It’s about as real as it gets for the New Orleans Saints, as they suit up to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the vaunted third preseason game. The black and gold return home to entertain their fans, and look to break a two-year losing streak in the preseason. It won’t be easy, but no matter what the final score says, we’re more interested in what some of the players bring to the table tonight.
Here’s five players to keep an eye on for tonight’s game.
The left guard spot is anything but solidified for the Saints, and that’s a pretty terrifying thought when you think about it. Senio Kelemete has an opportunity to unseat the fourth-year guard, and it could largely depend on how things go on Friday night. Lelito has appeared in 38 and 32 snaps in each of the team’s first two preseason games, and we are expecting a lot more out of him. Boasting a ton of weaponry at the skill positions, this is an area the Saints can ill afford to miss on.
While we want to keep our eyes heavily focused on the entire offensive line, it’s worth mentioning that a lot of attention will be paid to the right side of the line with Zach Strief and Andrus Peat. I’d also go as far as saying there’s a lot of interest in what type of performance undrafted rookies Landon Turner and Jack Allen will put out.
The pressure is on Brandon Coleman to perform in front of the home crowd tonight, and I wouldn’t be shocked to hear some disgruntled reactions if he can’t piece together something strong. Much of the emphasis has been on how Tommylee Lewis has played, but I still believe Coleman has a spot on the roster unless another can take his role. When your head coach calls you out to say your performance has been ‘pedestrian’, it’s something you would hope he takes to heart. Otherwise, Coleman may find himself out of a job in a couple of weeks.
Why would we put the team’s starting middle linebacker on this list? Well, it’s simple. Through the first two preseason games, we’ve seen the impact of the veteran in getting the right looks on defense. Laurinaitis has also made some good plays, including a couple of blitzes that have led to positive plays. The Steelers offense was one of the league’s best last season, and this is a spot where we wonder how the Saints defense adjusts as long as the starters are in the mix. The team has desperately missed a leader in the middle since Jonathan Vilma was out of the mix, and the play of Laurinaitis is starting to remind us of older and better times.
It’s going to be interesting to see how much time Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson have in the second half. This battle appears to be even, with McCown coming off the better game against the Texans. It is frustrating knowing that the Saints could be rolling with three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2016, as that roster spot could be better utilized elsewhere. This is a must-win appearance for the second-year quarterback.
If you’re going to really stamp yourself as the team’s No. 2 cornerback, then what better way to do it against a pass-heavy offensive attack? Yes, Williams was named the starter opposite of Delvin Breaux. His play has been extremely encouraging, but the last thing you want to have is a false sense of security in the secondary. I’d almost like to see how Williams performs against Antonio Brown, but he’ll likely draw Markus Wheaton and/or Sammie Coates. Williams adjusted well in last week’s game against the Texans after giving up a touchdown, and that’s what you want to see the most in the preseason - the in-game tweaks.