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Five Saints players to watch in preseason game vs. Browns

Posted Aug 10, 2017

Garrett Grayson should see plenty of action

The marquee New Orleans Saints players figure to see little, if any, action in the preseason opener Thursday night vs. the Cleveland Browns. Likely, we won’t see the likes of Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson. And if Mark Ingram, Cam Jordan and Michael Thomas are on the field, the cameos will be short, but sweet. That said, there are plenty of Saints performances worth charting against Cleveland. Here are five of them.

1. This very well could be a make-or-break preseason for Garrett Grayson. The third-year quarterback, and former third-round draft pick (No. 75 overall in 2015), simply hasn’t lived up to the draft status thus far. He spent last season on the practice squad and, at best, projects to be the Saints’ No. 3 quarterback this season behind Brees and Chase Daniel. Grayson figures to get a good amount of work in preseason games to gauge his progress, so he’ll have to show that not only can he get the offense out of huddles quickly, but also that he can execute the throws. He has to inspire a level of confidence from teammates and coaches.

2. If Ingram and Peterson won’t be working much at running back, Daniel Lasco, Trey Edmunds and Darius Victor will. Lasco is versatile enough as a runner and receiver to stay on the field in all situations, and the value he adds on special teams makes him very desirable. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the three is Victor. He checks in at 5 feet 7, 225 pounds and when he squares his shoulders, he’s a load to deal with. At his height, he’s going to win the leverage battle more often than not, he can be difficult to locate behind his offensive linemen and he runs with power. He could be fun to watch.

3. Rookie linebacker Alex Anzalone has worked at all three positions and has shown the versatility necessary to play them. He could be on the field for an extensive period of time against the Browns, to see how he handles his assignments in game conditions. Of course, he hasn’t been perfect in training camp. But his aggression is undeniable, Saints coaches love that he’s a fast learner and his reps with the No. 1 defense in camp suggest that he is a player that the staff wants to get a good, long look at.

4. Not sure how long Hau’oli Kikaha will be on the field Thursday. When and if he is, he bears watching. He’s returning from a third torn ACL – he says no one better knows how to rehab from a torn ACL – and he’s wearing a brace on his left knee for support. But Kikaha said he really doesn’t need the brace and coaches say that his explosiveness as a pass rusher is flashing. He’s listed as a linebacker, but he’s more of a defensive end and, in fact, has gained 15 pounds (he’s a 261 now) to help him handle that assignment. The Saints have been searching for a consistent, effective right defensive end for the last few seasons and Kikaha may help fill the void. His comeback story is a compelling one, and the Saints may not want to push him too hard in preseason games. But, too, they have to see if he still can be the player who forced four fumbles and produced four sacks as a rookie in ’15.

5. What to do with Tommylee Lewis? The diminutive speedster has been impressive in training camp, but there’s a dilemma. If the Saints keep five receivers, and if they’re set at the top four – Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Willie Snead IV and Brandon Coleman (Coleman isn’t a sure thing, but he has had his best training camp) – the Lewis will have to bring something to the table on special teams. And likely, he wouldn’t be the Saints’ top option as a returner (Ginn is first on that list, probably followed by rookie running back Alvin Kamara). But again, he may be able to turn heads in the same way he did last season. He has electrifying speed, and he’ll need to use it this preseason to leave a can’t-let-him-go impression.

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