Observations from Saints-Bengals preseason game

In calling my first preseason game of the summer I noticed that it takes a little time reacclimating to the booth, the crew and all the elements required to help the broadcast go smoothly. It reminded me of how the coaches and players were using the preseason to iron out wrinkles in their game too.

During the call of the Saints-Bengals game there were a few things that stood out.

  • I noticed that QB Drew Brees has been on auto pilot for three years and running. His flawless execution of Sean Peyton’s offense continued Friday night when he took his team 80 yards in five plays for an easy score against the Bengals defense. Brees will attend his mother’s funeral on Monday, so his leadership and focus was all the more impressive.
  • I also noticed that TE Jeremy Shockey is ready to become a players again in New Orleans. Shockey caught three of Brees’ four passes on the 80-yard drive, including a terrific touchdown pass between three Cincinnati defenders. Resembling the Shockey of old, he provided an easy target for Brees, working the middle of the field and creating yards after the catch. Brees and Shockey have worked all offseason to develop a better feel for one another in the passing game and it seems to be paying off.
  • Gregg Williams, the Saints’ new defensive coordinator, said that he wouldn’t use his blitz packages during the preseson … but he just couldn’t help himself Friday against the Bengals. His group provided enough pressure to force three turnovers. The defense has shown an improvement in its intensity under Williams.
  • MLB Jonathan Vilma showed flashes of what once made him the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. He dominated the first quarter with a fumble recovery and a heady interception which set the tone for the Saints’ new-look defense.
  • FS Darren Sharper made an immediate impact when he dropped down in the box and blasted Bengals RB Cedric Benson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Vilma. With 54 career interceptions, Sharper is known more for his ball-hawking skills, but his willingness to get physical in the run game could be huge for the Saints in 2009.
  • It was clear to me that the officials could also use preseason games to workout the cobwebs. They refused to overturn some questionable calls when the replay revealed the call on the field was wrong.
  • The replay of Vilma’s fumble on his interception return revealed that the ball had come loose once his forearm hit the ground. However, the call on the field was upheld.
  • The replay of Chad Ochocinco stepping out of bounds was even more clear, but the officials upheld the call stating that Ochocinco was in bounds when the replay clearly showed he was not.

Oh well, what else is the preseason for.

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