METAIRIE — In addition to his regular duties as Drew Brees’ backup, New Orleans Saints quarterback Chase Daniel has another very important role in practice this week.
When the Saints began preparing Wednesday for Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers in Bank of America Stadium, Daniel played the part of rookie sensation Cam Newton with the scout squad to give his starting defense a good look at the Panthers’ much-improved offense.
Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, is the focal point of that offense, which ranks third with 440.0 yards per game. The role includes extra film study for Daniel, a three-year veteran.
“We ask him to look at the tape; they’ll pay attention to some mannerisms and they’ll pay attention coming out of the huddle,” said Saints coach Sean Payton. “Obviously, trying to emulate someone each week can vary, and the type of quarterback we see each week defensively varies.
“Chase will look at the film, and he’ll try to approach the center in a very similar fashion,” he added. “He’ll try to look at the shotgun depths, where the launch points are, and there will be plays where we ask him to flush and force our guys to extend the play and get used to the play being broken.”
That’s not such a bad role to play for Daniel.
“I love it; it’s fun,” he said. “I get to zone-read like back in my college days at Missouri, and run around and throw the ball. So it’s good; it’s good stuff. I’m obviously not as fast and quick as him, but I try to give them the best look I possibly can.”
There is one look, however, Daniel can’t possibly provide. Newton stands 6 feet, 5 inches, while Daniel is listed at 6 feet.
Strief has MCL injury
Payton said Wednesday the right knee injury that starting right tackle Zach Strief suffered in a Week 3 win over the Houston Texans is to his medial collateral ligament.
It was the first time Payton had specifically addressed the injury Strief sustained. He didn’t play in Sunday’s game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Payton said Strief will likely be sidelined another 2-to-3 weeks.
“His progress has gone well,” Payton said. “We just have to reduce the swelling, strengthen it and get him healthy.”
Strief was one of only four players who didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice as the injury list dwindled dramatically in the last week.
Also missing practice were center Olin Kreutz (knee), tight end David Thomas (concussion) and strongside linebacker Will Herring.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), wide receiver Devery Henderson (calf) and strongside linebacker Martez Wilson (shoulder) were limited.
The Saints made one practice squad move as they signed tackle Fenuki Tupou and released quarterback Sean Canfield.
Payton said Thomas, who was also hurt against the Texans, will continue to be monitored closely.
“It is a concern, and it’s something that you just keep looking for symptoms and you keep paying attention to him,” Payton said. “It’s certainly something we pay close attention to, and we don’t take lightly.”
Ironically, former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey didn’t practice Wednesday after suffering a concussion in last week’s 34-29 loss to the Bears, and his status for Sunday’s game is unknown.
Since he broke the NFL record for completions in a season with 440 in 2007 and topped it last season with 448, it should come as no surprise to learn Brees has set another league mark.
This time, it’s for having at least 20 completions in 24 consecutive games. Brees connected on 31 of his 44 passes in Sunday’s win at Jacksonville to increase the streak, which started after he completed 18 passes — but for 371 yards — in a rout of the New England Patriots on Nov. 30, 2009.
What’s in a name?
Payton and Brees both talked about owner Tom Benson and club officials brokering a deal that was announced Tuesday to rename the team’s home stadium the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I think it’s strong. It’s impressive,” Payton said, who noted that he spoke to the team about it Wednesday morning. “I’m not a business major. I couldn’t handle the math, but I do know a company like that putting their name with a state, a city and a team like the Saints, that’s pretty impressive.
“They don’t just do that on a regular basis. It’s a great indication, and a great sign of how far we’ve come, not only as a team or as an organization, but certainly as a city and as a region.”
“When you think about international brands that really garner respect and stand for quality and excellence, it’s definitely Mercedes-Benz,” Brees said. “I think we’re all real proud to have that hanging in the Superdome.”