NEW ORLEANS - I will say it again: It is preseason, folks.
That said, you have to be impressed with how the New Orleans Saints starters performed in the first half. It was a vast improvement over last week though the competition was not very good, frankly. Sacks and stops were a good thing to see for Rob Ryan's defense. Completions and scores for Drew Brees and company were a welcome sight. Here are my quick takes from the Saints 28-20 win over the Raiders.
**For the second consecutive game, Thomas Morstead boomed the opening kickoff through the end zone. Garrett Hartley handled most kickoff duties after that one.
**Roman Harper, who often struggles in coverage, had blanket coverage on David Augsberry but Matt Flynn still fit it into the tight end for a 28 yard gain on third down on the opening possession of the game.
**Middle linebackers Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne combined to stop Darren McFadden cold on fourth-and-one from the Saints' 43-yard line. Humber played very well. He was flying to the football, playing with his pants on fire.
**It was good to see Garrett Hartley nail a 53-yard field goal. Hartley is due a breakout season, if he remains healthy in 2013. The 53-yard field goal matched Hartley's career long field goal, though this one was not official.
**Travaris Cadet's stock dropped dramatically. While it may not have been a fatal performance, two fumbles are unacceptable. Fool me once, you won't fool me twice. Khiry Robinson trended up once again with a very solid performance.
**Deep threat? How about Nick Toon? Great deep ball by Drew Brees. You have to be encouraged by the arm strength Brees has displayed. He threw a perfect deep fade to Kenny Stills (dropped) against Kansas City and dropped the ball in the bucket to Toon. By the way, it was former Saint Tracy Porter on the coverage. The Saints offered Porter a chance to return to New Orleans in the offseason. He chose former Saints assistant Dennis Allen and the Raiders, instead. Which team do you think has a better chance to win?
**Porter left the game injured after making a tackle of Stills early in the second quarter with a groin injury. That has been the story of Porter's career. He is injury prone, very fragile. His monumental plays in Saints history will never be forgotten.
**Humber came unblocked to level Flynn on a sack before Cameron Jordan whipped left tackle Alex Barron for a sack.
**Brees was quite sharp. He made a very nice touch pass, lofting it over a defender, to Darren Sproles in the flat for a third-down conversion as the Saints overcame a 1st-and-25 following two penalties. He finished the contest 14-of-18 for 202 yards and one touchdown for a QBR of 131.9. The only negative was not finishing drives and having to settle for three field goals.
**How about the time Brees had on the 16-yard touchdown pass to Stills? I might have had a chance there (not). Very encouraging protection. Stills kept working, found space. Of course, no defensive back can cover for over 10 seconds. Brees was 6-of-6 for 67 yards and the touchdown on the possession to make it 17-0.
**It was good to see Harper get a sack. That is what he does well, blitz and play in the box against the run.
**The Saints had five sacks of Flynn in the first half. Oakland's offensive front was putrid. Nice to see Will Smith get in on the action. Good stuff for the Saints after a multi sack game a week ago.
**Zack Strief left the game shaking his arm but it did not look serious. Bryce Harris replaced him in the second quarter.
**The kick coverage teams of the Saints were significantly better against the Raiders, compared to their performance against Kansas City. Still, there were too many penalties on kick returns for New Orleans.
**Flynn was harassed from the start. He did not have much help but he was shaky with his accuracy on a couple of occasions but he rebounded nicely. Flynn made a nice throw on a 24-yard completion to Brice Butler to convert a third and long late in the first half. He made several good throws on the final series of the half, including a perfect throw to Denarious Moore. He finished 12-of-16 for 124 yards and one touchdown for a QBR of 117.1.
**When Terrelle Pryor entered the game, the look became totally different. It was like watching the Washington Redskins with RG3 in the season opener a year ago in the 'Dome. He scrambled, beating a corner blitz, gaining eight yards and moving the chains. Still, Pryor did not do enough to move past Flynn on the depth chart.
**Kenny Vaccaro separated Butler from the football to prevent a third down conversion on a good throw by Pryor and get a stop for the Saints. Vaccaro was active throughout, a good looking player. For that matter, the Saints entire 2013 draft looks good, to this point.
**Tyrunn Walker continues to impress up front for New Orleans while Glenn Foster looked good as well, other than drawing a penalty on offense. Foster collected the team's seventh sack late in the fourth quarter. He plays big and he plays hard.
**Bad night for Seneca Wallace, not all of his own doing but could he afford it? Luke McCown looked good against the Chiefs and he has been the exclusive holder for field goals, to this point.
**Good night for Ryan Griffin. He completed all but one pass and engineered a scoring drive of nine plays, 71 yards. He had another long drive that ended at the Oakland one-yad line. He has shown enough to stick around on practice squad.
**Veteran Jim Leonhard sealed the deal with a virtual fair catch on a wounded duck thrown by Matt McGloin. Will Leonhard make this team?
This game did not end until 10:13 and we still have two more of these exhibition games. Argh!
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