Saints Lose More Than Game In Preseason Opener
The injury bug repetitively bit the New Orleans Saints in their preseason opener, and Brandon Browner's knee hurts the worst.
The 30-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens doesn't matter at all in a cosmic football sense. These games don't count toward the regular season, and starters don't play much in the preseason opener. Playing even a few snaps is enough to get injured. Drew Brees never even took a snap. Maybe they should have done the same with some other stars.
Browner left the field on a cart in the first quarter, after taking an accidental helmet to the knee from teammate Hau'oli Kikaha. The Saints spent a decent chunk of change bringing the massive cornerback in during free agency. With Jairus Byrd already sidelined, this injury alone is enough to make the blood pressure rise city-wide in New Orleans. To make matters worse, the cart kept coming back out.
Another starter went down in the first quarter as well. Dannell Ellerbe left the field, which stresses an already thin depth chart at the linebacker position.
The hits kept coming. Camp sensation and New Orleans native Delvin Breaux was projected to get some time at the nickel position, but he went down on a knee in the first half as well. It was a long night for the training staff. Ramon Humber had to leave the game. Defensive Lineman Lawrence Virgil had to be carted off the field in the second half, and OL Cyril Lemon had to be helped off the field.
Players were dropping left and right, which is the last thing you want to see in a preseason game. Of course, Sean Payton gave absolutely zero updates on their status after the game. He simply said, "Next question."
There were clearly some positive notes from the game, to put a silver lining on this storm cloud. Putting the injuries aside, the backups almost put together a solid comeback before Bryn Renner ended the game for Baltimore on a QB bootleg with two seconds left. Backup Quarterbacks Garrett Grayson and Ryan Griffin both delivered scoring drives under center, rookie RB Marcus Murphy delivered a TD and decent energy on special teams and Khiry Robinson had two big plays and a TD on one drive. Even Zack Hocker contributed two field goals, one from 45+ and the other from 50+.
Offensively, the line struggled to protect Luke McCown early in the game, and the Saints only posted 11 total offensive yards in the first half. The first half was pretty much a disaster, riddled with injuries and poor football. Baltimore gashed the Saints defense to jump out to a 17-0 lead.
Brandin Cooks broke them out of a funk with a beautiful run after the catch on a bubble screen in the second quarter, where he set his blocks up perfectly for the TD. It was enough to bring the hope back to some Who Dats.
There were two real problems: the defense and the penalties. The Saints committed 16 penalties, totaling well over 100 yards. The defense couldn't stop the run, and a 4th and 20 conversion at the end of the game was enough to make Coach Payton pull his hair out. He owned up to the call though.
"We weren't able to close it out," Payton said. "Fourth down and twenty, that was my call. We blitzed them."
In terms of the rookie defenders, Stephone Anthony collected six tackles, Hau'oli Kikaha stayed involved while on the field and Damian Swann picked off a pass. It could have been worse.
The preseason isn't only one week long, and some of the injuries might not be as bad as they look at first. We just hope, for the sake of Saints fans' health, that the cart doesn't get as much action driving to the locker room moving forward.