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Roster Moves, Joint Practice in Green Bay, and Preseason Week 2

The New Orleans Saints were in Green Bay this week for joint practice sessions and the preseason week 2 game against the Packers. Ahead of the two-day practice sessions, the team announced a series of roster moves in time for the first round of roster cuts.

ROSTER MOVES

Tuesday was the deadline for teams to reduce their rosters to 85 spots. The Saints got a head start on Monday, waiving multiple players and adding depth in a few key positions.

To start, the team signed journeyman linebacker Jon Bostic. Bostic is a 10 year veteran who bounced around from the Bears, Patriots, Colts, Steelers, and Commanders before landing in New Orleans. Throughout his career, he’s played a total of 106 games (81 starts), logging a total of 555 total tackles (343 solo), 9.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 15 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. Last season, he started in 4 games for the Commanders before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury.

On the defensive line, the Saints signed DE Niko Lalos and re-signed DT Jaleel Johnson. Lalos entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2020 with the Giants. He’s played in 6 games, logging 5 total tackles (2 solo). Johnson spent the offseason with the Saints. The former 2017 4th rounder played in 65 total games, with 20 starts for the Vikings and Texans. He recorded 110 total tackles (54 solo), 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Wednesday, Johnson was placed on Injury Reserve.

Offensive lineman Derrick Kelly was signed off waivers Wednesday. Kelly went undrafted out of Florida State in 2019. He spent time with the Saints, Giants, and Jets before rejoining the Saints.

DL TJ Carter, DB Jack Koerner, DE Scott Patchan, WR Easop Winston Jr., and K John Parker Romo were all waived ahead of the Tuesday deadline. John Parker Romo re-signed back with the team prior to Friday’s preseason game.

Defensive backs Jordan Brown and Isaiah Pryor were designated to the waived/injury list while offensive linemen Forest Lamp and Sage Doxtater both cleared waivers and were placed on IR.

JOINT PRACTICE WITH THE PACKERS

Tuesday kicked off two days worth of practice sessions with the Packers. Most key starters made the trip to Green Bay including QB Jameis Winston. Winston dressed out in pads temporarily before returning back to the locker room, still rehabbing his right foot injury. CB Marshon Lattimore also returned to practice from a minor hamstring injury, however, LB Pete Werner and TE Nick Vannett were not present for day 1.

Day 1 was all about the defenses. Both the Saints and Packers made things difficult for their respective offenses. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had a rough time dealing with the Saints pass rush and the secondary did an excellent job not giving him any easy looks.

Guys like Cam Jordan, Payton Turner, and Malcolm Roach all had a great day. Jordan was highlighted for sacking Rodgers multiple times and even notching a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage during 11v11 drills. Marshon Lattimore looked healthy in his return to practice. He was only targeted once, however, that target was flagged for defensive pass interference. Bradley Roby secured his sixth interception of camp on a pass from Rodgers and Paulson Adebo recorded a few pass breakups down the deep sideline. The Saints defense remained strong during the two-minute drills, holding the Packers first and second team offense scoreless during the period.

Offensively, Andy Dalton practiced with the ones, while Ian Book got reps with the second team. Both units didn’t get off to a great start. Dalton wasn’t connecting on open throws and Book threw an early interception on a pass to Olave. The offensive line also had issues in pass protection. Later in practice, the first team started to get things rolling a bit with Kamara leading the charge. He scored a couple touchdowns and was pivotal in both the pass and ground game. Chris Olave was highly productive, using his exceptional speed to blow past defenders, while Packers All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander and Michael Thomas engaged in a fun back-and-forth throughout the day. Taysom Hill didn’t wear the red no-contact jersey and made a few plays from the TE spot, especially in the red zone and two-minute drills.

Day 2 was much of the same story. The Saints defense continued their excellent play on Rodgers and backup Jordan Love, meanwhile, both team’s offenses saw a bit of a bounce back but it wasn’t enough to say they “won the day”.

Jameis Winston sat out during team drills again, but he did dress out and participate in walkthroughs, showing good mobility during this period. Nick Vannett also returned to practice.

OL Landon Young didn’t practice after leaving early on day 1. Andrus Peat, Chase Hansen, and Dwayne Washington also didn’t participate. OL Ryan Ramczyk was among those not present, along with Pete Werner for the second day in a row.

The offensive line struggled to stay healthy for much of the day. Rookie Trevor Penning lineup at left tackle opposite of James Hurst at right tackle. Both players would leave practice due to injury, however Penning later returned. Hurst’s injury was confirmed to be a minor foot injury but he did not return to practice. Undrafted rookies Lewis Kidd and Sage Doxtater started in their place. Doxtater would also eventually go down with an apparent arm injury.

