Saints Defeat Chargers In 2022 Preseason Finale

August 29, 2022

The New Orleans Saints got their first win of the preseason against the Los Angeles Chargers in the third and final week. The Saints rolled to a decisive 27-10 win at the Caesars Superdome. Let’s discuss what went well, what didn’t, and an interesting fourth-quarter subplot that may show a move the Saints may be trying to make.

The Great

Saints First And Second Team Offense

This was the first game that most of the Saints starters on offense saw action, most only played one series with some staying in for two. The following projected starters saw their first snaps of the preseason:

  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Ramczyk
  • Alvin Kamara
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Mark Ingram
  • Erik McCoy

With most of the Saints starters on the field, the first-team offense looked excellent on the opening drive. Winston connected on all four of his pass attempts, for 59 yards. He sliced the Chargers defensive in the intermediate passing game with completions of 20 and 15 yards to Landry and 18 yards to Chris Olave. Winston showed nimble and skilled pocket movement to move up in the pocket on the 15-yard pass to Landry, this pass was thrown on the move, into a fairly small window.

The play action was set up by a very strong running game, Kamara and Ingram looked to be in regular season form. The rushing numbers from the first drive would have been far more impressive if it wasn’t for two Saints penalties negating two very good Kamara runs (more on the penalties later).

The second team offense was also in top form, led by the ‘Red Rifle’ Andy Dalton the Saints marched down the field on a nine-play, 62-yard drive, capped off by Mark Ingram’s second rushing touchdown of the game. In the passing game, this drive was the Marquez Callaway drive with both of Dalton’s passes going to last season’s number one receiver for a total of 35 yards.

This was an encouraging game for Callaway after a quiet offseason. He finished with a team-leading four catches on four targets for 65 yards and one of the more bizarre catches you’ll see. The Saints’ top two quarterbacks finished nine of nine for 132 yards.

To see some of the passes Winston and Dalton made that I’ve referenced above, see highlights of the game below.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints – Highlights | 2022 Preseason Week 3 – YouTube

Saints First Team Defense

The Saints’ offense wasn’t the only side of the ball to show out. The Saints had the below projected defensive starters play their first snaps of the preseason:

  • Cameron Jordan
  • David Onyemata
  • Demario Davis
  • Tyrann Matheiu
  • Marcus Maye

Projected starters Marcus Davenport, Pete Werner, Marshon Lattimore, and Paulson Adebo did not play. The rest of the defensive starters played at least the first drive and the first drive went exactly as it should have against the Chargers’ second stringers who ran three plays for negative five yards, forcing an immediate three and out finishing with a Demario Davis Sack.

Davis, Maye, and Mathieu played at least one more series, this is especially beneficial as the two new safeties need to get used to communicating with each other and with Davis.

The Good

Nephi Sewell (LB)

Sewell was constantly in the right place he didn’t always make the tackle, which he will need to clean up, but the instincts are there to be seen. He was always around the ball. In run plays he appeared to be in the spots he was supposed to be in and was stout on run plays on the goal-line.

Sewell nearly blew up a screen play, if had not been pushed down before being able to make the tackle, the key thing is he recognized it quickly and put himself in a position to make the play, he also showed sticky coverage on an intermediate pass later in the half.

Sewell is a player I was very close to putting on my 53-man roster projection before this game, if I were to do that exercise again I would have him on there for sure.

Taco Charlton (DE)

There was a period in this game where Taco was absolutely abusing the opposing tackle. He looked to be around the quarterback constantly and was a very disruptive force every chance he got. He did not end up on the stat sheet, but it seemed like he had at least three or four quarterback pressures.

Will it be enough to make the 53? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. The Saints are just too deep at the defensive end position and other positions in my opinion for Charlton to be able to make it. However, he’d be a welcome addition to the Saints Practice squad.

