HOUSTON -- It didn't take long for the freshness of preseason action to wear off. We saw what we needed to see from the starters, and then things looked like what you'd imagine as the game went along. Here's some of our takeaways from Saturday night's action, as the Saints fell to the Texans in the last minute of regulation 17-13.
ATTENDANCE: Among those players to not dress out included Jameis Winston, Mark Ingram, Taysom Hill, Michael Thomas, Pete Werner, Marshon Lattimore, Alontae Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu, Alvin Kamara, Lucas Krull, Zack Baun, Demario Davis, Jarvis Landry, Rashid Shaheed, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, and Cam Jordan.
Winston (foot), Hill, Werner (groin), Taylor (hip), and Baun were among those we didn't expect to see.
SETTING THE TONE: The Saints had great drives offensively and defensively to open the game. New Orleans started strong with a tackle for loss by Chase Hansen, as the defense forced a three-and-out. The offense ended up putting together a 10-play, 67-yard drive on their first possession to get into the end zone. Andy Dalton went 5-of-5 for 51 yards, as the team scored on a perfectly executed 9-yard Dwayne Washington screen play.
HARD READ: Ian Book had a rough two drives to start after Dalton just went one series. He had a bad overthrow on a route intended for Juwan Johnson, and then he had a fumbled snap exchange that led to another Saints turnover. Book didn't get helped a lot by the offensive line at times, but there were also other issues where he didn't pull the trigger or didn't make a good throw to the receiver.
He did end having a really good drive late in the game, only missing one pass on a long series. However, it couldn't be finished due to the Smith fumble. We said on our first roster prediction that we could see the Saints carrying just two quarterbacks this season, and Book will have to rebound against the Packers.
TOUGH NIGHTS: Vincent Gray and DaMarcus Fields have had some struggles in camp, and that was on display during the game with coverage. Fields had a little bit of redemption after having a big pass breakup that led to a Justin Evans interception late in the third quarter.
Ian Book had Tre'Quan Smith on what looked to be a touchdown, but Smith couldn't make the catch. That was a tough one. Both could have used the hookup. Smith certainly has upside as a run blocker, but that No. 5 spot at wide receiver isn't decided yet by any means.
GOTTA MAKE THEM COUNT: Kevin White looked really good on two of his gunner reps in the first half, but was unable to get the tackle. He beat the jammers with his speed, but has to finish those plays.
RUNNING BACK INTRIGUE: If we thought we got any answers as to who would be the frontrunner for the RB3 spot after tonight, then we were sadly mistaken.
Tony Jones Jr. shining in the preseason is probably not that big of a shock for Saints fans, but he had some good moments in all phases of the game. He had a nice kick return, some good runs, and a 13-yard catch out of the backfield.
Both Dwayne Washington and Devine Ozigbo helped make things interesting. Overall, they each had good nights, with Ozigbo more rushing and Washington in both rushing and catching. Washington got the start.
Abram Smith had some impressive work on one of the team's final drives. However, he did have a bad fumble late in the game at the Texans' 2-yard-line. You can't do afford to do that in a close battle.
TREVOR PENNING'S OUTING: He got beat on back-to-back reps that led to sacks on Ian Book. He also got beat earlier on one rep that led to a roughing the passer call on Book. Those spin moves look to be a struggle for him. On the team's first offensive drive of the second half, he took a holding penalty.
He did have some decent moments, but it was more bad than good. He really came on later. Things can certainly improve here with coaching and learning from the tape. We've said before that this is James Hurst's job to lose at left tackle, and there's not much we've seen that would suggest this will change.
STOCK UP: Chase Hansen stood out from the jump. He had a brief exit from the field after one of the play in the second quarter, but rebounding in a big way to catch a pass breakup from Eric Wilson for a pick returned for 44 yards. He ended up finishing out with 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assisted), 2 tackles for loss, a pick, a pass breakup, and a special teams tackle.
Hansen has been around the team before, but for a guy that's relatively new to the linebacker room this year, that's a good showing.
Justin Evans ended up making a nice pick after a great pass breakup by DaMarcus Fields. He's someone to keep an eye on, and things actually play in his favor with Bryce Thompson getting hurt. A roster decision could down to keeping him or Daniel Sorensen.
Dai'Jean Dixon had a good night, finishing with 3 catches for 33 yards on 4 targets. He certainly screams someone that has high practice squad potential.
The team will travel to Green Bay on Monday for joint practices with the Packers. Some of the staff will be leaving from Houston. We'll have much more on this game over the next couple of days.
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