The Saints looked sharp last night. The offense was clicking—except for a few drops from the wide receivers—and the defense was stifling (think getting-into-your-car-after-it’s-sat-in- the-sun-all-day type stifling). Drew Brees was, once again, completely on top of his game, throwing accurately to a bevy of receivers. And you know what, the starting cornerbacks played great, too.
It was an across-the-board success for New Orleans at a time when they needed it most. They needed to know if their defense was capable of more than jay-vee-caliber play: It is.
They needed to find out if they had cornerbacks that could stay in the same TV frame as the receivers they cover: They do.
A lot of good came out of Saturday night’s game against the Bengals, including my following observations.
Lance Moore is a pass-catching machine. Dating back to last year, Moore’s first with the Saints, I don’t think he’s ever dropped a catchable pass. That’s probably an overstatement, but seriously—the guy catches everything.
The Saints are fine at running back. Should Deuce or Reggie suffer injury or setback, Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas leave the Saints with plenty of options to run the football. Stecker is a pro’s pro. He’s got the talent to start for a handful of teams around the NFL, but he goes about his business as a backup in NOLA. Talk about a team player.
As for Thomas, the kid is fearless. He’s not afraid to take it up the field on any defense. I see his role in the offense getting bigger and bigger as he continues to give Sean Payton little reason to keep him on the bench.
Tracy Porter’s play against the Texans compared to his play against the Bengals was like night and day. Obviously, he’s still learning all of the ins and outs of playing at the professional level, but if he continues to improve at the rate he’s done over the past week, he’ll be an unquestioned starter by midseason.
The Saints' offensive line is a pass-blocking line, not a run-blocking line. There might not be a better pass-blocking line in the league. Run blocking, though, is a different story. There don’t seem to be as many holes opening up as you’d hope as a Saints fan. Well, at least Brees’ jersey stays clean.
Vilma has already begun to shine. His work on the field isn’t very noticeable, as he’s not being utilized as a blitzer so far; but trust me, the guy is making plays. I counted several running plays he stymied last night, just by occupying the correct gap. His value as a run-stopper will be immeasurable this season.
Finally, the Saints did well pressuring the passer last night. They had a great push up the middle, leaving Palmer little time to get the ball out of his hands. When Mickey Loomis and Payton made it an offseason priority to improve the pass rush, that’s the kind of performance they had in mind.