It’s been a while since I was able to write one of these. Since January 11th to be exact. And of course, immediately after revisiting that, I had to revisit the depressed postgame post riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Man, that re-opened some wounds. And that’s why I’m so excited about this game. Sure, it’s a meaningless preseason game, and I hate preseason. It only serves to potentially injure players that can have a nice impact on the Saints’ season. But it marks the beginning of a new chapter and it officially puts the sting of that Seattle loss in the rear view mirror. Not that I’ll forget that game completely, but it’ll be nice to not have that be the “last game the Saints played” anymore. Here are five things I’m looking for in the game tonight as the Saints take the field in St. Louis.
1. Bracing myself for injuries
Get used to it folks, this will be the #1 thing listed in every pregame I write up for preseason. That may be lazy and self evident, but it’s a tradition at this point. The coaches and players can worry about chemistry, the depth chart and getting acclimated to the playbook, I’m only worried as a fan about having the key players healthy come week 1. And a lot of key players are being held out of this game. I don’t see that as a bad thing. But the guys on the field still need to avoid anything catastrophic (not that it’s entirely in their control). I concede it’s a total luck of the draw type thing, but nonetheless I’ll be hoping most of all for nothing serious to happen.
2. Lelitos, Kelemetes and Marcels, oh my!
I would have expected the backup unit to be Senio Kelemete, Tim Lelito and Marcel Jones on the interior. In fact, I roughly expect that to be the interior backup unit come week 1 of the regular season. I would not have expected this unit to manhandle a group of second strings in preseason. And now they have to face starters. Hold me. This has the potential to be very ugly, especially when you consider that defensive line is probably the strongest area of the St. Louis Rams’ roster. Now I’m hopeful we’ll see some surprises, but I’m bracing myself for what could be an epic disaster. I’m just glad Drew Brees isn’t playing with Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs both sitting this one out. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the Saints can get any kind of run game going early behind those three.
3. Luke McCown vs. Ryan Griffin
That’s the battle that everyone is talking about right now. Who will back up Drew Brees? Griffin’s excellent performance in the scrimmage suggests he may have the upper hand in winning the backup job. With Brees all but assured to sit this game out, this is a big chance for both guys to showcase their skills with increased reps. Which player will show something positive?
4. Does anyone make a play on special teams?
Joe Morgan was first noticed for a punt return for a touchdown his rookie season. Those are the kind of things that win roster spots. I’m looking for anything. Who forces a fumble? Who makes an open field tackle? Who makes an incredible block that springs a good return? Who pulls the Martez Wilson special and jumps offsides on 4th and 2 with the punt return team? Who gets flagged for the inevitable preseason block in the back on a return? What happens on special teams will make and break your chances on ending up on the 53 man roster. I also remember Isa Abdul-Quddus shocking everyone to make the Saints as an undrafted rookie and it was because of his outstanding play in the kicking game. We pretty much all know about 46 of the guys that will be on this team, give or take. The rest of the spots are reserved for the guys that can stand out on special teams. This is the first opportunity for the bubble guys to truly state their case.
5. Gregg Williams
At first I rolled my eyes at all the silly reunion storylines being pumped out. But I’m getting more and more curious about how this plays out. This is Williams’s first game back on the sidelines, and I’m sure he’ll remember why he’s been away for so long and be on his best behavior. Is it really crazy to think that he’ll be tempted to do something at least slightly uncalled for, though? Further, I’m just interested to see how he interacts with Joe Vitt and/or Sean Payton. I’m banking on no eye contact. I am hopeful he’ll pull one of his old crotch chop specials on the sidelines. The stakes are probably too low, but he’s been locked up in a cage for a while…