Forget the Ravens. They don’t matter. The coaching staff isn’t worried about them, and neither should you.
They’re basically skeet, props that exist only for the Saints to measure themselves against. Winning this game doesn’t matter. It’s the preseason.
New Orleans won’t be looking to find out if they can win this game. They’ll be testing out their personnel, figuring out what guys can and can’t do, and what aspects of their roster or scheme need tweaking.
The defense will be looking to find out if the secondary is for real, if the pass rush is any good, and what players can help shore up the depth on the defensive line. On a more fundamental level, they’ll also be looking to make successful substitutions, which was an issue last season and again during last week’s Black and Gold scrimmage. Fundamentals matter.
On offense, the Saints need to figure out which receivers will fill out the depth chart, if the interior offensive line is any better, and which backup quarterback deserves to hold that title during the regular season.
There’s also some curiosity about first-round pick Andrus Peat. He’s logged snaps at both guard and tackle and has had an up-and-down camp. He needs to prove he can play somewhere so New Orleans doesn’t need to carry an additional offensive lineman.
This is the first step toward something. After the way last season ended, there are no sure things. This is a team built on questions.
Can linebacker Dannell Ellerbe cover? Is Stephone Anthony ready to serve as the middle linebacker?
Can Josh Hill and Ben Watson serve as the tight ends?
Is Jahri Evans ready to be a quality guard again?
These are the things to keep an eye on. Don’t watch the scoreboard. Watch the Saints.
All of the answers will be revealed over the next four weeks. And the way they are answered will determine if this team returns to glory or descends deeper into despair.
THREE AND OUT
1 The spiller protocol
There was one day during camp when the Saints spent some time installing a package of plays that saw running back C.J. Spiller move about the field and do a variety of things. We haven’t seen much of him since as he’s battled a minor injury. It would be a surprise if he plays.
2 Rookie watch
Training camp exists for hype. People fall in love with unheralded players, tell tales of their feats and end up inflating them in the process. We’re guilty too. We’ll start to find out if guys like wide receiver Willie Snead, defensive tackle Ashaad Mabry, and defensive end Bobby Richardson are for real.
3 Breaux show
If Delvin Breaux is as good as we think he is, his acquisition out of the CFL will be one of the biggest pick-ups of the offseason. On a personal level, this is the first step for Breaux achieving an impossible dream. Who thought he’d make it here after suffering a spinal injury?
FOUR POSITION BATTLES TO WATCH
Here we are again. The backup quarterback battle between Luke McCown was a major theme during last year’s preseason, and it’s back again. McCown won that battle, forcing Ryan Griffin to the practice squad. Heading into the preseason, the early edge goes to McCown, but Griffin has looked good to start camp and is nipping at his heels. With Garrett Grayson now in the fold, Griffin is going to have to win this outright.
Nick Toon entered camp as a favorite for the No. 3 job, but he’s been inconsistent, opening the door for others to move in. Joe Morgan, Seantavius Jones, and even Willie Snead and R.J. Harris are all in the hunt. Toon could end up on the outside looking in if a few of those guys step up.
The Saints always find a few undrafted guys who make a run at the roster. This year’s darkhorse is defensive tackle Ashaad Mabry, who is giving Lawrence Virgil everything he can handle. Virgil has the potential, but he’s been inconsistent during camp. Mabry hasn’t faced those issues.
David Hawthorne entered camp as the starting middle linebacker. He has since been replaced by Stephone Anthony and is now competing with the rookie in the middle and Dannell Ellerbe on the weakside. Someone needs to slip to open the door.
THE ADVOCATE SAYS:
My predictions? We don’t see much of Drew Brees, C.J. Spiller or Marques Colston in this one. I think Delvin Breaux will begin to show people he’s legit. Undrafted rookie defensive end Bobby Richardson will impress WhoDat Nation, and wide receiver Willie Snead will do the same. I also think Garrett Grayson will make some rookie mistakes, but his potential will flash. Prediction: Saints 16, Ravens 14
Joel A. Erickson:
Always expect the preseason opener to be a little less than perfect. Neither team is game-planning; neither team has any live action under their belt so far. With that in mind, I’m expecting a few mishaps on both sides, but I say the Saints’ quarterbacks complete enough check-downs and take care of the ball well enough to get a good look at the pair of kickers competing for an all-important role. Prediction: Saints 19, Ravens 13
When last the Saints and Ravens met, it was amid the midseason urgency of division races. This is not that. This is the preseason opener, with vanilla the only flavor on the menu. Remember how promising the Saints looked last preseason, before what was supposed to be a season to remember? Maybe a meaningless loss will get the Saints’ karma flowing in a division-winning direction. Prediction: Ravens 17, Saints 13