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saint5221 08-12-2003 10:41 AM

Saints their own worst enemy against Eagles
 
http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...1319285110.xml


Saints their own worst enemy against Eagles

Execution is poor in preseason opener


Tuesday August 12, 2003


By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer


Trying to evaluate exhibition football is a dangerous exercise, so it's wise not to overreact to preseason games, good or bad.

That said, even the most optimistic Saints fan would have trouble finding a silver lining in New Orleans' ugly opening effort Monday night.

For all the offseason changes, the new-look Saints looked ominously like the old version in their official debut against Philadelphia.

The edition that underwhelmed a national television audience and sellout crowd of 67,954 at the Superdome was vintage Saints 2002: A leaky, shoddy-tackling defense paired with an inconsistent, sputtering offense.

It added up to a less-than-awe-inspiring start: a sobering 27-17 loss to the Eagles in the exhibition opener for both teams.

Philadelphia looked in midseason form and the Saints looked in late-season form, at least the form in which they disintegrated during the past two Decembers.

The transgressions ranged from missed tackles to penalties (eight for 82 yards) to turnovers (one fumble) to dropped passes (many). Even the normally outstanding special teams struggled, allowing an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Lito Sheppard.

"It was a sloppy game," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "We didn't execute very well in all three phases. On offense we had too many penalties and too many dropped balls. On defense we had too many penalties and too many missed tackles. Special teams we didn't execute, for whatever reason. Everything we did, we did to ourselves tonight."

You know it's a bad night when the best performance by a player is during the national anthem. Saints wide receiver Derrick Lewis thrilled the crowd with a rousing rendition during pregame ceremonies. After that, the bright spots were few and far between.

The Eagles scored on their opening drive, rolled to a 20-3 first-half lead and were not threatened. They held edges in nearly every statistical category, including first downs (19-14) and total yards (333-278).

"I thought we did OK, but we have so far to go," said quarterback Aaron Brooks, who completed three of six passes for 38 yards in two series that resulted in a field goal.

In fairness, the Saints' performance was difficult to gauge because the lineup was missing 17 players, including six starters.

The offense operated without running back Deuce McAllister, right guard LeCharles Bentley and wide receiver Joe Horn. Regulars Terrelle Smith, Ernie Conwell and Jerome Pathon played sparingly.

The defense did not have end Darren Howard, linebacker Darrin Smith and cornerback Dale Carter.

Moreover, the Saints were more basic than usual. Haslett's teams, which traditionally take a conservative approach in the preseason, were even more vanilla than normal because they play the Eagles in the regular season Nov. 23.

"We are out there doing basic fundamental things," center Jerry Fontenot said. "We are not really game-planning these guys. They were doing things out there defensively that we would have adjustments for. We are not going to do them at this point. We are going to stay with our basic fundamentals and work on that stuff."

Of the players that did play, there were few bright spots. Backup running back Curtis Keaton started in place of McAllister but found little room to operate behind the Saints' makeshift line. He rushed for 45 yards on 16 carries in three quarters. He also lost a fumble and dropped a pass.

"If you go by numbers it's not good enough," Haslett said. "But I have to evaluate it on film. I didn't see too many holes out there."

Reserve quarterbacks Tory Woodbury and J.T. O'Sullivan, who are competing for the No. 3 job, directed the Saints' only touchdown drives. Woodbury, who completed four of 11 passes for 58 yards, hit tight end Zachary Hilton for a 26-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. O'Sullivan, who completed seven of 10 passes for 64 yards, hit Terrill Shaw for a 2-yard score in the final two minutes.

"I didn't really see any young guys step to the plate, except for Zachary Hilton," Haslett said. "We have so many bodies its hard to evaluate everybody."

Defensively, safety Mel Mitchell had a team-high seven tackles. He and fellow starter Tebucky Jones, along with the starting linebackers, played most of the first half.

Mitchell and company, however, were helpless against Donovan McNabb. The Pro Bowl quarterback completed five of five passes for 57 yards on the opening drive. He capped the march with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Mitchell, who split cornerback Fred Thomas and Jones on a seam route.

"We panicked early in the game on defense," Haslett said. "We couldn't get lined up right. We were a mass of confusion on the first drive. We just were not crisp."

The Saints should have known it was going to be a long night after the first two series. Following the Eagles' touchdown, Michael Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff for what appeared to be a spinning 102-yard touchdown. But officials ruled that there was an inadvertant whistle. One official thought Lewis was down at the Philadelphia 46-yard line even though replays showed that only his hand touched the ground.

"When you go against yourselves all of the time in practice, you get into a rhythm," Haslett said. "We were out of sync in all three phases. We've got to get better."

. . . . . . .

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.

Batwood 08-12-2003 11:36 AM

Saints their own worst enemy against Eagles
 
If Saints are faster, Eagles are lightning


By Rick Cleveland
rcleveland@clarionledger.com

NEW ORLEANS — We know the new-look New Orleans Saints defense runs faster. Saints coaches, who presumably possess accurate stop watches, tell us so.

But will faster necessarily mean better?

Not yet.

Donovan McNabb, who can make a really good defense look bad, made the Saints defenders appear helpless in Monday night\'s preseason opener for both New Orleans and the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles won 27-17, but that hardly matters. What matters is this: McNabb and the other Eagles starters carved up the Saints No. 1 defense like tender filet mignon.

Fast or not, the Saints defenders did most of their running backwards, especially during McNabb\'s brief appearance.

McNabb efficiently took the Eagles 75 yards in just seven plays after the opening kickoff. He completed all five of his passes for 58 yards. The Eagles mixed in two runs for another 17 yards.

Worse, when McNabb hit Freddie Mitchell behind the Saints defense for a 29-yard touchdown, the closest defender was the high-priced free agent Tebucky Jones, the free safety who was supposed to be the Saints\' biggest upgrade in speed.

McNabb never even needed to show off his scrambling ability. The New Orleans pass rush was manhandled by a veteran Eagles offensive line.

In fact, Philadelphia\'s starters dominated at the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively. Come to think of it, so did the Eagles\' reserves.

But it was practice

We shouldn\'t forget the Golden Rule of NFL preseason games: Thou shalt not read too much into glorified scrimmages.

After all, the Saints didn\'t even play Pro Bowlers Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn, both of whom were perfectly healthy. Aaron Brooks, like McNabb, made only a cameo appearance.

Saints defensive starters Dale Carter, a cornerback, and Darrin Smith, a middle linebacker, also sat this one out.

Nevertheless, journalistic honesty compels this report: The Saints have much work to do. The biggest cheer from the home crowd this night was for reserve wide receiver Derrick Lewis and his stirring rendition of the national anthem. We\'ll have to see whether Lewis can snag a pass, but, man, the guy can really, really sing.

http://www.clarionledger.com/news/0308/12/srick.html

coastalkid 08-12-2003 03:32 PM

Saints their own worst enemy against Eagles
 
Just keep talking...we NEED the material.
But in all honesty all that you have pointed out is accurate to some degree. So you haven\'t really said anything. But please think really hard and come up with something to say....we like hearing from our Tampa fans!

Batwood 08-12-2003 03:59 PM

Saints their own worst enemy against Eagles
 
It\'s only preseason ;)


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