Kirk Merritt (WR/RB)

Merritt had a very strong performance, not for the reasons some had predicted in the build-up to this game. After practicing all week solely with the running backs, Merritt took no snaps at tailback. He played solely at wide receiver, finishing with four catches on four targets for 32 yards and a touchdown. He also got wide open for another touchdown on a crossing route near the goal-line.

Quarterback Ian Book flat out missed him and the play was also called back for pass interference on rookie Dai’jean Dixon. Based on this performance, play throughout the offseason and the play of another WR (more on who I mean later) I think there’s a very real possibility Merritt makes the 53-man roster.

Justin Evans (Safety)

I think the former second-round pick of the Bucs was already making the Saints roster after a solid showing this off-season. Forcing his second turnover of the preseason last night against the Chargers puts a nice exclamation point on a resurgent offseason for him.

Quick hitters

RB Tony Jones Jr– looked solid on multiple pass projection reps, to be able to protect on passing downs is a must for his longevity on the Saints roster so it’s encouraging to see.

TE Juwan Johnson– looked solid run blocking last night, at least from the broadcast view. (apart from the unfortunate snap where Penning got hurt) if he can add this to the already potent pass-catching element of his game, it will make it very hard for opposing teams to guess if he’s on the field for a run or pass plays.

The Bad

Now onto the bad:

Trevor Penning’s injury

Penning’s injury happened on the last play of the Saints’ first drive on the goal-line video here:

I did not look good when it happened, as tight end Juwan Johnson bowled into the back of Penning’s leg, he had to be carted to the locker room and did not return. This is even more frustrating for two reasons; it’s possible that play would have been his last snap, as the rest of the O-line starters were pulled after this play. Second, he looked very impressive on the play leading up to the injury, looking like someone with a bit more time could have taken over starting at LT.

Since the game, we now know that Penning’s injury was reported as a ‘bad case of Turf Toe’, which has not progressed to a torn ligament in his foot. The timeline for his return is unknown at this stage. Rapport has said he’s out indefinitely, meaning Penning is going to miss a lot of snaps that have proven so valuable to his development. At this stage the injury could be season-ending, leaving the Saints depth questions on the O-line.

Tre’Quan Smith (WR)

This might seem a little harsh seeing as Smith played very few snaps, and had one target, which he laid out for but couldn’t quite hall it in. Then left the game with a shoulder injury from trying to make said catch.

That whole sequence just seems to be a metaphor for Smith’s Saints career. Not quite being able to make the plays required and not being able to stay healthy. Now the shoulder injury may not be serious, he may not even miss time. Smith has not been able to make any plays in any of the three preseason games this season. It could be time for the Saints to move on and go with a younger player (Kirk Merritt).

Penalties

The Saints had eight penalties against the Chargers on Friday with two coming on the first drive! This is way too many and can’t continue into the regular season. Unfortunately, the Saints have performed badly here all preseason over the three games they average 7.6, so call it eight penalties a game. I have no doubt this will be something head coach Dennis Allen is breaching over the next two weeks as they prepare for Week One at the Falcons.

The Interesting

This was interesting to me anyway; an all-pro returner doesn’t sound like someone who would need preseason reps to sharpen their skills, let alone a fourth quarter of the last preseason game reps. Well, that was the case for Deonte Harty last night. He was put in on two punts in the fourth quarter, which to me seems unnecessary. Harty seemed to think the same as with room to run on both returns called for the fair catch.

Did New Orleans put him out there to try and show something to other teams who may have been calling about the WR? I detailed why the Saints might have been fielding calls for him and what return they might get. If you enjoyed this article, please follow me on Twitter @SaintsReportUK for more Saints content, retweet the article if you enjoyed it! And let me know your feedback!

As we head into a big week for Saints football with the initial 53-man roster to be decided by Tuesday (30th August). Make sure to keep an eye on my Twitter and Who Dat Hype – Unapologetically Fearless Saints Coverage for articles, reactions, analysis, and discussion on your New Orleans Saints.