The New Orleans Saints face the Houston Texans in their preseason home opener this Saturday. The team has split their first two games, and is likely to use this contest as a "dress rehearsal" for it's regular season opener against Minnesota on September 11th.
Each team's roster is beginning to take shape, and the coaches are preparing for some tough decisions to make for the league's Sept. 3rd cutdown day. Canal Street Chronicles has highlighted six Saints players that some extra attention could be on, as New Orleans plays the next to last game on it's preseason schedule.
Adrian Peterson, RB
The awe and excitement of a future hall of fame running back continues for many Saints fans. Peterson, by most accounts, has shown alot of pop and energy during practices, but, we haven't seen it in game action yet. To be fair, there was really no reason for the coaches to play Peterson in these first two preseason games, especially when the starting offensive line has not yet been fully intact. Still, that hasn't stopped many from wondering how much Peterson has left in the tank, and also what kind of role he will play in this offense. Only time, and multiple games, will provide the accurate answers to those questions. In a joint practice between the two teams on Thursday, Peterson had multiple good runs against a stout Texans defense, and a big reception on a wheel route out of the backfield. Peterson's snaps will likely be limited, assuming he does play. But even a glimpse at what he will be able to do against one of the better defenses in the league will be watched closely.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR
Ginn did not see any action in last week's win over the Chargers. The image of him dropping another wide open touchdown reception the week before is a microcosm of his career. Ginn has made some plays during training camp practices, flashing his trademark downfield speed at times, but not with great regularity. Unfortunately, he has often showcased another Ginn trademark in training camp practices this summer: Dropped passes. It's the primary reason that the former 9th overall draft choice is with his 6th team in 11 years. Michael Thomas and Willie Snead are the unquestioned top 2 wideouts on the team, Brandon Coleman seems to be carving out a more prominent role in the offense, and Tommylee Lewis' outstanding preseason games could possibly be commanding more regular season targets at wide receiver. Ginn has not shown yet that he can even be a factor in this Saints offense.
Could Ted Ginn Jr. be a surprise roster cut? With the underwhelming performances of Corey Fuller, Jake Lampman, and Travin Dural in games so far, Ginn is probably safe. For now. However, if Ginn doesn't distinguish himself during this game, New Orleans could very well be scanning the waiver wire after the Sept. 3 cutdowns to look for other receiving options.
Coby Fleener, TE
Perhaps no other returning Saints offensive player was under as much scrutiny as Fleener was a year ago. Despite comparable statistics within the top 10 tight ends in the league, some labeled his first season in New Orleans a disappointment. Now, three weeks into the preseason, Fleener has done little to quiet those critics. After not playing in the Saints opening game, Fleener was surprisingly still on the field well into the second half of last week's win over the Chargers. His uninspired play drew the ire of head coach Sean Payton on multiple occasions through the game, and has mirrored his performance through most of training camp. Fleener is still the most talented tight end on the Saints roster, but his inconsistent production and at times lackluster play has some questioning if New Orleans will get much effectiveness from the tight end position in 2017.
Marshon Lattimore, CB
The 11th overall pick saw his first preseason action last week against Los Angeles, and held up well enough in coverage that the Chargers did not test him with a single target. He left Thursday's joint practice with Houston early with reported dizziness, but indications are that he'll be cleared to play in the game. The Texans' best wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, may not play because of injury. If he does, this may be the best one-on-one match up of the night on that side of the ball. Lattimore has come on strong recently after being limited early on with hamstring issues. He still shows the potential to be a true No. 1 cornerback, although rookie struggles are to be expected.
The cornerback position continues to be perhaps the biggest question mark on this New Orleans Saints roster. The challenge for Lattimore, and the other young players the Saints have at this position, is to eliminate the huge mistakes and hope that a playmaker or two steps forward. Lattimore was drafted to be a lockdown corner, and how he handles the young athletes that Houston has at wideout can hopefully give some encouragement that he will be exactly that.
Manti Te'o, LB
I must admit, and suspect that I wasn't alone, that this was one of two signings made by New Orleans this offseason that I absolutely hated, and thought Te'o had virtually zero chance at making this roster. Te'o surprisingly lined up often with the starting units early in training camp practices, and often played well. He continued solid play in limited action against the Browns two weeks ago, then played like a man possessed against the Chargers last week. Te'o led a strong defensive effort, by leading the team with 8 tackles, including a QB sack, another pressure, and 3 hits for lost yardage to go along with a fumble recovery.
His spot on the roster now seems all but assured, Te'o now is competing with A.J. Klein, Craig Robertson, and rookie Alex Anzalone for starting spots on a suddenly athletic and versatile linebacking unit. The challenge now for Te'o is to prove he can be a consistent performer on a weekly basis. Many teams implement a more specific game plan in the third week of the preseason. How will Te'o, and the other New Orleans defenders, respond to a game plan more specifically designed to oppose them?
Stephone Anthony, LB
It was surprising to some that Anthony did not play against the Chargers a week ago, after playing the second highest amount of snaps among linebackers the week before. Anthony picked up a very nice sack on a delayed blitz against Cleveland, and was showed some nice pursuit of plays during the game. He still seems to struggle with reading opposing offenses and play diagnosis. The 2015 1st round pick continues to slide down the Saints depth chart. And with the emergence of Te'o, and Craig Robertson, A.J. Klein, rookie Alex Anzalone vying for starting spots, Anthony seems to be squarely on the roster bubble. He now must fight off special team standouts and versatile linebackers Nate Stupar and Michael Mauti, along with fast rising Adam Bighill to even make the team. It will not only be interesting to watch the snap count that Anthony receives during this game, but more importantly, what he does with what could be a final opportunity to impact this roster.
Which Saints player are you expecting a big performance from against Houston?
This poll is closed
Ted Ginn Jr.