It's hard to read a Sean Payton team in the pre-season. He gives those following the team very little indication of who's doing what or how injured players are recovering. However, there are several key things that are projected to happen in the Saints' second pre-season game against the New England Patriots.
1.) The "real" first team offense
Last week, the offense that the Saints fielded against the Ravens was abysmal against the first teamers. Now, with Drew Brees and Marques Colston joining week 1 standout Brandin Cooks on the field, the Saints need to show that they can still play with the first stringers and jump out on New England early.
2.) Can the defense bounce back?
The Saints young defense struggled mightily against the Baltimore first teamers, but with the number of guys seeing the field in black and gold for the first time, that should be expected. New England offers them no reprieve, and they should see the first stringers for about a quarter. Expect TE Rob Gronkowski to put up big numbers, but players like Stephone Anthony and Brandon Browner still need acclimate to the new defense. Hau'oli Kikaha played well week one, but he still has work to do, and the defensive line must make Tom Brady uncomfortable.
3.) Will the offensive line keep Brees comfortable?
Last year, a lot of Brees's struggles were attributed to an aging offensive line. Now, the Saints have attempted to shore up the position, and give Brees no more excuses for poor performance. With the likes of Max Unger, Andrus Peat and Terron Armstead in front of him, the hope is that Brees will have ample time to go through his progressions in the pocket.
4.) Who will step up at WR?
Cooks had a big week 1, and Payton's training camp MVP Brandon Coleman is yet to live up to his highly touted status. Coleman should get a few looks tonight, if only to prove he's worth them.
5.) And who will cover the other side?
Playing in admittedly a watered down scheme, the defense struggled against Baltimore. Players like Delvin Breaux and Brandon Browner, plus an assortment of young corners, must fight to stay on the roster. The corners for the Saints are deep, but raw, and against a player like Tom Brady they'll need to earn their keep.
To be the best you need to beat the best, that's the old adage. It may be pre-season, but this game could be pivotal for the Saints to work out their kinks from a rough start to the season. The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Saints need to prove they can, if nothing else, slow them down to prove their new look can be successful in 2015.