“I’m really anxious and excited about getting in game situations and seeing how these guys respond under the lights”
Said Dennis Allen, in reference to a group of young defensive backs set to debut for the New Orleans Saints tonight in their opener vs the Cleveland Browns. Of course making plays during practice is only the first order of business during training camp. Having that carry over to the dress rehearsals that are the exhibition games is the next step, and that thought process applies to a few names that will surely have something to prove tonight.
Let’s take a look at 3 of the players that will take center stage against the Browns and discuss what they can do to impress and possibly steal the show.
Ken Crawley - CB
Not a single player on defense has had a hand (literally) in more plays than Ken Crawley up to this point in camp and playing with what appears to be a new level of confidence has given him the look of the best DB in practice. He’s accounted for numerous pass breakups and INTs with a couple coming off Drew Brees himself, and yet the real test for him will be the ability to play with his eyes. His man cover skills have obviously progressed based on what he’s done in camp, but the former UDFA from Colorado had plenty of gaffes last year (as did the entire secondary) as it pertained to football awareness. Route Recognition in zone coverage, down/distance awareness, and run support will be key areas of Crawley’s game that one would hope to see improve for the 2nd year cover man.
Daniel Lasco II - RB
With news that Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram will both be held out of this exhibition, it appears likely that Lasco will be the prime beneficiary of the newly available carries between the tackles. We haven’t seen him in a game as a ball carrier since roughly Week 7 of the 2016 season because of injury and I’m sure the coaching staff would like to see what the former 7th round pick has to offer. His combination of size (6’1”, 212) and speed (4.48 Forty) are probably only paralleled by the legend himself AP. Yet, headlines and “big play” tweets have been scarce for the talented runner due to the ground game being a tough study without much live tackling. Improved ball security, pass protection, and leaving the game healthy will be paramount for the Saints young power-back to show the staff he’s ready to make that 2nd year.
Brandon Coleman - WR
After having what was referred to as a “pedestrian” camp last year by Payton, Brandon Coleman has produced what has to be classified as the top individual performance in camp to date. He’s shown intensity, is winning at the top of his routes, has refined his ability to get off press coverage, and he’s been a threat from every conceivable area of the football field. Now, can he carry it over into the games and maintain consistency? We’ve all known that the talent was there with Coleman but he hasn’t quite been able to put it all together after being labeled the heir apparent to Colston earlier in his career. Now going into his 3rd camp he’s starting to show glimpses of that potential and capping it off with a good night on the town against a tough Cleveland secondary would be a welcome step in the right direction.
Can the aforementioned players thrive under the lights, or will they come crashing back to the turf in their first dress rehearsal of the 2017 NFL Preseason? That my friends is the question and we’ll get some of the answers after tonight’s match-up.