USA Today Sports

Kristian: 5 things to watch for in Saints preseason opener

Kristian Garic
August 09, 2017 - 3:59 pm

Preseason games are hard to size up in general.  The starters figure to play about a series at best, and QB Drew Brees and RB Adrian Peterson might not play at all. So what to make of things to watch for tomorrow night against the Browns?  This preseason brings more intrigue and questions than any other I can remember in my time covering the team.  There are a ton of things that are on my mind headed into the exhibition season, and here are a handful of things to keep and eye on or watch for. 

1.  Left Tackle: With Terron Armstead sidelined for a significant portion of the season rookie Ryan Ramczyk is getting a bulk of the snaps at left tackle with the first team offense. Ramczyk has looked solid on the blind side but has missed the last two practices (undisclosed reason), so his status for this game is up in the air. Khalif Barnes has worked at left tackle with the first team unit with Ramczyk sidelined. Barnes has looked shaky at best and the depth at that position is getting dangerously thin.  I'm curious to see if Ramczyk plays and for how long.  If I'm calling plays and Drew Brees is in the game, it's simple: hand-off right on first down, hand-off left on second down and throw a quick slant on third down and then get Brees out of the game. 

2.  Linebackers: The linebacking position will be fun to watch with a bevy of players fighting for playing time. Newcomer A.J Klein is a player fans should keep a close eye on tomorrow night.  He's been a bit of a pleasant surprise during camp playing all three linebacking positions with really good range.  He's one of the leaders on that defense.  Rookie Alex Anzalone has been outstanding in camp.  Fans are going to love his range, smarts, toughness and athleticism, all of which you should get to see on Thursday night. He's explosive and is probably the Saints best pass coverage linebacker.  

3.  Brandon Coleman: He's another player who has absolutely dominated during camp. No, you're not reading a Bizzaro World blog. I said dominant!  By my notes, he's only had one poor practice in camp; and to be honest, that practice was just overall a poor day for the entire offense. Coleman looks like a player who's 6'6 and 230lbs, catching everything thrown his way.  Coleman is playing like a man that recognizes the urgency he has to operate with in his 4th training camp. "It's just time, it's just time," Coleman said last week about why he's having such a good camp. I would expect the Saints to give him a couple of targets early in this game just to confirm what they're seeing in camp.  

4.  QB Garret Grayson: He is clearly in a make-or-break camp in his third season with the Saints.  Grayson's first two seasons in the league weren't anything to write home about. In his rookie season, he toiled as the team's third quarterback on game days, clearly struggling to learn the NFL game.  In his second season, the Saints cut Grayson off the active roster,  taking a chance since other teams could claim him, before he eventually cleared waivers and landed on the practice squad.  Grayson has looked better in this camp, commanding the offense with a little more authority.  He isn't even close to competing with Chase Daniel, however, as the teams primary back up to Drew Brees.  Grayson is going to get a lot of time under center in this one.  Let's see if he's grown in this offense. Let's see if he can digest an NFL defense and make adjustments to a very tricky defense employed by the Browns under Gregg Williams. 

5.  Defensive Backs: The secondary competition is going to be really fun to watch at cornerback and safety.  CB Marshon Lattimore likely won't play with a "tweaked" knee injury as Sean Payton explained.  Second year CBs Ken Crawley and De'Vonte Harris have looked really good in camp.  Third year veteran P.J Williams appears to have the inside track on the starting corner spot opposite of Delvin Breaux.  Speaking of Breaux, he's dealing with a lower leg contusion that will likely keep him out of this game too.  Third year veteran Damian Swann is firmly on the bubble and, as I see it, needs to have a outstanding preseason to stick around. At safety, we should get our first look at second round draft pick Marcus Williams.  I've been really impressed with Williams in his time in camp.  You can see the ball skills this player has, getting pass break-ups and interceptions in camp. 

Comments ()