One down (hallelujah!), three to go before the start of real NFL football.
That’s the first of my five takeaways from Friday night’s exhibition between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings inside the half-empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
For those keeping score at home — Vikings 34, Saints 25.
End of game story.
I am not a big fan of NFL teams charging full-price admission to glorified scrimmages and including them as part of their season-ticket packages. If I’m going to pay full price, I want the full benefits. Know this: Saints fans may not get to see starting quarterback Drew Brees play at home in the preseason for the second consecutive year. The Saints play at San Diego and the New York Jets the next two weeks and close out the preseason schedule with a home game against Miami on Aug. 29. Typically, Brees wouldn’t play in the fourth game.
The sooner the NFL reduces the number of preseason games from 4 to 3 or two, the better. Hopefully, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will address that issue once and for all when the league and NFL Players Association hammer out a new deal in the coming months.
That’s the fan in me speaking. I understand the importance of training camp and the need for players to get their bodies and minds prepared for the demands of a 16-game schedule and beyond.
Either reduce the number of practice games and increase the number of regular season games, or lower admission prices to the practice games and remove them from season-ticket packages altogether.
Saints coach Sean Payton presents a compelling argument to keep the status quo at four preseason games.
“Do I feel that way? Yes,’‘ he said. “because of how much we’re restricted in the spring and, quite honestly, what we’re restricted (to) in training camp.
“I know the challenge often times is that fourth preseason game. But, I can’t think of a season where that fourth preseason game didn’t mean something to a handful of players. And it meant something to us (as coaches) in the evaluation. Because of the current spring format, obviously, we’re not in pads at all. I think it’s important.’‘
My other takeaways from Friday night’s exhibition: Keep in mind, Brees and perennial Pro-Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, among others, did not play.
▪ Saints reserve quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill acquitted themselves nicely, each helping produce one touchdown and two field goals in his two quarters of work. Kicker Wil Lutz looked to be in mid-season form, converting all four field-goal attempts with a long of 52.
▪ The search for a true-blue No. 2 wide receiver behind all-star Michael Thomas continues in earnest. It looks more and more as though it could be tight end Jared Cook, although he wasn’t targeted once against the Vikings.
▪ Not only did Brees have the night off but so did the team’s No. 1 play-caller. Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael called plays for Bridgewater and Hill, enabling Payton to devote his full attention to the field. No big deal in training camp. If this were the regular season, it would be noteworthy.
▪ Only one QB hit from the Saints defense, according to the play-by-play. Other than Jordan, and hopefully Marcus Davenport, where is the pressure going to come from on a consistent basis? It’s the first exhibition but still the question needs to be asked. If this trend continues in the preseason, Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen will have to get creative and bring more bodies.
And finally, I will end on a positive note.
Drew Brees is alive and well!