight back into the pocket, then fought past the double team when Chukky Okobi joined him to help Smith fall Batch. Lake has really turned it up...

Aaron Stecker is the first runningback off the bench and was featured in the last three and out of the first quarter and all of the second quarter. Either score one point for Stecker in the battle for 3rd runningback, or consider it a good audition for a trade. Stecker has traditionally looked better in preseason than regular season... Jamie Martin, like Brees, was way off on his throws... Jammal Brown is still in the game with the second team, and is playing well. A huge change from this time last year, when he looks out of place at left tackle...

Brian St. Pierre smothered by Lake and Kendrick Clancy in a coverage sack. Both had great push into the pocket... Josh Cooper and NFL Europa veteran Willie Evans are the second string DE's... The second string defensive line totally fell for a screen plan in the second... Clancy getting consistent push, and was getting downfield very well running down that screen. Showed speed very unlike your average defensive tackle... Jason David gets burnt badly by Santonio Holmes, who isn't a slouch but can't possibly be that fast. David was lined up tight in bump and run man up coverage, but didn't bump and then got run... Anwar Phillips is going nowhere fast with stupid facemask penalties like that on the initial bump after the snap. Just let it go, literally... Jason Craft was badly out of position on the fade route to Holmes. The Saints are obviously playing a lot of basic man coverage tonight, and it isn't working...

Martin looks off. Hopefully this game is going to be the kind of wake up call the team obviously needs to refocus in camp... Backup CB Chidi Iwuoma ran with Lance Moore all the way down on a fly route and was in position to break up the pass. Watch and learn, Saints... LB Troy Evans makes a good read on a screen in the second quarter and makes the tackle. Jason Craft had even better position but needed help to complete the tackle... Terrible tackling by Scott Scharff, Anwar Phillips and Curry Burns on Carey Davis' long run in the middle of the second... Dhani Jones got taken for a ride by Kevan Barlow. The two met at the 19 and Barlow went down inside the 15... David was beaten again by Santonio Holmes on an out patten in the end zone, but the ball was overthrown by St. Pierre. Holmes was wide open inside the goal line. Santonio Holmes has remarkable skills...

Most surprising player of the nice for the Saints was Pierre Thomas. The rookie showed good agility and some zip on kickoff returns and runs. Too bad he's got absolutely no chance to make the active roster, the Saints need to hide him for the rest of preseason and keep him on the practice squad... Terrance Copper made a great catch on a sideline comeback route, the first of a few good plays Copper made. Receiver is clearly the most loaded position on the roster for the Saints, if only because Copper is a starter and is probably the fourth receiver on the depth chart... False start on Trev Faulk in punt formation isn't going to help him out getting a job where the primary responsibilities are special teams...

Jason Fife started off the second half with another off-target pass by a Saint QB... Antonio Pittman runs like he's been here before. It's expected of a refined, productive runner from a major college project, but still elusive for rookies. He has patience and vision and showed a decent burst getting outside on his first carry. Nice stiff arm to bury safety Mike Lorello on that run. His first instinct is power, not dancing or scurrying around behind the line, and that's a valuable thing to have as a rookie... Kevin Dudley got upended after a nice dumpoff run, he didn't jump, Anthony Madison just found his knee and flipped him. Get down or jump over him Dudley, one or the other... Nice catch of a poor throw by Lance Moore from Fife... Moore is on track to make this team if the Saints choose to keep 6 and don't make a move to trade somebody above him like Henderson... Payton opened the third quarter calling angry, try to recover some momentum in the game. It isn't just a meaningless game, there is some respect to be earned. Thus the fourth down attempt on his own 37...

Fife's arm is strong, but as can be seen on the deep comeback by Copper, it's just not accurate. His next throw to Copper was on the slant. An alley was open and had Fife led Copper instead of making him stop his pattern and reach back to catch it, Copper might have scored. As it was, Copper caught it and was stuck hard at the five by William Gay. It wouldn't be the last time we hear from Gay... A guy with a strong arm doesn't necessarily throw a catchable ball, but some can't throw accurately unless they are rifling it. Fife is that sort of thrower... One of the few on target passes of the night is Fife's throw to Dudley for the score. Pittman's blitz pickup attempt was effective enough to redirect but he didn't get his man off his feet and LB Rian Wallace was able to swat at the ball...

Somebody tell Curry Burns that his jersey isn't long enough or he needs to pull his pants up... Reminds of Antonio Bryant's cheeky old uniform habit... Usama Young, in one of the few balls thrown his way, chose to arrive at the player after the catch was made instead of going for the ball. It's not a easy choice and Young hit with enough force to possibly jar it loose, but playing the ball, not the man, is usually the better idea... NFL Europa vet Willie Evans has the right tackle run right past him, so he goes into the backfield and drops Kevan Barlow at the line... DT McKinley Boykin, who also played in Europe this past spring, teamed with Evans to lose their blockers and drop Davis for little gain... Anwar Phillips is off to his second straight preseason of getting beat deep. He plays the man, not the ball, and Walter Young beats him for 26 yards... Finally, Phillips makes a good pass breakup by going after the ball on a comeback route... On one play, Usama Young isn't afraid to put his helmet into a guy, grab his legs and angle him down. The next play, that same strategy has Young grasping air and watching Russell run away from him. I'm not asking a corner to be a knock down tackle, but go and find yourself and ankle and hold on if that's all you can get at...

You've got to wonder if the Saints just don't have as much in the tank for this game as the Steelers. No training camp is easy, especially ones run by the Steelers or Saints, but the Steelers seem to have more pop... S Jay Bellamy, as usual, make a few good hits per game... Chris Reis found his mark on a couple good licks tonight as well, seems to have a good nose for the ballcarrier... Late in the third, Dhani Jones and the defense sniff out a screen, good job... Tremain Hall was given a shot at returning kicks... David Jones, the fifth round pick, makes the best pass defense of the night on a deep pass to the end zone against 6'3 WR Eric Fowler, knocking the ball away. That's what I'm talking about... DE Willie Evans gets a good jump on the snap, but finds himself behind the pocket. Needs to refine another pass rush move besides run-around-him... Pierre Thomas shows elusiveness and is a smooth, gliding runner and holds the ball well... Jamaal Branch, another contender for a backup RB job, delivers a nice hit to a defender, going low to get out of bounds. See, Kevin Dudley?

Late in the fourth, Robert Meachem enters the game with Tyler Palko. They have one good hookup, after Meachem stumbled off the snap and ran a quick hitch. Then the undrafted rookie out of Pitt lays the top draft pick out to dry, and William Gay obliterates Meachem who grabs his chest and takes out his mouthpiece. Ouch. Later, Palko throws it at Meachem in the middle of traffic and the Steelers just about take Meachem's head off. Uncalled on that play was blatant pass interference, as CB Jovon Johnson had his hands up the back of Meachem's shirt as he went airborne. Meachem hit the ground as two Steelers converged over him... DT Scott Paxon blew up Jake Kuresa and pushed him deep into the backfield, then he dropped Pierre Thomas for a loss... Palko throws a nice spiral but something about his delivery looks forced. Something went throw on a third down pass when Palko through a deep out and all his receivers were over the middle... Alfred Fincher did a good job of filling the back door of the run alley and not getting caught in traffic... Thomas has a little shake in the open field, like it... Palko scrambles, and John Owens and Jamaal Branch take the opportunity to level a pair of Steelers in pursuit. That probably felt good... William Gay completes his night by picking off Palko, a pass that should have never been thrown towards Hosack...

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