The New Orleans Saints will kick off their preseason schedule against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs, despite their 2-14 record, defeated the Saints last season in one of the worst defensive performances put on by the black and gold. Even though it is just preseason, the defense will play with a chip on their shoulder as they try to slowly fight the demons of last season. Besides staying healthy, here are some things to watch for in the Saints’ first preseason game.
1) Rush Defense
The Chiefs offense features one of the NFL’s premier running backs in Jamaal Charles. I realize that he will be getting limited snaps, and won’t tout the rock too much, but this defense needs some moral victories. The defense proved last year that opponents don’t need many carries to pile up the production on the ground; Charles averaged an embarrassing 7.1 yards a carries on his way to 233 yards in the regular season contest last season. Having said that, it will be interesting to see how Rob Ryan’s defense rises to the challenge of limiting Charles and Chiefs’ rushing attack.
2) Wide Receiver Battle
The injury to Joe Morgan for the season has made the wide receiver battle the most intriguing position battles going into the preseason. In addition, Marques Colston’s foot ailment will, in all likelihood, keep him out of the contest, giving some of the younger guys an opportunity against the Kansas City first team defense which features very formidable competition in the secondary. It is still unclear who will get the nod between Nick Toon and Kenny Stills, but both will have ample opportunity to prove their worth.
3) Junior Galette
Galette has drawn some very high praises from coaches, players, and media alike this offseason. And he will be in a little unfamiliar place running with the first team opposite presumably Will Smith at the outside linebacker spot. Ryan expects Galette to be a force on this defense and will be expecting him to prove it starting tonight. He will see some action against one of the up and coming tackles in the league in Brandon Albert. His time will be limited tonight, but I will be itching to see what type of player Galette is going to be this season.
4) Return of Chase Daniel
Though this doesn’t have to do with the Saints explicitly, tonight’s preseason game will see the return of long time Saint’s back up and Drew Brees understudy Chase Daniel. Daniel was signed by the Chiefs this offseason and is competing with Alex Smith and others for position on the quarterback depth chart. Daniel will get some significant time against the second team defense with Smith presumably taking all the first team snaps. Nonetheless, it will fun to see Daniel go against a defense that features players that were just his teammates last season.
5) The Nobodies
This is the preseason, so there will be plenty of unknowns from the second quarter onwards. To aid in your watching, there are four names I believe Saints fans should watch out for. On the defensive end, the injuries to Victor Butler and Martez Wilson have opened the door for some of the other linebackers. Keep a keen eye on undrafted free agents Chase Thomas out of Stanford and Eric Martin out of Nebraska. Both were very intergral players to their stout defenses in college and both have showed flashes of brilliance in camp. In addition, look at seventh rounder Rufus Johnson, a physically imposing specimen who has a chance to show his worth rushing the passer. On offense, with the coaching staff looking for answers at wide receiver, I look for Andy Tanner to make some plays. On the practice squad last season, Tanner isn’t going to impress anyone with his measureable, but he has very fundamentally sound hands and route running ability and could make the receiver battle even more competitive.