The preseason is tricky as a lot of teams don’t play their veteran starters, but we got word the other day that the Saints are expected to play their starters for at least a couple of drives on Sunday. The Chiefs are notorious for resting some of their veterans, but there has been no official word from their camp about their plans.
So, with that being said, let’s dive into what we know. The Saints are going to start their first team offense in this game, but there are a few players who will miss time due to injury. Rashid Shaheed and Andrus Peat are both going to miss the first game, and Calvin Throckmorton (elbow) and Tre’Quan Smith (groin) are both listed as questionable on ESPN’s depth chart. On the other side of the ball, it looks like the Chiefs will be without cornerback L’Jarius Snead due to knee inflammation.
For this article's sake, let’s assume the Chiefs are starting their first team defense for the first couple drives. Quarterback Derek Carr has played a full season against the Chiefs in his time as a Raider. In 17 games, Carr threw for 4,120 yards with 26 TDs and 17 INTs. He’s familiar with the Chiefs defense and their system, whereas the Chiefs defense hasn’t played against the Saints since 2020.
Without L’Jarius Snead, the Chiefs are set to start Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson at cornerback. All three of these guys are entering their sophomore season, and Michael Thomas and Chris Olave should be able to feast against these young corners. It’s no knock on these young corners, but MT and Olave are some of the best route runners in the league, and it’ll be concerning if they can’t create separation in week one of the preseason.
On the defensive line, the Chiefs have arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL in Chris Jones. He’s a one-man wrecking crew that can rush the passer and defend the run at a high level. They also have sophomore pass rusher George Karlaftis who racked up six sacks and 33 tackles his rookie season. With Peat out, the offensive line is going to have to have a stellar performance to keep Carr upright and open holes for the running game.
The Chiefs also have a really solid trio of linebackers in Willie Gay, Drue Tranquill and Nick Bolton. Both Tranquill and Bolton had over 145 tackles this past season and both can cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. Luckily for the Saints, no matter how good a linebacker is at coverage, Alvin Kamara can beat them. Kamara is so versatile as a pass catcher; he can run almost every route and break tackles in the open field. This will be a fun matchup to keep your eyes on in the preseason opener.
Once the starters are pulled and the second teams come in, it looks like the Saints offense will have the upper hand in this matchup. The Chiefs have a lot of young and unproven players on their second team defense, while the Saints have some proven veterans with a lot more experience. Guys like Tre’Quan Smith, Jimmy Graham, Foster Moreau, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, James Washington and Bryan Edwards should be able to take advantage of a handful of young corners, linebackers and safeties.
One place the Saints might struggle against the second team defense is in the trenches. The Saints are already down Calvin Throckmorton and will rely on a mixture of Landon Young, James Hurst, Max Garcia, Storm Norton and Nick Saldiveri to protect Winston. The Chiefs have proven vets such as Danny Shelton and Mike Danna to go along with their first-round edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah on their defensive line. If the Saints offensive line can hold up throughout this game, it will be very encouraging heading into the regular season.
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