NFL Preseason Week 1 Review: Saints vs. 49ers

| by

NFL football is finally back!  Many NFL fans say that they don’t get excited for the preseason, but for me it’s almost as exciting as the regular season. Teams are getting built, dreams are being made, and there are many players giving every last effort in hopes of making a roster. 

If you’re one of the many that just can’t get into it, I certainly understand, so for you I’m providing cliff notes for every preseason game played. I’ve locked myself away in the dungeon, far from sunlight watching each matchup and giving you quick updates on each team.

San Francisco 49ers (24) vs. New Orleans Saints (7)

The Saints defensive is explosive. In their first game back they reminded me of the defense that wrecked havoc and caused turnovers non-stop on the way to a title a few years ago. It’s worth noting that most NFL teams come out very vanilla in the preseason. Defenses usually chose not to blitz a lot or show their hand before the regular season. Saints’ defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams went the complete opposite direction and brought the house on the 49ers.

Neither 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith, was prepared for the intensity that that New Orleans‘ defense came to play with. The 49ers offensive line struggled to protect the QB’s as to be expected. It’s early in this 2011 season and a newly installed offense can’t expect to be up to speed with a championship level defense that has been together for a few years now…and it showed.

While rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggled, he also showed some flashes of why the 49ers drafted him early in the second round of this year’s draft. Kaepernick often was caught starring down receivers and sticking with his first read, instead of going through his progressions. Colin’s biggest mistakes didn’t come until late, when the team was way behind and he attempted to force throws. It wasn’t all bad for Kaepernick though. He showed his arm off several times. Once he threw the ball through a small window of 3 defensive backs to his receiver. Several times he took advantage of what the defense gave him by scrambling with his long strides for big gains. He’s a rookie in the NFL with a couple of weeks training in a new offense. He also drew one of the hardest matchups in a first preseason game. Most rookie quarterbacks weren’t getting blitzed as much as Kaepernick this week.

Another factor that hurt Colin was rookie wide receiver Ronald Johnson. Johnson ran the wrong route several times. On one deep throw, Johnson cut in at the end of the route, in front of the cornerback, instead of staying on the outside. If he stayed on the outside he would have more than likely completed a big gainer. Kaepernick was seen on the sidelines coaching up Johnson after the bad route. Johnson also dropped another deep route from Colin that hit him between the numbers.

Mark Ingram showed us what we’ve been expecting from him. On his first NFL touchdown, he showed a great speed burst through the line, followed by a spin move, and capped off with a celebratory back pedal into the end zone. It appeared as he had been doing this for years.

While another rookie running back in this game, Kendall Hunter, didn’t show the same skill set running the ball, he did provide some of the best blitz pickup that I’ve seen from a rookie halfback in quite some time.

Aldon Smith was a lot better in the 3-4 defense then I had initially expected. I was a huge advocate of him as a 4-3 defensive end. I didn’t feel that he would be as elite in a 34 scheme. In his first game he proved me wrong. It’s only one game so I don’t want to crown him but he showed a great swim move on the left tackle, dropped into coverage, and surprisingly made several stops in the running game.

Joique Bell and Chris Taylor brought separate value to the Saints running game. Bell was quick and elusive on special teams as well as coming out of the Saints’ backfield. Taylor showed that he could be the team’s power back if they chose to not allow Ingram to get beat up in the red zone. He’s quicker and shiftier then expected to be for a back of his size. In Houston, Taylor was almost moved to fullback a few seasons ago.

Robert Meachem had an unexplainable drop. He was wide open deep down the middle of the field and the ball hit him dead in the hands, yet he failed to haul it in.

Donte Whitner showed some tight coverage on tight end Jimmy Graham and came away with an excellent pass breakup. It’s the type of play that the 49ers’ secondary will need this season.

My surprise of the game was Saints’ linebacker Jonathan Casillas. He seems ready to make up for missing last season. He was everywhere on the field. He’s explosive, smart, and a big hitter.  This is a guy worth keeping your eyes on. He’ll be a play making star in this league.

    More NFL Preseaon Cliff Notes

    Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock