Preseason, game 2, happening tonight in the Superdome as the Saints host the Raiders. This will should be interesting as former LSU star Matt Flynn will lead what appears to be another sub standard Raiders team. The Saints are incredibly banged up at the moment so lots of backups will get significant reps and opportunity to showcase what they can do. For those healthy this is a great chance to make a statement for their roster chances. Here is what I'm looking for in this game:
1. Do the Saints survive without any major injuries?
I've already warned you that this will be number one for every preseason game, so you can consider this your spoiler alert for the next two games as well. The Saints are so thin right now with injuries, I expect a number of young guys to get a slew of reps and a number of others to be held out entirely. The Saints really can't afford the blow of much more at the moment.
2. Do the Saints see any positive play at linebacker?
The Saints are missing three starters (Butler, Lofton, Vilma) for this game and two key subs (Wilson, Galette). That's pretty much the entirety of their talent at the position. All but Butler have a targeted return of week 1 or sooner, but Vilma and Wilson's returns that quick are quite up in the air. So the starters for this game will probably be Baraka Atkins, Ramon Humber, David Hawthorne and Will Smith. Yes, that should make you cringe. I have zero confidence in any of those players. Expect the guys behind them to get tons of reps as well. Personally, I am excited to see Atkins, but also Rufus Johnson, Eric Martin, Chase Thomas, Ray Shipman and Kevin Reddick. With all the injuries at this position these guys have a chance to make the team if they play really well. There's also the flipside that it's possible none of these guys are any good, and it sends us all into full blown panic mode about the state of the linebackers.
3. Does Isa Abdul-Quddus even play?
What happened to IAQ? He was really good last year for the last three games of the year as a starter, except in run support. He made the team due to his above average special teams play, too. He's been on the roster two straight years, showed good playmaking ability, and seemed like one of the up and coming young defensive talents on the roster. But now he's burried on the depth chart, didn't play hardly at all against the Chiefs, and seems to be a likely cut. Unless he can play amazing in this game, I think his path continues to point towards out of a job.
4. Does anyone distance themselves at receiver?
Preston Parker, Nick Toon and Kenny Stills seem to have maybe separated themselves from the pack a little bit, but you know Steve Breaston and Andy Tanner are both firmly in the mix and will need big games to get back in the forefront of the discussion. Patrick Crayton is a weird/interesting signing and I'm slightly curious about what he'll do as well. But honestly, if one of Stills or Toon have a huge game (let's say break 70 yards) I would be happy with everyone else struggling. Moore and Colston are secure and they'll be fine all season barring injury, so I just want to see one other guy at least show major promise in this game. If Toon or Stills blow up in this game I'll feel a lot better.
5. How does the depth along the defensive line look?
The defensive line, for me, was the story of game 1. I saw terrific things from many surprise players. Can they build off that performance and continue to be the strength of this defense when we all expected it to be a weakness? The starters of Akiem Hicks, Brodrick Bunkley and Cam Jordan actually don't feel nearly as bad as I thought they might. The loss of Kenyon Coleman is a blow, but I believe Hicks will be a terrific player for the Saints and fill that void. The backups in Tom Johnson, John Jenkins and Tyrunn Walker are performing well, too. That's not even mentioning Glenn Foster and Jay Richardson who both looked fantastic last week and could cost Tom Johnson his job.
Enjoy the game. Who dat!