And we’re off.
Well, sort of. The Saints beat Kansas City 17-13 in the preseason opener for both teams and there wasn’t much to glean.
But there were two questions that did begin to have their answers shown.
1.) One thing the Saints missed in 2012 was pressure on the quarterback and menacing play in the opponent’s backfield. Friday night we began to get an answer to see if that would change under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
My answer? Quite possibly.
We saw it mostly from the second team and other backups. Glenn Foster, Baraka Atkins, John Jenkins and Jay Richardson all found their way into the backfield, disrupting two Kansas City quarterbacks.
But when the Saints’ first-team defense was in against the first-team offense of Kansas City, there wasn’t enough pressure. Jabari Greer’s sack came on a broken play when Alex Smith was running the ball.
Smith was able to use the time he had to find underneath passes on the opening drive, going 7-for-8 for 68 yards in leading the Chiefs to a touchdown.
It certainly didn’t help that outside linebacker and rush specialist Junior Galette didn’t play. Neither did inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
And yet, the second series for the defense was better and the job the backups did, especially guys like Jenkins and Richardson, should give the unit confidence that the scheme is sound.
Jenkins showed that when he gets some experience, he could be exactly what they’ve been missing in the middle. In fact, I’d say he has shown more in one preseason game than Brodrick Bunkley has shown in his Saints career.
I won’t call the problem solved, but I certainly think they’re on the way having the issue corrected.
2.) When Joseph Morgan went down for the season with a torn meniscus and partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the obvious question was who replaces him.
Watching the first half of Friday night’s game and the answer to who the Saints would like to was equally as obvious – rookie Kenny Stills. The fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma spent time with the first and second team and was targeted constantly down-the-field.
Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Luke McCown targeted Stills five times in the first half, each one at least 20 yards down the field. He nearly made a beautiful lunging catch on a long pass by Brees but couldn’t reel it in. And he did come through with a nice 22-yard catch.
But he’ll need to be more consistent. He was called for pass interference once and never showed full ability to separate from the defender on him.
For that matter, Preston Parker and Andy Tanner threw their hats onto the poker table, both making good downfield catches where they had to adjust to somewhat poorly thrown passes.
In other words, one game in and the question is no closer to being answered than before the game began.
3.) Preseason football is a sham. It’s also highway robbery to make fans pay anything close to full price.
Teams play mostly base packages and use very vanilla offenses to get through the games.
While the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was said to be hosting 72,000-plus people for the game, I’m calling shenanigans. It was 70 percent full at best and those fine folks were mostly out of their seats by the fourth quarter.
And there’s still one more of these to go.
I know I’m not breaking any new ground here but four of these games wastes everyone’s time. The teams don’t need all four games to prepare for the season.
Their rosters are mostly filled already with each team having roughly 6-8 spots open.
There is nothing entertaining about watching a third-string running back run amok on a third-team defense.
I’d prefer to see maybe two of these games and 17 regular season games.
As excited as fans were for Friday night’s game because, you know, football was back, it wasn’t the real stuff.
How many days left until Sept. 8?