Three thoughts from tonight’s Saints-Raiders preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
1.) Saints defense shows the promise the team has talked about
The Saints’ defense certainly showed folks that it will likely be a unit much…sorry…MUCH better than the historically bad 2012 group. Five first-half sacks with the first-team playing while allowing only one first-down in the first 27 minutes of the half is a good follow up to what the Saints’ put out in the preseason opener.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Raiders might end up being one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season. Quarterback Matt Flynn barely had time to find a receiver and it wasn’t because the Saints’ defense is the next version of the ’85 Bears. Oakland’s offensive line is porous and that might not be going far enough.
The only real hiccup was at the end of the first half when Oakland went to a quicker tempo. The Raiders swiftly moved 82 yards in 11 plays, using just 2 minutes, 32 seconds to score a touchdown. The Saints still need to work on getting the calls in quickly enough to get set. It was obvious they weren’t quite ready for every play on the drive.
Still, the Saints did what they were supposed to do – dominate a far inferior team regardless of what time of year the game is being played. And a week after allowing a 14-play, 80-yard drive to Kansas City to open the game, the Saints’ defense set the tone from the outset, shutting down a fourth-and-one play on the opening drive.
2.) Humber proves to be menace to Oakland
Ramon Humber has spent much of his career as a key special teams player. Not that he didn’t get a chance to supplant others before – coaches will play the best players – but Humber was sitting behind Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma in the recent past.
Friday night, neither Lofton nor Vilma were playing and Humber took complete advantage. He finished with nine tackles before leaving the game, his night’s work finished. He had one sack and completely took the game over sideline to sideline.
Thursday, when asked if he was comfortable playing both inside linebacker positions, Humber clearly was confident that he could do whatever it takes to get on the field. A day later, he proved why he appeared so.
Humber showed why regardless of what happens with Vilma’s knee, he may get some big playing time this season.
3.) The young receivers will be all right.
Folks have wondered about the Saints bringing in veteran wide receivers Steve Breaston and Patrick Crayton. The going thought was that both, along with Preston Parker who already was on the roster, would give the team some experience and leadership in the receiver room.
If Friday night is any indication, those vets may not be long for the roster.
Nick Toon and Kenny Stills showed the future might just be all right after all. The youngsters can play.
Stills caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. Toon caught one pass for 56 yards.
And both did while working with the first team as the team’s two primary receivers. Marques Colston didn’t play for the second game in a row and the plan for Lance Moore was to use him only in nickel situations.
Certainly there were some missteps by the young duo. In the first quarter, quarterback Drew Brees threw behind Toon. Before they even got back to the huddle, Brees was talking with the receiver, explaining where he wanted the route to end. Brees did the same thing with Stills later.
Oakland’s defense isn’t the league’s best but the more both Toon and Stills get in games and play like they did Friday night, the better off the Saints will be.