Kristian: Can the Saints hold off the penalties tonight?
Penalties: The Saints have been flagged for 32 penalties this preseason and Sean Payton and the players have said they have to get rid of the problem before the regular season. I know the NFL has placed a bigger emphasis on throwing the flag this preseason, and I’m sure it will fall off around the league once the regular season begins, but still, 32 in two games? The Saints aren’t the Oakland Raiders. Rest assured, Payton made his point clear to his team this week, and the penalties should be fixed.
Byrd watching: Saints safety Jarius Byrd was cleared for full contact drills this week, after starting training camp on the PUP list. Payton said Byrd will play against the Colts, but will probably be on a pitch count. The starters are likely to see the most extensive playing time of the exhibition season, but Byrd might be handled a little differently, along with cornerback Champ Bailey. Byrd has looked tremendous in practice this week, making plays on the football and just seeming to make up for a lot of mistakes in the secondary with great angles and exceptional ball skills.
Back to Brees: It’s hard to believe Drew Brees hasn’t played yet. An oblique strain held the Saints quarterback out of the first two preseason games, but he’s back and ready to go for the Colts. The Saints took a very calculated and cautious rehab approach with Brees and he looks nearly 100% judging by his arm strength and accuracy during practice. The Saints offense operated pretty well in the first two games against St. Louis and Tennessee, but Brees brings another tempo and pace to the offense. See if you can notice the urgency of the offense when #9 is back under center.
Champing at the bit: Saints fans have been waiting anxiously to see cornerback Champ Bailey make his Saints debut, and that will happen this week against Indy. Much like Brees and Byrd, Bailey likely won’t play as long as the other frontline guys. When Bailey has been at Saints practice, he’s looked very quick and moved well. Payton said at the start of camp “We don’t have to see the (future Hall-of-Fame skill) every play, we just have to see it once and a while.” Bailey was hampered by a foot injury that held him out of 12 games last season with Denver, and clearly isn’t the Champ Bailey of 5 years ago but still a player that can help this team win.
Offensive Line intact: For the first time this preseason the Saints will have their entire offensive line back in the line up at one time. Guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have missed some time with various injuries. Sieno Kalemete and Marcel Jones replaced Evans and Grubbs in the first two games and did well creating running lanes for the backs and protecting the passer yielding just 1 sack in 82 passing attempts. You can expect the O-Line play to remain strong with two Pro Bowlers Evans and Grubbs back in there.
Griffin vs McCown: The backup QB job is far from settled, but I’m very interested in seeing who relieves Drew Brees when his work is done against Indy. Will it be Griffin or McCown? I think Griffin has a slight edge in the competition, and the Saints are going to want to see him with some of the starters after Brees calls it a night. McCown has played well in the preseason, and is that veteran journeyman who knows the offense, but Griffin has more upside. Traditionally the Saints have carried only 2 quarterbacks on the roster, creating some spots for other players that can help in special teams or depth on defense.