Saints Jets game notes
The things that jumped out after this game as opposed to the first preseason game was not so much the score but the effort, it was much better. There was still a lot of breakdowns and mistakes, which is what preseason is for, but we were winning some of the individual battles that counted and playing with some fire.The game was won by the reserves so I don't think the score is much to get excited about.
Individually Darren Smith stood out with a solid effort, even against the run. He came up with the big play on the goal line stand. Unless Ruff starts to get more comfortable in the defense and picks it up he will be sitting on sundays watching Smith.
Darren Howard looked good in the limited time he saw he was all over the Jets tackles and in the backfield several times. We need him to stay healthy this year.
Grady Jackson was impressive also, with a solid push up the middle and pressure on several plays including one in which he did an hysterical vault over a lineman to spook the QB. If he can loose more weight he will be solid for us.
Ashley Ambrose looked rough and should of had two interceptions , he failed to break on the ball and the play went for a big gain instead, another hit him right in his chest.
Tebucky Jones seemed to struggle in coverage again.
The Defense as a whole was not great, they did give up yards and there was confusion, particulary in the secondary. Hopefully this is just growing pains and what a new defense must look like in preseason. There was some fire in the play and we did a much better job up front. The coaches had a more complete game plan on the field and that helped, but the most encouragement for me came from seeing us just beat some people. The Jets made plenty of mistakes and were not nearly the competition Philly was but we did make progress with more work still to go. The goal line stand was a big boost to a unit looking for something, anything to be proud of.
On offense the effort was better as well. Play was sloppy for the first unit but individually some good things were happening. There were breakdowns that should be worked out by the seasons start.
Arron played well ,moved out of the pocket, tucked and ran a few ,and did'nt pass off his back foot.
Deuce was great, ran hard, made thing happen, he is the man.
Stallworth held on to thge ball tonight and made a tough grab over the middle with a man closing in on him hard, took the shot and poped up with attitude.He left with a tight hamstring, hope that does'nt start to bother him already.
Keaton did'nt look very good despite his one big gain on a passing play, Fenderson was'nt much better. We need help here.
Bouman played well and is proving what a good pick up he was.
We used the screen pass a few times and had better success with it, there seemed to be a real effort to work on it last night.
The Offense was able to move the ball, but mistakes killed drives and blew opportunities for scores, again it is early in the preseason so tough to get too worked up about it when we were making plays. If this continues later then we will have trouble. The team as a whole need to play smarter including the coach, who picked up his first penality of the season for his love for the officials.
All in all it was a better outing not great but someting to hang hopes for further improvement on.
[Edited on 8/18/2003 by saint5221]
Saints Jets game notes
THE RIGHT STUFF: Saints Performance vs. Jets Is Encouraging
By TCU Dan - SaintsReport.com Staff Writer - 3:58 pm CST
The Saints made a strong statement Saturday night as they showed marked improvement on both sides of the ball and even found a gem on special teams.
OFFENSIVELY, Aaron Brooks again looked very sharp and aware in the pocket. Most notably, Aaron showed decisiveness in the passing game and less hesitance when deciding whether or not to run downfield. AB appears to be clicking on all cylinders and looks much more instinctive and natural on the field.
Todd Bouman looked much more comfortable in Saturday\'s game than he did Monday night, showing much better pocket presence and accuracy. The offensive line also looked stronger in pass protection and run blocking. Deuce McAllister looked sharp in his first live action since last season. He ripped off a 17 yard run that should have the Saints up for a big play via the play-action pass. Instead another running play was called and Deuce was stuffed, killing the drive\'s momentum.
Jerome Pathon started opposite Joe Horn at wide receiver with Donte Stallworth coming in on three-wide formations. Many people had written off Pathon, a free agent acquisition from the Indianapolis Colts in 2002, but after a year in the Saints system and putting on nearly 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, Pathon looks better than ever. Pathon also turned in an excellent week of practice, making headlines with at least one spectacular play per day. Make no mistake, this is a COMPETITION for the number two wide receiver position.
