The third preseason game for the New Orleans Saints should supply much of what we expect from the third, and most anticipated, preseason game. Starters who haven’t participated in the first two (like quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Cam Jordan) will be on the field, competition is ongoing at several spots (backup offensive linemen, fifth/sixth receiver) and schemes possibly will be a tad less vanilla than in the previous two. And, as usual, there are players to focus on.
- We don’t know how much he will play, or when he will play. But we do know that rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport is scheduled to play, for the first time this preseason. The Saints’ first-round pick has missed a ton of training camp work (about three weeks’ worth) due to injury, so he needs the reps in order to get up to speed. He looked fine against the Chargers during the joint practices this week. Don’t just fixate on his ability to be a speed rusher; he’s tall, so using his reach and also establishing leverage will be key, but he also is stronger than he looks. He could be a good package as a rusher.
- Austin Carr appears to have wriggled his way into the conversation at receiver. The Saints look to be set at the top four spots (Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith and Tre’Quan Smith) and Brandon Tate, who has the makings of being the team’s No. 1 returner, also might be able to contribute at receiver (though returning kicks will be his specialty). But Carr is crafty. He gets open, he makes catches and if he’s reliable and consistent, he could be a solid addition to the corps.
- It has been interesting to watch Will Clapp this training camp. Any belief that the former LSU standout would be overwhelmed at center and guard has dissipated. The rookie has handled each position smoothly and what he has lacked in polish, he has made up for with fight. He looks like more than a practice squad player, but he has to keep playing well and another solid offering, against the Chargers, will be another positive to add to his case for taking a roster spot.
- The teammates and opponents that have lined up across from defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence probably will tell you that the second-year player, who missed all of his rookie season due to surgery and rehab, is an active-roster player. Watch for yourself, again, Saturday night. He plays like a man who is grateful to have a second chance to play football – he said he thought his career might be over when he needed more knee surgery after having his ACL repaired – and he’d be a good fit in the tackle rotation.
- More so than a player, let’s keep an eye on the Saints’ No. 1 offensive unit. Drew Brees will be in at quarterback – he’s supposed to play into the second quarter, at least – and, hopefully, the offensive execution will smooth out with him under center. Now, don’t go overboard if the flow isn’t quite there; take a deep breath, remember it’s preseason and rest easy knowing that since Brees joined the team, New Orleans hasn’t finished lower than No. 6 in total offense in a season. But that said, productivity is the goal and the Saints haven’t had much of it so far on offense during preseason. Brees and the full complement of players on hand will hopefully execute, score, and be wearing caps and smiles before halftime.