What Does New Orleans Saints’ Preseason Week 1 Loss to Houston Texans Mean Ahead of 2022 Campaign?

The New Orleans Saints kicked off the NFL 2022 preseason with a 17-13 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. While football fans should never base an upcoming season on the NFL’s preseason campaign, it does offer insight into what could be a difficult upcoming journey for teams. 

Fans will be forgiven thinking the Saints would have an easy time in Houston after the team’s opening drive. Well-traveled back-up quarterback Andy Dalton started the game under center, leading the Saints to a touchdown. 

The Texas-native signed for New Orleans in March after spending last season with the Chicago Bears. Dalton started nine games for the Bears, going 4-5 as a starting quarterback.

Andy Dalton impresses in debut

Dalton is the back-up insurance policy the Saints signed if Jameis Winston struggles with injury or form this season. Winston is coming off of a torn ACL and will need time to get back into the full swing of things. 

His recent foot sprain gave Dalton the chance to start versus the Texans. The Saints gave Winston a new two-year contract worth $28 million to be their No. 1. Dalton’s deal is worth $3m for the season, but it could rise to $6m based on performances. 

Now in his 12th season with the Saints, Dalton threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive. In total, he threw just five passes, completing all five of them. Positive signs were shown by the quarterback and head coach Dennis Allen had plenty to be impressed by, even if New Orleans’ starters played limited minutes – or not at all. 

Ian Book disappoints once more

According to leading sportsbooks, the Houston Texans are the NFL’s longest shot to win Super Bowl LVII. Houston is at betting odds of +25000 to win the Super Bowl, the Saints are +4000. 

But again, it is just preseason, so reading into the fact that the Saints were beaten by the bookies’ longest shot to win the Super Bowl is a bit cynical. New Orleans is in transition, even if fans don’t want to believe it. Sean Payton retired at the end of last season and the search for the “next” Drew Brees continues. 

Unfortunately, that search won’t end with quarterback Ian Book. The Saints’ 2021 fourth-round draft pick struggled throughout the night. Although the numbers may be a bit misleading, 15-for-22 with 121 yards passing, he failed to lead the Saints offense to a touchdown. 

After Dalton’s opening drive touchdown, the Saints didn’t taste pay dirt again. Rather, the team had to settle for two field goals. The Texans came back and went into the halftime break with the game tied at 10. The Saints took the lead once more in the fourth quarter with their second field goal, only to concede the lead late as Jeff Driskel tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Johnson III for the win in the final 60 seconds of regulation. 

Turnovers doom Book

Driskel threw two touchdowns for the Texans. His first came after Houston recovered a fumble by Book. Book, a former Notre Dame quarterback, made two turnovers with the second being an interception. Even with Driskel tossing three INTs, the Saints simply couldn’t overcome the Texans and get a second touchdown with Dalton off the field. 

Book was the biggest disappointment for the Saints in Week 1 of preseason. A quarterback coup could be possible if Book can string together some solid preseason performances. Yet, based on the opening game, he may be playing in the USFL or the XFL next spring. 

The Saints back-up threw a pick on his first possession under center, missing wide-open Juwan Johnson. His second possession ended in the previously mentioned fumble that the Texans would later score off of. 

With four quarterbacks on the Saints’ preseason roster, Book is not guaranteed a place on the final roster. Even if Book’s contract numbers are easy on the eyes, an average yearly salary of $1,038,396, his performances are not. 

Running backs make bid for starting No. 3 spot

It is easy to be all doom and gloom after the first preseason game of the season. However, Allen didn’t have Winston due to injury, and top running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram did not play the preseason opener. 

The quartet of Abram Smith, Devine Ozigbo, Dwayne Washington, and Tony Jones Jr ran the ball instead with the third string running back position open for one of these speedsters to snatch. 

Smith picked up 30 yards on seven carries, while the quartet of backs picked up a combined total of 102 rushing yards. Jones Jr, who battled his way to a roster spot last season, had a decent showing with seven carries for 27 yards. 

Washington will be the most frustrated of the running backs battling for a spot on the roster. His nine carries resulted in just 21 yards. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr gave the running backs an almost equal number of reps to show their stuff. The same may not occur in preseason Week 2. 

Head Coach Dennis Allen has plenty to consider

Dalton has given Allen plenty to think about heading into Week 2 of preseason against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, August 19. The Red Rifle could steal the starting quarterback job from Winston with another strong preseason performance and additional injury issues regarding the expected No. 1. 

Winston is “day-to-day” ahead of the game versus the Packers and Dalton could start once more. He has the chance to make the starting position a possibility, even if coaches aren’t publicly leaning toward the Red Rifle currently. 

In 11 previous NFL campaigns, Dalton had five winning seasons, all of which came with the Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton hasn’t had a winning campaign in six straight NFL seasons with the last coming in 2015 with the Bengals. 

As it stands, Dalton is the back-up to Winston and will only play if the latter misses a considerable amount of time on the field. Of course, plans change and Dalton could be the Saints’ best option. 

Saints fans will get the chance to see how the team stacks up against one of the preseason favorites to win the NFC, the Green Bay Packers.

Preseason Week 2 will see both teams give more opportunities to starters. The Saints and Packers have played 27 times previously. Green Bay leads the head-to-head series versus the Saints 17-10. The teams most recently played in September 2021 with New Orleans winning 38-3. The Saints have won three of the last five games versus the Packers.

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