Did you ever think a New Orleans Saints 13-7 preseason game could be so much fun? Me neither.
Despite off season injuries to key players and having to fire two team doctors after a misdiagnosis of Delvin Breaux’s broken leg, the Saints have managed to build some real optimism around the 2017 season after two practice football games. Who says miracles aren’t real?
The Los Angeles Chargers offensive line may in fact be terrible, but that’s not our problem. I don’t care if the Saints collected 8 sacks playing against my 21-month-old son and 10 of his stuffed animals; I’m going to enjoy it. The Saints had 30 sacks the entire 2016 season, so when they get 8 in one game, they have my attention.
Sure the Chargers were without both of their starting offensive tackles, but you know what defenses that potentially aren’t terrible do? Maul a team playing a third and fourth string offensive tackle.
The Chargers ran 15 plays in the first quarter and gained 31 yards. I’m not going to dismiss it, because if the Chargers had lit the Saints defense up while playing with backup tackles, this column would be nothing but doom, panic, and sadness.
Good play in August might not predict anything, but it sure beats watching terrible football. Whenever a team gets 8 sacks there is a lot to like. I’ll begin by congratulating 6th round pick Al-Quadin Muhammad on making the team.
Muhammad followed up last week’s solid showing with 1.5 sacks. Any thoughts the Saints might have had of sneaking him through waivers and stashing him on the practice squad are over. NFL teams are desperate for any possible decent pass rushers and corners. If Saints cut Muhammad, he’d be claimed in 10 seconds.
It might be a little early to declare the 2017 Saints draft a homerun, but I’m pretty sure at least 5 guys from it are going to see significant playing time, which is a very encouraging sign. Also, can we just encase Alvin Kamara in bubble wrap until September 11th? I’ve seen enough to know he’s gonna be fun. You know the best thing about Kamara? He’s been amazing and Sean Payton hasn’t even broken out all the really fun plays and formations Kamara will be used in yet.
Ryan Ramczyk started and was up and down but that’s ok. The Saints went 11-5 in 2013 with Charles Brown starting 14 games at left tackle, so as long as Ramczyk is playing and getting better every week, the offensive line will be fine.
The thing that has me most excited from last night is special teams. As we all know awful special teams was a huge reason the Saints went 7-9 for the third straight year. This offseason Sean Payton changing the special teams coach got the headlines, but the player acquisitions were just as critical. The Saints moved quickly this offseason to resign Chris Banjo and he showed why last night with 5 tackles in kick coverage. Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead looked amazing, and the return game should improve once guys like Ted Ginn Jr. and Alvin Kamara are inserted for games that matter.
The only real negatives last night were Stephone Anthony’s roster spot seems in real jeopardy and backup quarterback is a nightmare.
The Saints starting linebackers appear to be AJ Klein, Manti T’eo, and rookie Alex Anzalone. Craig Robertson is the fourth guy; Nat Stupar is making the team because he adds so much too special teams, so where does Anthony fit? He’s not practicing, and since he doesn’t play special teams, where is his value? It’s an uphill battle for Anthony now.
The Saints also appear to be devoid of a backup quarterback. The thing is, worrying about the Saints backup quarterback is like fretting about the catering at your funeral. Sure it matters, but since you are dead, do you really care that much? Probably not. The best backup quarterback solution for the Saints is lighting an extra novena candle for Drew Brees and hoping he plays every play in 2017.
So the meaningless Saints preseason losing streak is over and reasons for hope are as plentiful as sno-balls on a hot August afternoon. I like these kinds of preseason games. Yes I do.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.