Saints Look Sharp Despite 26-24 Preseason Loss to the Patriots

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe Saints may have lost their second preseason game to date, but tonight’s game was a vast improvement over last week’s sluggish performance against the Ravens. We should all be encouraged by what we saw on the field tonight on both sides of the ball. The Saints starters emphatically outplayed New England’s. The offense operated like a well-oiled machine, moving up and down the field seemingly at will and the defense played with a purpose.

Perhaps the tremendous energy boost can be attributed to the fact that the game was played in the Dome. Or maybe it was because Drew Brees made his preseason debut tonight. And he did so in a blaze of efficiency.  Playing the entire first quarter, Brees was 8 of 10 passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was a beautiful 45-yard throw to WR Brandin Cooks. The other one was a 10 yard pass to TE Benjamin Watson. He finished the night with a perfect passer rating of 158.3! Drew showed what he can do when he has ample protection from his offensive line, which thankfully played very well tonight. Cooks continued his outstanding performance as he caught four passes for 117 yards and the one touchdown he caught from Brees. QB Luke McCown played the second quarter, completing 4 of 6 passes for 49 yards and one touchdown to TE Josh Hill. QB Ryan Griffin started the second half, going 6 of 8 passing for 85 yards, while QB Garrett Grayson played the entire fourth quarter, completing 7 of 13 passes for 80 yards.

Mark Ingram showed his versatility as well, rushing for a team best 18 yards in six carries and snagging three receptions for 45 yards. Khiry Robinson continued to show his power and smart decision making abilities also. As a group, the Saints rushed for 55 yards in 20 attempts.

Defensively, the Saints starters couldn’t have played a much better game. They held future-Hall-of-Famer, Tom Brady to just 2 of 5 passing for only 13 yards, a measly 2.6 yards per attempt! Hau’oli Kikaha and Cam Jordan brought consistent pressure that kept Brady from getting too comfortable in the pocket, which is definitely an area that needs improvement. I think we will see big things from Kikaha and Jordan this year. LeGarrette Blount didn’t fair much better on the ground against the stout play of the defensive line and interior as he finished the evening with 13 attempts for 15 yards.

Pierre Warren had the lone interception for the Saints, picking off Jimmy Garoppolo and returning the ball 33 yards. It was hard to believe that the entire starting secondary didn’t play in this one because the guys on the field tonight looked better, sharper, and more focused for some reason. They say you can’t read too much into preseason games, but I was very impressed with the overall energy and purpose the defense played with. Against a lesser quarterback and team I might not be so encouraged, but we’re talking about Tom Brady and the defending Superbowl champions here! Any time you can shut down a prolific offense such as the Patriots have, you should feel good about it and gain confidence from it. It sure seems like a good start to turning things around.

In the end, the reserves came in and got outplayed, losing the game at the last minute. It didn’t help matters that the Saints failed to convert on either of their three 2-point conversion attempts. The penalties were overwhelming again too (although the refs were a bit one-sided with their flags).  At least the starting offense and defense cleaned their act up a bit this week as far as penalties go.  But all in all, I’d say it was a good night for the black and gold. There weren’t any notable injuries to speak of and a few guys made their claims stronger as to why they should make the final roster. Brandon Coleman, Willie Snead, Marcus Murphy, or maybe even Anthony Spencer come to mind. I felt bad for Josh Morgan due to his costly fumble because he’d made a couple of nice grabs. But it is still preseason and he and others have a chance to set themselves apart and prove why they deserve to make the team.

Overall, I thought the Saints played well, though not perfect by any means. But at least they have something positive to build on moving forward. They should feel good knowing that the starting offense was able to not only move up and down the field with ease, but they were able to get it in the endzone, one aspect that was lacking last season. And the defense was able to stifle Brady, who reportedly had picked the secondary apart this week in practice. For being just a preseason game, the first quarter in this one was critical to building confidence and answering lingering questions about this year’s squad. Let’s just hope that it helps to build momentum that they can carry into the regular season, not just in the Dome, but on the road. I’d love to see them recapture the swagger they had in 2009.  They were truly special.  They certainly have the potential to be that again.

