The New Orleans Saints stunned the world last weekend dominating the Green Bay Packers. Now, they turn their attention to a division rival Carolina Panthers. As the game approaches, here are five questions we’ll be keeping an eye on.
How will the Saints navigate missing assistant coaches on gameday?
First of all, read this fantastic feature by NOLA.com’s Amie Just on how the Saints are navigating missing several members of their coaching staff.
This is a wildly unique situation that the Saints are up against. They have been and are expected to be missing OL, RD, WR, and TE coaches going into the game on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. There is a chance that they could return to the sideline, however the challenge has been in preparation.
Throughout the week, the offense has been grouped together, working together, learning together. Will that present a barrier via blurry communication or will it generate cohesion that works to Sean Payton and the Saints’ advantage?
What’s going on at cornerback?
The Saints’ cornerback spot has been an intriguing watch all offseason. Players being added and subtracted for a variety of reasons all throughout camp and the preseason. Now, with the roster at the position actually looking like a strength after being labeled a must throughout the summer, there are still questions due to injury.
Marshon Lattimore reportedly had surgery on his thumb earlier this week, but was elevated from DNP to limited on Thursday in practice. He’s expected to be week-to-week but conservative estimations have been put in place that he may miss a couple games in the process. However, the upgrade in his injury status on Thursday gives a glimmer of hope that he may actually be available this weekend.
Meanwhile, the team’s star slot corner C.J. Gardner-Johnson was downgraded to DNP on Thursday. With a tough WR matchup ahead, the presence or absence of both Gardner-Johnson and Lattimore could be massively impactful.
If both corners were to miss this week’s game, rookie Paulson Adebo and the newly-acquired Bradley Roby could step in on the outside. But will the Saints then move P.J. Williams (also on this week’s injury report, though trending upward) back to the slot? Or will the trust veteran Desmond Trufant on the outside with either Adebo or Roby in the middle? The question gets a little easier if you have either Lattimore or Gardner-Johnson. But the shuffle at corner will be a key development to keep an eye on as initial game designations are listed on Friday. Expect Lattimore to be a gametime decision.
How will Jameis Winston follow up his big debut as the Saints’ starter?
In Jameis Winston’s first game action at the New Orleans Saint starting quarterback, he threw a remarkable five touchdowns to no interceptions against one of the more talented secondaries in the NFL. Not only did he torch the defense for a five-piece, he did so with incredible efficiency. He attempted only 20 passes, completing 14 of which for 148 yards. That’s one touchdown for every 29.6 yards for 2.8 passes thrown.
It would be unreasonable to expect that performance to repeat on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. But that doesn’t meant it’s out of the question to expect success. Sean Payton’s system looked very good on Winston last weekend. Finding success against a familiar opponent presents a unique opportunity for the Saints, who themselves will look unfamiliar to Carolina.
Who will start at center?
Starting center Erik McCoy is expected to miss time with his calf strain. Last week, he exited the game early and was replaced by Cesar Ruiz who slid over from right guard. In Ruiz’s place stepped in Calvin Throckmorton, a versatile offensive lineman from Oregon. Both performed well, but the Saints still went out to sign Austin Reiter to help sure up the middle of the offensive line.
New Orleans has always invested heavily in their front-five (even front-six, really). Because of that, the team has options whenever an injury sets in. With McCoy likely out on Sunday after not practicing so far this week, will the Saints maintain with Ruiz at center? Or will they open the door for newcomer Reiter, who hasn’t allowed a sack since Super Bowl LIV?
Can the Saints start 2-0 for the first time since 2013?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. The Saints have traditionally gotten off to a slow start to open up their seasons in recent past. However, they’ve now won their opening game in each of the last three seasons. Can they continue to change course with a win on Sunday in Charlotte, opening up a 2-0 start to their season for the first time in seven seasons?
What questions do you have about the Saints-Panthers game? Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC , “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints and checkout the Locked On Saints YouTube channel.