There was anticipation that rookie quarterback Jake Haener would see a large amount of action in preseason finale for the New Orleans Saints. That’s something that came to fruition as Haener entered the game at the top of the second quarter after Jameis Winston went 11-of-16 for 93 yards and one touchdown.
Haener went three-and-out on his first drive with a pass that sailed just a bit high of former Wake Forest wide receiver A.T. Perry on third down. On the next drive, Haener had a nice pass to Lucas Krull for nine yards, but Haener was tackled short of the sticks on a rookie error on 4th &1 where the Saints went for it,.
In the final offensive drive before halftime, Haener missed a throw that appeared to be more of an issue with the way the route was run in a way that didn’t appear to be his fault. He was 5-of-12 for 33 yards at the half, a stat line that wasn’t entirely indicative of his performance, having thrown several accurate passes that the receivers could not come down with,
Haener showed some positives as a passer despite the occasional rookie error through the first three and a half quarters of the game, continuing to look more decisive. But what he was also able to show was his ability to use his legs — we’ve seen Haener make plays out of structure and have success on rollouts, but he turned on the jets himself for a 26-yard run nearly halfway through the third quarter in a drive that ended in a field goal.
He was 5-for-6 passing on that first drive of the second half, with the Saints struggling with some missed offensive opportunities between receiver drops and some balls that could have been placed a bit better into some extremely tight windows.
Throughout the contest, Haener showed plenty of toughness and grit in the pocket as he took multiple hits behind a reserve offensive line that was riddled with issues for the better part of the contest and gave him very little time to throw as the Texans brought the rush.
Haener seemed to feel the heat more in his final two drives of the game in his attempt to lead a game-winner that instead ended in a pair of interceptions.
Both drives showed promise with Haener establishing seemingly unstoppable chemistry with Krull but an ill-advised decision caused the first one to end in an interception by Arnold on a 50/50 ball that Haener threw up to give Krull a shot at the touchdown, while the other was picked up by former Mississippi State standout Cam Dantzler.
While this contest didn’t end the way Haener wanted it to, there’s no doubt that he showed several bright spots throughout this game and the preseason as a whole as a player who still has the ceiling to be a high-end backup and potential starter as he continues to develop within a steep transition from the Mountain West Conference to the NFL.