Sean Payton Says He Won’t Put Up With Any Fighting at Saints Practice

New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens

It sounds like all the recent fighting around NFL training camps has finally hit home for the Saints, as today head coach Sean Payton spoke out against it – stating that if anyone on the Saints is caught fighting, they will pay a heavy price and it won’t be tolerated on any level.

The following about that comes from NFL.Com’s Jeff Darlington:

Saints coach Sean Payton pulled his players together during his usual team meeting Wednesday, preparing them for the upcoming day. But this time, that upcoming day held something different in the cards: A visit from the New England Patriots.

So Payton had a special message: If you decide to fight during practices, as has become a sudden trend during joint sessions across the league, you should pack your bags.
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Payton made clear fighting will not be tolerated — a message he echoed during his news conference Thursday when he noted he believes these fights are breaking out because of the attention they garner on nightly sports broadcasts and HBO’s “Hard Knocks”.

“That’s unfortunate when you see it happen with other teams,” Payton said. “And clearly when you put a team on television like ‘Hard Knocks’ and then practice with someone else, we’ve seen that formula happen two years in a row. So that’s nothing new.”

Saints sources say Payton, in general, has been very meticulous about making sure these joint practices with the Patriots go perfectly. He has been going over and over logistics with members of his staff, something that’s believed at least in part due to his respect for Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Bud Light Kicks Off NFL Season With New Saints Cans

New Orleans Saints Bud Light-Can

Just in time for NFL Kick-Off, Bud Light – the Official Beer of the NFL – is bringing a new Saints Bud Light can to New Orleans. The new packaging features Saints colors, as well as a slogan every Saints fan can relate to: The perfect beer for believing “black and gold” every day makes perfect sense.

Bud Light worked closely with its NFL team partners to create new can designs for the 28 teams that it is partners with for the 2015-2016 season. Each design features a customized scroll message that speaks directly to each team’s passionate fan base. The cans are on shelves now.

What do you think of the new Bud Light Saints can?

Mere Preseason Game or Foreshadow of Things to Come

With the Saints’ first preseason game of 2015 in the books, there seems to be more questions than answers about the future of the black and gold. While we know that too much should never be read into a preseason game, we should also realize that a lot can be learned from them as well.  And the first quarter of last night’s game spoke volumes!

I think back to watching last year’s preseason games and recalling how concerned I was at the way the first string defense played. They looked out of sync and at times, lost. It was clear that there was a lack of chemistry and discipline on the field. Well, I don’t have to remind any of you how that feeling of doom came to be representative of how the regular season would slowly and painfully play out for us Saints fans.

Here we are entering a new season, but I can’t help wondering if it’s not as they say, “same soup, different day.” And I’m not just talking about defensively either. There were many times when the offense went stagnant and didn’t produce. Sure, in the end they put up a lot of yards and Drew Brees ended up in a tie with Ben Roethlisberger for the most passing yards at 4,952. But it wasn’t enough to catapult them into the playoffs, even in our flailing division. It was a hard season to watch: the defense couldn’t stop anybody and the offense couldn’t seem to score. What’s uncanny is, we’d seen glimpses of it in the preseason (though the 3-1 record was misleading).

So far, we’ve witnessed the same sloppy, undisciplined performances that plagued the team all last year. 16 penalties for 143 yards is simply unacceptable, even in a preseason game. And let’s not forget how sloppy last week’s scrimmage was.  The defense, offense, and special teams all have issues that must be cleaned up immediately!  Granted Brees didn’t play last night, which in light of all the injuries, is probably a good thing. But we still have to be aware of the fact that the run game was virtually a no-show against Baltimore’s first string defense. For a team that wants to focus more on running the ball this year, things weren’t off to a very good start. Conversely, Baltimore’s starting offense moved up and down the field at will. Without much of a consistent pass rush, the Ravens QBs made it look easy, though the running backs made it look just as easy by taking it to the Saints on the ground. Guys out of position, missed tackles, blown coverages, and those dreadful aforementioned penalties have become downright habitual with this squad.

