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Saints defense's progress a reason to smile

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Friday, August 24, 2007 John DeShazier KANSAS CITY, MO. -- This was an exhibition game, so there were nits to pick and minutiae to sift through. Thursday's lows begin and end with the Saints' inability to get into the end ...

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Old 08-24-2007, 04:21 PM   #1
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Cool Saints defense's progress a reason to smile

Friday, August 24, 2007
John DeShazier

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- This was an exhibition game, so there were nits to pick and minutiae to sift through.

Thursday's lows begin and end with the Saints' inability to get into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the Chiefs' 2-yard line, first-and-10 from the 16, first-and-10 from the 14 and fourth-and-1 from the 3 in the first half.

Generating two field goals from such advantageous positions isn't at all what the Saints' offense wanted, isn't indicative of what it's capable of, and isn't likely what it will do once "pre" is peeled off "season."

More along the lines of the norm was the six-play, 45-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 4-yard pass from Drew Brees to David Patten, which gave New Orleans a 13-0 lead late in the second quarter.

"We knew they were going to move the ball coming in," Chiefs Coach Herm Edwards said. "They do a good job, and that's why they're the No. 1 offense. I think the one thing we did do a pretty good job at was, we kept them out of the end zone for the most part. They got down there four times and scored one touchdown. That's decent."

But other than the four offensive failings, nothing happened to get lathered about. Something did happen to remain a little psyched about -- and not Brees ransacking the Chiefs secondary (17-of-19 passing for 182 yards and a score in less than a half, which is crazy efficient, but kind of what we've gotten used to from him).

If we're going to toss a bone, it's to the Saints' defense, which jacked Kansas City's offense and never let up.

"I thought we flew around on defense," Coach Sean Payton said.

Granted, the pile-driving at Arrowhead Stadium came with a minor caveat: The Chiefs opened with Brodie Croyle at quarterback and without Larry Johnson at running back. The former, a second-year pro from Alabama, isn't nearly as ready as some seem to believe, and the latter, a Pro Bowler and MVP-caliber back who carried a league-record 416 times last season, just signed a new contract and reported to camp this week.

But if Croyle somehow had managed to play decent (he was 3-of-14 for 40 yards in the half) and the Chiefs had managed to run over the first-team defense, obviously, Payton would have been concerned.

So it's not to be totally dismissed that Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith treated Chiefs left tackle Will Svitek like an inanimate object, punishing Svitek at will and spending almost as much time on Croyle's back as did Croyle's jersey.

Or that the Chiefs managed just 68 yards in the first half, stretching to the limit the boundaries of the word "inept."

If the Saints' starters are going to spend all of next Thursday's exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins yukking it up on the sideline -- and the league should be embarrassed about the ripoff fans take in that deal -- then, certainly, there were worse ways to bid adieu to games that don't count.

For what it's worth, the Saints' defense made a statement in the past month. It has been fairly stout against Buffalo, Cincinnati and Kansas City. Improvement, which desperately is needed, has to begin somewhere.

If you're wondering where improvement is going to begin with first-round pick Robert Meachem, join the crowd. He still looks lost (bobbling the opening kickoff of the second half wasn't something to add to the "smooth" column), and more and more, the guess is 2007 will be a redshirt season for the rookie receiver. That, or a good chunk of it, will be gone before he's ready to help.

It's not an awful problem to have; the Saints appear solid enough at receiver that they don't have to rush him. But Meachem has assured that the door that was wide open for him now offers a lot less room to squeeze through. He hasn't pushed anyone ahead of him down the depth chart, hasn't shown much of the ability that made us think he possibly could step in and start this season.

The defense, though, appears very much ready for the start, especially after the way it finished off the Chiefs.

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