Saints vs. Patriots: Biggest Winners and Losers from New Orleans Preseason Debut
On most occasions when games played in the Boston area result in a score of 7-6, people think about a Red Sox win (or loss depending on if you're a glass-half-empty type of person). That wasn't the case Thursday evening.
The local team did win 7-6, but this was no baseball game.
Quarterback Drew Brees played for two series Thursday and went 1-for-4 for four yards. His last pass of the night was his sole completion. Talk about ending on a high note.
The New Orleans offense posted 280 yards of offense in the game and never reached the end zone. The Saints settled for two field goals, a 46-yarder from John Kasay and a 26-yarder from Garrett Hartley.
After that—quite possibly because of that—the game was devoid of offense. It was sad coming from two teams that usually put scoreboards through the ringer.
Losers: The Fans That Sat Through Thursday's 13-Point Debacle
It's usually not fun to sit through four quarters of professional football and only see one touchdown and two field goals, and it doesn't matter if you're there live or sitting at home in the comfort of your man cave.
It's especially craptastic when you only get to see the stars of the game for one, maybe two series in a preseason game. And it's monumentally worse when you expect huge numbers from two high-powered offenses and get nothing.
The last thing that you should take from the rant that posed as the first two paragraphs of this slide is that you shouldn't be happy with preseason football. It's just a bit disturbing to get such an offensive dud of a game from the NFL's second- and third-ranked offenses from a year ago.
Winner: WR Courtney Roby
When discussions occurred about the open position battle for the fourth wide receiver's role on the New Orleans Saints' depth chart, few times was Courtney Roby's name brought up.
All that's about to change.
Sunday, during the Hall of Fame Game, Roby caught four passes for 54 yards. Thursday against the New England Patriots, Roby led all Saints receivers with 85 yards receiving and caught five passes.
Roby drew praise from Drew Brees, according to this WWL TV report.
Roby over the past five years has done whatever we’ve asked him to do here with the Saints, quarterback Drew Brees said. He has taken advantage of every opportunity he has ever gotten. I’m just glad to see he’s getting those opportunities during this preseason and he’s certainly making the most of it.
And interim head coach Joe Vitt said Roby's "helped himself tremendously" in the past two weeks.
Loser: Martez Wilson on Special Teams
During the offseason, the New Orleans Saints moved linebacker Martez Wilson to defensive end. The switch was supposed to utilize Wilson’s speed on the edge to aid the team’s weak pass rush.
After watching Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game, the move seemingly paid off.
However, on Thursday, Wilson looked lost on special teams and the Times-Picayune’s Larry Holder thinks it may be because Wilson is focusing too much energy on his new position.
Wilson committed two penalties on special teams—both on Patriots’ punts—that handed the ball back to New England.
For most special-teams players, two drive-extending penalties don’t occur in an entire season. For it to happen to Wilson twice in the same night is definitely a black mark.
Winner: Saints Front 4
One of the biggest concerns heading into the 2012 season was the pass rush. Could the New Orleans Saints improve enough with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s new defense to slow opposing teams down by getting pressure on the quarterback?
The first- and second-team defense did just that Thursday night; they got after the quarterback.
Whether it was from rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who shined in the game in New England, or defensive ends Will Smith and Junior Galette, the Saints front four won the heads up battles in the trenches and consistently pressured the quarterback.
Loser: LT Jermon Bushrod
After working out in combined practices with the New England Patriots, starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod called Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones a Jason Pierre-Paul look-alike (via ESPN).
Maybe Bushrod knew that Chandler would manhandle him in Thursday’s game. Maybe Bushrod felt handing out pre-emptive compliments would make it a bit easier.
I’m sure it still stung.
Twice Bushrod was penalized with holding penalties Thursday, not able to slow Chandler down. Bushrod didn’t like the holding calls, claiming he didn’t break the rules. Film study Friday among the coaching staff will determine if he’s telling the truth.
It wasn’t just those two back-to-back holding penalties, however, that marred Bushrod’s night. Jones gave Bushrod fits in pass protection the entire time the two squared off.
That’s never a good thing, but it’s exacerbated when the abuser is a rookie in his first preseason game.
Winner: RB Travaris Cadet
Undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet caught eight passes Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game and gained 80 yards. Thursday night in New England, Cadet led the team again in receptions with six for 29 yards.
Cadet also carried the ball nine times against the Patriots—more than any other Saints player. It’s obvious that the coaching staff is putting Cadet through the ringer—giving him test after test to see if he’s capable of carrying the weight of an NFL running back.
So far, Cadet seems ready.
In fact, Cadet seems so ready that Evan Silva of Rotoworld and ProFootballTalk believes Chris Ivory could become expendable if Cadet continues to perform well.
Any time an undrafted player causes that kind of buzz, it’s a winning situation.