Monday, August 6, 2012

Hall of Fame Game: New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals

Preseason wins don't matter, but they are still a good opportunity to check up on teams and see how the offense is clicking. I took a play-by-play approach to this first preseason game, which can be found here. I stopped cataloging plays at the end of the second quarter when the third string players came into the game. Here is a list of things I noticed from the first preseason game in the order that they occurred in the game.

1. Pierre Thomas was the starting running back for the Saints: I found this interesting. I really thought that Mark Ingram would end up starting, but this was meant to be a passing play, so we will have to wait until the third preseason game to see who gets the most playing time. Speaking of Thomas, his running looked really strong. Every time he touched the ball he made the Cardinals defense look bad, breaking multiple tackles and getting solid yardage. I don't think he did as well in pass blocking as he could have (on the first play, Brees threw a shovel pass to him after he missed a block, but it was a heads up play by both Brees and Thomas to get into a position where they could make that play.

2. The Saints Offensive Line Looked Weak in Pass Protection: The Saints were able to run all over the Cardinals in their first possession, but throughout the first and second quarters Brees and Daniel were often running from pressure. Some of these plays were designed screens, but Daniel had to run on multiple occasions and Brees got hit on a screen pass. This is something to watch going forward, but I expect that the Saints will get better by the time the regular season rolls around.

3. Darren Sproles Looked Good: No real surprise here, but it is obvious that the Saints are going to get him involved as both a runner and receiver. We didn't really see Brees throw many real passes (3 of his 5 passes were to running backs), but Sproles looked just as dynamic as last season when he got the ball. Sproles got two receptions in his short playing time, so he will probably have the same 60-80 receptions from last season.

4. Mark Ingram Got the Goal-Line Carries: This is a pretty big one for fantasy. Ingram had great vision running the ball on the first drive, and only got one carry after that. He ran the ball hard at the goal line, and actually scored a touchdown on a great ball extension that was not called a touchdown. He ran the ball in on the next play anyways. I am pretty excited about how good Ingram looked, but I can't tell how many touches he is actually going to get. He was the third running back to get a touch.

5. Kevin Kolb Looked Courageous and then Terrible: That's right, Kolb willingly ran out in front of Stevens-Howling who reversed direction and picked up a nice block. He promptly threw a bad interception on a play where he should have just thrown the ball away. Kolb then went on to do nothing in his second possession and got injured during his third.The play that he got injured on, trying to avoid a safety, was also a bad one. Yes, the pass blocking was poor, but you NEVER run backwards into the end zone away from a pass rush. Kolb looked flustered under pressure. The pass to his fullback on that play was actually quite good, but his injury history is already creeping up on him.

6. Skelton Looked Mediocre: Again, the pass blocking was pretty poor, and Skelton did manage to make some time in the pocket, but he also made some extremely dangerous throws. He was not particularly on target, but he did find the open receiver when he had some time.

7. Roberts was Targeted Often: Andre Roberts is one of my favorite sleepers heading into the 2012 season, and while his catches were sparse, he was targeted often. Kolb was throwing to him on the interception, and then I saw Skelton throw at least two more passes to him while Kolb threw one more. Four targets in the first half of a preseason game is solid, and it is something to watch going forward.

8. Chris Ivory Looked Bad: He really lacked vision and pass blocking prowess in this game. He had 13 yards on 9 carries throughout the game, and he seemed to run without looking where he was going. He failed to break tackles that he needs to break to become a big part of this team, and I much preferred how Cadet played passing downs, even though he was equally unsuccessful in the running game. This is a battle for the RB4 position, so it doesn't really matter, but Cadet looked dynamic when returning kicks and catching the ball.

9. Both Teams Ran the Ball: This game had way more i-formation and weak-formations that I am accustomed to. Maybe both teams were trying to make decisions about their blocking schemes or running backs, but I was really surprised at the volume of 2-back sets shown on both offenses. I doubt this will be a year-long trend, but it was unexpected.

Again, here is my play-by-play. It focuses on the formation, how the play developed, and what occurred during the play. You can look at nfl provided play-by-plays for yardages and some players.

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