Finally, we have Saints football to watch as the Saints open the preseason against the defending SuperBowl champion Chiefs. Yes, it’s the pre-season but there is still plenty we can take from the action. These are the 5 things ill be keenly watching this Sunday.
How Does The First String Offense Look
Dennis Allen has already confirmed that we will see the starters on Sunday Vs the Chiefs, Jeff Duncan from Nola.com, tweeted that he’s hearing the starters will play around 15 snaps.
Jeff Duncan on Twitter: “Sounds like the plan is for the Saints’ starters to play about 15 snaps in the preseason opener vs. K.C. on Sunday, with the 2s getting roughly 25 snaps and the 3s finishing out the game.” / X
That means we get to see Derek Carr for the first time in a Saints jersey and would be nice to see an efficient and effective display (similar to Winston against the Jags last pre-season). We should also see Mike Thomas back in game action, Thomas hasn’t been his usual dominant self so far in camp, game action against CBs other than Marshon Lattimore will be a good gauge of where Thomas is at. It goes without saying the ceiling of this team is a lot higher if Thomas is on form, if not I do have concerns about the depth at WR.
Part of the starting offense should be LT Trevor Penning another player who lifts the ceiling of this team considerably. He’s had two significant foot injuries one on each foot meaning he missed a lot of his rookie season. Time on task is the order of the off-season for Penning as mental reps will only get him so far. It sounds like the Chiefs will also play their starters to begin the game, so should be a good test for Penning, especially in pass protection which so far, he requires more work on compared to his already dominant run blocking.
Along with Penning the overall play of the starting O-line is really something to monitor, the reports from camp are that the D-line has dominated, this game should give us some idea of if the D-line is just that good or the O-line is something we should be concerned about.
Finally, Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara have both had dominant training camps per reports, Olave has gained weight to be stronger in contested catch situations and Kamara has a new trainer who has reportedly brought back his infamous burst, again would be nice to see these results in a game.
The CB2 battle
Entering the off-season, I expected this battle to already be over, after Alontae Taylor’s impressive rookie season and Paulson Adebo’s sophomore slump the CB2 spot looked to be Taylor’s to lose. So far in camp, Taylor looks to have done just that, Adebo a camp star a year ago has again been excellent and Taylor has started slow, but has improved in recent practices, but overall Adebo is ahead.
Game action is important in this battle as Adebo is notoriously physical in practice which means at times he wins reps in a dominant fashion which makes him standout. Without refs present it’s hard to tell if his physicality is just enough or a bit too much. If, as the pre-season goes along Adebo is walking the line to closing leading to flags that would change the complexion of this battle in Taylor’s favour. Sunday is the start of a long road ahead to decide who CB2 opposite Marshon Lattimore will be.
The Backup Safety Battle
The top of the depth chart is set with Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye and special teams star J.T. Gray. Behind them, 5th-round rookie Jordan Howden seems to be locked in too. Howden has received first-team reps at both Safety spots when Mathieu and Maye have been absent and has also been the first-choice DIME DB throughout the summer.
That makes 4, leaving most likely 2, maybe 3 roster spots up for grabs, the amount the Saints keep will depend on A). how they plan to run their special teams this year (i.e. more LBs or more DBs) and B). if Marcus Maye ends up being suspended.
Leaving, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Jonathan Abram, Ugo Amadi and Smoke Monday to fight for those spots and all three have had bright moments in camp. All 4 should feature on special teams and all 4 bring very different skill sets. I had Johnson Jr and Amadi making the initial 53 in my most recent projection (link to that here to see my reasons https://www.thekneaux.com/a-way-too-early-saints-53-man-roster-prediction-part-2).
However, since I wrote this Monday has been on a tear. So it’s really turning into one of the most interesting and unpredictable positions groups on the team, where it’s likely only game action will be able to give us a clearer picture. With Mathieu and Maye both getting up there in age and both with only 2 years left on their deals, it doesn’t hurt to have one eye on the future here too to see if the Saints may have a succession plan for one or both already on the roster.
The New Look D-Line
The Saints drafted Bryan Bresee and Isiah Foskey with their first two picks in this year’s draft and added Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders in FA but that’s the only reason I’ve labelled the D-line as ‘new look’.
Mike Triplett wrote an article for Neworleans.football explaining that HC Dennis Allen alongside new D-line coach Todd Grantham wanted to defensive front to be more attacking and aggressive. DA has also commented that he thinks they had gone a little overboard with their weight expectations, meaning that players met with Matt Rhea the Saints Director of sports science to work out the player’s ideal playing weight with many players losing around 8 lbs.
This means the D-line should have more burst and athleticism whilst still being a bigger line than most. Of the new faces, I am most excited to see first-round pick Bryan Bresee, who by all accounts has transitioned well so far to the NFL world. He’s got an ELITE first step which I think is going to produce some wow plays this season, Sunday against possibly 3rd/4th string lineman? look out!
Finally, are Granderson and Turner for real? both have had really good camps so far, Granderson especially. Similar to my question earlier regarding the O-line is this true growth at a position the Saints really need or is this a product of poor O-line play?
LB Depth- Has Baun finally developed? (although we’ve been fooled by his preseason play before) who’s ahead? Nephi Sewell or D’Marco Jackson? as the man backup behind Demarion Davis and Pete Werner.
Jake Haener – One of ‘My Guys’ leading up to the draft has been excellent in camp so far, does that continue in-game action? this might be the most excited I’ve been to watch 3/4th stringers because of solely Haener.
Kendre Miller– I think a lot of people on the national stage are going to be talking about him once they see him play.
Who the hell is WR5/6??– I thought this might finally have been the year Tre’Quan Smith was knocked off the roster, that doesn’t appear to be the case and Smith seems locked in as the WR4 but who is going to grab the bull by the horns and take the last 1 or 2 spots? prime candidates, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Bryan Edwards and James Washington.
Is Jimmy Graham making this team?- It sounds like Graham could have a specialised role on this team (RedZone, 3rd downs etc…) but as a 36-year-old TE who didn’t play last season is not usually a recipe for success.
People kicking the ball- There is an open competition at both Kicker and Punter with both of the vets currently out in front but will game action change that? or further cement their lead?
Who’s returning kicks?- With Rashid Shaheed injured, do the Saints have anyone who could earn a roster spot as a returner?
i think ill leave my ramblings there, as you can probably tell I’m way excited about this preseason game.
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