It's Only Preseason: Five Things We Learned From The Saints-Chargers Game
Yes, I know it is only a preseason game.
Teams aren't playing at their full potential. Starters with the most minor of injuries sit on the sidelines, not ready to risk their health on a game that means nothing in the scheme of things.
But for that first half when most of the starters played on both sides, we had a slight indicator of how the season may proceed.At the end of one half where the starters played the game, the Saints had won the bout 17-14.
Yes they made plenty of mistakes, but they also had plenty areas where we are seeing improvement from even last year's Super Bowl Champion Saints.
Here are 5 things we learned about this preparing Saints team in this preseason game.
5. Special Teams Coverage has Improved Greatly
In the first two preseason games of this 2010 season, Saints fans watched in dismay as opposing return specialists dominated this team's coverage.
Breakdowns in coverage led to opposing players bolting through the Saints sluggish special teams coverage for big yardage. When progression wasn't occurring in the first two weeks of this type of play, the Saints realized it was time to make some adjustments in that area.
Fans started to see this type of improvement against the Chargers on Friday night.
There was improvement on the Saints Special Teams coverage. Chargers super specialist Darren Sproles was pounded multiple times as soon as the ball made contact with his hands.
The Saints wrapped him up in open field, avoiding his usual shiftiness and making the sure tackle.
Sproles averaged only 16 yards on kick returns, where he was usually starting to run inside his own end zone. He averaged under ten yards on punt returns.
Last year the Saints Achilles' Heel was the lack of a strong special teams coverage. Perhaps the game on Friday night was an indicator of change to come.
4. The Defense Still has Room for Improvement
Although huge steps were taken on special teams, the defense wasn't so lucky.
Defenders were getting burned deep for big yardage, there were missed tackles on all over the place, and one of the most powerful passing attacks in the NFL had its way with this Saints defense.
Ryan Matthews began the game ripping through the line of scrimmage for big gains creating first down after first down. Then the Saints put a few more defenders in the box, stopping the run. Matthews then decided to take a few short passes, juke a few guys and make big plays in that area, too.
The Saints could not find a way to stop him whether he was running in the beginning or catching more passes towars the end.
Rivers connected with receviers for big plays downfield finding large gaps in the Saints' secondary.
But, the Saints did look as hungry as usual. They were going for the turnovers and attacking the quarterback with a preseason mini-fury. But that wasnt enough to stop this prolific offense.
The Saints need to make improvements on defense to stop these big yardage plays from happening in the regular season.
3. The Saints Offense is Developing More Talented Weapons
Although the defense could use some adjustments, the offense is looking just fine.
It has the same brilliant glow that it had last season. With Drew Brees at the helm, things are always looking optimistic. And this this year he has a few new weapons, or maybe just a few improved ones.
The problem of a lack of a power back in the Saints backfield has finally been answered by Chris Ivory. The undrafted rookie pounded through the Chargers Defensive line accumulating 45 yards on just 11 carries. And let's not forget his 76 yard touchdown catch-and-run.
Chris Ivory proved he can be the third RB and the power back for this team in the game Friday night.
Receivers also showed improvement from the multiple dropped passes in the previous two games. Devery Henderson burned the Chargers for a 49 yard touchdown reception. Marques Colston had 55 receiving yards. Reggie Bush had 70. Once again, the Saints spread the ball evenly throughout all its top play makers, making it impossible to cover them.
proved he is still getting better and better.
The saints offense is shaping up into another possible league-best group again this year.
2. Drew Brees is as Sharp as Ever
Yes he threw a few off-the-mark passes. But nobody has perfect games, especially not in the preseason.
Other than those few passes, Brees looked like business as usual. He took the reigns of the offense and drove down field for scores.
He threw for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns in a single half of the game.
Fans watched as his dead-on accuracy slashed the Chargers secondary for big gains. His pocket awareness was still very good. He did not throw for any interceptions. He took only 1 sack.
Brees isn't showing any signs of slowing down this season for any reason whatsoever. Madden curse or no Madden curse, Brees is the best quarterback in the game today.
1. A Prepared Team
True, there are still some adjustments that need to be made to this team, but that is how every team feels in the preseason.
But altogether this looks like a hungry, unified team. They are confident and in good shape. There are no huge problems with the locker room like with many other teams.
Very few roster positions are in question. Almost all the starters are back from last year, and they have only gained more experience.
Injuries are healing nicely. There aren't too many glaring injuries left to starters on the roster.
The saints look like a prepared team. A team prepared for possibly another championship run.