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Drew Brees made his return from the thumb injury and helped lead the Saints to a home win over the Cardinals. Here are my observations:
-Unlike the school in his hometown that passed on him, Drew Brees is back folks! He was 34/43 for 373 yards with three touchdowns and an interception (more on that later). The offense looked like it was running on all cylinders with Brees under center mainly because...
-...Latavius Murray and Michael Thomas ate big! Murray filled in nicely for Alvin Kamara as he totaled 30 touches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Thomas made sure to welcome back Cardinals' top corner Patrick Peterson back in style by catching every target with Peterson guarding him, including carrying into the endzone for a touchdown. There's a reason he came into the game leading the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
-The defense logged their fifth consecutive game in a row allowing less than 300 total yards of offense. They sacked Kyler Murray three times and completely stiffleed the run game by allowing a paltry 13 yards. This defense is legit. They stepped up in Brees' absence and have continued to play at a high level. Ih this unit keeps it up, I feel sorry for the rest of the NFL. (*That last statement is a complete lie and a fake attempt at sounding like I care.)
-Brees took a shot down field to fullback Zach Line while he was double covered and threw a pick. This was one of the plays Brees will take a shot on regardless of what he sees because of his faith in his arm and receivers. If it were Thomas, yes. But the fullback?
-As good as this defense has played, they whiffed a few times on sacking Murray. I know. I know. The kid is as slippery as an eel bathed in Vaseline swimming in lotion, but when you have a free rusher multiple times totally miss on a sack, it's frustrating to watch.
-While Thomas and Murray did their thing, I have the same complaint when Kamara is playing: over-reliance on this duo. What happens when a team keys in on Thomas and Kamara/Murray? I'm fully confident they'll spread the ball around and generate offense, but this will continue to be a worry.
-After he missed a 47-yard field goal on the opening drive, I'm almost convinced Will Lutz has something in his head. A fart on your brain as my grandfather would call it. He's now missed three in the last two games. With the offense back on track and the defense playing lights out, now isn't the time for the kicker to get the yips.
-Twice the defense blew coverages and gave up big plays: once on a flea flicker, the other on one of the previously mentioned plays in which Murray was able to elude a free rusher.
-Yeah...I've got nothing here. No injuries to report this week thank God. Although Erik McCoy went down early, he came back. This team can't afford any injuries. Health is a major concern, but the next man up mentality has proven fruitful.
Beating inferior teams is what good teams do. The Cardinals aren't necessarily a bad team per se, but they aren't on the Saints' level. Towards th eend of the game, both teasms offered up the huma white flags in forms of backup quarterbacks. Teddt Bridgewater got a rousing ovation along with "Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!" chants from the home crowd. There were a few onions being cut here considering the love he was showed after what he's been through and how he led this team to a 5-0 record in Brees' absence. The Saints now get rest week before playing the woeful Falcons. Hopefully, they'll get a few guys back form injury (and P.J. Williams is eligible to return from suspension) and can continue their winning ways.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.