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Today is the Greatest, Day I've Ever Known: 5 Things to Watch Tonight During Bengals @ Saints

Good morning Who Dat Nation!

You can obviously tell by my Smashing Pumpkins inspired title that I am in a good mood. That's because my iTouch started working again last night after not being able to turn it on for months. I just decided to plug it into my computer while watching Big Brother 11 and poof, it starting working again. Turns out it just wasn't charged. So now I can continue my quest to become the ultimate gangster in iMob (friend code - 184868913). The return of my iTouch is wonderful news also because it's what I use to take notes during Saints games and I was starting to get worried about alternate plans for tonight. It's truly serendipitous and you really need to understand how wonderful this turn of events actually is. 

Which leads me to the second cause of my excitement...Saints football is back! Sure it's only pre-season and there isn't much meaning behind the game but it's the entire experience that is so wonderful. After being away for eight months I'm finally going to walk the hallowed halls of the Super Dome again. Plus, I've got new season tickets this year that are a significant upgrade over my last pair, so I'm even more excited to check out the new view I'm going to have at all Saints games in the foreseeable future. 

In my new seats and with my iTouch in hand I will finally get a chance to check out this years squad in game action. Most fans may deride these early matchups because the second and third teams get most of the playing time but that doesn't mean there isn't still plenty to watch. Here are a few of the things I will be paying particular attention to tonight. I think you should, too.

Defensive Scheme

After watching Gary Gibbs and his fairly bland defensive scheme for years, I think it's going to be just plain weird to watch Williams utilize a bunch of his many new defensive looks, possibly including a 3-4. Weird! For the Saints to have a sucessful season, we know the overall improvement of the defense will be the deciding factor but Rome wasn't built in a day. I don't need to see lots of sacks, interceptions or big hits to be convinced that this defense is improved. It might be nice but it would mean nothing in the way of long-term success. I do, however, want to see players being in the right place at the right time, getting in position to make a play, taking better angles and making better tackles. I think that will prove most important and truly be the best barometer of things to come. The speed, energy and intensity of the entire unit will also be something to definitely keep an eye on. That's all we've been hearing for the last two weeks. Now prove it. 


Secondary Debut

This unit has gotten an extreme makeover this off-season and with so many intriguing story lines, these guys should be interesting to watch at every level. Once the laughing stock of the team, now it's a group that might be called...dare I say...deep. Saints fans have four new players - Darren Sharper, Jabari Greer, Pierson Prioleau and Malcolm Jenkins (maybe) - to watch tonight, all of whom can make immediate and significant contributions. Tracy Porter is being held out of the game tonight but Jason David, Randall Gay and Leigh Torrence are also in the mix at cornerback. At safety, Chris Reis has started making a name for himself and Usama Young's transition to the position will certainly be interesting. Don't get caught looking in the backfield when these guys are on the field. 


Running Backs

Like the revamped secondary, this is a crowded race with Mike Bell, Lynell Hamilton, P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson all vying for one, maybe two, spots. Payton may have a time sharing plan in mind but getting into a rhythm could be difficult for these players who, regardless, will have limited time to shine. Ball security could also become a factor. They won't be doing themselves any favors by putting the ball on the ground. Last but not least, make sure to perk up if the offense faces any 3rd or 4th down plays with only inches to go. 


A Replacement for Shanle

It sounds harsh but it's the truth. Most fans would agree they'd like to get better play at the weakside linebacker position this season. For the last two years Scott Shanle has outlasted whatever competition was brought in to attempt and replace him. This year Jonathan Casillas and Jo-Lonn Dunbar are two young talents with a lot of promise. The chances of earning a starting role may be slim for them but it will certainly be fun to watch just in case. Anthony Waters is penciled in on the strong side but he may also be in that number if he can prove himself worthy. 

Quarterback Competition

I honestly don't care that much about the competition between Mark Brunell and Joey Harrington but for those of you who do, you'll definitely want to see how each of them performs during there time in the game. My money is on Brunell and I think we'll see just how much further along he is compared to Harrington. Joey will have to look really special to earn a spot directly behind Drew.