A first sampling of the 2010 New Orleans Saints revealed that even a defending Super Bowl champion has plenty of work to do.
Before Thursday night’s game against the Patriots, the Saints spent the previous two days in the New England area in practice sessions with Bill Belichick‘s well-coached squad. Saints coach Sean Peyton said he wanted to get lots of work against a 3-4 defense because his team will play at least five opponents this season that employ a 3-4 scheme.
Against the Patriots’ 3-4 defensive front, the Drew Brees-led offense failed to gain one first down until its third possession of the game. Brees then needed a 20-play drive to score the Saints’ first offensive touchdown.
The Patriots defense harassed Brees enough to cause the Super Bowl MVP to throw four consecutive incompletions on the scoring drive (with a penalty and a couple of running plays mixed in). Clearly more work needs to be done.
Sloppy was the word used by Payton to describe the play of his team in its first preseason game. Several missed tackles led to miles of yards after the catch for several Patriots wide receivers. With Darren Sharper resting and rehabbing an injured knee, the Saints defense failed to force a single turnover. Receiver Julian Edelman repeatedly eluded tacklers for extra yards.
In all, the Saints appeared to be road weary after Monday’s visit to the White House and two more days of physical practices with the Patriots. Running back Lynell Hamilton suffered a season-ending knee injury during Wednesday’s practice. Look for Payton to continue to refine the timing between QBs and WRs in the passing game and have even more up-tempo drills to improve the defense’s ability to tackle in the open field.