Andy Dalton got off to a much better start on day 2. He threw multiple touchdowns to Chris Olave, Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, and undrafted TE Lucas Krull. There was no doubt Olave was the star of day 2. His big play ability was on full display during the entirety of practice, challenging the Green Bay secondary. The tight end unit also stepped up with Trautman, Johnson, and Krull all having a productive day. Pass protection was still a problem for the Saints but that could have been as a result of the injuries. Things also got a little chippy during day 2 with WR Jarvis Landry forced to exit practice early after getting into an altercation with Packers CB Eric Stokes.

On the defensive side, Marcus Maye was highlighted for a deep ball interception on Rodgers and Tyrann Mathieu was flying all over the field as he normally does. Malcolm Roach enjoyed his second straight day of productivity, pressing Rodgers on a few bad throws. However, backup Jordan Love ended practice on a high note for the Packers, scoring a touchdown on the final drive of the two-minute drill.

Both days of practice showed just how dominant this Saints defense can be this year, limiting the 4x league MVP to 26 of 54 passing (48%) in two days. The secondary also snatched 10 interceptions during both sessions. After practice Wednesday, Tyrann Mathieu touched on the importance of versatility and how this group is capable of throwing so many different looks at opponents.

Dennis Allen also applauded Alvin Kamara, saying this week was by far his most productive of camp. Chris Olave did more than flash his potential, he flat out took over practice. The rookie impressed me with his understanding of how to get open, not just with his speed, but with his extensive route tree as well. Jameis Winston didn’t participate in team drills but his mere presence was a good sign as to how he’s coming along in rehab.

PRESEASON GAME AT LAMBEAU FIELD

Frankly, there wasn’t a lot to love about how the Saints performed against the Packers in the second preseason game. Overall, the team looked flat from start to finish, with just a few bright spots to note. Most starters, including Winston and Dalton, didn’t play but Taysom Hill got to see his first real game action of the season.

Ian Book started the game the whole way through for the Saints. Much like against Houston, he once again struggled mightily to move the ball down field and score points. The Saints offense turned the ball over twice, including another bad snap fumble and an interception on a pass intended for Taysom Hill, however Hill did appear to slip coming out the break of his route. Chris Olave scored his first career touchdown as a pro at the end of the half on a 20-yard pass from Book, which would go on to be the team’s only touchdown of the day.

The defense also had a pretty lackluster game, which came a little to my surprise. QB Jordan Love moved the ball well and completed big plays down field. The Saints secondary looked lost for most of the game often playing out of position. The pass rush was a bright spot for New Orleans with Malcolm Roach standing out as he has been throughout practice. Guys like Payton Turner, Taco Charleton, LB Eric Wilson, and newly signed Jon Bostic also had a solid night. Bostic led the team with 6 tackles while Wilson added 4 tackles and a forced fumble recovered by the Saints.

Something to mention, former LSU QB Danny Etling got in the game late for the Packers. He ruined any chances of a Saints late comeback with a 51-yard TD run off a read option play.

The Saints special teams unit was perhaps the only group that had an all around great game. Kicker Wil Lutz nailed a long 59-yard field goal in the first quarter showing that he is back and fully healthy. And punter Blake Gillikin also impressed with an incredible 81-yard punt that resulted as a touchback. That punt tied the franchise record first set by Tom McNeil back in 1969. Gillikin is truly establishing himself as one of the best punters in the NFL.

The biggest takeaway from this game was the excessive amount of penalties committed by the Saints. Several holding calls stalled out drives, making it hard for Book to find his rhythm. The Packers’ offense, on the other hand, were able to extend drives from penalties committed on the defensive side of the ball. One notable instance happened in the second quarter when Malcolm Roach got flagged for roughing the passer on a third and long play that resulted in an incomplete pass. Instead of a would-be punt by Green Bay, the Packers capitalized by driving down the field and scoring a touchdown.

Green Bay won the game 20-10. The Saints now fall to 0-2 this preseason.

Looking ahead, the Saints return to practice this afternoon in the Superdome, the last practice open to the public. Tuesday, the team will have to cut their roster down to 80 spots by 4pm. And Friday, they will face the Los Angeles Chargers at home for the final preseason game.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Saints’ week 2 preseason performance left a lot to be desired but overall it’s important to remember who wasn’t playing. The team looked very good during the joint practices when the main starters were getting reps, especially the defense.

The team also addressed several needs including depth at linebacker with the signing of Jon Bostic. Suddenly, I like this rotation of guys with Chase Hansen continuing to ascend as a valuable piece. They will need to get healthy on the offensive line but I wouldn’t worry too much as James Hurst and Trevor Penning are both said to be okay and Ryan Ramczyk is on track to return by the start of the regular season.

Lastly, Chris Olave didn’t have to do much to show how special he can be. The sky’s the limit for this young man and with better QB play, there’s little doubt in my mind he will greatly complement Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry this season.

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