It has been a long offseason.
The New Orleans Saints and their observers have been waiting to get back on the field to put last season farther in the rearview.
So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that social media was abuzz with hot takes and overreactions throughout Thursday’s 24-20 preseason win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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We can circumvent a lot of explanation by simply keying in on those two words and putting it all in context. A lot of stuff that happened Thursday meant something — but whether good or bad, no single event or performance probably carries that much weight.
So in attempt to keep things in context, here is our take on some of the overreactions flying around during and after the game.
Overreaction: The defense took a step back.
The truth: There should be absolutely zero stock placed in how the defense performed on the opening drive at Jacksonville. The Saints’ top three defensive ends weren’t on the field, and the team doesn’t scheme anything. No blitzes. No designed pressures. No disguised coverages. Nothing.
The view from here is the team that has been so well in practice is a closer representation to the truth than what was on display the first drive. Still, coach Sean Payton would have liked to see a better performance.
“Early in the game, offensively and defensively, we struggled,” Payton said. “Honestly, I don’t know when we forced the first punt.”
It wasn’t until the end of the first half, which definitely isn’t great, but still keep it in context.
It would be fair to state that the defense made too many mistakes throughout the night. Jacksonville scored a touchdown in the third quarter when Vonn Bell missed a tackle, and the team made other errors like that throughout the contest. Those are the ones that the coaching staff will be upset with, because they are preventable.
Overreaction: Taysom Hill is the future.
Our take: That was fun, right? Hill played well after being somewhat shaky in practices. The quarterback looked natural running the ball and was able to stand in the pocket and make some big-time throws at times. However, he still has things to clean up. He missed a few targets down the field, nearly threw an interception and seemed quick to run other times, but this was a fine preseason debut for the second-year quarterback.
Some observations on his performance:
▪ His completion to Dan Arnold was impressive. He climbed the pocket, kept reading the field and hit the tight end coming across the field. Hill looked comfortable on the play and held the ball for 3.09 seconds.
▪ His second down run wasn’t ideal. He could have reset his feet and made a play. Hill didn’t see cornerback Tyler Patmon blitzing. If he had, he could have connected with a wide receiver on the right side of the field or his running back to the left.
▪ Hill once again did not see Patmon blitzing and was sacked. Could some type of adjustment have been made?
▪ Hill once again fails to see Patmon blitzing. He is sacked in 2.78 seconds.
▪ His second-down pass to Tre’quan Smith was far too risky. Hill stared down his target and then put the ball in dangerous territory. Going to Trey Edmunds undearneath would have been a safer option.
▪ Hill did a good job of stepping up in the pocket and finding Smith on a crossing route. His feet weren’t set, and the pass was a little behind his target, but Hill got the job done.
▪ The 14-yard pass to Huff was a solid play.
▪ Hill’s 3-yard pass to Huff was pretty impressive. He rolled out, and with the rush closing in, fell back and delivered an on-point pass. On the next down he picked up 21 yards on a read play. Hill’s athleticism was on full display.
Overall, there are things he could do better and things he will be pleased with. It would be interesting to find out if his reads are different than what the other quarterbacks are asked to do. It felt like he was tucking the ball quickly at times, but that might be what he was told to do.
He seemed to take a step forward from what he was doing in practices, and took a step ahead of J.T. Barrett, who will likely be upset with himself for not connecting with Boston Scott for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Overreaction: The secondary is still busting coverages.
The truth: There was a miscommunication between Marshon Lattimore and Patrick Robinson that allowed D.J. Chark to run wide open across the field for a gain of 15 yards on third-and-9. It looked like Robinson should have picked up the route, but instead, both men picked up Rashad Greene as he released up the field to run a deep in route. These types of communication issues weren’t a huge problem last season, and they should fade as Robinson and strong safety Kurt Coleman settle in.
This came up again in the third quarter when Justin Hardee and Chris Banjo allowed Shane Wynn to get between them in the third quarter. There is a scenario in which one or both of those players see some snaps during the season, but if they are ever on the field together when it counts, that means the defense has been hit hard by injuries. The problems will be much more significant than a busted coverage at that point.
Overreaction: Mitchell Loewen made the team; Colton Jumper is on his way out.
The truth: Loewen did have a handful of plays, showing off his ability against the run and pass, that made him pop off the screen several times. The defensive end made the team last season before suffering a season-ending injury, so it isn’t like he entered camp as a long shot. He should be competing for a job, and on first viewing, it looked like he’s doing what he needs to make his case. But it’s too early to crown anyone.
As for Jumper, he overpursued a screen pass on the right sideline, allowing Jacksonville to get up the sideline for a significant gain. That isn’t the kind of play you want to put on film when you’re trying to create a first impression during a game situation, but he should have more opportunities to atone.
The truth: Rankins has pieced together a solid training camp, and he showed up with at least two pressures during Thursday’s game, which led to some remarks on Twitter on how the defensive tackle is on his way to a double-digit sack season. That might be a bit much. Rankins did a good job of improving as a rookie, finishing that season with four sacks, before logging just two last season. He often sacrificed himself to help create chances for others, which stunted his overall numbers, but it is going to take a lot more than a couple of preseason plays before it’s time to place that kind of expectation on Rankins.
The same goes for Devaroe Lawrence. He put himself back on the map by picking up a pair of sacks. He’ll need to keep it going the next few weeks to push for a job. He looked like a long shot entering the night. He’s now on the radar for sure.
Overreaction: Brandon Tate will be the Saints’ kick returner.
The truth: He might win the job. His 36-yard return in the first half was smooth and easy. Outside of some attempts by Alvin Kamara last season, the team hasn’t had many of those in recent years. If Tate keeps making those kinds of returns, he could quickly take the lead for the job. But Boston Scott had a couple of good returns, though his longest one came back because of a J.T. Gray hold. This one could be a battle.