Aug 14, 2009

Preseason: Bengals at Saints

The Saints kick off their preseason schedule tonight against the Cincinnati Bengals. While the Bengals provide a good early test for the Saints, everyone knows preseason isn't really about winning or losing. The coaches want to see their players going up against another team and see how they react to the many situations they've been practicing all summer and in OTAs.

Here's a look at a few things to watch for on offense, defense and special teams:

  1. The league's #1 offense returns most of the pieces from last year, but the main spot fans will watch is running back. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are the Saints 1a and 1b starters, but who's going to pick up the slack as the top backups. Mike Bell has impressed in camp and could be the short yardage/3rd back in the rotation. Lynell Hamilton, P.J. Hill, and Herb Donaldson all have had their moments in camp. Let's see how they perform under the lights.
  2. The buzz around camp is that one of, if not the top performers this summer has been Robert Meachem. Meachem, the former 1st round pick, is fully healthy and has a grasp of the offense. He's been filling in for Lance Moore, who is still limited from his shoulder injury, and has taken advantage of the reps. Don't be surprised if Meachem is the #3 receiver, beating out the inconsistent Devery Henderson.
  3. A fully healthy Jeremy Shockey and the battle for the #2 QB job will also be interesting to watch. How much Shockey and the first team actually plays will be interesting, but the battle for the #2 job will last the entire game and preseason. Can Joey Harrington beat out the veteran Mark Brunell? Fans will be watching closely.
  1. The defense will be on most fans' minds tonight. They'll want to see the new scheme that Gregg Williams has installed. Will the players play as aggressively as they've been saying? Will they be able to force turnovers? Can they stop the run? Is the leaky secondary fixed? These questions will also be monitored closely when the defense is on the field.
  2. Speaking of the secondary, is the Saints Achilles' heel finally repaired? There is major depth and competition for once, and it seems this competition has brought the best out of everyone, even Jason David who is also having a good camp. It's unclear if rookie Malcolm Jenkins will play tonight after only being in camp for less than a week, but with or without the rookie on the field, the secondary will be studied by Saints fans.
  3. The last thing I'm going to watch for tonight on defense is the depth at linebacker. When Mark Simineau went down with an injury, the Saints brought in veterans Derrick Brooks and Derek Smith for workouts. Neither received a contract, but the rumor is that the Saints will contact Brooks after tonight's game, so it will be interesting to see if any of the young linebackers show enough for them to not make that phone call. The depth at DE is also worth taking a look at since Will Smith and Charles Grant will likely be out the first four games with their suspensions.
Special Teams:
  1. In the 2009 draft, the Saints surprised many by trading into the 5th round to take a punter. Tonight, Thomas Morstead gets to show fans why the team targeted him. The early word is that he looks better than last year's starter Glenn Pakulak.
  2. Many fans were taken aback when the team cut deep snapper Kevin Houser and replaced him with veteran Jason Kyle. The coaches say it was a performance decision and not based on the movie tax credit issue that Houser and several teammates were involved. Kyle better live up to the billing because Houser didn't have a bad snap in his Saints career.
  3. Another battle to watch is the kick and punt return jobs with Reggie Bush, Courtney Roby, Skyler Green and others battling for the job. But one job that has no competition is kicker. Garrett Hartley performed so well last year and in the offseason that the team didn't even bring in a kicker to compete with him. With no one pushing him, will he still be the perfect kicker (he didnt' miss a FG or PAT) the Saints picked up last year?

No comments: