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Saints vs. Ravens: Five things to watch

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Teams square off in final preseason game at 7 p.m.

1. It’s hard to say whether the New Orleans Saints intend to carry two quarterbacks, or three, on the 53-man roster. But Ryan Griffin has made a pretty good case to be on it. He has played well this preseason (37 for 55 for 404 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception) and the safe assumption is that if New Orleans doesn’t want him, another NFL team will. He’ll play the majority of tonight’s game against the Baltimore Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and while it appears he may not have been able to wrest away the No. 2 quarterback position from Luke McCown, it won’t be a surprise to anyone if he has created a spot for himself on the roster. Griffin said he’ll use this game as his “Super Bowl.” He played well in the preseason finale last year; expect the same this year.

2. Receiver Seantavious Jones is an interesting prospect. Will he make the gameday roster? Unlikely. The Saints are extremely deep at receiver. But Jones could be a great practice squad candidate and more than just looking the part (6 feet 3, 200 pounds), he often has played the part. Depending on how much the Saints plan to open the offense, he could be a nice target in this encounter. He could have a nice night before it’s over.

3. With so many reserves playing significant time, the potential exists for tonight’s preseason game to get a tad sloppy. There will be penalties; there have been a slew of them throughout the league this preseason as officials bear down on the points of emphasis, and players who are reserves aren’t likely to have as good a grasp of the schemes and techniques as the starters. But there also might be a rash of turnovers, too, and the Saints have done well in forcing them the previous two outings, against Tennessee and Indianapolis. Now, the inclination may be present to downplay forced turnovers in a game featuring backups. But we have to agree with Saints safety Jairus Byrd on this one; the ball still has to be stripped, recovered or intercepted, regardless of the opposition and who’s throwing, catching and running. The mere act of completing those tasks helps to reinforce the good habits that the Saints have attempted to foster this offseason. So while it may be difficult for New Orleans to maintain its pace of the last two games – eight total turnovers forced – it still will be looking to take the ball away at every opportunity.

4. The Saints pretty much are set in terms of the first four safeties: Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush and Vinnie Sunseri. It’s a little murky from there, though. Is the fifth safety spot going to belong to free agent rookie Pierre Warren, who impressed early in training camp? Or could it go to Marcus Ball, who played a couple of seasons in the Canadian Football League? Ball has been injured and unable to play or practice for several days, so his absence may resolve the question. But Warren could help his cause by doing something standout against Baltimore. If he does, expect it to be in the passing game; in two seasons at Jacksonville State, he had 29 pass breakups and eight interceptions.

5. Whatever the result, both teams will be hoping for two things tonight: Players giving maximum effort, and no injuries. It’s not a cliché to say that this is a live audition for the players, one more chance for them to leave an impression not only on their respective teams, but also on every other NFL team. That alone should ensure that there’s no slacking off in effort. As Griffin said, this is their Super Bowl. And, obviously, the desire is to escape unscathed. Even though few, if any, starters will participate, many of these players are key reserves and largely will comprise both teams’ special teams units. There are special teams jobs to be won on the Saints’ roster, so there’s plenty on the line for the players.

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