Cleat Geeks

Multiple Veterans & Newcomers Stepping Up In New Orleans Saints Preseason

Two weeks into the preseason and there are many teams that are already eager for the regular season to start. The New Orleans Saints are a team that has been prepping for the 2018-2019 NFL season since their unfortunate loss at the Minnesota Vikings 29-24 in the NFC Divisional Round of the 2017-2018 NFL playoffs. Their progress since their NFL training camp has been highly noticeable with their main star players playing like they are in mid-season form and many of their rookies and underutilized players stepping up by looking to make an impact.

Of all the teams in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints are one of a very few teams to not have a major position battle going on due to a departure or retiring. The Saints, along with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, and the reigning Super Bowl champs in the Philadelphia Eagles are the only teams in the NFL that seem to complete at every position. This does not mean that those positions have a large amount of talent and depth. This is an area where the Saints needed to be concerned with the most as last year there were some injuries at Linebacker and Defensive Back that plagued the Saints. Offensively, the Saint did not have too much of a concern with injuries, but the lack of depth was concerning. These few weeks before the season is the last time possible to make some last adjustments needed for each team to become more successful and efficient in their decision making.

 

Taysom Hill getting a chance to prove himself as a reliable Quarterback

Former Houston Texans Quarterback Tom Savage was added by New Orleans for a 1-year deal for insurance purposes for star QB Drew Brees. This doesn’t stop depth chart Quarterback and special teams contributor in Taysom Hill from trying to push for the backup Quarterback role. Throughout this preseason, Hill has been impressing the Saints and Saints nation with his passing ability. Hill is looking to make his name known when Brees eventually retires from the NFL. In the Saints’ first preseason game on August 8th at the Jacksonville Jaguars, Hill threw for 72 yards on 8 completions (out of 9 attempts). He also rushed the ball 7 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Hill does not possess the speed as many of the dual-threat Quarterbacks in the league but he does have the size and the hard-hitting bulk to push for more yards.

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Photo by; www.canalstreetchronicles.com

Hill started out his NFL career undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft but was acquired by the Green Bay Packers for a practice squad player. This past season for the New Orleans Saints, Hill mostly played in special team plays but has been reaching for a Quarterback position job. This off-season was the first full off-season that he has experienced with an NFL team now in his 2nd year in the league. Hill has been taking apart in high-velocity passing drills throughout the off-season and that has appeared to show in training camps and in the preseason games. With three more preseason games left, watch for Taysom Hill to lead the Saints to the regular season to secure the main backup Quarterback spot behind Drew Brees.

 

Saints adding another top Wide Out in rookie Tre’Quan Smith

Many of the newcomers of the Saints are making great first impressions with the team and the fans. Former UCF Knights Wide Receiver Tre’Quan Smith was acquired by the Saints in the 3rd round (91st pick) due to the high amount of great Receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft. Smith has already been labeled as a top three Receiver for the high-power Saints offense. Much like the Saints’ #1 Wide Receiver in Michael Thomas, Smith is a speedy and elusive deep threat Receiver that can handle a heavy workload consistently. In his 3 years at Central Florida, Smith has accounted for above 50 receptions each season. In his Senior season last year, Smith accounted for 59 receptions for 1,171 yards (an average of 19.8 yards per reception) and 13 touchdowns. The Saints selected Tre’Quan Smith because they know he can put up those stats equivalent to his production with the Knights offense.

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Photo by; Nola.com

In the game against Jacksonville, he was the team’s leading Receiver by accounting for 48 yards on 4 receptions. His contributions as a mid-range to deep threat Receiver will be a huge boost for the Saints offense led by QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas, who is the NFL’s most underrated Receiver. Smith’s productions at the other deep-threat Receiver will not be a decrease in production for Michael Thomas. If anything, the Saints could use Smith’s talent as a speedy deep-target as Brandon Coleman could not consistently bring in for the Saints last year. Last season, Coleman accounted for 23 receptions for 364 yards and 3 touchdowns as he was the 5th leading receiving yards leader for the Saints. Coleman was cut from the New Orleans Saints on August 5th after failing a team physical. Undrafted rookie in WR Keith Kirkwood has also been impressing the Saints organization as a reliable playmaker in the short time with the team. Look for these two rookie Wide Outs to make an impact for a passing offense that was ranked 4th in points per game (28) and 5th in passing yards per game (261.8) last season.

 

DT David Onyemata looking to step up to contribute more to Saints efficient defense

Veteran Defensive Tackle David Onyemata is currently listed as a backup to former 1st round pick in Sheldon Rankins according to the Saints’ first unofficial depth chart of the season. Onyemata, though, has been getting a lot of publicity for his increase in contributions for the defense and rise of his efficiency in his performance. Last season, Onyemata played in all 16 regular season games at Defensive Tackle and End while also started in 6 when he filled in for the injured DE Alex Okafor. Onyemata is a special hybrid Defensive Lineman that can play in a run-orientated Defensive End spot and then a 3-technique Defensive Tackle. Last season, Onyemata accounted for 38 total tackles, 18 solo tackles, and 2 sacks.

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Photo by; Who Dat Dish

Throughout the remainder of this preseason, there could be a switch at the Nose Tackle position that is held by Tyeler Davison, at the 3-technique Defensive Tackle position held by Rankins, or at the Defensive End position held by Alex Okafor if Onyemata continues to impress. At the least, Onyemata’s performance along with the Saints’ 2018 NFL Draft 1st round pick in DE Marcus Davenport makes for a potentially dominating slate of Defensive Linemen for New Orleans. 2nd year DE Trey Hendrickson has also been a very productive reserve for the Saints in the past season and in this preseason. The Saints having two complete Defensive Line units make for a great change of pace in creating pressure and also brings in different formations when matching with the different offensive formations.

 

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