Six takeaways from the Saints' preseason win over the Titans
The NFL's highest paid tight end Jimmy Graham scored the Saints' first two touchdowns of the game and celebrated both with his signature dunk during the Saints' win over the Titans.
Enjoy the dunks while you can, Jimmy Graham.
Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports
By Jennifer Hale
1. Back Up Quarterback Battle: Griffin Continues to Impress
Drew Brees sat this one out, still nursing that oblique injury. The absence of #9 gave Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin more time to battle it out for the backup job. Second-year pro Griffin came into to this game seemingly with the advantage after a solid performance last week and continued to state his case. McCown played until there was just over 2 minutes left in the first half, ending with 117 yards, 2 touchdowns and a rating of 109.8. Griffin quickly made his presence known when he took the field, throwing a bombshell pass to receiver Joe Morgan to set up a Mark Ingram touchdown reception to finish the first half. Griffin wrapped up the game with 179 yards, two touchdowns and a 133.4 rating before Logan Kilgore replaced him with 7 minutes left in the game.
The Saints secondary looked deep and mean before training camp started. The Black and Gold still has a plethora of riches, but several of those gems are sitting on the bench injured. Cornerbacks Patrick Robinson, Champ Bailey and Rod Sweeting did not suit up for Friday's game. The team is not revealing what ailments are plaguing any of these players, but both Bailey and Robinson have been sidelined by long-term injury bugs during past regular seasons. Starting corner Keenan Lewis headed to the locker room in the second quarter of the game without a shoe on his left foot. Safety Jairus Byrd, arguably the team's top free agent acquisition, also sat out of the game. The Saints placed Byrd in the physically unable to perform list back in July.
The NFL's highest paid tight end scored the Saints' first two touchdowns of the game and celebrated both with his signature dunk over the goal posts, despite the unsportsmanlike penalties he incurred. The home crowd was thrilled, but at a cost of 15 yards per penalty, that tune will likely change once the games start counting in the regular season.
4. WR Joe Morgan Sparkles
Undrafted free agent Joe Morgan looked like another Mickey Loomis super-discovery, ending the game leading the Saints in receiving yards with 108. Morgan is making his case to become the Black and Gold's deep threat, accumulating that yardage with just 3 receptions.
5. Saints Defense Looks Like a Takeaway Machine
The Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is putting a huge premium on forcing turnovers this year and it's producing results. Early on, a Kenny Vaccaro strip was scooped up by Curtis Lofton, and it looked like Ryan's unit was succeeding early in its mission. The officials, however, ruled it an incomplete pass, saying the Titans receiver "did not complete the process of the catch" before Vaccaro descended. It was nonetheless promising and a precursor of good things to come. Later in the game, Cam Jordan sacked Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger, knocking the ball loose for a recovery by Akiem Hicks. In the third quarter, rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste came up with a big fumble recovery, followed up by a Vinnie Sunseri interception at the beginning of the 4th quarter. That was a trip down memory lane for Sunseri, a Bama product who faced off against Mettenberger when the quarterback was at LSU's helm. The Titans had 5 turnovers. The Saints had zero.
6. Zach Mettenberger Scores First NFL TD in Front of Tiger Faithful
Since the Saints walked away with the victory 31-24, the South Louisiana crowd could enjoy watching former LSU star Zach Mettenberger start to stretch his professional wings. Mettenberger replaced the Titans starting quarterback Jake Locker in the second quarter and went on to score his first touchdown in the pros, a 64-yard affair, in front of thousands of LSU fans.