Now with all the injuries to starters at key positions, there are even more questions surrounding the direction of the Saints as we approach the start of the 2015 season. Not to mention, we still haven’t seen CJ Spiller perform in a Saints uniform. Is he hurt or is he simply resting as we’ve heard? We don’t really know how last year’s highly touted FA acquisition, Jarius Byrd is progressing. And as usual, Coach Sean Payton is tight-lipped about injury statuses.

Also, after last night, we’re left wondering if the run game (led by Mark Ingram, of course) will progress and be even better or will it regress? Can the offense recover from the losses of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, and Pierre Thomas? Those players were reliable targets for Brees and a huge part of the offensive production. Which players (if any) will emerge from the shadows to replace that production? Will this team with so many new faces have enough time together to generate the amount of chemistry necessary to translate into production on the field? Who’s accountable for this debacle: coaches, players, or both? If you say coaches (and understandably many do blame Rob Ryan for the lackluster defense), then do we lay blame to Payton the same way for offensive stagnation and consequently sit him on the warm seat as well? Can or will the Saints coaches and players turn this mess around and return the team to its winning form? Or will the shortcomings, mistakes, and exposure of weaknesses in preseason carry over and become indicative of the norm in the regular season like last year?

No one has all the answers nor can these problems be fixed overnight. But they must be fixed if we are to have any hopes of getting into the playoffs this year. Nonetheless, we can be excited as well as encouraged because there were some bright spots in last night’s game. Brandin Cooks showed that he’s poised for a big season if he can stay healthy. I love that kid, Marcus Murphy on returns! I hope he makes the team. Max Unger is clearly an upgrade at the center position. Khiry Robinson reminded us that he’s a tough ground-pound-guy (we just need to get the O-Line pushing consistently also). Cam Jordan showed flashes of his ability to get in the backfield and disrupt the quarterback and Anthony Spencer showed what he could do as well back there (he also drew a couple of flags). Damian Swann had a couple of nice interceptions (and a couple of bad penalties too though). The backup QB’s looked good, though I give Ryan Griffin the nod for being the best for the night.  The battle between kickers Dustin Hopkins and Zach Hocker seems to be in a good place.  Either one of those guys would be a valuable asset.  And say what you want, but there’s something about seeing Drew Brees on gameday that always gets me pumped up!  If we can keep him upright and comfortable in the pocket, we always have a chance to win.

With 3 more preseason games to play and a bunch of practices in between, there is time to get things turned around and pointed in the right direction. But it’s going to take a lot of hard work, discipline, and accountability across the board to do it. We’re fans regardless and we love our Saints no matter what. It just makes our lives better when the black and gold is checking off more boxes in the win column than in the losing one.

Saints one of the Few Teams Where the QB is Their Best Player

2015 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - Day 7

Everyone knows that the quarterback is almost always the most important player on the team, and as far as the Saints go, their quarterback is by far and away their most important, this determined by NFL.com – who talked about teams where the QB is the most important player on the team.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees

Second-best player: Cameron Jordan, DE

It’s hard to fathom, especially given that he tied Ben Roethlisberger for the league lead in passing yards last season (4,952), but 2014 was a down year for Brees. He finished with just the fifth-most yards (behind his jaw-dropping four 5,000-yard seasons), fifth-most touchdown passes (33), third-best completion rate (69.2 percent) and fourth-best passer rating (97.0) of his career. He still knows where the windows are and he still has a knack for getting rid of the ball just before defenders converge on him in the pocket. But I think the fact that the next-best player on the roster is a defensive end is indicative of a shift in strategy in New Orleans. It looks like the Saints, who shipped pass-catching tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle in March for center Max Unger and a first-round pick that was used on a linebacker (Stephone Anthony), are going to focus on being a more balanced team with regard to the defense and ground game. So I don’t think we’ll see Brees get close to 5,000 yards this season; though he hasn’t thrown for less than 4,300 yards in any season since joining the Saints in 2006, I see him finishing with something around 4,200.

