Johnson returns to lineup

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 12, 2000

LAPLACE – The New Orleans Saints will get to see some old faces when they take on the Indianapolis Colts tonight in their third preseason game.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Ross-Ade Stadium on the campus ofPurdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. The game is being televised byWWL-TV.

One of those old faces is defensive end Joe Johnson. Johnson returns to theSaints lineup after missing the entire 1999 season and the first two preseason games this year with a ruptured right patella tendon. He has alsoundergone back surgery and arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Another old face is Indianapolis coach Jim Mora. Mora coached the Saintsfrom 1986 into the 1996 season. First-year Saints head coach Jim Haslettserved as defensive coordinator under Mora during part of that time.

Another face familiar to Saints fans is Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, a New Orleans native and graduate of Newman High School.

The Saints are coming off their first victory of the preseason, 25-24, at Minnesota, evening their record at 1-1. Billy Joe Tolliver drove the Saints inthe final minutes to the winning score, a 49-yard field goal by Doug Brien as time expired.

The Vikings’ first-team offense dominated, however, gaining over 200 yards against the Saints’ first-team defense in the first half. The Vikings finishedwith 371 total yards. Minnesota quarterbacks combined to complete 21-of-35 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota was held to 109 yardson 31 carries (3.5 average) on the ground. The Saints forced four turnovers,giving them seven in two games. The special teams also blocked a punt. On offense, New Orleans gained 278 total yards. Starter Jeff Blakestruggled, completing just 5-of-15 passes for 74 yards and an interception.

He did find Jake Reed for a 12-yard touchdown reception. Ricky Williams washeld to 20 yards on eight carries.

The Saints still cannot shake the injury bug. Linebacker Charlie Clemons wentdown in pregame with a lower calf strain and tendinitis in his Achilles tendon.

He is expected to miss up to four weeks.

Indianapolis comes into the game with an 0-2 record in the preseason after losing to Seattle, 28-16, last Saturday. Manning saw limited action,completing 1-of-3 passes for 20 yards. Colts’ starters Edgerrin James andMarvin Harrison did not play.

Indianapolis went 13-3 in 1999 in Mora’s second year as head coach and won the AFC East title. The Colts lost to Tennessee in the AFC Divisional playoffs.Manning went to the Pro Bowl after passing for 4,135 yards and 26 touchdowns. James burst onto the scene with a league-high 1,553 yards andhad 13 touchdowns. Harrison led the NFL with 1,663 yards and was second inreceptions with 115.

The defense was average last season, ranking 15th overall. Chad Bratzkeand Ellis Johnson are the two best defensive linemen. The secondary isexperienced but lacks big-play potential.

The Saints have an open week next week before closing out the preseason at home Friday, Aug. 25, against Miami.

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