If the third preseason game is the one that most closely replicates a regular-season game, with the starters playing a half or more and a bit of actual game-planning involved, then this is the one that New Orleans Saints fans – and a handful of players – have been waiting for. The players who were healthy holdouts for the first two preseason will get a chance to unleash some of that pent-up energy Saturday, Aug. 26 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Texans. Here are a few of them, and others, to watch:
- It's time. You've been waiting for a glimmer of what running back Adrian Peterson can do in a Saints uniform, and it's very likely that this is the preseason game in which that peek will be supplied. The real question isn't whether Peterson can unseat incumbent Mark Ingram as the starter. It's whether A.D. still has the juice that has helped him run for nearly 12,000 yards in his previous 10 seasons, and become a sure Hall of Famer. All indications are that he has plenty left in the tank, and likely he'll get to flash some of it against the Texans.
- BTW: You may want to pay a bit of attention to Ingram, too. He's the consummate teammate and professional, and he has the skins on the wall to prove his value as a running back in the Saints' offense. And he also his as competitive as they come, so he obviously has taken notice to those who believe he quietly will fade into the background. Last season was his best in the NFL, and he's back to show there's more where that came from.
- It's strange that none of the spotlight that has fallen on the Saints' corps of cornerbacks has fallen on Sterling Moore, who was a steal last season. He was a free agent signee four days before the regular season began, and went on to start 12 of the 13 games he played and became the team's best, most reliable corner. Well, here he is again. Injuries to Delvin Breaux and Marshon Lattimore have ensured that Moore gets plenty of reps and lately he has resembled the player who started and finished last season in New Orleans. He looked good in the Saints' joint practice with Houston and the Saints need him to be effective, because no cornerback on the Saints' roster has more NFL starts (31) or experience (seventh season) than Moore.
- You already know what defensive end Cam Jordan can do. It's documented, and he's a proven commodity. Still, this is his first action in the preseason, and likening him to a caged tiger isn't entirely inappropriate. Jordan has been champing to get on the field and do what he does best – wreak havoc in the opposing backfield, when he isn't doing a top-shelf job against the run. It's uncertain how many reps he will get – again, there's nothing for him to prove in preseason – but know that he will make the most of them.
- I don't know if center Max Unger will play, or if he'll be held out until the preseason finale on Thursday night, or if he'll play in both games. But Coach Sean Payton wants Unger to get some work in preseason, and he has been full go for several days now. And Houston's defensive line presents an elite-level challenge, so he has to be ready if this is the game in which he returns. Probably, some rust will show but this will be a good opportunity to see where Unger is in terms of effectiveness. Also, the left tackle position bears watching, especially if rookie Ryan Ramczyk can't go. Ramczyk is the projected starter; Khalif Barnes and Bryce Harris appear to be fighting for a roster spot as a backup swing tackle. If Ramczyk and Unger are out (and top backup Senio Kelemete also could be a scratch), it could affect how long Brees is on the field against Houston. The Texans are tough enough to block with starters; there won't be much reason to leave Brees in for an extended period of time if he properly can't be protected.