The New Orleans Saints won their 1st game of the 2018 NFL Pre-Season last night, with a 24-20 come-from-behind victory last night at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida over the Jaguars.
The Saints overcame a 10-point deficit to improve to (1-0) on the Pre-Season and will host the Arizona Cardinals next Friday (a week from tonight) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look a yesterday’s biggest Saints “winners and losers” in their thrilling exhibition win over Jacksonville
And we begin with the “winners” first — starting with……
JAYRONE ELLIOTT, “SAM” / STRONG SIDE LINEBACKER
Elliott — the former Packers and Cowboys defensive-end-turned-outside-linebacker out of the University of Toledo 4 years ago — had a “strip-sack” of Jaguars rookie QB Tanner Lee that set up Saints rookie RB Jonathan Williams‘ 4-yard touchdown run with 2:16 remaining. Elliott then ended up having another strip-sack late in the game, but the Jaguars recovered that fumble.
Elliott, who’s considered a “bubble” player on the current Saints roster and a bit of a long shot originally to make the 53-Man Final Roster at the end of this month; had 2.5 sacks along with four tackles and one for loss.
#Saints LB/DE Jayrone Elliot has 2.5 sacks tonight, and each has come with him running the arc. Here:
-Solid body lean/ankle flexion (like to see him get down a bit more)
-Good short area quickness
-Goes for football
Someone to keep an eye on as preseason continues pic.twitter.com/QdUxug2h7i
— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) August 10, 2018
Using his pass-rushing skill to “bend and dip” around the outside edge, the 26-year old Cleveland, Ohio native very likely now is a lot less of a roster “long shot” than some other defensive players; since this was easily his best showing since Training Camp began.
It also now gives Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen something to think about, moving forward.
TRE’QUAN SMITH, WIDE RECEIVER
Smith is easily the “break-out” player in Saints Training Camp this year; and it goes without saying that for the 2nd straight year, the Saints may have gotten another 3rd Round “steal” on the offensive side of the football, just as they did last year with 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara.
One of the reasons that he wasn’t drafted higher than where the Saints were able to grab him with the 91st overall pick in Round 3 of the recent 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Central Florida, is because Smith is still essentially learning how to play the WR position, and scouts felt that he still had some growing to do in other areas such as hand-eye coordination and route-running.
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) August 10, 2018
But last night against the Jaguars, the impressive Smith at times even looked like the best receiver out on the field at one point; as he caught 4 passes for 48 yards — his best catch coming on a 25-yard catch-and-run-pass play which helped set up QB Taysom Hill’s rushing TD that narrowed the team’s 10 point deficit, heading into the game’s final stretch.
Smith is an “immediate impact” player as a rookie, without question.
DEVAROE LAWRENCE, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Another “bubble” player on the current Saints roster, Lawrence didn’t even get the opportunity to play in the 2017 NFL Pre-Season as a rookie last year, and ended up spending the entire 2017 regular season with the Saints franchise on injured reserve.
But last night, the former undrafted Auburn University star made several stand-out plays along the interior of the Saints D-Line, tallying one full sack, two half sacks, five tackles and one for loss. Lawrence has had a relatively “quiet” 2018 Training Camp thus far, but his performance last night definitely helped his cause.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 10, 2018
Lawrence has now very suddenly (and surprisingly) placed himself into serious contention for a Final 53-Man Roster spot later on this month, assuming that he can keep up the solid interior play for the remaining 3 games of the exhibition season.
Based on that performance last night, it won’t be as hard as some would have believed before the game began.
JONATHAN WILLIAMS, RUNNING BACK
As Saints fans are well aware by now: starting #1 RB Mark Ingram will be suspended for the first 4 games of the upcoming season after testing positive for the use of a banned performance-enhancing drug in his off-season training regimen, and his role is expected to be filled for the most part by last year’s 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year and sensational young superstar Alvin Kamara.
However, Kamara won’t be expected to shoulder the load all by himself, and is expected to share RB duties with a handful of fellow young veteran back-ups that include Terrance West, Shane Vereen, rookie draft pick Boston Scott, Trey Edmunds, and Jonathan Williams.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 10, 2018
Coming into last night’s game, it was believed that West and Vereen were the two players who led the competition, but Williams — a former 1st team All-SEC RB at the University of Arkansas — scored the game-winning TD late in the game and put himself into the conversation as “Ingram’s replacement”; with 4 carries for 26 yards to lead all Saints RB’s on the night.
MITCHELL LOEWEN, DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
Another undrafted Saints player from the University of Arkansas, former tight end-turned-defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen used a strong 2017 Pre-Season last year to make the team’s Final 53-Man Roster, but he played in just 2 regular season games before suffering a season-ending injury.
Loewen has had what you’d consider a “pretty good” Training Camp thus far, but the pressure he was able to CONSTANTLY generate on seemingly every single snap of the football in last night’s game before he left with a minor injury, should help him permanently stay in the running for a roster spot.
