Preseason game #4.
This should be a doozy...
To try to understand what we’re dealing with tonight, I linked up with Christopher Dunnels from Canal Street Chronicles, the SB Nation community for New Orleans Saints fans.
What do you guys have left to figure out among the offensive depth in terms of what we’ll see in the game?
The #4 WR spot and #3 RB (well, the #2 RB while Mark Ingram serves his 4-game suspension) are all still up in the air. There are favorites for both positions, but there is still plenty of battling going on.
At running back, the Saints are still deciding between Jonathan Williams, Boston Scott, and Shane Vereen, with Williams the current frontrunner. If Williams struggles and Vereen has a good game, it’s not too late for Vereen to leapfrog the competition and steal the job.
At wide receiver, there are even more names in play: Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood, Brandon Tate, Tommylee Lewis, and Michael Floyd are all vying for roster spots. There are at least two spots to be had between that group of six, but one will be the primary WR4 and the other will see time in 5 WR sets and special teams.
How about on the defensive side?
Honestly, most of the defensive side is set. The one spot that could be of interest would be linebacker, as AJ Klein has struggled in defending the run this year and could lose his job to a healthy Alex Anzalone. Both players are almost guaranteed to make the roster (absent any last-minute trades), but who starts and who subs in could change between now and Week 1.
Another piece in the secondary (primarily a bench piece and special teams ace) is also undecided, with guys like Marcus Williams (no, not that one - we have two), Chris Banjo, Arthur Maulet, and others are all fighting to make the final roster.
We’re gonna see you guys in a little more than two months at yalls place in Week 9 right around the midpoint of the season. That’s a lot of football to come, but what are you expecting from the Saints between now and then?
I’ll go on record saying the Saints will be 5-2 by the time these two teams meet again (with losses against the Falcons and Vikings). It is incredibly important for the Saints to at least be 4-3 at this point as the Saints still have the Eagles, Steelers, two with the Panthers, and another with the Falcons after the Saints get done with the Rams in Week 9.
Early season matchups against a Jameis Winston-less Buccaneers, a Tyrod Taylor-led Browns, and a questionable Giants team are huge chances for the Saints to pad the win column a bit. If the Saints lose those early games, the season could be lost before it even really gets started.
Which players are absolutely key for their roles for you guys this year? Obviously, everyone knows QB Drew Brees. And we know some of the bigger name guys on both sides of the ball. But are there any key role players or lesser heralded guys that are going to need to step up to meet fan expectations?
Hm. Guys like Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan, and Marshon Lattimore (among plenty of others) are all firmly entrenched in their roles. But who are the lesser-heralded guys that need to meet expectations?
I’ll say the two players that will draw the most attention by fans are DE Marcus Davenport and WR Cameron Meredith.
Both were offseason acquisition, the former a player the Saints traded up for in the 2018 NFL Draft by trading away their 2019 1st Round pick. Cameron Meredith was the biggest name added on the offensive side of the ball, picked up in free agency from the Chicago Bears.
Fans will likely be putting too much pressure on Davenport to perform immediately considering the high price the Saints paid to get him, but in all honesty, patience will be key with Davenport as he is still incredibly raw on the defensive line. The same patience will be needed for Meredith, but that won’t stop fans from looking at his 2016 stat line with the Bears and daydreaming about what could be with Drew Brees.
Speaking of, what are the expectations? Before last year, yall were riding a three-year string of 7-9 seasons. Last year clearly has raised the bar. So what would satisfy fans in 2018?
The Saints were one miraculous play away from competing in the NFC Championship Game. The Saints improved on both sides of the ball in the offseason, and sacrificed part of the future (the 2019 draft pick traded for Davenport) to try to improve chances of winning now. Missing the playoffs would be a major disappointment to say the least.
The Saints are ready. The fans are ready. Drew Brees needs another Super Bowl before riding off into the sunset. 2018 is as good a year as any.
Thanks to Christopher for the time.