Patriots Game Review (Reposted)
After last night's game, I suspect that there will be two starkly differing opinions about the health of the New Orleans Saints. The optimistic few will likely point to the game as a signal of things to come. After all, we did just knock off the Super Bowl Champs. The cynical fans will paint a much darker picture - we allowed 24 points in the first half and basically got man-handled by a NE team missing about 7 of it starters, most notable - Corey Dillion.
In the end though, I think the game showed two things. First, the Saints are a better team right now then they were at this point last offseason. Second, they still have a long ways to go. Here are some observations I made on the game, feel free to tear 'em up.
Our quarterbacks remain, in a word, inconsistent. Much to Aaron Brooks' credit, he looks more poised so far this season. I now believe the Saints' coaches when they say he is more mature - he looks more relaxed back there. I think he did a terrific job of avoiding the pressure, which was in his face far too often. He made very few bad decisions, and ran well with the ball. The few times he actually dropped back, set his feet, and got the ball out quickly, he was very effective. I wish he would do that more. On the down side, he is still holding the ball too long, making some bad throws, and leading his players into monster hits (Conwell and Horn were both victims last night). While his play looks improved, something is still missing that I can't quite put my finger on. He doesn't seem to have the control and efficiency that you want - something I saw in Brady, despite the fact that his first two passes were horrendous.
Bouman is more of an enigma at this point that Brooks. He made some throws and decisions that made me question how this man is in the NFL at all. On the flip side, once he settled down he led some drives and delivered a few great passes. His athleticism is surprising, and IMO, better than AB's. Ultimately though, he makes far too many mistakes, and you have to wonder if it isn't better to let rookies (or guys who are essentially rookies - A-Mac and KK) make those mistakes so they can get better and reach their potential, rather than waste anymore time with an 8 year vet who looks like he'll just never make it.
Great all around, I was very pleased. I would like to see Deuce run with greater authority earlier on. He seems to come out in games and start off running with a very indecisive style. He stutter-steps and tries to pick his spots and doesn't get a lot of downhill momentum. Even running that way he was effective, but I saw a lot of 4 yard runs early that could (and in fact did later on) turn into 7 or 8 yard runs simply because he hit the hole harder.
Antowain Smith was surprisingly effective. In fact, after his first series I looked at my fiance and said, "Right now, at this point, Smith is running better than Deuce." Smith clearly still has what it takes and could start a lot of places, including New Orleans. He did what Deuce didn't - ran with authority. In fact, I think it was his series that prompted Deuce's change. I like this guy a lot and think he was a great offseason addition.
Aaron Stecker... Hallelujah, they finally figured it out. The Saints are now using Aaron Stecker appropriately and it's working. Aaron is a great third down scat back type player. He was very effective when utilized and I think he'll help out a lot this season.
I was also very pleased with the play of all of the WRs against NE, with one major exception - Joe Horn. Joe is still getting great separation. He gets open and can make a play once he gets the ball. Obviously, he has to catch it first. Something he hasn't done much of this preseason. It is disturbing the number of balls that hit his body that he drops. AB's INT was entirely his fault, and he stopped a drive earlier by dropping a perfectly thrown slant. For every big play that he makes now, he seems to drop one or two in return. That HAS to change, and fast.
Stallworth looks ready to finally have the season we've been waiting for. He caught the ball well, and made good decisions with it once he had it. There's no questioning his athleticism and his head seems to be in the right place.
And how about Devery Henderson, huh? Didn't drop a ball, in fact he made some good catches. Obviously, he showed his big play ability on the TD catch and run. He looked good and I'm excited about him finally. I was surprised to see how much bigger he's gotten. He looks almost like a possession WR, as compared to the speed demon he really is.
Nate Poole! The guy I've been waiting for to make his pressence felt did just that late in the game. I was very happy to see Poole's play. I hope the Saints keep him over Hakim.
Speaking of Hakim, where has he been? I know he's banged up a little, but at this point, I'd say that we don't need him. I was disappointed to see so little of Talman and worried when he got carted off into the lockerroom. Ultimately I think they said it was just a sprained ankle, so I think he'll be back on the field soon, but it was a little scary.
At this point, I'd like to see the Saints keep Horn, Stallworth, Talman, Devery, Poole, and Lewis. All in all the WRs played well, and I only saw a drop or two outside of Horn's costly blunders.
What a difference a year makes. Conwell and Hilton both played good ball, and I'm real excited about Zach. I think he could finally finally be the answer, though don't count COnwell out this season by any means. If those two can just stay healthy we'll be fine. Throw in a healthy Shad Meier and we look alright there. I think Boo is done. Hall is on the fence. He's a monster blocker on running downs.
I have mixed feelings about the o-line, which looks to be both a strength and a weakness. Jamaal Brown is flat exciting. The kid is killing people on rushing downs. That said, he's still a rookie and has a ways to go in pass protection. He got beat more times then I would like to have seen. Bentley remains a stud. Jermaine Mayberry was disappointing last night. I am yet to see him lay any nasty blocks, and I tend to notice him standing around a lot. He always seems to wind up standing nest to the pile not blocking anybody. I'd like to see more out of him. Gandy is a liability. He caused more stupid penalties and it seemed to me like much of the pressure on Brooks came from the left side of the line. Both Gandy and Jacox/Holland (mostly Jacox, but whoever was at LG) got beat more than they should. All in all I thought the run blocking looked really weak a few times, but mostly the line got good push and opened some nice holes. Pass protection was OK about half the time, seldomly good, and there was to much pressure more often than I would like. Maybe that's just an issue of "jelling," I hope so b/c it need to get better.
I was surprised at how little of an impact the DEs had in this game. Charles Grant continued to be all over the field and I think he has got to be considered as one of the best in the league. However, I saw very very little out of Howard (outside of his one monster sack against NE's 3rd team) or Wil Smith. I did think that Bryant played well when he was in. All in all I want to see much more from this group, which has been called the best in the league.
Wow, Young was a manchild last night. He was all over the field. Disruptive, making tackles, he looked great. I was excited about that. Otherwise, the DTs were not very good. There were too many running lanes up the middle, and this group just seemed to me to get pushed around a lot.
<sigh> What can I say about our linebackers? Buckwoldt looks great. He is the best linebacker on the team bar none. I love this kid. He reminds me in a lot of ways of Sam Mills. He was undersized, came in and no one gave him a chance. But the guy is smart and has a ton of heart and just refuses to get beat. He will be good for the Saints for a long time to come.
Otherwise, our LBs are still a major liability. What happened to Watson? He played great late last year. Now he's being pushed around and simply not making plays. I hope he steps it up big time.
Sedrick Hodge is just bad. Period. The guy is big and athletic, there's no question about that. And for once, he seemed to be in position on about every play I watched him last night. Problem is, he couldn't hit a school bus. He makes Tebucky Jones look like a model of tackling efficiency. Hodge must have missed 7 tackles last night. The guy gets himself in position and then watches as players go flying by him. He is terrible, and I hope Allen can come back real soon.
Fincher played better, he's still very raw. He was popping people pretty good and made some nice plays. He also blew some. I think he'll get there, but I doubt how much he can contribute this season. Outside of that group, nothing I saw made me feel anything other than a great sense of dred. This group is a problem.
I'm real happy with our starters. McKenzie is the real deal. I just want that guy to stay healthy b/c he's playing like a pro bowler. Fahkir made a few bad decisions last night and got burned a little bit, but for the most part, he provided decent coverage and was in position. He'll be fine. I wish he had turned his head on Brady's second pass (the 40 yarder). That was another INT ball.
After the starters, it gets real scary. Jason Craft was flat exposed last night. The guy is just not very good at all. I still haven't seen a thing from him that makes me believe he is capable of even being a nickel back for us. I'd like to see what Jimmy Williams can do in that spot, b/c I think Fred Thomas is over the hill at this point. I just pray our starters stay healthy, b/c if not, we're in trouble. If so, we'll be solid there.
Dwight Smith baby! This guy is definitely the real deal. He was all over the field making plays. I was happy to see that. I'm real excited about him. Bellamy seemed off and on and just didn't seem to make all that much of an impact.
Uh, what's up the the special teams? The coverage units ranged from OK to totally sucked, and Carney banked a freakin' extra point! That's a little scary. The coverage units need to get much better b/c NE has a fairly poor special teams unit and they abused us. Michael Lewis needs to run up the middle of the field and Everest needs to call the wedge for the middle, not sideline.
All in all it was a decent showing. For the most part, NE's first offense was able to do what they wanted against the Saints D for most of the first half. I realize that Horn essentially gave NE 7 points, but allowing 17 in the first half is still a bad thing, especially since part of it was against their 2nd team offense. Both sides of the ball still has a way to go to be more consistent. On O - what happened to focusing on the run? Granted, I did think Deuce got the ball a lot, but more often than not I saw 2 pass play per set of downs and not 2 running plays. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but it still seems like AB is dropping back an awful lot. The o-line needs to provide better pass protection, Horn needs to catch the damn ball, Deuce needs to be more decisive... Of course, I say all that and think that the offense will nonetheless remain the better unit this season. I think they should be more consistent and be pretty hard to stop. The D needs to make more stops. They are allowing too many yards and points and teams still seem to be able to do what they want a lot. The secondary will certainly cause more turnovers, I'd just like to see the DEs get more pressure and we need better play across the boad up the middle. Ultimately, the game was good, not great. I didn't see a lot of major problems, but there is certainly room to improve in almost every area.
on the defensive ends, from what i saw in the 1st half, it almost looks as though they're just going through the motions......
i'm wondering and hoping that the coaches are just trying to keep em healthy.
perhaps in the last pre season game we'll see the sacks add up....
other than that, ab was rushed pretty much the 1st 1/2 i saw and although i though he did great, i do wonder if all we need is jelling there..smitty
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