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Saints vs. Browns: Six things to watch

The Saints being their preseason campaign on Thursday night, and to say there’s going to be a lot of things to watch for is a bit of an understatement.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints-Training Camp Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints open their preseason on Thursday up north when they take on the Cleveland Browns. The long wait is over for fans, but unfortunately not everyone will be able to watch the game. If you have NFL Game Pass and live in a local Raycom Media market, then you’ll be able to partake in the fun. The NFL Network replay may be a bit hard for those to view, as it is slated to be broadcast on Friday morning at 9 a.m. CT (set your DVRs). At any rate, here’s some things we’ll be watching for as the game progresses.

How much playing time will the starters see?

We already know what Drew Brees is capable of, but he, Mark Ingram, and Adrian Peterson are not going to play. We would like to see if those shotgun snap issues from Josh LeRibeus are fixed, even if it’s one series. There’s little to no pressure on the first-team offense at this juncture, but we’d definitely want to see a series or two from the defense. Just knowing who actually lines up as the starters will be something to keep an eye on.

Will we see some injured players participate?

Trey Hendrickson, Ryan Ramczyk, Tony McDaniel, Willie Snead, Marshon Lattimore, and Delvin Breaux are just some of the many Saints who have missed practice time during the early stages of training camp. It goes without saying, but the last thing you want to see is big players getting injured in a seemingly meaningless preseason game. Still, it’s something to pay close attention to when the teams suit up.

Which camp stars, if any, are going to stand out?

Brandon Coleman was an early camp hero for the Saints offense, but came back down to earth over the past few practices. Corey Fuller has been a standout at times, and Towson’s Darius Victor has had some recent buzz about him with some big highlights running the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, Mitchell Loewen is someone starting to catch more of a spotlight on the defensive side of the ball, and Ken Crawley has certainly made some big plays during practice. These aforementioned players will undoubtedly go under a microscope in their first game action of 2017.

Which linebackers distance themselves in a crowded position battle?

Having a ton of depth on the surface figures to be a good thing. The main constant in the equation for Mike Nolan’s linebacker corps is that A.J. Klein continues to be a staple in the starting conversation. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. Alex Anzalone and Craig Robertson figure to have the leg up on the competition right now, with Nate Stupar likely in that same conversation as a reserve option. That leaves some jostling between Stephone Anthony, Manti Te’o, Adam Bighill, and Michael Mauti.

Can the defensive line get some push and pressure against an improved Browns offensive line?

The Browns spent some cash during the offseason to land free agents Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter, adding to the likes of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, and Shon Coleman. Pro Football Focus went as far as to rank them the second best offensive line back in June. Assuming they play a series against the Saints defensive line, it would be interesting to see what they can turn in.

Will the Saints be able to actually win a preseason game?

The last time the Saints won a preseason game was Aug. 23, 2014 against the Indianapolis Colts. Since then, they’ve lost nine in a row. Sure, it’s just preseason, but don’t you think it’d be nice for some of these younger players to get a taste of what it’s like to win before they get to the real thing? Whether it comes in the first matchup or last one, the Saints need to win something.

What are some of the areas you’ll be paying attention to, and how much stock do you put in the team’s first preseason appearance?