NEW ORLEANS -- Adrian Peterson’s long-awaited return to preseason action wasn’t exactly worth the wait.
Peterson had six carries for 15 yards and one catch for a 1-yard loss Saturday night in his first live action with the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and Mark Ingram didn’t do much more in their first action of the 2017 preseason.
But it was still a good night for the Saints, since all three of those guys stayed healthy -- and New Orleans’ defense came up with another surprisingly dominant performance in a 13-0 victory over the Houston Texans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Peterson, who hadn’t touched the ball in a preseason game since 2011 with the Minnesota Vikings, had a couple of decent moments Saturday -- including a nifty spin move that turned a potential run stuff into a 3-yard gain.
But, really, neither Peterson nor Ingram was able to generate anything in the run game on a rough night for the Saints’ injury-riddled offensive line. Ingram gained only 9 yards on four carries -- though he did add two catches for 11 yards. And rookie breakout Alvin Kamara got the night off.
Brees finished 11-of-15 for 76 yards, with no TDs or interceptions. He led the Saints to one field goal and four punts before ending his night at the two-minute warning of the first half.
Chances are he’ll be frustrated that he didn’t generate a little more momentum to carry into the regular season. But the Saints obviously didn’t place a priority on getting their veteran offensive players a ton of preseason snaps this year.
QB depth chart: It sure looks like Brees and veteran Chase Daniel will be the only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster this year. Third-year pro Garrett Grayson didn’t do much to help his case, completing 2 of 6 passes for 35 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. Fifth-year pro Ryan Nassib came in late but didn’t attempt a pass.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Saints looked ...: Dominant on defense -- again. This is started to sound like a broken record this preseason. Through three games, the Saints have allowed a total of seven points and 390 yards in the first half this summer. They have allowed zero points in the first quarter. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins was probably the MVP on Saturday night -- with a big-time run stuff for a 4-yard loss in the first quarter and a batted pass in the second quarter. New free-agent linebacker A.J. Klein had another nice night as he continues to be the defensive MVP of the preseason. Defensive end Cameron Jordan also batted a pass in his first action of the preseason. And rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore had two impressive pass breakups.
Rookie watch: Lattimore was very impressive on both plays -- the first two times he has been targeted this preseason, since he didn’t play in Week 1 and didn’t get tested in Week 2. The first one came against receiver Dres Anderson on third-and-9 on the opening drive. And the second came when he ran stride-for-stride with receiver Jaelen Strong on an deep ball that was underthrown because of pressure by Klein. Lattimore nearly had the interception, but Strong broke it up. It was a confidence-inspiring performance by the No. 11 overall pick in the draft -- since the Saints are counting on him to start this year (and since he left Thursday’s practice against the Texans early with a minor ailment).
Even veteran Saints starter Delvin Breaux -- currently sidelined by a broken fibula -- took notice.
I see ya @shonrp2— Delvin Breaux Sr (@BreauxShow24) August 27, 2017
Unfortunately, the Saints’ other first-round pick, left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, didn’t play after he also left Thursday’s practice early with an unspecified ailment. But Ramczyk was watching from the sideline during pregame warm-ups. ... Third-round linebacker Alex Anzalone continued to impress with a great hustle play on a pass break-up in the flat, and third-round defensive end Trey Hendrickson batted a pass among other pressures.
One reason to be concerned: The Saints’ starting offense has been very blah this preseason -- outside of Kamara’s 50-yard touchdown run on the first offensive snap last week against the Chargers. And the run game was stuck in the mud Saturday night. But it’s hard to get too concerned, because Brees has barely played -- and the Saints are hoping that their offensive line will be much healthier soon. Center Max Unger just returned to practice last week after recovering from foot surgery, and he and Ramczyk will ideally be ready by Week 1.
Ted Ginn shows "it": Sean Payton always loves to quote Bill Parcells on veteran players, saying, “I don’t need to see it every day, but I need to see it.” Well, the 32-year-old Ginn showed “it” on Saturday night with one or two of his biggest splash plays to date since joining the Saints as a free agent in March. Ginn had a huge gain on an end-around run on the first offensive play of the game -- including a nifty cutback near the line of scrimmage -- only to have it nullified by an illegal Ingram block down the field. Ginn also showed a burst of his trademark speed on a 14-yard catch on an inside screen pass. However, he and Brees weren’t on the same page when Brees tried to dial him up on a deep ball that landed a few yards away.
Bubble watch: Undrafted rookie running back Darius Victor scored the game’s only touchdown on a 3-yard run in the third quarter (before losing a fumble in the fourth quarter). Victor, who is generously listed at 5-foot-8, 227 pounds, has impressed this summer with his physical, bowling-ball style. But it’s hard to see a spot for him in a crowded backfield. The practice squad is the most likely destination. ... Newly signed veteran linebacker Bryan Braman lived up to his reputation as a special-teams standout with two special-teams tackles less than a week after joining the team. Braman could pass up guys such as Michael Mauti and Adam Bighill in the pecking order if the Saints think he can be more of an impact player on special teams. Bighill did provide another late-game highlight with a fourth-down sack to help preserve the shutout, though. ... Veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp had a sack in the third quarter after a strong performance last week. Tapp should be safe based on his versatility as a strong-side end and defensive tackle and his track record from last year. But the Saints are going to have to make some tough cuts on the defensive line.