Derrick Lewis continued to impress and state his case to be important cog in the Saints rotation at wide receiver. He may very well become a key third down receiver in four-receiver sets, fitting the mold of a tall, possession receiver.
Another Lewis, who goes by the name of Michael, began to see in this game what he can expect during the season: squib kicks. Teams will design short kickoffs to keep the ball out of the Beerman\'s hands. Don\'t think that will keep him from making plays in the return game though. Expect another Pro Bowl season from the diminutive speedster.
Perhaps the loudest whisper among those involved with the New Orleans Saints is the backup running back situation. The Saints obviously need to acquire some depth via trade before the season begins. Even with Curtis Keaton\'s impressive 28 yard touchdown catch and run, he has yet to show any improvement in the running game. James Fenderson was awarded the majority of the snaps in the third quarter versus the Jets, while Keaton played in the fourth. While Fenderson lacks the natural talent to ever become a full-time running back, he shows effort and determination that I have yet to see from Keaton. The third year player out of Hawaii runs hard on every play, and even when he does hit the wrong hole he makes sure that he continues to drive his legs and push forward. Combine this with his value on special teams, and I would say Keaton is the bubble player while Fenderson is a lock to make the team.
While we are on the subject of personnel decisions, the Washington Redskins were rumored to have offered backup running back Ladell Betts in exchange for starting defensive tackle Grady Jackson after the season-ending injury to their starting tackle Brian Noble. Do not expect Jackson to go anywhere as he has now distinguished himself as the best defensive tackle on the Saints\' roster.
The offensive line looked solid Saturday night, opening up holes in the run game and providing adequate pass protection for the quarterbacks. Rookie Montrae Holland is the real deal and could start for just about any other team in the league. The competition at right tackle between Spencer Folau and Victor Riley is still neck and neck, but I do not believe Riley will beat out Folau until Folau beats out himself. The guy simply does just enough every week to hold off a more talented Riley, which is why Folau is still our starting right tackle.
Other offensive players who showed improvement were veteran left tackle Wayne Gandy, as well as tight ends Boo Williams and Ernie Conwell. Right now I believe Boo Williams has earned himself a roster spot and key role in the Saints offense for the upcoming season. While it is not likely that he will be released, one has to wonder how much faith the front office still has in David Sloan. Sloan seems to be having trouble kicking the injury bug and his absence has brought players such as Boo Williams and undrafted rookie Zach Hilton into the limelight. If Hilton does not make the final cut for the active 53-man roster, let\'s hope that he clears waivers and makes it onto the developmental squad.
OFFENSIVE POSITION BATTLE: Donte Stallworth vs. Jerome Pathon
While many fans and even front office personnel have, in their minds, already inserted Donte Stallworth into the starting receiver position opposite Pro Bowler Joe Horn, Jerome Pathon has refused to go quietly into the night. The former Indianapolis Colt responded to such speculation by dedicating himself to the offseason program and adding ten pounds of solid muscle. Pathon is a quiet competitor and a clutch player. He is fearless over the middle and took some serious shots last season, such as the one in which 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson separated Pathon\'s helmet from his head in week seven of last year (we\'ve all seen the highlight at least 20 times since). Such incidents served as motivation for Pathon to bulk himself up. From a mental standpoint, Pathon seems to have the edge. Not only is he now more comfortable and natural after a year in the Saints\' system, but he knows every receiver position, X, Z and Y (split end, flanker and slot) like the back of his hand. Stallworth is a spectacular receiver but will have to improve in consistency and stay injury free to dethrone a relentless Pathon. Stallworth is probably the most talented receiver in an extremely talented receiving corps, but Pathon simply refuses to step aside. Where Stallworth is explosive and physical, Pathon is fluid and acrobatic. The competition is friendly and intense, and will ultimately result in a better Saints\' receiving corps that has arguably the best mix of power and finesse of any group in the league.
