Return of Saints guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs helps offense against Indianapolis

The return of the secondary stole the headlines Saturday night, but the offense also had it’s own reunion with the return of guards Jahri Evans and Ben Gubbs.

For the most part, Drew Brees’ two interior protectors proved they were worth the wait. The quarterback provided with a clean pocket most of the afternoon and the running lanes were open on the right side of the field. But there were some hiccups — particularly on the left side of the line.

Grubbs allowed at least two pressures during the two scoring drives Brees led in the first quarter and he was also on the hook for a Mark Ingram run that was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. However, he deserves credit for opening a hole for Ingram with a little more than 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Evans’ performance was cleaner. There was one run stuff where he appeared culpable, but the miscue wasn’t egregious enough to put him on the books for the error.

Overall, it was one of the cleaner performances by the offensive line this preseason after the first two games were handled by committee.

Brees was given plenty of time to find his marks and the only time he faced intense pressure came in the red zone when he was flushed from the pocket and forced to scramble for a 10-yard gain.

There were a handful of snaps where the offensive line let a blitzer sneak into the backfield, but on two occasions it allowed Ingram to show his ability in blitz pickup.

It’s doubtful that Ingram will see many third downs this season, but if he continues to prove competent in pass protection it could allow the Saints to mix their personnel and better disguise their intentions.

Backup QB battle continues

If there is a battle for the backup quarterback, it’s been hard to tell this preseason.

We’ve dissected the performances of Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin each week, with the thinking that Griffin was going to be given the chance to unseat McCown. The only problem is that the Saints don’t seem as interested in seeing this battle play out.

McCown acted as the starter the first two weeks. He received the second-team snaps Saturday night and Griffin came on with the third-string offense. If there was a true battle going on, typically you would see these two men receive something closer to a 50-50 split.

McCown struggled against the Colts, completing 3-of-10 passes, but a review of the game reveals that he received little help from the offensive line. He was under siege on a good amount of his dropbacks and was sacked after left tackle Terron Armstead failed to contain his man.

Griffin, meanwhile, was as shaky as he’s been this preseason. His passing line looked fine (8-of-13, 46 yards), but he was picked off once and nearly a second time.

Notes

Jimmy Graham continues to show off his ability as a blocker. It was odd to see him staying back in protection to pickup a cornerback blitz while Ben Watson caught a screen over the middle. ... Fullback Austin Johnson has had plenty of quality moments filling in for the injured Erik Lorig, but it must be noted that he missed a block on a failed Ingram run. ... Andrew Luck is a tough customer. He showed impressive strength stepping out of a Cameron Jordan tackle before Akiem Hicks was flagged for roughing the passer. ... Brees’ faith in his arm was evident Saturday. His 12-yard completion with 13:13 remaining in the first quarter to Marques Colston was about as precise of a pass as you’ll see.

Three up

Drew Brees: The quarterback missed two games but showed no signs of rust. His two scoring drives were about as good as you’ll see. It can be stunning to watch him move about the pocket.

Pierre Thomas: The running back said his teammates would have to put him on the bench if they want his snaps. He was kidding. He had a nice run for nine yards and caught four passes for 66 yards.

Keenan Lewis: The cornerback was targeted twice and nearly had two picks. That will keep quarterbacks from looking his direction. It was a nice return after being knocked out of action last week after playing 18 snaps against the Titans.

Three down

Kenny Stills: He’s not here because of his play. He lands on this list after aggravating a quad injury that kept him sidelined for the first two preseason games. Not what you want to see happen in an exhibition game.

Kenny Vaccaro/Curtis Lofton: Both players played decently against the Colts. However, one or both was culpable for the busted coverage on Coby Fleener’s touchdown.

Flags: The Saints played a good game. There isn’t much negative to highlight, but they were flagged 10 times Saturday night. That’s far too many mistakes.

Next three up

MONDAY’S PRACTICE:

4 p.m.-5:50 p.m. (Saints facility at 5800 Airline Drive in Metairie, open to public).

TUESDAY:

8:50 a.m.-11:40 a.m. (Saints facility, open to public).

Roster must be reduced to 75 players. It was at 86 at the end of Saturday’s exhibition at Indianapolis.

WEDNESDAY:

OFF (break camp)