Will penalties be an undoing for the Saints in 2010?

In 2009, the Saints were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, racking up 89 penalties for a total of 787 yards in the regular season and 18 for 151 yards in the playoffs. That’s compared to their opponents’ combined total of 86 for 717 yards in the regular season and 13 for 99 yards in the playoffs. Those are certainly stats that we would all love to forget.

But it’s kind of difficult to do that after having watched the first three preseason games. While they had only 4 penalties against New England for a mere 29 yards, that number has slowly, but surely, inched up over the course of the last two games. There were 9 for 97 yards against the Texans and 11 for 90 yards against the Chargers.

This is certainly cause for concern, particularly when you look at the blemish all those penalties left on their otherwise glowing season in 2009. Coach Sean Payton has been very vocal in his displeasure about the problem, saying after the Chargers game on last Friday night.

“We had 11 penalties. A couple of those, things we can certainly clean up. But there’s a lot of hidden yardage there lost in the return game.”

Now granted it’s only preseason, so these stats won’t count for much more than as a measuring stick to determine where improvements are needed. However, because that is the one area that does not need to be repeated as the defending Superbowl Champs make a run at back-to-back titles, there has to be a conscious effort on the part of the coaches and players to cut down on the number of infractions at the risk of literally throwing games away.

Whether they result from a lack of discipline, miscues, or being overly aggressive, penalties are ammunition for the other team.  It’s early yet, so there is still time for the team to work on developing and implementing policies to discourage players from getting penalties, especially senseless ones.  But with the start of the regular season just a couple of weeks away, they had better get it together fast or this is going to be a very long season for a lot of people.

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