ON THE DEFENSIVE FRONT, the Saints showed a tremendous amount of improvement from the Monday night debacle. While the pass coverage was still a little bit loose and generous, the run defense showed infinite improvement, due in large part to the return of a healthy Darrin Smith. Because of Smith\'s spectacular offseason and performance as of late, the \"cooperation\" between he and Orlando Ruff has transformed into an all-out competition.
The Saints need Dale Carter to stay healthy and on the field this season. While Ashley Ambrose provides adequate depth, he has clearly lost a step. Santana Moss took Ambrose for a ride in the first half and most likely would have been mirrored by a speedier Fred Thomas if this had been a regular season game. Thomas is the undisputed starter at this point, but Ambrose will still see the field plenty in nickel and dime situations.
My heart goes out to Keyou Craver. He is an outstanding person and was a great role model during his time at Nebraska. He is very well liked by loyal ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‹ÂœHusker fans to this day. The play he made on that sweep to his side showed a great deal of heart and I am glad he emerged without a serious injury to his neck or head.
Mel Mitchell just never ceases to impress me. The fifth round pick out of Western Kentucky could end up being the steal of the 2002 draft class. He has shown excellent instincts and ability to diagnose the run and the pass. He is perhaps the best tackler on the team right now from a fundamental standpoint. Tebucky Jones looked much improved from Monday night but still has to become more comfortable in the Saints\' system.
The linebackers stood out Saturday night and finally began to silence the critics. Darrin Smith really seems to be a catalyst when he is on the field. He is instinctive and was extremely physical against the run. While he is regarded as more of a chase-and-run or finesse linebacker, he played the inside and outside run equally well. Sedrick Hodge is excellent at funneling plays and slowing them down but hasn\'t quite got the hang of making them. Such a thing will come with time, but the greatest improvement in Hodge\'s game has been in the mental area. The second year starter is much more confident and comfortable on the strong side than he was last year.
Derrick Rodgers has continued to impress me with his upfield style of play, often getting to the runner in the backfield, which is rare for an weakside linebacker. Despite being slightly undersized at barely 230 pounds, Rodgers is extremely physical and chooses to stick his nose in the action rather than wait for plays to be funneled to him. I just hope he doesn\'t cross the line from agressive into over-agressive.
Reserves James Allen and Roger Knight played much better Saturday night than they did Monday night. Allen looked like a different player, getting to the ball carrier and making the play on many occasions. He is a different style of player than Derrick Rodgers and brings more of a finesse aspect to the weakside linebacker position. Nevertheless, Allen looks mean out there and while he won\'t start, the second year player out of Oregon State should see his share of defensive snaps this year, especially on passing downs. The only linebacker I saw looking a little confused was rookie middle linebacker Cie Grant. This was Grant\'s first preseason game at a completely foreign position, so such a thing is to be expected.
Grady Jackson has responded to a disappointing offseason with spectacular play. Those who were calling for his head earlier in the offseason have quieted down as Jackson was solid and consistent Saturday while displaying flashes of dominance. At one point, Chad Pennington nearly soiled himself on a play in which Grady resembled a B-52 Bomber, taking his 330+ pounds airborne over a New York blocker and in the direction of the flustered Pennington. Grady is by far the best defensive tackle we have right and is in no danger of losing his hard-earned starting position.
Johnathon Sullivan looked much more comfortable Saturday night than he did versus the Eagles. While the sixth overall pick out of Georgia did continue struggle with leverage, he displayed a surprisingly effective club and rip move on a few plays that opened my eyes. Charles Grant seemed to perform better with Darren Howard in the lineup. Howard left the game with a minor MCL sprain but shouldn\'t miss extended time if all goes well. I wouldn\'t expect to see the Saints\' sack leader on the field again, though, until September 7th at the earliest.
By far the most impressive lineman of the night was rookie fifth round pick Melvin Williams. After only practicing for a week, Williams recorded three sacks against the Jets reserves in the fourth quarter. Drafting Williams in the fifth round was a move criticized by many \"experts\" from around the league. Many of those near the Saints organization speculated that Williams would be placed on the injured reserve or PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, but the rookie pass rusher responded strongly Saturday night, possibly earning himself a spot in the defensive rotation at end. With Howard\'s injury concerns, Williams emergence couldn\'t have come at a better time.
DEFENSIVE POSITION BATTLE: Darrin Smith vs. Orlando Ruff
While Jim Haslett\'s original plan this offseason was to platoon Darrin Smith and free agent acquisition Orlando Ruff at middle linebacker, with Ruff playing on first and second down and Smith coming on the field in passing situations, the elder Smith may have changed the coaching staff\'s thinking for the time being. Smith\'s first action of the preseason was a key component in the Saints\' improved play against the run Saturday night. Smith showed the same quickness and savvy that has kept him in the starting lineup this long. The former Dallas Cowboy is a highly intelligent player (only active player in the NFL with an MBA) and a vocal leader. Did I mention that he has Super Bowl ring? Smith has made it clear that he is still an every-down player and further stated his case on a 4th and one goal-line stand. Ruff showed solid play against the run, as well, but may end up becoming not much more than extremely solid depth.
I\'ll start off by stepping forward and saying that I, for one, am very comfortable with Jay Bellamy as Mel Mitchell\'s backup. Jay came into this league as an undrafted free agent, blessed with neither size nor speed. Yet he has spent the majority of his career in teams\' starting lineups. Jay was exposed last year due to the lack of pass rush and no speedy compliment at the other safety position. Despite his lack of physical talent, Jay plays with one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen and has taken his demotion in stride, displaying class and character. He is a ferocious hitter for his size and is always willing to step forward and sacrifice his body. Credit Bellamy for Saturday night\'s goal-line stand in the first quarter, a play in which Jay burst into the hole and took on the lead block from the full back, bouncing the play outside and freeing up middle linebacker Darrin Smith to chase down Lamont Jordan and make the tackle for a two yard loss. Jay may never have the talent to be an every-down safety again, but he does give his all every time he is on the field. That single play displayed his selflessness and team-first mentality.
I failed to go into an in-depth analysis of Kenny Smith\'s Saturday night performance, so let me say that he has displayed much improved consistency and effort during the preseason. Unfortunately, I see Kenny being the defensive tackle that we will wave goodbye to in exchange for a backup running back in the coming weeks. This is a shame because I believe Kenny is one of the most talented young defensive tackles in the league. But with Johnathon Sullivan and Henry Ford (who is too old to carry any trade value) manning the rotation at the 3-technique, Kenny sees to be the odd man out. I would much rather see Martin Chase traded but he will be needed to spell Grady Jackson at the nose tackle position since Sullivan is being groomed at the 3-technique and Ford is not built for the nose.
Saturday night, Lynaris Elpheage showed why he will make the final roster cut on a 54 yard punt return in which he eluded and escaped several tackles. He is a fluid athlete and has rare instincts in the return game. He lacks Michael Lewis\' sprinter speed, but is an excellent punt return-man. The return game seems to be the most refined area of Elpheage\'s game, and I believe that by mid-season the undrafted cornerback out of Tulane could begin to see action returning punts, depending on how involved the Beerman becomes in the Saints regular offense.
I really believe that the Saints front office should push for a trade that would bring Packers\' reserve running back Herbert Goodman to New Orleans. While the Packers\' would be reluctant to let go of a player who is having such a strong preseason, they need a quality defensive tackle in the worst way. They recently signed veteran Larry Smith, but I think they know that will not be enough to even come close to replacing Gilbert Brown\'s presence against the run. They also know that the lack of a quality tackle could further hinder the development of rookie middle linebacker Nick Barnett. With Goodman officially listed as fifth on the depth chart (probably more like third or fourth), the Packers could afford to cut ties with the third year running back in exchanged for a player whom they need, especially with reserves Najeh Davenport and Lamar Smith almost sure bets to make the final roster. The question isn\'t whether or not the Packers CAN let go of Goodman, it is whether or not they will.
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