Your father’s NFL this is not.
That true-ism was on full display at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey as the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets played a preposterously penalized 60 minutes of preseason football. If the Saints 28-13 win was a regular season dress rehearsal, let’s hope the understudies don’t see much of the stage. There were 31 penalties — I still can’t believe I’m typing this — in the game, an NFL record. A good portion of those flags were thrown on plays that, being kind here, probably won’t be called when the regular season starts. Preseason football can often be putrid mix of boring and bizarre, but this was another level of ugly.
“U-G-L-Y,” Deuce McAllister spelled out, his voice tinged with disgust. “You’re not able to get any rhythm. I mean, it’s just ugly.”
McAllister, former Saints running back and now a color analyst on the Saints Radio Network, thought the penalties were especially a problem for the offense, who was hurt multiple times by holding calls in critical situations.
“I think for the Saints the one thing you’re going to go look at is penalties they hurt themselves on. Especially when you talk about holdings. Particularly inside the red zone. When you’re inside the ten yard or 15 yard-line you don’t want those holdings to be able to affect the outcome. The Saints were still able to win but you don’t want those things to happen.”
Preseason game #3#Whodats
What you got
— deuce mcallister (@dmcallister26)August 24, 2019
Through the fog of infractions, some Saints players had stand out performances. One such player was tight end Dan Arnold, who hauled in five receptions on six targets from quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill.
“You can see he and Taysom were on the same page on a couple of throws,” McAllister noticed of the pair’s second half connections. “You’re happy for him because he’s had an up and down camp. Even going back to last year.”
Arnold is battling for the third-string job behind entrenched starter Jared Cook and backup Josh Hill. Also in contention are Garrett Griffin, who left tonight’s game with an injury, and rookie Alize Mack. Tonight may have helped Arnold move closer to securing a roster spot.
One player who may have locked in a place on the final-53 is receiver and returner Deonte Harris, who is quietly becoming the break out story of the team’s preseason. Harris had a brilliant 78-yard return for a touchdown in the second half, and contributed 61 yards on three kick returns, a healthy 20.3 yard average. With free agent signee Marcus Sherels again unable to suit up, his third-straight missed preseason game, those jobs now seem like Harris’ to lose.
“It’s going to be a trust factor,” McAllister said of Harris’ chances of making the roster, pointing to mistakes Harris make during the game. “You can go back and say he had the fumble on the kickoff return and then not being able to catch one of those punts. But he makes it hard to say ‘we’re going to cut this guy’ just because he’s so explosive.”
The Saints now return to New Orleans, where they’ll finish their preseason with a game against the Miami Dolphins in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night.
Listen to McAllister’s full post-game commentary in the podcast below.