There is reason for concern for the New Orleans Saints’ defense. There also is reason for hope.
Evidence of both was on display in Sunday’s 31-23 preseason victory.
Let’s start with the concern. New Orleans fans know all too well that the Saints had the league’s worst defense last season. The Saints have changed coordinators and schemes, but it looked as if nothing had changed early on.
The Texans gained 164 yards of total offense in the first quarter and the New Orleans defense struggled in all areas. But, even with Houston’s offensive starters remaining in through the end of the first half, some signs of hope emerged.
Cameron Jordan, who I think will excel as a 3-4 defensive end, came up with a sack and a quarterback pressure. Undrafted rookie Glenn Foster came up with his fourth sack of the preseason. Linebacker David Hawthorne, playing in place of the injured Jonathan Vilma, showed signs he can hold up in pass coverage. Cornerback Patrick Robinson, who struggled all of last season, had great coverage on a deep pass in the second quarter.
Oh, and one other thing besides all that -- you can bet that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was holding back on a lot of things that the Atlanta Falcons will see in the season opener.
Some other quick observations on the Saints:
The Saints already have had some injury problems at linebacker and, now, they may have another one. Will Smith limped off the field in the second quarter and didn’t return. Trainers appeared to be looking at his right knee.
If rookie Kenny Stills hadn’t already won the third receiver job, I think he might have accomplished that Sunday. Stills had a great catch despite strong coverage on a deep sideline route. He followed that up with a touchdown catch.
Backup quarterback Luke McCown had another strong performance. McCown completed 10 of 14 for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Reserve running back Travaris Cadet, who had some problems with fumbles earlier in the preseason, made a couple of nice catches out of the backfield. Cadet is in a competition with rookie Khiry Robinson for what is likely to be the final running back spot on the roster.
Receiver Andy Tanner stayed in the competition for a roster spot by making two touchdown catches.