After what felt like the worst off season the New Orleans Saints have had in a generation, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I needed to see a good performance, because my optimism for 2017 was quickly dying one training camp injury at a time.
Thankfully the Saints delivered.
Yeah, the Saints lost 20-14 to the Cleveland Browns, when guys who won’t be on the team allowed the Browns rookie quarterback to hit two long throws in the fourth quarter. Will the Saints ever win a preseason game?
Whatever. As my mom, a Lakeview resident, said, “Scores in preseason are worth less than a New Orleans politician saying the pumps are working.”
Before the game, I said on Twitter I wanted 4 things from the Saints…
1. Defensive line to not be a disaster against the run without Nick Fairley.
The Browns ran for 71 yards on 22 carries for the entire game, longest run was 10 yards on a quarterback scramble, and when the Browns first team offense was in they couldn’t run anywhere.
2. Let all this Alvin Kamara hype be real
Oh, it’s real and it’s spectacular. 4 carries for 35 yards and the Saints offense just got better and most importantly more fun. Saints need to get him a new number though, because seeing #41 bursting up the sideline is weird, and I kept wondering why Roman Harper was getting carries in a preseason game.
3. A linebacker, any linebacker do something fun
Look everybody, Stephone Anthony is ALIVE! And doing football stuff. Anthony had a sweet sack on a blitz, so maybe new defensive coach Mike Nolan really is the linebacker whisperer.
4. No injuries, please
Terron Armstead, Nick Fairley, and Max Unger were all hurt before camp started, both #1 draft choices are already banged up and not practicing, so this roster can’t absorb much more. Thankfully it looks like they escaped the opening practice football week clean.
Sure you might be thinking, “Ralph it was the Browns, big deal the Saints defense managed to not get embarrassed by Brock Osweiller. That’s nothing to get excited over.”
In a 2012 preseason game, Blaine Gabbert went 13 of 16 with 2 scores as the Saints defense looked awful; it was the opening act for the worst defense in the history of the National Football League.
I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’ll take any good Saints defense wherever I can find it. How would we have felt if Osweiller lit up the Saints and the Browns ran for 100 yards? Not good.
The defense looks like it will still probably have trouble generating a pass rush opposite Cam Jordan but did you notice David Onyemata wrecking things on the defensive line? The second-year defensive tackle, who played football in Canada, flashes that “Oh my God, he just swallowed a running back whole!” physical skill every so often. Will Onyemata replace Fairley fully? Let’s not get crazy, but at least Fairley’s replacement might not be a black hole of sadness and running backs galloping into the secondary.
The biggest issue to me right now for the 2017 New Orleans Saints is they need Delvin Breaux, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, and Trey Hendrickson back on the practice field next week. Most players that are going to make the roster barely see the field during the final preseason game, and rookies need more than 1 game of live action to be ready to contribute in September.
With Terron Armstead out indefinitely, the Saints need Ramczyk to start and play well at left tackle. He can’t do that watching practice. If Max Unger and Ramczyk aren’t ready week 1, then the Monday night opener in Minnesota will be hazardous to Drew Brees’ health and Saints fans’ sanity because the offensive line might be as reliable as that 2004 IPod you just found in the attic.
In the secondary Delvin Breaux and Marshon Lattimore are some of the key pieces to being better against the pass. Eventually the Saints will have healthy cornerbacks, it might not be until 2025, but eventually everything comes to pass. We must have faith.
The good news is all the injured guys I just mentioned could be back as early as next week. So after 1 preseason game, the Saints showed some real hope for 2017, and after the last couple months, let’s cling to that hope like a life preserver in the ocean.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.