Although NFL Pre-Season games do not count and essentially are just 3-hour long "practice games" to help players get prepared for the regular season, the New Orleans Saints were not happy with their team's most recent Pre-Season performance: a sloppy one that included 4 turnovers and a bunch of other mistakes that ultimately led to their 20-15 loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals this past Friday Night at the Superdome.
So what exactly does the Saints coaching staff plan to do to make the necessary corrections and basically get things "back on track" with the official start of the 2018 NFL season now just 17 days away?
That process will get a jump start this week when the team leaves for a week-long road trip to Southern California tomorrow morning ahead of joint practices against the Los Angeles Chargers on Wednesday and Thursday, prior to a nationally-televised Saturday Night preseason game against the Chargers at the Stub Hub Center in suburban Carson, California just outside Los Angeles.
It's a trip that could end up being just what the doctor ordered for those members of the staff as well as the players that will be seeking a much better effort than the one that was given by the team overall, against Arizona.
Additionally, it gives the team a chance to face other competition, besides themselves as they have been for the majority of the past several months of OTA's, Mini-Camp, and Training Camp practices.
“When you get a chance to practice with another team, you get different formations offensively, different type of schemes defensively, a different system,” head coach Sean Payton told reporters yesterday, after the team conducted their final practice of 2018 Training Camp.
“Our experience last year with them was real good — (it was) competitive and those guys do a good job. Our guys practiced hard, both teams. So I think it’s a good work week."
“Both teams have the same interests. In other words, we’re trying to improve, we’re also trying to make the right decisions relative to our rosters and be healthy coming away from the practices and the game. It’s just being smart and understanding what the common goal is. I think we can compete, play hard and I felt like a year ago, that happened.”
While the fact is that many Saints fans would just assume that the Pre-Season games be done away with all together, the NFL Pre-Season as a whole — and the joint practices this week against the Chargers this week especially — still provide a great deal of value to the organization.
Drew Brees and Michael Thomas need to find their timing again. Alvin Kamara and O-Linemen Larry Warford and Ryan Ramczyk need to re-familiarize themselves with each other’s tendencies. Every single player wearing a Black and Gold uniform needs to work on technique and specific situations that happen during the course of a game.
And these joint practices and this upcoming Saturday Night's game should give both the Saints coaching staff and all of the players currently trying to earn a spot on the team's Final 53-Man Roster, right where they stand.
Many of the team's undrafted players such as a Dan Arnold or a Devaroe Lawrence, are fighting for starting positions and roster spots. These Joint Practices as well as the subsequent Pre-Season games are where these battles play out.
It’s one thing to show your skill and capability on the practice field against your own teammate who already knows your tendencies. But it's quite another to show it on the playing field against an opponent who is not familiar with what you can do.
That's a sentiment that's shared by 9th year Saints veteran strong safety Kurt Coleman.
“I don’t want to say ‘complacency’ when you go against your own team, but it kind of ramps up the competition,” Coleman told reporters after yesterday's final Training Camp practice, in advance of this week's Joint Practices against the Chargers in Southern California.
“If you look at what’s happened over these last couple of weeks when teams have been practicing, it’s been several fights because it’s very intense. But I think the one thing that you want to be able to come out of it is, going against a different opponent, different people, and pushing yourself. You want to be able to grow. Obviously, fights will happen but that’s not what you want."
“You want to have good, hard, competing practices. And hopefully, both teams will come away saying, ‘We learned this.’ You’re going against a certain wide receiver – I mean, (the Chargers’) Keenan Allen is a really good wide receiver. Hopefully, whether it be (Saints cornerbacks Ken) Crawley, Marshon (Lattimore) or whoever it is, you can learn some things from great wide receivers.”
“I am of the belief that sometimes the practices are very, very intense, almost game-like at times,” he said. “I’ve even talked to some people (with them) saying, you know, if you just had a couple of these joint practices, you really don’t need a game because they are very intense."
“And like I was saying earlier, you’ve had teams that are fighting because it is mano y mano. You don’t know this guy, and you want to win. You want to show off for your coaches, you want to perform for your team. So it is a game-like atmosphere going against those guys.”
One other bit of good to come out of this week's road trip: rookie defensive end and the team's top draft pick Marcus Davenport is FINALLY expected to see action after he missed most of Training Camp with a groin injury.
"I anticipate him being able to work this week and get some playing time," Payton said after Saturday's practice.
That bit of information was well-received by Who Dats, who want to see the soon-to-be 22 year-old get on the playing field and hopefully make a significant contribution to the team's defense this season and more importantly: continue his development of the skills and attributes that potentially make him an exciting player for the franchise's future.