The good news is that this game marks the end of preseason play. The bad news is that with starters play being extremely limited or not at all, watching this game is going to be worse than a trip to the dentist.
Teams need to trim their roster from 75 to 53 by 5pm central on Saturday, so there are plenty guys fighting for their Fleur-di-lis. Here are 3 Saints I’ll be watching:
Wide Receiver Andy Tanner
The Who Dat Nation is really rooting for this guy and for good reason. He seems to catch every ball thrown his way, but will that be enough considering he doesn’t have impressive speed or a size advantage? It’s really hard to say considering the amount of talent the team has at WR but last game against the Texans tells you a lot about the type of player Tanner is. How often to you see a guy catch a touchdown and then on the ensuing kickoff be the person who makes the tackle on the return man?
I’ve gone back and forth on whether Tanner makes the 53 man roster and am anxious to see what he does in this final preseason tilt against the Fins. I know I’m rooting for the guy that plays with heart and goes 100% every snap.
Cornerback Chris Carr
Carr is one of the few “Rob Ryan guys” that were brought to New Orleans that is actually still healthy! The 8 year vet also contributes on special teams and has been praised by coaches for his intelligence.
Jabari Greer, Keenean Lewis and Patrick Robinson are entrenched at the CB position while Carr, Corey White, Korey Lindsey and Rod Sweeting are also fighting for a roster spot. I feel like White & Carr make the cut.
Outside Linebacker Rufus Johnson
Rufus will make the team; I just want to see more of the outside linebacker since the Black and Gold are paper thin at the position. He managed to get 10 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last year as a senior at Tarleton State and has a ton of confidence.
Johnson is the largest linebacker on the team standing 6 feet 5 and 272 pounds and can get after the quarterback. His playing time seemed destined to just special teams this season, but because of injuries might be called upon to contribute more.
Ok, so the Saints defense beat up on maybe the worst team in the NFL last week. Sure it was nice to see the Black and Gold getting after the quarterback and creating turnovers, but can they bring the “SACK ATTACK” to H-Town? If they can, it will be a sign of great things to come this season since the Texans have one of the best offensive lines in the league.
With starters playing well into the 3rd quarter this game, he’s who I’ll be keying in on:
Left Tackle Charles Brown
Charlie Brown has been no clown through training camp and the first 2 preseason games BUT the Texans defensive front is scary. Houston’s D was top 5 in the NFL in sacks last year and is led by the relentless J.J. Watt.
Seeing how Brown holds up under this stress test will be a good indicator if he’s truly ready to protect Brees’ blindside.
Defensive End Glenn Foster
Foster has comes out the gates with sacks in back-to-back games and leads the ballclub with 3 total. He’s highly explosive and has a ton of confidence in his abilities. Can he make it 3 straight games with a sack?
Linebacker Ramon Humber
Coach Sean Payton said of Humber’s last game, “I thought he looked great. He played well, he played exceptionally well. I thought it was probably one of his better games that I’ve seen at linebacker.”
Humber had 9 tackles with a sack against Oakland and could very well see al lot more playing time at inside linebacker with Jonathan Vilma’s status uncertain following a knee scope.
Running Back Khiry Robinson
He was on my last week and I keep on looking forward to seeing more and more of this kid. K-Rob runs with authority and feasted on Chiefs and Raiders defenders to a tune of 4.6 yards per carry. Now, I’m not getting too worked up because it was against both team’s 3rd team defenses, but Robinson defiantly has that “it” factor.
Travaris Cadet better hold onto the rock or Robinson may just pass him on the depth chart…if he hasn’t already.
Wide Receiver Nick Toon
Mark Ingram only waltzed into the end zone last week after Toon was brought down at the 1 yard line after a 56 yard reception. It was his only catch of the game and I anticipate that we’ll see him get more involved in the offense this week like the Saints 1st contest versus K.C.
Toon is looking good after missing his entire rookie year last season with a foot injury. You can see he is definitely getting more and more comfortable in the offense and is an attractive target standing 6-3.
Ok, so last week’s opening touchdown drive by the Chiefs was the absolute LAST thing Saints fans wanted to see from the defense to start the 2013 season. It was frightening déjà vu of last year’s squad that surrendered 6 yards here, 12 yards there, another 9 yards after that, bing-bang-boom…TOUCHDOWN.
Sure once K.C.’s 2nd teamers came in the D looked better, but the Saints defense won’t be facing 2nd stringers once the preseason ends. It’s not panic button time yet… BUT if the putrid Raiders 1st team offense manages to shred the Fleur Dis Lis D, my newsroom might start getting calls of Who Dats ready to jump off the newly refurbished Huey P.
