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John DeShazier: Five Saints players to watch vs. Ravens

Final preseason game a critical one for some

The New Orleans Saints stretch out and stay loose for today's practice on August 30, 2016

The work isn't done. This preseason finale could be a bit different than previous ones for the New Orleans Saints, in that the starters – who customarily sit out the fourth preseason game – likely will play at least a quarter. Some will go a bit longer than that, which suggests that there still are some things that Coach Sean Paytonwants to see, but hasn't yet seen. Here are five players who could be under the microscope, for varying reasons:

  1. From right guard, to left tackle (due to Terron Armstead'srecovery), back to right guard, now to left guard. The Saints are looking for the best place for Andrus Peatto play and are hoping that he's more comfortable, and productive, at left guard than he was at right guard. Peat is big and he's talented, but he has had difficulty finding and settling into a position. Payton said that the coaches bear a portion of that burden; it'd be difficult for any player to feel comfortable who has shifted as often as has Peat in less than two seasons as a pro. For his sake, and for the sake of the offensive line, the Saints need Peat to stick at this position and to prosper. He played left tackle his entire career before the Saints made him a first-round pick in 2015 and envisioned him as a good bookend tackle to Armstead. Maybe, he'll be more comfortable on the left side than he has been on the right side.
  1. If Peat's going to the left side, the battle between Senio Kelemeteand Senio Kelemetenow moves to the right side. They were taking reps at left guard but now, one or the other likely will open the season as the starter at right guard. While competition obviously is welcomed, the hope was that one of them would've separated himself from the other by now. Lelito may have the best chance to do so; Kelemete did not practice with the team during the portion of practice that the media was allowed to view Tuesday, so his game status could be iffy. If he can't go, Lelito gets extra snaps and the chance for better synchronization with the line. A third player to consider in this mix – Khalif Barnes, who was signed Monday after a workout with the Saints. He also will get some work, although it'll be limited. But he's a veteran who understands concepts, so his adaptation should be smoother than most.
  1. Every year, there are several longshot-makes-good stories throughout training camp and preseason. One of the best this year has been receiver Tommylee Lewis, who looks like a decent bet to make the 53-man roster. Yes, he's small (5 feet 7, 168 pounds) and, yes, he's still learning the nuances of the NFL. But he can run, and he keeps making plays that stand out, and he has been impossible to ignore. Having another deep threat on the roster doesn't hurt, either. His 104 receiving yards (on seven catches) leads New Orleans' receivers this preseason.
  1. The Saints will take a good look at newly acquired defensive end Chris McCain on Thursday night. So, too, should you. McCain's knowledge of the defense is limited, but he'll get snaps and have specific responsibilities. Assuming one of them will be to rush the passer, he'll be worth watching to see if he can apply pressure consistently. He was acquired Monday via a trade with Miami, so it's obvious that there's something about his skill set that the Saints liked enough to pursue him.

5. Garrett Graysonhas played to mixed reviews this preseason. The third-round pick from 2015 simply has to improve on his vision and decision-making; his two-interception performance against Pittsburgh raised to four his preseason total, in just 54 attempts. And while it's important for the starters to exit preseason with a sweeter taste in their mouths, it's equally important for Grayson to leave a better impression than he has thus far. It may carry some sway toward the Saints' future plans at quarterback.

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