METAIRIE, La. ― The Saints again can boast to having an unstoppable force on offense.
Of course, it is only the preseason, but the numbers don’t lie – New Orleans is No. 1 in yards per game (422), No. 1 yards per play (5.89), No. 1 in passing yards per game (279.7), No. 4 in rushing yards per game (142.3) and No. 2 in time of possession (34 minutes, 7 seconds).
Say what you might about defenses being vanilla and backups being shuffled in, but every team is dealing with the same facts of life.
And you know who is benefitting the most?
Once again, the Saints’ defense.
“You know, when it’s a little bit even or it’s a tie score it’s a little bit different game,” Saints defensive end Will Smith said. “You’ve got to play and expect certain things. But teams kind of become predictable when you have a lead.”
Yet, it’s not like everything is sunshine’s and smiley faces for the Saints on defense.
In the past two games, Houston and San Diego both strung together two long scoring drives to get on the board. In each drive, the Saints’ defense was gashed in the red zone on the ground.
The Texans picked up runs of seven and 10 yards to close out a seven-play, 60 yards touchdown drive. The Chargers used runs of five, four and six yards to finish off a 12-play, 82-yard scoring possession.
The Saints brought in Kendrick Clancy to see if he can help stuff the middle on run downs. Clancy, who went on IR a season ago after having microfracture surgery on his right knee, worked out for the second day in a row for the Saints and could see some time in Thursday’s preseason finale at Tennessee.
But even without Clancy, Smith said the Saints are progressing each day in learning how to shut down the run game.
“Our numbers are getting better,” he said. “We’re rotating a lot of guys in there, seeing how they fit in in certain schemes and different defenses. It’s working out pretty good.”
For now, the Saints are tied for 15th in the NFL in total defense (314.3 ypg), tied for 8th against the run (80.3 ypg) and 25th against the pass (234 ypg).
Strongside linebacker Scott Shanle said those numbers don’t tell the full story.
“We have a lot of stuff that we were doing last year towards the end of the regular season that we really excelled at that we haven’t really done much,” Shanle said. “A lot of teams keep it basic in the preseason. It’s always hard to put your finger on numbers during the preseason.”
He added, “I think one of our strengths last year every week we had a game plan that seemed to confuse a lot of teams. I point to the New England game on Monday night. They were kind of rolling at the time and we put in a couple of new defenses.”