Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Sack Happy" Saints Hope to Jump Start Offense Against Texans

The “new” New Orleans Saints showed something different in their exhibition game against the San Francisco Forty Niners last Saturday.

Beyond stifling the opposition to a total of 3 points, the Saints defense played like quarterback headhunters en route to racking up six sacks. Last season, the Saints ranked 18th in sacks with 33 or an average of just over 2 per game.

Though Heisman Award winner and first round draft pick running back Mark Ingram found the end zone, the Alabama product didn’t overawe in relatively limited action. Ingram had six carries for 23 yards, including his 14 yard score.

The longest run by a Saints player on offense was the scrambling backup to Drew Brees, Chase Daniels, who had a 19 yard run. As a passer, Daniels completed 13 of his 21 attempts (62%) for 129 yards.

The big stars of the game (Brees as not amongst this group completing a single pass out of his mere four attempts before being yanked) were kick returner Courtney Roby (though not as a kick returner) and wide receiver Joseph Morgan (as a kick returner).

Roby’s future with the team looked tenuous after running back/return specialist Darren Sproles (a relative of Roby) was inked after running back Reggie Bush was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Roby was the team’s leading receiver against the Niners making four catches for 42 yards.

Morgan, a rookie free agent who played two seasons at Walsh University (North Canton, Ohio), returned six punts, averaging 16 yards per return. Morgan’s big play was a 78 yard return to the end zone. Though still a long shot to make the Saints’ roster, Joseph helped attract notice in his first opportunity to shine in live fire.

Running back Joique Bell had an impressive punt return for 28 yards and led the team’s ground game with 52 yards on 9 carries (5.7 yard average). Bell was signed by the Saints last season to supplement the team’s grossly depleted running back corps in the postseason though he saw no action in the playoff game at Seattle.

Bell, Roby, Joseph and others who are playing for either roster spots with the Saints or with other teams have three “scrub” games left before the roster goes down to 53 players while Brees will have another opportunity to get comfortable with his changing offensive line.

The Saints visit the Houston Texans on Saturday at 7:00 PM.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Saints Hold on to TE David Thomas

The New Orleans Saints announced on Tuesday evening that they have reached an agreement with reserve tight end David Thomas.

Though very much in the shadow of hot prospect Jimmy Graham, who impressed the Saints organization so much they released Jeremy Shockey prior to the lock out, Thomas has been a key player in helping quarterback Drew Brees move the chains.

The tight end backed up the oft-injured Shockey during the team’s Super Bowl run and also subbed in as fullback when Heath Evans went down during the week six road game against the Miami Dolphins.

Thomas was pursued by the Saints front office after tight end Billy Miller suffered a season ending injury in an exhibition game against the Houston Texans in 2009.

Though not as spectacular as his recent first round swaps in the 2011 NFL draft that bagged defensive end Cameron Jordan and running back Mark Ingram, the Thomas trade is perhaps one of general manager Mickey Loomis’s best deals.

The Saints received the regular contributor from the New England Patriots for a 2011 6th round draft selection.

In a recent interview, Brees publicly expressed his wish for Thomas’s retention with the team.

Thomas’s re-signing is the latest step taking by the team to preserve the core of their offense. Center Jonathan Goodwin and fullback Heath Evans are the only two key players from the offense that have yet to sign contracts with the Saints.