Weeks 4 & 5 are around the times that teams start to really show themselves. The New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles both started the year 1-3, but one of these teams are coming off of a win in primetime with their starters returning. The Saints beat an admittedly depleted Dallas Cowboys in New Orleans last week, and now they travel to Philadelphia hoping to start some kind of streak and get their season rolling. Here's what to look for as they try to do so.
1.) Offensive Line Play (Specifically LT)
With Andrus Peat getting his first NFL start after Terron Armstead was ruled out Saturday, the Saints' offensive line will be under the microscope. The Eagles have displayed a total inability to get to the quarterback to this point in the year, and so if Brees starts seeing serious blind side pressure it will likely be on the young LT anchor. No one is accusing Peat of being ready to be a full time starter yet, but he'll need to be competent if the Saints are going to beat the Eagles down the field.
2.) Defensive Cohesion
The Saints finally saw what their defense should look like last Sunday night. While it went well, there was clearly still a lot of work to be done. Dannell Ellerbe, Jairus Byrd, Keenan Lewis and Cam Jordan all got snaps, but the rookies really stole the show. Once the players such as Delvin Breaux, Tyeler Davison, Bobby Richardson and Hau'oli Kikaha start working with the veterans, the Saints' defenses big play ability should only increase, in addition to its consistency.
3.) Philadelphia Playcalling
The Eagles will have to try something different,as head coach Chip Kelly finally conceded that his play calling may be slightly at fault for the Eagles' slow start. If he isn't just blowing smoke, the Saints get to be the guinea pigs for a different look from the Philadelphia offense. Sam Bradford has been middling and Demarco Murray has just been bad, but this all stems from the Eagles' completely porous offensive line. Look for quick hitters and counters from the Eagles to try to salvage some yardage from a complete inability up front.
4.) Brees's Throwing Motion
Last week, Cris Collinsworth showed an interesting tape regarding Drew Brees's arc on his throwing motion. In 2014, it was a swooping motion with a full follow through. On Sunday night, however, it was a shot put throw. In this vein, head coach Sean Payton ran quick routes and had Brees work the defense underneath. Brees's 359 yards and 2 TDs are misleading in the sense that he didn't really go downfield, but rather, he worked the defense and nickel and dimed them (with the exception of the CJ Spiller wheel).
5.) Who Gets Carries?
This is the hardest question to answer before the week. It's hard not to say Mark Ingram on the principle of his contract, but Spiller was impressive last week in limited play. Khiry Robinson hasn't looked like himself either. With Spiller catching the game winner against the Cowboys last week, look for the Saints to try to get him involved in the offense while he has momentum.
While neither of these teams have been good, neither one is bad. Both teams got a facelift in the 2015 offseason and they're still scrambling to put the pieces together. Each team needs to really try to get this done today, because 2-3 looks like a lot more pieces are together than 1-4.