Loewen’s very notable versatility will certainly be a determining factor, because he made the team last year as a defensive tackle and has been working as a defensive end this summer. Last night, he led the entire Saints defensive unit with six tackles, including two for loss — and is well on his way to earning a spot again in 2018.
Unfortunately, not every Saints player can be a “winner”; and last night there were also a few “losers”.
Here are those Saints players who failed to distinguish themselves last night, starting with…..
DE’VANTE HARRIS, CORNERBACK
Many Saints fans this morning will NOT be surprised to see Harris on this part of the list, given his very notable struggles last season in which many observers felt made him the team’s worst player at what was an otherwise position of strength last season: the cornerback position.
Bruh why do the Saints keep Devante Harris😤😤😤😤Dude shown yall for 3 years he’s trash
— TheGeneral (@_JaCobey) August 10, 2018
Harris has appeared in 21 games (two starts) over the past two seasons with the Saints, including 11 games with one start in 2017, totaling 24 tackles (21 solo), three passes defensed and a fumble recovery. He also contributed on special teams the past two seasons.
He has had his ups and downs since that time, but last season it took a turn for the worse. And last night, he frustrated Saints fans yet again when he helped extend a Jacksonville drive with 2 defensive holding penalties. However, the Saints defense held on 4th down with 50 seconds left remaining on the Game Clock, to hold on for the win.
It goes without saying: Saints fans remain upset with Harris, with 3 more Pre-Season games yet to be played.
JT BARRETT, QUARTERBACK
While fellow back-up QB’s Tom Savage and Taysom Hill both had solid-but-not-spectacular performances last night, it was Barrett who somewhat embarrassingly makes this part of the list this morning after he HELD ON to the football instead of throwing it to a WIDE OPEN Saints RB Boston Scott, who had gotten free at the goal line.
— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) August 10, 2018
Barrett was sacked and took a 3-yard loss, though he was eventually “bailed out” by Jonathan Williams’ 7-yard TD run. But it was a clear indication that Barrett has a long way to go in his development.
As of this moment (unless something dramatic happens in the remainder of Training Camp or in the 3 Pre-Season games yet to be played), it would appear that Barrett is essentially buried on the QB depth chart behind starter Drew Brees and Savage and Hill; making the Practice Squad the likely destination to spend his rookie year in NOLA.
COLTON JUMPER, “WILL” / WEAK SIDE LINEBACKER
The former college teammate of running back Alvin Kamara while they were together at the University of Tennessee, Jumper was a 2-star recruit from Chattanooga, Tenn., and became one of the most versatile linebackers on the team. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound linebacker played all three linebacker positions over the years, a trait that is obviously coveted by Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
But last night Jumper struggled mightily; and on one play over-pursued Jaguars RB Corey Grant BADLY; and the shifty Grant made him pay dearly — juking back to the inside and picking up 20 more yards on a pass to the flat. He later “whiffed” on another open field tackle, just to make matters worse.
For a young player that’s had a decent Training Camp thus far, last night’s struggles are certainly a detriment to his chances of making the Final 53-Man Roster. He’ll need to do much better in the remaining 3 games, just to secure a spot on the Practice Squad.
HENRY MONDEAUX, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Mondeaux is a Portland, Oregon native who grew up as a teenager in New Orleans and attended Jesuit High School; and was a rotational D-Lineman for the University of Oregon Ducks while racking up 9 sacks in the past three seasons out in the Pacific Northwest. He’s trying to make the Saints Final 53-Man Roster after the team signed him as an undrafted free agent after the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-5, 290 pound Mondeaux played inside and out on the defensive line in three different defenses over the course of his 4-year college career, so versatility and durability are positives.
But last night he nearly made a mistake that potentially could have led to a Saints loss, when he was flagged for a late hit on Jaguars QB Tanner Lee, which ended up extending the Jacksonville drive.
Those are the types of plays that get undrafted players CUT — and he’ll need a phenomenal performance in the remaining 3 Pre-Season games, to avoid that fate.
MARCUS DAVENPORT, DEFENSIVE END (DID NOT PLAY)
Why do we have Davenport listed since he didn’t even play and was held out of action with a minor muscle pull???
Simply because of the overwhelming expectations that have been placed on the team’s top draft pick, whose biggest critics believe that the Saints organization gave up too much for (surrendering their #1 pick in next year’s 2019 NFL Draft to the Green Bay Packers, in order to move up and select him at #14 overall) given the lingering questions that continue to be asked with regard to his being able to adapt to the NFL level.
The most vocal of critics have questioned specifically Davenport’s capability to play with his “hand in the dirt”, which he’s considered better suited to do by most analysts because of his length and size (6-foot-7, 264 pounds).
However, New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill says that the Saints organization has been cautious with his recovery. And while Davenport could certainly use the reps, it isn’t time to panic. Underhill notes that Davenport is going to be with the Saints for a long time; and the sooner he gets going, the better — but it’s also OK for Davenport if the recovery takes a little time.
If Davenport still isn’t doing anything by Week #10, then it might be time for a conversation. Nevertheless, UNTIL we actually see him take a snap in a NFL game, he still makes the “losers” part of this morning’s list…….