The New Orleans Saints are halfway through the preseason.
They followed their 24-20 victory at Jacksonville with a 20-15 loss to Arizona on Friday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
They’re a long way from making decisions about who makes the 53-man roster to start the regular season, but the showcase opportunities for players without secure roster spots are dwindling.
“What weighs on my mind right now is finding the best 53,” coach Sean Payton said after the loss to the Cardinals. “As we play these preseason games we get exposure to some of the good and also some of the bad plays."
“Next week we may play more guys. At some point we have to see where we are as a team.”
Quarterback Drew Brees and Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan have yet to play and running back Alvin Kamara, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, didn’t play against the Cardinals.
Given that most key players traditionally sit out the preseason finale, it’s likely Brees, Jordan, Kamara and other key players will play a significant amount at the Chargers next Saturday.
Here’s what we learned Friday night:
Taysom Hill isn’t ready to be a No. 2 quarterback in the NFL. If he’sgoing to make the team it will be primarily as a special teamer.
Payton gave Hill as good a chance as he could have hoped for, playing him the entire first half. Hill spit the bit, turning the ball over four times as Arizona built a 17-3 halftime lead.
He can be excused on the first turnover, an interception that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Cameron Meredith, and he did chipped in a 43-yard scramble. But that run was negated by the second of his two fumbles.
“It was a tough night for him,” Payton said understated.
Tom Savage is the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback on the roster, but it wouldn’t be surprising if New Orleans scours the waiver wire and perhaps even talks trade to see if there’s a worthwhile opportunity to try and upgrade that spot at the 11th hour.
Jonathan Williams is a strong favorite to become Kamara’s sidekick while starting running back Mark Ingram serves a four-game suspension to start the regular season. Williams had a team-high eight carries for 37 yards against Arizona.
Rookie Boston Scott, a sixth-round draft choice from Louisiana Tech, carried six times for 28 yards.
"We wanted to give him more carries tonight and I thought he did some good things with the ball," Payton said.
Scott also is competing as a return specialist, primarily against veteran wide receiver Brandon Tate, who returned the opening kickoff 40 yards and had an 8-yard punt return.
In addition to catching a pass for 4 yards, Scott returned three kickoffs for an average of 29.0 yards and returned one punt for 13 yards.
“I have a lot to work on,” Scott said. “The more that you learn, the more the game slows down. I still have to continue to work on my fundamentals. We are a long way off from where I want to be, but I keep trying to get better every day.”
Rookie third-round draft choice Tre-Quan Smith had another good performance, catching three passes for 60 yards after catching four for 48 yards in the opener.
But, Payton said, “I think our receiver play so far has been average at best.”
One of the receivers, Austin Carr, who has been slowed by injury in camp, helped himself by catching three passes for 37 yards.
Second-year linebacker Alex Anzalone led the defense with five tackles.
Defensive back Arthur Maulet added to his strong camp with four tackles and a pass defenses before limping off.
Rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport, who missed more than two weeks of practice because of a groin injury, did not play, but is expected to return to practice perhaps as soon as Saturday.
Defensive end Alex Okafor is expected to miss a few weeks because of a bone bruise in his knee and a sprained ankle suffered in practice Wednesday.
The Saints finish training camp with practices Saturday and Sunday before traveling to Los Angeles early in the week to practice twice against the Chargers and play them in a preseason game next Saturday.