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John DeShazier: Five things to watch for in Patriots-Saints game

Brees expected to see action vs. Pats

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  1. While the competition moves along between Luke McCownand Ryan Griffinfor backup quarterback, Saturday night vs. the Patriots will mark the preseason debut for starter Drew Brees. Brees has been at his efficient best during training camp, so it won't be a surprise if he's on the mark against the Patriots even though he didn't play in the opener, on the road against Baltimore. In the grand scheme, it isn't critical that he carve up New England in a preseason game – he'll likely play one quarter to one-and-a-half, depending on the number of plays the offense can churn out. But it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing to see after the No. 1 offense struggled in its first two series against the Ravens. Once he finishes, though, the attention can return to McCown and Griffin as each attempts to separate from the other.

2. The Saints didn't record a sack against Baltimore, although Damian Swannand Terrence Frederickboth produced turnovers via interceptions. Part of the anticipated defensive improvement has to be a better pass rush than last season (34 sacks). Ravens quarterbacks either had too much time to throw in the preseason opener, or were able to escape containment when they were pressured. New England's quarterbacks may be a little less mobile than Baltimore's, but it won't matter if the Saints don't pressure them more consistently. So, defensive end Cam Jordan and his teammates will be looking to apply significantly more heat in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

  1. There isn't a whole lot to not like about running back/return specialist Marcus Murphy, the rookie from Missouri. Murphy had the green light to return any and all kickoffs against the Ravens, and responded by returning five for 132 yards. Coaches liked his aggressiveness and his instincts. They want to get a look at him as a punt returner, but no opportunities presented themselves last week. But if he's equally decisive and elusive as a punt returner, then the Saints will feel even better about their seventh-round pick. He's one of the rookies who'll have to stick foremost as a special teamer and so far, he looks pretty sticky.
  1. If Brandon Brownerand Keenan Lewisaren't a go against the Patriots, then Stanley Jean-Baptistegets a great platform to display the skills he has been cultivating as a cornerback. Jean-Baptiste clearly is improved and he's the one Saints cornerback who actually rivals Browner in size (Browner is 6 feet 4, 221; SJB is 6-3, 218). But the Saints are looking for last year's second-round pick to earn snaps this season and so far, he has appeared to be worthy. Sure, there have been days in training camp when he has been more effective than others. But his consistency is leveling out and he has the physical qualities to play the bump-and-run coverage that the Saints want to employ. Due to injuries, his workload could be higher than normal but all snaps for the former college receiver are good snaps toward his ultimate goal of being a big, physical cornerback like the ones he's replacing in the starting lineup.
  1. Everyone, it seems – fans, media, coaches – have been wondering just how ready is receiver Brandon Coleman,a free agent rookie last year who seems to possess all the size (6-6, 225) and skills required to make a huge impact. Well, ask, and you shall receive. Coach Sean Paytonsaid that Coleman will receive a substantially higher workload than he did against the Ravens. That means Coleman, who's been lining up as the starter in New Orleans' three-receiver sets (along with Marques Colston, to whom Coleman has been compared, and Brandin Cooks), hopefully will be in line to showcase some of the skills that the Saints have seen in him. Coleman has separated himself from the pack behind Colston and Cooks; here is an opportunity for him to show everyone why.
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