METAIRIE -- A SRO crowd in excess of 5,000 squeezed into the equivalent of an outdoor suana Saturday at Saints camp to watch the annual Black and Gold scrimmage.
First the good news: Drew Brees emerged unscathed, no worse for the wear.
After a controlled 64-play scrimmage, only four unconfirmed injuries to report - WR Andy Tanner (shoulder), WR Joseph Morgan (lower leg), WR Jarred Fayson (unspecified) and RB/KR Travaris Cadet (unspecified). Coach Sean Payton said he would provide an injury update Monday when the team returns to practice at 4:30 p.m. It is closed to the public.
No real bad news to report since there is only so much one untrained set of eyes can glean from a scripted practice with limited tackling where quarterbacks are off limits to the defense.
-- Brees completed eight of 11 passes for 65 yards and directed one touchdown drive consisting of 13 plays for 70 yards and capped off by Mark Ingram's 1-yard run.
-- Tulane rookie QB Ryan Griffin connected on a 5-yard scoring pass to leaping fullback Austin Johnson.
-- Defensive end Akiem Hicks and outside linebacker Junior Galette each had two sacks.
-- Cornerback Chris Carr and inside linebacker David Hawthorne each had one interception.
-- Undrafted rookie linebacker Eric Martin continues to impress, forcing a fumble and supplying the "Hit of the Day" by knocking Cadet into never-never land on a kick return.
-- Undrafted rookie running back Khiry Robinson rushed 11 times for 52 yards, Ingram five times for 18 yards and one TD. Ingram also fumbled once after being hit by Martin, and safety Rafael Bush recovered the loose ball.
-- The No. 1 defense got the better of the No. 1 offense.
OK, now let's get away from the mundane statistics, travel outside the numbers and make a few snap judgments:
-- Before anyone foolishly pencils the Black and Gold into Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, think again. After nine practices, it's hard to predict what might happen in Friday night's exhibition opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, let alone what might happen six months from now, in the elements, on the outskirts of New York City.
-- At this moment, I have the Atlanta Falcons defending their title and winning the NFC South. The addition of free agent running back Steven Jackson, the return of ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez and an upgraded defense give them a slight edge.
-- Rookie S Kenny Vaccaro is a hitting machine who won't back down from anyone. Ask tight end Jimmy Graham. KV32 currently is working with the second unit but it's still early in camp.
-- I'd like to see RB Mark Ingram and S Kenny Vaccaro go one-on-one in the Oklahoma drill, mano a mano. Ingram already has injured two teammates, unintentionally, of course. OLB Victor Butler tore his left ACL after colliding with Ingram in OTAs and ILB Jonathan Vilma sports a nasty gash on the bridge of his nose thanks to Ingram. On Saturday, Morgan and Tanner left with injuries after hits from Vaccaro.
-- Veteran CB Chris Carr made his presence felt, making one INT and causing a second with a pass breakup. Carr and veteran safety Jim Leonhard might end up being welcome additions to an otherwise young secondary.
-- Newly-married Thomas Morstead showed he is in mid-season form Saturday, booming punts high and deep outside the numbers with the precision of a marksman. Morstead married his high school sweetheart, Lauren Moore, on July 13 in their hometown of Houston.
-- I never thought I'd say this but the Saints miss backup quarterback Chase Daniels, now with the Chiefs. Neither Luke McCown nor Seneca Wallace wow me and rookie Ryan Griffin is bound for the practice squad. McCown went eight of 11 for 56 yards and one pick. Wallace sat out with a strained groin.
All that said, the most impressive thing I witnessed Saturday morning took place outside the lines.
My first Game Ball of the season goes to the 5,180 fans who braved the suffocating heat and humidity to be in that number. Fans patiently stood in a slow-moving line that wound its way from the foot of Airline Drive, past the Saints facility and back around to the Zephyrs parking lot.
Score one for Who Dat Nation.
Woof, Woof, Woof!
Until we meet again.
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