Unanswered Questions Remain For New Orleans
By Greg Barber
The first week of the preseason for the New Orleans Saints is in the books and so far we have learned that head coach Sean Payton is rusty at calling offensive plays and Will Smith can't play the linebacker position at a high level.
Other than those two observations, questions still need to be answered still remain. The beauty of this is that the Saints still have three more games to see how everything plays out.
There were some players who stood out in Week 1 and others who did not, but this does not mean they were not doing their jobs.
The Saints second game against the Raiders will help settle some positional battles for New Orleans and help decide who will ultimately make the team. The left tackle position has already been settled with Charles Brown becoming the new starter.
Even with the offensive line being completed, that is only one of many battles that need to be answered before Week 1 of the regular season as five other vital areas of the offense and defense need to be decided on for the final roster.
Inside and outside linebacker positions are a complete jumble so far, with 14 players fighting for eight positions. Curtis Lofton and Junior Gallette are assumed to have made the team, but the other six openings are still undecided.
The same goes for the secondary, which has several positions open and the only players that seems to be a lock on the team are Keenan Lewis, Kenny Vaccaro and possibly Jabari Greer.
With the signing of WR Patrick Crayton, the receiving battle continues to get tougher and there is a remote chance of making the team after coming off such a long layoff but anything is possible. The number three wide receiver position is still up in the air, but most accounts have Kenny Stills earning that spot when all is said and done.
Also, the backup quarterback position is still wide open. Last week, we got to see the former “Dirty Bird” - now the “Dirty Backup” - Luke McCown play, which was a mixed bag. This week, we should see if Seneca Wallace can prove he is the right choice to back up Drew Brees. If Wallace is as up-and-down as McCown was, the Saints should really consider Ryan Griffin over the other two.
The number of open roster spots is not the only reason this game will be so exciting, but the fact that the first team offense or defense did not play well last week is a big concern as well.
Against the Raiders, will the offense come out a lot sharper in both the passing and running game? Last week, backup running backs Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson looked much better running the ball than Mark Ingram did.
Ingram does not have to be in midseason form against the Raiders, but he needs a better showing than what happened last week. Very seldom is there much of a worry about whether or not Brees will play well, but in this game it will be good to see just a few plays out of him and the offense to show they are ready.
The first-team defense needs to show huge improvement from its play last week. It is understandable they were playing a vanilla defense, but it still should not have been that easy to drive 80 yards on them. With so many positions open, everyone should play their best game with bodies flying all over the field. For some, it will be their last game, especially if they do not play well against Oakland.
There are so many players of interest to watch in this game, so it will be exciting to watch who will emerge and prove they belong and who will shrink under the spotlight.