The New Orleans Saints may only be two weeks into the preseason, but the New Orleans offense is already showing signs of being among the league's best in 2014.
On Friday night, New Orleans dropped 21 points in the first half—and 31 overall—on a Tennessee Titans defense that allowed just 23.8 points per game a season ago. The scary part is that New Orleans made it look easy to move the football, even with Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees watching from the sidelines the entire contest.
Backup quarterbacks Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin performed very well in Brees' absence (he sat as a precaution after suffering a strained oblique earlier in the month) and the usual cast of characters was on hand to make its impact.
Tight end Jimmy Graham hauled in five passes for 48 yards in limited first-half action. He also showed just how valuable he is as a red-zone target, twice outpositioning defenders for touchdown receptions.
Running back Mark Ingram, who has seemingly found a new sense of focus this offseason, was also active early in the contest. He amassed 19 tough yards on five carries and scored on a nifty 23-yard catch-and-run shortly before halftime.
Pierre Thomas also found a way to contribute with three catches for 27 yards.
However, it was the contributions of some of the lesser-known players that really provided a glimpse of the Saints potential.
Receiver Joe Morgan, who missed the 2013 season with a knee injury, put his deep-threat skills on full display against the Tennessee defense, racking up 108 yards on just three receptions, including an impressive 52-yarder.
But he wasn't the only pass-catcher to demonstrate his speed Friday night.
Rookie wideout Brandin Cooks dropped a sure touchdown pass on a deep throw from Griffin in the third quarter, but the former Oregon State star certainly flashed his breakaway ability on the play.
Cooks also showed just how good his hands can be on a 16-yard reception early in the first quarter. The rookie snatched the ball cleanly out of the air and brought it into his body with total control just before stepping out of bounds in front of the coverage.
Rookie Seantavius Jones chipped in with 14 yards and a touchdown on two receptions.
In all, Saints quarterbacks passed for 324 yards and four scores on the evening. However, it wouldn't be quite fair to praise the offense without at least mentioning the defense, which forced five turnovers on the night.
If there is a downside to speak of, it would be the number of penalties committed by the Saints during the course of the game. As often happens in preseason action, penalties are more frequent, and New Orleans should be able to tighten things up on this front as the real games draw closer.
22 Saints penalties. No words.— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) August 16, 2014
A number of starters—including Brees, Marques Colston and Jairus Byrd—were rested for the game, so this was really an incomplete Saints team showing its dominance against the Titans.
If New Orleans looks this explosive midway through the preseason with some of its biggest stars playing spectator, they could be amazing when the games actually count.