Saints Coach Payton Says More Was Expected of Released LB Galette Off the Field

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers

More is coming out of the situation of the Saints letting Junior Galette walk, as NFL.com’s Marc Sessler writes today that Saints coach Sean Payton felt more should have come from Galette off the field.

“When all is said and done, there was more expected from him off the field,” Saints coach Sean Payton told ProFootballTalk Live on Tuesday, saying of Galette: “I wish him well and want to see him have success.”

The Times-Picayune unpacked Galette’s release over the weekend, speaking to a source who called the sixth-year pass rusher a poor teammate who “thought being captain was more so about status on the team instead of being a leader on and off the field.”

A source also told the newspaper that Galette “stayed focused long enough to get paid, then the real Junior came out” after he inked a four-year, $41.5 million extension last September.

Gallette’s final season in New Orleans included a fist fight with former Saints defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and a January arrest on domestic violence and simple battery charges, which were eventually dropped.

Report: Galette Had Big Problems in Saints Locker Room

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When Saints coach Sean Payton told Junior Galette on Friday the embattled linebacker would be released less than a week before training camp, the move shocked many around the NFL, Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

It was an abrupt ending for the 27-year-old defensive captain, who signed a four-year, $41.5 million extension with the team last September.

Galette’s demise, however, began almost a year ago.

Multiple team sources said the Saints grew weary of Galette’s behavior soon after rewarding him with the new deal and spent virtually the entire offseason trying to sever ties. Saints officials went over various scenarios in the past six months to rid themselves of Galette, from seeking possible trade partners to his outright release, which would result in a massive salary cap hit.

According to sources, Galette’s attitude changed after he received the new contract in September.

A former Saints teammate said of Galette: “He stayed focused long enough to get paid, then the real Junior came out. Sad.”

Multiple sources said the atmosphere in the locker room was often sour. Galette and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who is no longer with the team, got into a fistfight before one of the Saints’ preseason games.

Galette insisted his relationship with Payton, whom he looks to as a father figure, was on solid ground.

Sources said, however, that had not been the case for quite some time.

Payton had always been irked by Galette’s loose lips to the media and via social media, but that was a minor issue until December.

Payton had always been irked by Galette’s loose lips to the media and via social media, but that was a minor issue until December.

Galette squarely put himself in Payton’s doghouse when he told the media that the team’s current players were better than the ones they replaced, causing former Saints players publicly to lambast him on social media.

They still hadn’t forgotten by Friday, as ex-Saints defensive end Bobby McCray posted a GIF directed to Vilma and Smith that said, “Now comes the part where we throw our heads back in laughter.”

“Karma came calling,” Vilma tweeted.

Former Saints Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita both reacted with tweets indicating laughter.

Galette said his proclamation wasn’t a slight to the former players. Instead, he was trying to pump up his own teammates with praise. A source said Saints coaches, Payton in particular, didn’t think Galette had done enough of note in his own career to be castigating his predecessors, some of whom helped the Saints win their only Super Bowl five years ago.

U.S. House Passes Steve Gleason Act for ALS Patients – Bill to Go To President Obama

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

Today the U.S. House announced they have passed the ‘Steve Gleason Act’ for ALS patients. A major victory for the former Saint who has been working hard for more help for ALS patients worldwide.

“This is a huge victory for ALS patients across the country,” bill co-sponsor Sen. David Vitter (Rep., La.) said, via WDSU-TV. “Making this equipment more accessible and affordable will give them the ability to communicate with their family and friends – even literally giving them a voice when they lose their ability to speak. Steve and the rest of Team Gleason have been an incredible inspiration. Thanks to their tireless work, we’ll be able change the lives of ALS patients and their families.”

Fans looking to get a head start on the upcoming NFL season can use Hipmunk.com for flights from New Orleans to get to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia to see the Saints participate in training camp. Hipmunk also provides affordable hotel options anywhere in the country to be any football fan’s No. 1 travel resource.