Handwerger: New Orleans Saints have long way to go, but plenty of time to get there

Handwerger: New Orleans Saints have long way to go, but plenty of time to get there

Credit: (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 17: Justin Blackmon #14 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scores a touchdown over Roman Harper #41 of the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 17, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 18, 2012 at 12:26 AM

Updated Saturday, Aug 18 at 2:40 PM

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

OPINION/ANALYSIS

NEW ORLEANS – Roman Harper didn’t take long to answer a question posed to him about whether the defense took a step back Friday night.

Jermon Bushrod was equally as quick when asked if the offense improved.

The answer to both was yes.

And that’s the beauty of exhibition football – one side of the ball can take a step back and it’s not the end of the world.

The New Orleans Saints lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-24 Friday night in what will be ultimately be a forgettable 60 minutes. But it will give the coaching staff enough to work with in getting the team better.

New Orleans has two more preseason games, plenty of time to get the offense and defense working on the same page.

There are things to correct everywhere.

Acting head coach Joe Vitt wasn’t pleased with blocking for Drew Brees and he was just as disappointed in tackling by his main defenders.

His players agreed with that assessment.

“If the little things aren’t working correctly then the big things aren’t going to happen,” receiver Lance Moore said. “It’s a work in progress. We’ve still got two games left.”

Added Harper, “We need the work and it seems like we need to continue to grind through this. It’s not about the X’s and O’s and the play calls right now. It’s about the fits and what we need to do to execute it.”

But all said the corrections should be minor tweaks, the kind that can be made in one simple week of practice.

There were bright spots, enough that the negatives at this point shouldn’t extinguish optimism.

A series after Brees was sacked and gave away the football, the defense held in a tight spot, giving up just a field goal instead of a touchdown.

On the next offensive series, Brees showed exactly why he’s the highest=paid player in the NFL. After three run plays, Brees went 6-for-6 for 74 yards, finishing the drive with a quintessential back-shoulder pass to Devery Henderson for a touchdown.

“I’m really proud of the way we came out in the second quarter and marched the ball down the field,” Bushrod said. “I liked our first drive as well. When you can do that, you can build off that. You never want to go backwards.

“If you do hit a couple of road blocks, you want to regroup like we did and put seven on the board.”

Yet, it’s easy to understand, even in the preseason, why those who follow the Saints and those inside the locker room would be disappointed in the product on the field Friday night.

As Brees said afterward, the bar has been set awfully high.

That’s not a bad thing.

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