I'm pretty pumped to finally get to try out the new banner logo for this feature. I think it makes me run faster, catch better, and hit harder, don't you?
As the Saints shake off the offseason cobwebs and try to get ready for the regular season, I will be doing so as well as I stretch my Hot Reads muscles again, hoping nothing gets damaged as I work them out following the torturous down time known as the 2012 offseason.
Come with me across the jump to read what I'm looking for from the Saints in this game, not so much focused on a winning score in the final outcome, but looking at player and coach performance.
Continuing the trend begun last year, the most important job of the New Orleans Saints is still to PROTECT DREW BREES. Brees finally has his sweet new contract, and is still the best chance this team has at winning each and every week.
With the departure of Carl Nicks, there is a rather large hole to fill on the offensive line, and Ben Grubbs, formerly of the Ravens, is the man tasked with doing so. The 2011 midseason replacement for the disappointing center Olin Kreutz, Brian De La Puente, enters this year as the encumbent starter, and we'll get the chance to see if he can sustain the solid play he provided last year.
What I'd Like To See: Strong and penalty-free protection of Drew Brees for his brief appearance in the game, and for Chase Daniel and Luke McCown, too, I guess. May Grubbs and DLP and the whole unit function as a cohesive whole to achieve this goal, as if they've played together for years.
CHECKDOWN # 1
The second most important factor for me in this game involves TAKING A SECOND LOOK AT THE SECOND STRING OF THE SECONDARY. Both starting cornerbacks, Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, are sitting this game out with injuries, so we will get a long look at the team's secondary depth - including projected nickel back Johnny Patrick, and also Marquis Johnson, Corey White, Elbert Mack, Cord Parks, and all those other camp bodies. This is a pass-happy league, so quality depth at defensive back is crucial, and hopefully these extra reps will allow someone of good quality to rise to the top of the depth chart over time.
What I'd Like To See: The newly-anointed starters in the game for the most part to be in position and playing smartly, tackling cleanly, and maybe even knocking down or picking off a pass or two.
CHECKDOWN # 2
Sticking with the defensive squad, the next thing I'll be looking for is something, anything from SPAGNUOLO'S SCHEME-CHANGE.
We've been reading a lot about what we can expect from a Steve Spagnuolo defense - pressure from the D-line, more zone coverage, and aggressive play. While coaches don't reveal much in the preseason, hopefully things will look a bit different, even now.
What I'd Like To See: Flashes of potential in each of those areas of the defense at different times of the game. Good surge from the line creating some pressure, players in position to make crisp tackles to prevent big plays, and a little bit of space-eating stoppability from new DT Brodrick Bunkley.
CHECKDOWN # 3
Moving on to special teams for the final aspect, I am thinking we could be in for a TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF THE FAT PUNK KICKER. Garrett Hartley popped a hip flexor in the last preseason, and has spent a year away from live action, so this will be his first trial by fire. I bet he's ready to prove himself and shove aside John Kasay to stake his claim to the starting kicker job.
What I'd Like To See: Two or three field goal attempts for FPK, from short and long distance, including a rushed kick at the end of the half, with perfection on all of those kicks.
That's all I've got for today. I'll try to do better next time, but it feels really good to get back at it again. And no matter what happens tonight, enjoy the game, and let's just remember the rule of thumb for preseason - NO INJURIES and don't get too high if they look good, or too low if they look bad.