NEW ORLEANS It’s important for fans to keep the NFL preseason in proper perspective. In other words, don’t make Super Bowl plans after a win and don’t climb out on a ledge after a loss.
Celebrate and grieve in moderation.
With that in mind, let’s delve into the New Orleans Saints’ 20-14 loss Thursday night to the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in downtown Cleveland.
▪ Fact: It marks the Saints’ 10th consecutive preseason loss dating to 2014. Perspective: Four major contributors did not play -- quarterback Drew Brees, running backs Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson and defensive end Cam Jordan. Bottom line: The aformentioned losing streak matters little to Coach Sean Payton, who’s trying to keep his stars healthy, productive and poised for the regular season.
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Fact: A number of key players missed the contest because of injuries: first-round pick left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, center Max Unger, and cornerbacks Delvin Breaux and first-round pick Marshon Lattimore. Unger continues his recovery/rehab from offseason Lisfranc surgery. Ramczyk, Breaux and Lattimore are trying to get back on the field after suffering practice injuries. Perspective: Each figures prominently in the big picture and needs the game work, particularly the two rookies. Bottom line: No reason to panic. But the longer they miss, the greater concern.
▪ Fact: The Saints’ No. 1 defensive unit opened the game with three straight three-and-outs, even without several projected starters. That is something to build on for defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Perspective: The Browns finished 1-15 last season and are a perennial bottom feeder. Starting quarterback Brock Osweiler is working on his third team in as many years. Bottom line: One small step toward respectability. But process is ongoing.
▪ Fact: Saints posted four sacks and were credited with seven quarterback hits. Perspective: Only one of the four sacks were turned in by a projected top tier player -- linebacker Stephone Anthony, who also had one QB hit. Bottom line: Team still seeking complement edge rusher to Jordan. If not Alex Okafor and Hau’oli Kikaha, then whom?
▪ Fact: Wide receiver Tommylee Lewis stood out, catching 10 of 11 targeted passes for 124 yards and one touchdown. He also laid out to snare a 32-yard pass from quarterback Garrett Grayson. It marked the first time in the Payton era when a receiver hit the 10-catch mark in a preseason game. Perspective: Lewis played well, albeit against backups and players who won’t make the Browns’ final 53. Bottom line: Lewis’ best chance of making the roster are as a fourth or fifth wide receiver and return specialist.
▪ Fact: Rookie running back Alvin Kamara rushed four times for a game-high 35 yards, including a long of 22. He also returned one punt for 11 yards. Perspective: He has strength, burst and versatility. Bottom line: He needs to stay healthy, keep his head in the playbook and produce when given an opportunity on offense and in the return game.
▪ Fact: Third-string quarterback Garrett Grayson completed 11 of 16 passes for 126 yards and lost a fumble that the Browns converted into a touchdown. He also was sacked four times. Perspective: He had his moments in 36 snaps. Bottom line: It’s hard to justify why the Saints spent a third-round pick on Grayson and see no reason to protect him on the 53-man roster.
And finally, this observation of free agent wide receiver Ted Ginn, who signed a three-year, $11 million contract in March:
▪ He dropped a potential 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chase Daniel in the first quarter. Perspective: It happened in a meaningless exhibition game. Bottom line: Even at 32, he can still fly. But getting open is only half the job. Separate and catch go hand in hand.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.