this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Working for nearly 90 minutes in searing heat, the New Orleans Saints held their Black and Gold scrimmage Saturday, and the edge unquestionably went to the defense. Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune New Orleans Saints tight end David Thomas (85) loses the ...
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|08-08-2010, 10:09 AM||#1|
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Working for nearly 90 minutes in searing heat, the New Orleans Saints held their Black and Gold scrimmage Saturday, and the edge unquestionably went to the defense.
Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints tight end David Thomas (85) loses the ball on the goal line as he is leveled by linebacker Jonathan Casillas (52) during the Black & Gold scrimmage on Saturday.
Coach Sean Payton said he was pleased with the way players handled the suffocating weather but noted the team's conditioning overall was something short of where he wants it to be. Payton also was disappointed with a cluster of offensive penalties and the six sacks -- some on a quick whistle -- that left the offense in long-yardage situations.
"The times where we got stopped behind the chains, whether it be a sack or a penalty, led to the long-yardage situations that I alluded to," he said. "Overall it was pretty good. We didn't have the ball on the ground. I thought, defensively, we did a good job, especially as the scrimmage went on."
The offense's lackluster performance clearly weighed on quarterback Drew Brees, who tersely pronounced himself frustrated with the offense's inability to score on a drive in which it had a first down at the 11-yard line. He ran several solo windsprints well after the scrimmage had ended.
Although the day's superior unit was not in question at the end the scrimmage, it did not begin that way. Rather, Brees and the offense came out in crisp fashion and drove downfield against a blend of first- and second-team defenders and scored on a 6-yard run.
Brees went 4-for-4 on that drive, hitting tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Marques Colston for first downs. Going against the second-team secondary, Brees then connected with Colston, who had beaten safety Pierson Prioleau and was running open down the right sideline. That set up Reggis Bush's scoring scamper.
After that, however, it was rough sledding.
"Plenty," Brees said when asked what the offense needs to focus on. "I think we should score every time we touch the ball, and we didn't do that today. That's frustrating. Obviously our defense is playing very well. They definitely make us better as an offense. They're fun to compete against every day. You either walk off the field feeling like you got the best of them, or you walk off the field feeling they got the best of you. Regardless, there's always a play or two out there you wish you would have done differently or been more efficient with, or you would have gotten the ball out faster or made a better protection call, or whatever it might be. There's always stuff to work on."
Or, as wide receiver Lance Moore said when asked if he was comfortable with the way the offense performed, "no."
Rookie tight end Jimmy Graham, for example, had a particularly tough scrimmage, getting flagged twice for false starts, dropping one pass and then getting stripped after the catch by linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson scooped up the fumble and raced down the sideline for what might have been a touchdown had not the officials whistled the play dead. Graham left the field immediately after the scrimmage.
Backup quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey and Chase Daniel each got more than one series. Each made a play or two, but neither was able to generate any sustained momentum. Daniel had one scramble for positive yardage -- accounting for a chunk of the mere 66 yards in 22 carries the offense could muster after its opening possession.
Ramsey nicely executed a swing pass to running back Pierre Thomas. Defensive end Will Smith, who was a disrupting force on several plays, read what was coming, but Ramsey lofted it over Smith's outstretched fingers, and Smith couldn't grab Thomas after the catch in what became a 17-yard gain.
But on several consecutive possessions the Saints offense could not get close to the end zone regardless of who was at quarterback. Rookie Sean Canfield also had two possessions, and, like Ramsey and Daniel, made a respectable showing in the sense he executed a play or two, but overall he failed to keep the chains moving.
That changed when, with the scrimmage nearly over, Payton put the first-team offense back on the field for a two-minute drill beginning on the defense's 45-yard line.
Brees promptly hit tight end David Thomas on a pass down the right hash marks down to the 11-yard line and it appeared the offense would at least begin and end the day on a scoring note.
But Brees threw two incompletions and then sought out Moore on the right edge of the end zone. For a moment it looked like a touchdown but cornerback Jabari Greer made a solid play, knocking the ball clear of Moore's jump. On fourth down, a poor snap led to a loss.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins said the defensive stand there was an example of the competitive spirit the defense, as a unit, is seeking to maintain.
"That's something we definitely take pride in, always giving ourselves an opportunity," Jenkins said. "Our mentality is, 'OK, it's a big play, it gets it down to the 10.' But we don't go in the tank, we see that as an opportunity to keep them out of the end zone. As long as they don't score we always have a chance."
Vilma said the defense, now in the second year under coordinator Gregg Williams, is more at ease with the system, and able to move faster and make more decisions on the field. Consequently, the window of opportunity for an offense has narrowed while the confidence of the defense has increased.
"The best example I could see is that two-minute drive, there on the 10-yard line and four downs later, no points," Vilma said, noting the defense was able to react with speed all day. "I think at this time last year we would have given that up, and we might have broken down mentally and not been as tough as to say, 'enough is enough.'"
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