The best thing about the New Orleans Saints 24-20 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars last night was how utterly forgettable it was. If you are reading this column during lunch, you probably can barely remember the score. If you are reading it before you head home for work I bet you can barely remember if the Saints even won. If you stumbled on to this column and Saints played the Jaguars last week, you might not be sure the game happened at all. These kinds of games are the best kind of preseason games. You tell me about a memorable Saints exhibition game and I’d bet $2000 it’s because something terrible happened.
The second best part about last night’s game was the Saints and Jaguars played it with the urgency of someone who had a 9 p.m. dinner reservation. Preseason football might be mostly awful, but preseason football games that barely take 3 hours are decidedly less awful.
The Saints suffered no major injuries and as a fan that’s all I really care about. I know Sean Payton and the team has to work on stuff but that doesn’t concern me. All I care about in August is my favorite Saints players being healthy for September. Alvin Kamara touched the ball 4 times, which is 4 times too many in the preseason, if you ask me. Can’t he just eat Airheads and look cool on the sidelines until the Tampa game coach?
So what did we actually learn from this football game? Not much.
The Saints defense without any of their top defensive ends such as Cam Jordan, Alex Okafor, and Marcus Davenport would in fact be terrible like they were against the Jacksonville starting offense. The only thing the Jacksonville game showed me about the defense was the Saints are going to need Davenport to give them something in 2018 if they want to have a special season. He doesn’t need to be great, and while the Saints roster is deep, they can’t afford 2018 to be a redshirt season for Davenport. This isn’t some breaking news though; we knew this before last night.
On offense Tre’Quan Smith is the real deal. Sean Payton not only is a brilliant offensive mind, but he and Saints front office have a uncanny ability to identify college players who can fit right into what he wants on offense. The Saints offensive philosophy since Payton arrived has been, “Formation teams to death, play with tempo, and throw the ball all over the place” So Saints need smart and versatile receivers to make it go. They found the next one in Smith.
The Taysom Hill experience was fun wasn’t it? I hope he’s in Saints training camp the next five years. He alternates between amazing, disaster, and in between, sometimes all on the same play. Hill’s final stat line looked fantastic: 8/9 passing for 72 yards and 7 carries for 52 yards. Watching it felt less so as at times he looked overwhelmed and seemed to just be running around to not get killed. If he has to actually play snaps in the fall it’s likely to be as enjoyable to view as the cleaning up of the French Quarter on Ash Wednesday, but in games that don’t matter? It’s the perfect entertainment. I need 4 quarters next week of Taysom Hill just running around and looking like a guy trying to escape a burning building.
The other thing Thursday’s game showed me is the Saints have what I like to call a ‘Sir Mix-a-Lot’ roster. It’s thick and sturdy at the bottom. The Saints backups held the Jaguars to 101 yards of offense in the second half and in a strange change of pace might actually win a bunch of preseason games this year. Who cares about backups winning games that don’t count? No one really but players are going to get hurt and it’s a good sign the Saints backups can whip another team’s backups.
Those days in 2013-16 where a handful of undrafted rookie free agents would make the Saints 53 man roster are long gone, which is great news. If the bottom of your roster is filled with a bunch of rookies 31 other teams passed on drafting it’s a bad sign. If you gamble on football, for entertainment purposes only of course, second half bets on the Saints the next 3 weeks might be interesting.
So the Saints are 1-0 during practice football season and the best thing about it is by the time you finish reading this column you’ll have forgotten about the game details almost entirely. It might be the greatest preseason game we’ll never remember.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes