The New Orleans Saints held the lead late into their preseason matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, but a fourth-quarter touchdown run by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley (and successful two-point conversion) put a win out of reach in their 17-14 loss.
But the scoreboard isn’t the most important factor here. Who impressed? Who didn’t? Here’s your first preseason Saints stock report:
Stock up: LB Zack Baun
Aug 14, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Zack Baun (53) and defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (99) rush Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley (7) during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Did anyone help his case more than Baun? He was all over the field, showing terrific eye discipline and fine-tuned tackling technique. It was a strong debut from a player many fans didn’t even expect to see on the field this year. But with Kwon Alexander and Pete Werner unavailable while recovering from injuries, he seized the moment. Here’s hoping Baun continues to build on that momentum and earn playing-time once the regular season kicks off.
Stock down: CB Prince Amukamara
Nov 15, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; General view of a referee picking up a penalty flag during the second quarter of the game between the Kansas City Chiefs against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
On the other hand, extended minutes for Amukamara just seemed to expose more low moments as the night wore on. He looked out of place against younger, faster competition and was forced to flail for a flag on a would-be two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. It’s a tough break for someone who has enjoyed a long, mostly-successful career. You have to think the clock is ticking away even if he isn’t released in the first wave of roster cuts.
Stock up: FS Bryce Thompson
Jul 31, 2021; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints assistant strength and conditioning coach Charles Byrd slaps hands with cornerback Bryce Thompson (31) during a New Orleans Saints training camp session at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Thompson looked good. He spoke this week about the benefits of switching from corner to safety, allowing him to see more of the field and keep the play in front of him, and we saw that firsthand. He allowed little to no yards after the catch when targeted and even bagged his first interception. With Marcus Williams out of action recovering from an undisclosed injury, Thompson has an opportunity to rapidly learn on the job between these preseason games and continued practice reps.
Stock down: RB Latavius Murray
Aug 14, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) walks off the field as Baltimore Ravens celebrates Baltimore Ravens safety Geno Stone (26) interception during the first quartet at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
This was the worst Murray has looked in a Saints uniform. Between running into his own blockers, failing to pick up blitzing defenders in pass protection, and an opening-drive fumble, he just didn’t bring the physicality fans have grown used to. Maybe it was just an off night. But he’s on the wrong side of 30 and there’s too many potential savings (north of $3.1 million) in his contract for him to have more games like this. Especially with younger, cheaper competition like Tony Jones Jr. pushing him.
Stock up: P Blake Gillikin
Aug 14, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; A detail view of a New Orleans Saints helmet on the field before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Did he just put this competition to bed? Gillikin’s longest punt traveled 61 yards (including a 2-yard loss off a muffed recovery at the end), just barely stopping outside the 20-yard line while another try pinned Baltimore inside its own red zone. He’s been more consistent than Nolan Cooney throughout training camp and continued to impress in a live game setting. Spending his rookie season interning under Thomas Morstead must have paid off.
Stock down: All three quarterbacks?
Aug 14, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) throws from the pocket during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Context matters. Taysom Hill didn’t have Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Terron Armstead, or Ryan Ramczyk helping him. Neither did Winston, along with other starters. And this was Book’s very first NFL exposure. But at the end of the day they each showed real warts (Hill’s lack of touch, Winston’s too-risky throws, and Book’s rookie mistakes). All three quarterbacks lobbed an interception, took a sack, and completed a combined 60% of their passes. Only Hill connected on a higher rate (66%), and his final four dropbacks included an incomplete throw short of the marker, a 3-yard loss on a checkdown in enemy territory, and a drive-killing sack. There’s a saying that if you can’t decide between two quarterbacks, you don’t have one worth starting. Hopefully someone starts to convincingly separate from the pack soon.