The Saints and the Cardinals open the NFL Exhibition Schedule Sunday night in the 2012 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Both teams are the only teams in the NFL that will play five preseason games this year.
So is this like a scrimmage game? Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt’s answer: “I don’t want to say that. I want to say that it’s on the same schedule as our scrimmage would be. This is a little different now because it’s a nationally televised game and it’s against another team, but thus far the install and the prep would have been the same as the Black and Gold scrimmage as far as those installs go. Are we treating it like a scrimmage? Absolutely not, but it’s the same install, it’s the same time to report for training camp that we did before. We didn’t bring in any of our guys earlier. It’s a long season.”
When you’re playing the first game of the season and it’s an exhibition game, there is not really much to hit on. But with that said, we can look at each of these teams and point out some things that both the Saints and Cardinals will have to work on to get better at this season.
From the Cardinals’ standpoint, there is a lot of room for improvement. The Cards finished five games behind NFC West winner San Francisco last season. With that said, Cardinals fans should be excited about this season due to the way the Cardinals finished the 2011 regular season.
After a slow 1-6 start the Cardinals went 7-2 down the stretch to wrap up the year with an 8-8 overall record. Some experts feel that the Cardinals are the only serious threat to the 49ers in the NFC West.
Arizona is hoping that their trade for QB Kevin Kolb works out. The Cards had the 17th-ranked passing attack in 2011 and the 19th overall offense last season as well. The Cardinals are always considered a threat to pass the ball with success due to the play of one of the best pass catchers in the game today, WR Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald had 80 grabs for 1,411-yards last season with eight TDs, despite not having his starting QB at the helm a year ago. The Cardinals’ current depth chart shows Ryan Williams as the team’s top RB along will L. Stephens-Howling. RB Beanie Wells is currently on the PUP.
The Cardinals Defense allowed 21.75 points per game last season. But one thing that Arizona must improve on is turnover ratio. Last season the Cardinals finished as one of the worst teams in the NFL with a dismal minus -13 in the turnover ratio.
Linebacker Daryl Washington led the Cardinals with 111 tackles including 16 tackles for a loss. Washington also had five sacks and two interceptions last season and he broke up seven passes. Fellow LB Paris Lenon also hit the century mark in stops as he recorded 103 total tackles last season for the Red Birds.
Now on to the Saints side of things. The biggest thing to look for is the Saints’ new defensive scheme. Coach Steve Spagnuolo will look to see how much his players have adapted to his style of play.
Saints Coach Joe Vitt was asked what he’s looking for as the Saints take on Arizona. “Number one, the evaluation process is going to be this, we have to know what a player’s physicality is. Physicality is going to fill what we are looking for. Number two, can he finish? Can he finish every play? Can he finish every series? Can he finish every down, quarter, and half? Then this, does the player know what to do? Does he know how to do it? Does he know what to do? Does he know how to get them? Those things are the things that we are looking at,” said Coach Vitt.
With the absence of CBs Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, keeping an eye on the other players at CB will interesting in the Saints’ battle with the Cards. Also, look to see which player or players can get a pass rush on the Cardinals QB’s.
Over on the Saints Offense I’d keep an eye on the battle at WR as without the services of Nick Toon, players like Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan and Andy Tanner should get more looks in this first game.
And with plenty of depth at RB it will be interesting to see which RB gets the bulk of the carries. And of course Saints fans will want to keep an eye on the kicker battle between John Kasey and Garrett Hartley.
I don’t expect to see the starting players play that much, but with the absence of some key players and depth at RB and WR, these types of games are like Super Bowls for players that are trying to make the roster. When it comes to making cuts, the players who play the best in the games will be the ones the Saints keep on their roster.
New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals
2012 NFL Hall of Fame Game
Sunday August 5th 2012 7PM Fawcett Stadium Canton, Ohio
2011 Records: New Orleans 13-3 / Arizona 8-8
Coaches: New Orleans Joe Vitt / Arizona Ken Whisenhunt
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