Three thoughts from the Saints' 31-23 win over the Texans:
1) Pierre Thomas' first action of preseason shows he still has 'it'
Pierre Thomas doesn't necessarily get lost among Saints fan. But because he's so consistently solid, his value sometimes gets forgotten in the larger landscape of things.
But on his 51-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, he showed exactly why he needs to be a bigger part of the Saints' offense. Not only is he sure-handed, his open-field running is among the best in the league and we saw that. Thomas not only allows his blockers to do their job, he's spectacular at reading those blocks.
He finished his day against Houston with 19 yards on four carries and the one catch for 51 yards. He'll provide, once again, a tremendous changeup to Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles.
The key for Thomas is getting him in the game and getting him touches.
Thomas hadn't seen the field yet in a preseason game until Sunday. He showed that he needs very little game-work to be game-ready. If he can stay healthy, the one-two-three punch of Ingram, Sproles and Thomas could help the Saints recapture the NFC South.
2)Saints defense shows some issues defending hurry-up offense
Three different times this season the Saints' first-team defense has faced a hurry-up or two-minute offense. Three different times they were under three different situations. And yet, the results were all nearly the same three long drives that ended in points for the opponent.
Against Kansas City, the Saints weren't exactly expecting a hurry-up offense right out of the gate. The Saints didn't even have their entire defensive playbook installed. But Kansas City drove 80 yards in 14 plays, putting up seven first downs on their way to a touchdown.
Oakland's lone positive drive with the first-team came with 3:03 to play in the first half. Matt Flynn, running the two-minute offense, guided the Raiders 78 yards in nine plays, the last of which was an 18-yard touchdown pass. But the Saints were using backup inside linebackers and had safety Malcolm Jenkins calling the defense.
Sunday, though, all was set Curtis Lofton was in the game, calling the defense against Houston's first-team offense. And still the Texans drove. Matt Schaub led the Texans 77 yards in 10 plays with just 1 minute, 14 seconds to go in the first half, the last of which was a 21-yard field goal.
It's something to keep in mind as the real season gets underway.
3)Tanner, Parker giving Payton, Loomis tough decision to make
Andy Tanner and Preston Parker are giving Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton headaches. The good kind, of course. But headaches nonetheless.
Tanner finished Sunday's game with three catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Parker had one catch for eight yards. Tanner's third game stats were nearly identical to Parker's preseason opener, when he caught four passes for 43 yards and two scores.
But these two won't make the team because of what they can do on offense. It's what can they do on special teams and Sunday, both showed they're plenty valuable there, too.
Parker brought a kickoff return back 52 yards. Tanner was in on several stops on kickoff, including after both touchdown catches.
The Saints are set at receiver with Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Nick Toon and Kenny Stills. There's likely only one position open if you consider Courtney Roby's spot safe. After Sunday, though, it's not as easy to say Roby's spot is solid.
In what is one of the hardest things they'll have to do all year, Payton and Loomis will have to figure out the bottom of their 53-man, piecing together all the moving parts into a living puzzle.
It's conceivable that they find a way to keep all three on the roster. But it's unlikely.
Regardless, Tanner and Parker have done enough that they'll be able to find a spot somewhere if they do get cut.