August 7, 2008

Meachem Shines In Preseason Opener

Brees starts 6-for-6 on opening drive as starters score a touchdown

The national television audience, or at least those watching preseason football on a Thursday night, saw the Saints starters move down the field for a touchdown and an opening 7-0 lead.

The drive was aided by a personal foul facemask on the first play - an end-around to receiver Lance Moore. The Saints first possession of the preseason ended with a leaping catch at the back of the end zone by Patten put the Saints up 7-0 after a 13 play, 6:45 second drive.

Brees was immediately in rhythm with the passing game, even without WR Marques Colston or TE Jeremy Shockey. He made great anticipation throws to Patten and Copper to move his team down the field in the first two drives.

Reggie Bush started at runningback and on the second drive showed his burst and speed on a run that saw him spinning to escape a tackler in the backfield and racing around the field and up the left sideline for a 12 yard gain. A holding penalty on Billy Miller called the gain back. Two plays later, Bush sprinted up the middle of the field for a first down on third and 18, but a holding penalty on Lance Moore erased that run.

In the end with his best efforts wiped out, Bush's numbers were a pedestrian seven carries for 22 yards with half of those yards coming on one run. He caught one pass for a one yard loss on a dumpoff from Brees. Bush showed more patience and was regularly sent straight up the middle of the line. Only when he needed to, he flashed outside and to the corner, including a third-down sprint for the first. We should see more boring three yard gains instead of exciting, terrifying three yard losses out of Bush in his third year.

TE Mark Campbell was welcomed back to the starting lineup, though only because Shockey was one of several key Saints not to travel to Arizona. Campbell made a tough, high-flying catch for each Brees and Brunell.

Mark Brunell came in during the first quarter for Brees, who was sharp and efficient. Brunell was also steady, completing 10 of 12 passes for 119 yards. The lefty veteran played into the third quarter before giving way to third stringer, lefty Tyler Palko.

Robert Meachem led all receivers with 129 yards on four catches, 60 of which came on a spinning, juking, stiff-arming, line tip-toeing catch and run touchdown in the third quarter. But that play wasn't Meachem's best. That came in the second quarter when Meachem launched out to finger-tip grab a 49-yard bomb down the middle of the field. The second year receiver cradled the ball and held on as he hit the ground and was ruled down at the three yard line of the Cardinals.

Four plays later, even after an instant replay review of a Pierre Thomas push to the corner pylon was ruled out at the inches line, the Saints turned it over on downs when Thomas was denied off right tackle.

The Saints' other young rising star at receiver, seventh round pick rookie Adrian Arrington, had a couple tough catches for 46 yards and a recovery of an Aaron Stecker fumble.

The Saints scored with each quarterback during the game. Brunell led the Saints on a 12-play, 6:37 drive in the third quarter that ended in a leaping Aaron Stecker touchdown. Palko took over after that score, and went 6 for 11 for 144 yards. Rookie kicker Taylor Melhaff kicked a field goal on Palko's first drive, but some of his second half kickoffs were short of the goal line.

Mark Simoneau started at middle linebacker in place of Jonathan Vilma. Randall "Blue" Gay and Jason David started at cornerback with Usama Young coming in as the third corner. Kendrick Clancy and rookie Sedrick Ellis started at defensive tackle, and we saw the Saints' rush-line of the three defensive ends and Ellis on the field at the same time, with Charles Grant moving inside and Bobby McCray coming in at left end. Kevin Kaesviharn started at free safety alongside Roman Harper, and Josh Bullocks did not travel.

On game day the Saints announced an extension to their agreement for radio coverage with WWL 870AM.

Scouting notes: On Brees' touchdown pass, LT Jammal Brown was cowed by a stunt by Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith, and Berry drilled Brees after the throw. On the other side of the line, Jahri Evans handled Darnell Dockett's spin rush and then with a two-handed strike, sent Dockett to the ground. Brees' pass to Patten was a smart bomb loft over LB Gerald Hayes and just out of the reach of safety Aaron Francisco... Later, Brown had to jump on Berry's back and ride him into the ground to protect Brunell. Berry is so fast and strong despite his long list of injuries... Meachem also victimized Francisco for his deep catch... Pierre Thomas didn't have the sudden explosion of Aaron Stecker, but he has remarkable balance and never goes down without a fight. His best run was on a 58-yard kickoff return into Cardinal territory when he broke two tackles and carried a third out of bounds... Ellis started at defensive tackle and has a great initial pop and shows good pursuit. The rookie will learn to use his arms better to keep lineman away from his body. Still, Ellis manages to keep himself clean and showed great awareness and pursuit later on a screen pass... The Saints collected a sack on an otherwise clean Matt Leinart when they rushed both Fujita and Simomeau on the right side of the line. Leinart stepped up and away from three other Saint rushers but not Simoneau, who collected the sack... On Steve Breaston's long catch and run at the end of the first quarter, the Cardinals caught the Saints in a sell-out blitz that saw Will Smith and Marc Simoneau turning themselves in circles trying to cover shallow crosses. Leinart found Breaston wide open when both Smith and Simoneau ended up chasing the footprints of Jamaica Rector... Former Saint FB Terrelle Smith bullied his way down near the goalline after a short dumpoff catch, moving the pile around him. The catch and bulldoze led to RB Tim Hightower's game-tying touchdown run in the second quarter...

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