For the next week all you’re going to hear about is how poorly Taysom Hill played. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying it’s what you’ll hear. You’ll hear it from your favorite analysts, your favorite blogs (us, duh), and your favorite (and least favorite) family members. The thing about that is though, it’s okay. The expectation that a successor has just been playing special teams coverages is a little wild. Not only that, the expectation that we’ve had a Drew Brees caliber backup on this team with Tom Savage, Taysom Hill, or JT Barrett is a little preposterous at this stage. Look at the drop off from DeShaun Watson to Tom Savage in Houston last year. Despite some exciting plays, Hill was responsible for four turnovers tonight, two interceptions (one wasn’t his fault) and two fumbles, a third was recovered by the Saints. Unfortunately for Hill, his final fumble in the first half came after going 5/5 and looking solid during the two minute drill. That turnover would be his last play of the game. Tom Savage looked effecient going 6/7 for 53 yards, but taking 3 sacks. J.T. Barrett had the only Saints TD of the night going 3/5 for 45 yards and that12-yard scramble for a touchdown. He also placed a perfect pass for TE Garrett Griffin on the 2-point conversion attempt that was unfortunately dropped. The fact of the matter is that there’s no instance in which the “life after Brees” era starts this season. It was never supposed to. Otherwise we would have made that move to 14 in the draft for a QB instead of a pass-rusher. Life after Drew begins the season after Brees leaves, not a moment sooner, and hopefully not too long after.
Meanwhile, we’re seeing outstanding play all over the field. Even thought the offense had trouble putting points on the board last night, rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith is looking like everything we’d hoped after seeing him come on in camp. He’s sure to be the next big third-round pick for the Saints, following in the jingle-bell shoes of Alvin Kamara. Additionally, the running back conundrum of the first quarter of 2018 looks to have a potential solution in Johnathan Williams. who has been the leading rusher among Saints Running Backs in both games this preseason. He’s got great ability to run between the tackles, can fight through arm tackles, is a great pass protector, and though we haven’t seen it yet, can catch well out of the backfield. I suspect that’s an element of his game that the coaching staff is trying to keep under wraps this preseason. Looking forward to seeing him in regular season action, it’s his job to lose at this point.
On the defensive side of the ball, Saints Twitter has been so frustrated with the QB situation that many are missing the massive improvement everyone was calling for on the defensive side of the ball. The first unit forced two consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. Though it is notable that the only turnover that was off a fumble which ended up being called back on a Trey Hendrickson roughing the passer call.
We all expected depth to be a huge addition for us in 2018 and along the defensive line that’s looking to be true in a couple of cases. On a line with no Cam Jordan, Alex Okafor, or Marcus Davenport, the Saints only had 15 pressures on the QB against the Cards. Five of while came from 2017 6th-rounder Al-Quadin Muhammad alone. Jayrone Elliott only saw 9 snaps this game but wasn’t nearly as much of a factor as he was against Jacksonville. Considering he notched 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles on 13 pass rush snaps last game, there’s reason to be at least a little disappointed. Muhammad, along with Henry Mondeaux and Alex Anzalone played great in run defense though Muhammad did miss a tackle. Woodrow Hamilton IV also played well against the run notching three run stops. Trey Hendrickson had another fantastic outing, even with that penalty. He had two pressures and a runstop for a loss. He’s looking like he’s going to be set to turn a corner this season and he’ll get the chance to do so early with Alex Okafor’s participation likely to be limited at the top of the season. Devaroe Lawrence was shaken up int he game but left under his own power. The defense did not achieve a sack throughout the game.
Natrell Jamerson was attacked often, targeted 7 times in pass coverage and allowed 4 catches for 49 yards and 3 first downs, but no touchdowns. The downside really comes when you realize that two of those incompletions were drops by Chad Williams and Trent Sherfield. Arthur Maulet also didn’t have a great coverage day allowing 4 of 5 targets to be caught and also missed a tackle, but also made a great tackle later in the game. He did leave the field with a limp. Justin Hardee, on the other hand had a great pass break up when he high pointed a pass against Jalen Tolliver knocking it away at the last second.That backup cornerback battle is going to be fun to watch now that we’re half way to roster cuts.
Although there’s an overpoweringly negative outlook of last night’s game, if we move past the insane expectations being placed on Taysom Hill and stop confusing the timeline of the “Life after Brees”conversation, there are still exciting improvements to see across this team. The talented depth, the play of our rookies Tre’Quan Smith and Boston Scott, and even A.J. Klein who who had a good game are positives to take from this game. And this isn’t me just trying to be unrealistically optimistic, I’ve been saying for weeks that Taysom Hill’s not the guy and it’s disappointing to get evidence to support that take. There are certainly reasons to be disappointed by this performance at home, but there are equal, if not more, reasons to be pleased.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC