The New Orleans Saints will be taking on the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday evening in the second preseason contest for both clubs. The Saints began their preseason with a 20-14 road loss against the Cleveland Browns, a contest where a number of their starters didn't even take a single snap, and most others did not play more than a couple of series. The two teams had joint practices against each other Thursday and Friday, and we can also see many of the New Orleans starters possibly play well into the 2nd Quarter of this game.
Canal Street Chronicles highlights three offensive and defensive players to watch closely, as the Saints try to rebound from last week's loss.
Ryan Nassib, QB
Nassib entered the Cleveland game late in the 3rd Quarter, as the third of the three Saints quarterbacks to play. He finished the game 10/14 for 110 yards and a touchdown. Nassib showed a decisiveness and pocket awareness that Garrett Grayson has yet to show in three seasons with the team.
At the time of this writing, Sean Payton had not yet made it clear what he plans to do with his quarterbacks in this contest. We can certainly expect Drew Brees to see action, perhaps playing up to a full quarter. Chase Daniel could see another series or two, but Nassib may have earned a longer look after his performance last week. Daniel is almost certainly secured in the No. 2 quarterback position, but the question now could be if either Grayson or Nassib can show the coaching staff enough to convince them to carry three quarterbacks on to the opening day roster. Grayson has had ample opportunity to show what he can, and more importantly can't do. Nassib now has an opportunity to perhaps cement a roster spot with another solid performance against Los Angeles.
Ryan Ramczyk, LT
Both of the team's first round picks, Ramczyk and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, will see their first game action of the preseason. Khalif Barnes and Bryce Harris lined up at left tackle with the 1st and 2nd teams in last week's loss to Cleveland. Although one, or both, players will be on this team for depth, it was clear that if either has to line up at left tackle for any significant time that this offense could struggle. Many believe that Ramczyk was drafted as an eventual replacement for Zach Strief at right tackle. While that still may be true, the injury to left tackle Terron Armstead leaves a big question mark for the Saints at that important position.
Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are two of the few bright spots on an underwhelming Chargers defense. Each of these players rush the passer extremely well, and are capable of disrupting an offensive game plan. They will present an excellent challenge to Ramczyk's ability to protect quarterback Drew Brees. Rookie left tackles often struggle in their first professional seasons, but Ramczyk presents a much better option than either Harris or Barnes at such a vital position on the offensive line.
Corey Fuller, WR
Fuller caught the attention of coaches and fans alike with standout performances in the team's offseason and in early training camp practices. He was the early favorite by many to take a spot on the receiver depth chart behind Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, and likely Brandon Coleman and Ted Ginn Jr.
Fuller did not have a snap in last week's Cleveland game, while teammate Tommylee Lewis dazzled with 10 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. Lewis' added abilities as a punt returner, along with already having spent a year in the Saints offensive system, has put him in a prime position to grab one of those last receiver spots available.
Fuller has a nice combination of good size (6'2”, 200-lbs.) and good athletic ability. He will need to be able to perform as well in these preseason games as he did against the Saints cornerbacks earlier this offseason to have a chance to unseat Lewis or move up the depth chart.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE
Muhammad was one of the defensive standouts for New Orleans in last week's game. He led all defensive players in snaps played, had 3 tackles and a half sack. Muhammad applied pressure to Browns quarterbacks numerous other times throughout the game. He showed exactly what he exhibited in limited opportunities at Miami (Fla.), a fierce intensity in his play and a non-stop motor.
Although Muhammad played well, he also showed that he was extremely raw at times, even for a rookie. His explosive initial push was on display numerous times against Cleveland, but he also took poor angles at different times, showing his inexperience. He will also need to expand his pass rushing moves, in order to be consistently effective. Muhammad certainly showed the potential abilities to be a steal as a late round draft pick, but he will need an encore performance to begin to solidify a roster spot.
Alex Anzalone, LB
Anzalone showed why the Saints invested a 3rd round pick in him this spring. He led all Saints linebackers in snaps played against the Browns, and could very well see another high count against the Chargers. Anzalone's athletic ability was on display often against Cleveland in both pass coverage and run defense. He showed good vision and reaction in zone coverages, as well as the ability to stay with his man in tighter coverage, having possibly the most impressive performance of any New Orleans defender on the night.
All eyes will be on the rookie linebacker, to see how he matches up against future hall of fame tight end Antonio Gates, as well as a capable receiver in running back Melvin Gordon out of the backfield and a more dangerous Chargers passing attack than they faced in Cleveland. His spot on the roster is certainly not in doubt. The major questions of Anzalone are if he can cement a starting job, and more importantly, how effective he can be for a Saints linebacking corps that has struggled mightily in pass defense in recent seasons.
Ken Crawley, CB
Crawley had been arguably the most impressive cornerback early in training camp practices, performing well against top Saints receivers Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. Crawley struggled against Cleveland, however, committing 3 penalties, missing a couple of crucial tackles, a looking shaky in coverage against a pedestrian Browns offense. Crawley did have a couple of nice pass break-ups, and was far from the Saints biggest coverage liability on the night, as Damian Swann appeared to knock himself right out of roster contention with a nightmare performance.
The Chargers passing game will present a far bigger challenge than the team faced in the Browns last week. Crawley and 3rd year man P.J. Williams should see the opening snaps against Los Angeles, and top pick Marshon Lattimore is expected to see his first action of the year. With the news that top cornerback Delvin Breaux will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after leg surgery, Crawley will be among a group of New Orleans cornerbacks under serious scrutiny to reverse the trend of poorly performing coverage units by the New Orleans Saints.
Which of these Saints players are you most interested to see against the Chargers?
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