clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Saints vs. Cardinals: What To Watch

Games finally matter again! The New Orleans Saints are opening their season in Arizona today against the Cardinals. After a disappointing 2014, the Saints will try to get the new season off on the right foot with a revamped roster.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Opening day is a special time because no one really knows what to expect.  The Cardinals were Wild Card losers to the Carolina Panthers last year after a start that gave many Super Bowl aspirations.  The Saints had preseason Super Bowl aspirations that were quickly dashed after a 1-3 start.  After this, they fought to make the playoffs, ultimately coming up short.  In 2015, both teams are trying to rebound from disappointing seasons in their own right.  Here's what to watch for in Week 1.

1.) The Return of Carson Palmer

Last year, the Cardinals started the season 8-1 with Palmer at the helm.  After he suffered a season ending injury, the Cardinals struggled to an 11-5 finish.  Against the Panthers in the Wild Card round, the Cardinals suffered a complete inability to move the ball under Ryan Lindley, racking up only 78 yards in total offense.  With Palmer's return, the Cardinals look to return to their winning ways.  The Saints will have to observe how it being his first game back affects him.  It could be ugly for both sides, especially in Week 1.

2.) The Saints' First Team Offense (For a Whole Game)

In the preseason, the Saints' first teamers looked stellar.  They never played more than a quarter, however, so the sample size is minute.  Against a tough Cardinals' defense, the Saints get their first extended look at the first team offense.  It's also Arizona's first look at a defense post Todd Bowles, so it will be interesting to see how they handle this transition.  There's a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but the Saints have talent on the offensive side too.  Their offensive line has been impressive, so the battle in the trenches will be the place to watch in this game.

3.) Hau'oli Kikaha and Stephone Anthony

Unexpectedly, Kikaha has been the most impressive linebacker on the Saints' defense to this point in the preseason.  The Saints cutting Parys Haralson is indicative of what they think of Kikaha, and Anthony has seen improvement throughout the preseason.  However, he is still having issues dealing with the responsibilities of being a signal caller and a starting ILB in Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense Week 1.  Where Kikaha was simply flying to where the ball was, Anthony seemed to see reservations from time to time.  The Saints' other linebackers will ultimately determine the success of these two in how well they complement them, but these two are seeking to be key contributors in the new looks Saints' defense.

4.) The Saints' Secondary

Once thought to be one of the deeper positions on the Saints' roster, corner has been ravaged by injury.  Keenan Lewis is injured and few others survived their cuts.  Delvin Breaux is one of the most highly touted players coming into this season, and Brandon Browner has adamantly stated that he's ready to start the season.  Browner played off the line of scrimmage (when he played at all) but in the regular season he's significantly more aggressive at the line.  He should be trying to disrupt receivers' routes at the LoS more, which should translate to more success.

5.) Zach Hocker

Zach Hocker won the kicking job in the preseason, but after several kicking visits throughout the week, the Saints seem to have him on a short leash.  Hocker needs to come in and stick all of his extra points, in addition to each makeable field goal he attempts.  The Saints are hoping that they have found a long term kicker in Hocker, but they don't seem terribly confident at this point that they have.

Week 1 is finally upon us, and the Saints have a lot of new cogs to utilize, in addition to some older ones that they no longer can.  It will be interesting to see how the new look Saints perform, and whether their changes have a negative or positive effect on the team's overall success.