Aug 21, 2009

Preseason: Saints at Texans

Tomorrow, the Saints will play their second preseason game against the Houston Texans. There have been a number of changes since last week's game, so here are a few things to look for:
  1. Left tackle situation: Starting tackle Jammal Brown is out with a sports hernia injury and his backup, Zach Strief, is also battling injuries so third stringer Jermon Bushrod will get the start at left tackle. Bushrod is a promising young player and is worth checking out, especially with him protecting Drew Brees' blindside.
  2. The kicking battle: Last week, Garrett Hartley was the only kicker on the Saints roster, but my how things have changed. Word came out that Hartley is going to be suspended for the first four games of the season, and the Saints promptly signed veteran John Carney. Now the big question is, "Will there be a job for Hartley when he returns?" Fans will be watching Carney, who many felt the team never should have let go a couple of years ago. Carney made the Pro Bowl last year as an injury replacement for the Giants and never gave the kicking job back. Will history repeat itself in New Orleans?
  3. Running Back: Mike Bell is set to get extensive playing time and with a good performance, he can lock down the third running back position. He's been impressive in camp and if he can show some ball security, the job should be his. Last week, none of the runners were overly impressive, and Lynell Hamilton had some issues holding onto the ball. Reggie Bush doesn't look to be playing with his calf injury, so some of the other young backs should get a long look as well.
  4. Defense, Defense, Defense: The defense showed improvements against the Bengals, but they still gave up big plays, didn't put much pressure on the QB and gave up a couple of nice runs. This week, the Saints will go up against the league's #3 offense from a year ago, and it will be another test. Gone is Jason David from the secondary, so fans won't have him to blame if big plays are given up. Malcolm Jenkins looks to have moved into the nickel cornerback spot and should get more playing time this weekend. The d-line and linebackers also need to show that they can stop the run up front. Sure producing those turnovers was nice, but when Darren Sharper cause the fumble last week, Cedric Benson has already gained about eight yards.
  5. Joey Harrington: Fans have heard about Harrington's improvement in his second year in Sean Payton's system, but at practice, he's mostly throwing to the 3rd-4th teamers, basically a number of guys who won't make it in this league. This weekend, he has a chance to show what he can do as Drew Brees' backup. He'll come in with the second team and play into the 4th quarter. This is his chance to show that there's really a battle for the #2 QB job on the team.
A few other things to look for include the battle for the return job/5th WR position, where Skyler Green and Courtney Roby are competing for both spots; the depth at linebacker, where guys like Jonathan Casillas and Anthony Waters can make the team forget about calling Derrick Brooks back; the punting battle; Usama Young's transition to safety and former d-lineman Jeremy Parnell's transition to tight end; and the continued career turnaround for Robert Meachem.

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