So 1st team defense is the obvious thing I’ll be looking for in tonight’s contest; here are 3 players to be watching:
Quarterback Seneca Wallace
The battle to be Brees’ back-up really heats up this week as Seneca Wallace returned to practice after missing time with a groin injury and should get the majority of snaps vs. Oakland. I know a lot of folks feel Luke McCown did a good job last week tossing 2 TDs with 1 INT and 216 yards passing, but what I saw was a number of underthrown balls that were fortunate to be caught. Big props to the wide receivers!
I am anxious to see what Wallace is capable of in Coach Sean Payton’s offense; plus I love the fact that he brings the dual threat of being a mobile QB. Having him around for the defense to go up against in practice during the season would help a lot in getting ready for the likes of Cam Newton, Josh Freeman, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.
Inside Linebacker David Hawthorne
With Jonathan Vilma on the shelf for at least the remainder of the preseason, it’s Hawthorne’s time to shine as a 1st stringer. Honestly, even if Vilma was healthy, Hawthorne has looked better in training camp and would likely be the starter alongside Curtis Lofton anyway.
Hawthorne missed time last season with a hamstring injury in his first year in New Orleans, managing just 38 tackles in 11 games. Hopefully we will see a return of the player he was when he was in Seattle. In his final 2 seasons in a Seahawks uniform he totaled 221 tackles with 2 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 10 pass deflections. At 28 years old, Hawthorne still has plenty left in the tank.
Running Back Khiry Robinson
K-Rob is the latest undrafted free agent running back gem the Saints have unearthed. The23 year old from West Texas A&M is a hard runner and has even shown the ability to block in pass protection.
Robinson chewed up the clock in the Saints win over the Chiefs, leading the team with 52 yards on 12 carries. Chris Ivory was a fan favorite before getting traded, but the new #29 may prove to be an even better find.
The only thing really exciting to me about preseason game numero uno is that is means we are just one game closer to the real thing. That being said, it is a great time to evaluate talent more than it is to enjoy the game. Here are 3 Saints I am anxious to see in action tonight:
Safety Kenny Vaccaro:
You've probably heard the buzz out of training camp that this kid has been "aggressive" during practice and has gotten under the skin of some players on the offense. Well, that's exactly what this team needs as the defenses' pulse last year was a flatline. The only thing to be concerned about is, whether Vaccaro can keep his emotions in check enough not to draw a yellow flag.
The first play of the Saints scrimmage last weekend was a run with Mark Ingram. After a good 6-7 yard gain, the refs blew the whistle because Ingram's progress was stopped by 3 defenders. "The Tazmanian Devil," Kenny Vaccaro kept on trying to go through Ingram, and I am sure with the NFL's stress on player safety would have been penalized there.
Again, I love the attitude and look forward to seeing what Vaccaro does against guys not wearing black & gold.
Left Tackle Terron Armstead:
Charles Brown will be the starting LT for the team and has played well since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2010. The problem is that he can't stay on the field. Injuries have plagued Brown, and this is the position I have been watching the most. If you can't protect Drew Brees' blind side, having a stout defense is going to mean nadda.
Because of Brown's medical history and my lack of confidence in guys who come out of USC (zing), I am sure that at some point this season Terron Armstead will take over as the starter.
While Armstead has looked ok in training camp, having a rookie protecting your franchise QB is a bit nerve racking.
Yeah, I know I kinda cheated here by not naming one guy, but I'm not even sure anymore who exactly we will see on the field. Victor Butler was likely lost for the season with a torn ACL, Martez Wilson is out with a dislocated elbow, and Junior Galette as well as Eric Martin have undisclosed injuries.
I also don't expect Will Smith to get a lot of playing time, even though the 32 year old is switching to outside linebacker from defensive end.
So, that leaves Rufus Johnson and Chase Thomas. This position was a big concern for me to start training camp and is now even greater that the options are dwindling.
The wait is over! The New Orleans Pelicans unveiled the team's new uniforms today.
"This is second to none and we can all be very proud of our team as they work hard to become champions," said team owner Tom Benson. "We're going to have two champions, the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. You can't beat that."
The players are enjoying the new look as well.
"It hit home when you finally get to see it and put it on, and I took a deep breath," said Forward Jason Smith. "I knew that they would do a great job with the jerseys, but once you finally put it on, it really justifies it."
Forward Anthony Davis said, "We've got new colors, new name and a new logo. I'm excited to play in these during a game."
Forward Ryan Anderson added, "I love them. I love the colors. I love the logo. That's what kind of caught me off guard was the Pelicans and this new wave. Everybody was really surprised about the Pelicans name. Ever since this logo came out, everybody loves it. I love it. I think it's awesome to have on the jersey. It's just great. I love how it represents the city. It's a great jersey."
Dark blue and gold serve as the team's main colors, with red accents on both the home and road uniforms.
When at home the team will wear their white jerseys and the dark blues are for the road.
The lettering is inspired from French Quarter street signs, and both uniforms feature "New Orleans" across the players' chests.