A day after New Orleans Saints legend Willie Roaf was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Saints defeated the Arizona Cardinals 17-10 in Canton, Ohio. Let’s first acknowledge that the main objective of pre-season football is to evaluate talent and stay healthy, so let’s curb our enthusiasm a bit. But there were several performances on Sunday night that warrant praise.
Drew Brees looked like the same surgical passer he’s been since joining the Saints franchise in 2006. In his lone drive of the night, he completed 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards. The opening drive ended with a 1 yard Mark Ingram touchdown run. Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas both looked sharp, accounting for 47 yards in limited action.
The eye-opening performance of the night came from running back, Travaris Cadet. The rookie free agent out of Appalachian State accounted for 126 all purpose yards, including 80 yards on 10 receptions and 49 yards on special teams returns. Cadet couldn’t get it going in the rushing game, carrying 6 times for -3 yards. But his ability to play special teams and catch out of the back field opened eyes against the Cardinals. With Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory already in the Saints back field, it will be tough for Cadet to find a spot on the regular season roster. However, Ivory has been suffering from fumblitis in training camp, so it will be interesting to see if Cadet can push him for a roster spot.
Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon both missed the pre-season opener due to injury. Arrington’s injury seems like it may be more severe. According to interim head coach Joe Vitt, Arrington has a meniscus problem and is currently in Philadelphia getting his knee checked out by Dr Andrews. The injury may require surgery. Arrington has been performing well in training camp, but another injury may put the nail in the coffin of his Saints career. The Saints have been keeping Arrington around for five years, waiting for him to break through as a reliable target for Drew Brees. It looks like his body may be too prone to injury for Arrington to make his mark with the black and gold.
With Toon and Arrington both being out, Sunday night was a great opportunity for Joseph Morgan and Andy Tanner to shine. Morgan caught 3 passes for 35 yards, but had a couple of drops and a muffed punt. Andy Tanner had 4 receptions for 75 yards and was a key target for Chase Daniel in the passing game. Daniel to Tanner is now known as the Full House Connection in my household. Tanner’s lost fumble late in the game put a dark cloud over his decent performance up to that point. After pre-season game 1, it looks like the battle for number 4 receiver is still up in the air.
It’s always good to have a back up quarterback with the talent of Chase Daniel as an insurance policy. Daniel passed for 203 yards and a touchdown, but still struggled with consistency. He missed open receivers at times and threw an interception on his last drive of the night. He was replaced by Sean Canfield, who struggled to get the offense moving.
Thomas Morstead showed why he’s worth the extension he was rewarded by the Saints in the off season. Morstead punted 7 times for a total of 322 yards, a 46 yard average. With this high powered offense, he may not be called upon much this season. But in games where field position is vital to victory, he should be worth every penny of his salary. Speaking of kickers, it was good to see John Kasay hit a 22 yarder tonight. Being that he was born the same year as Morgan Freeman, it’s amazing that he can still get the ball through the uprights.
Martez Wilson looked promising on the defensive side of the ball tonight. The former linebacker turned defensive end, may finally give the Saints some pressure coming off of the end of the defensive line. He led the team with 1.5 sacks and was in the Cardinals back field numerous times. Lawrence Wilson and Malcolm Jenkins both intercepted passes. This was the first time we’ve seen Malcolm Jenkins pick off a pass since 2010. I’m not going to get too excited about the performance of the Saints defense against the Cardinals for several reasons. First, it was against Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Second, we were all praising the Saints defense after their pre-season opener against the 49ers last season.
Let’s wait until the regular season to see if this new look Saints defense, can close the gap on the negative turnover ratio that has plagued this franchise the past two seasons. Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme should allow the Saints defense to get pressure on the quarterback without taking as many risks as in previous seasons.
The New Orleans Saints will travel straight to New England, where they will face the Patriots on Thursday night.