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John DeShazier: Five things to watch for in Saints-Packers

Ryan Griffin expected to get lots of playing time

Ryan Griffinplayed one series (three plays) against the Texans in the Saints' third preseason game. He'll get a more extensive look in this one, and even though the fourth preseason game is one in which starters for both teams pretty much will be given the night off, he wants to have a big game for the obvious reasons. First, the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Drew Breesofficially hasn't been awarded to Luke McCown, so there's that position to fight for. Second, if McCown has won that job, there are 31 other NFL teams that Griffin can continue trying to impress. He believes he can be an NFL starter and if it's not going to be in New Orleans, there are other teams that may be interested in his skills. He has had an impressive preseason already; finishing it off well may guarantee him a job in the league.

If you haven't been impressed with receiver Willie Snead, it's because you haven't been watching. He catches almost everything thrown in his direction and if he doesn't, chances are that the error belongs to the quarterback just as much, if not more, than the receiver. Has he done enough to make the Saints' 53-man roster? It certainly seems so, but if not, tonight's game against the Packers could be the final catapult that he needs to vault past the competition. The Saints' first three receivers appear to be set but beyond that, it may be a bit muddy. One last push by Snead just might clear the picture a bit, if he hasn't already cleared it.

How many running backs will New Orleans keep on the 53-man? We feel pretty confident about four – Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Khiry Robinsonand Marcus Murphy, the rookie whom Coach Sean Paytonsaid will be on the roster after the preseason game against Houston. What we don't know is if there'll be room for five. Payton likes Tim Hightowerplenty; the veteran running back has made a remarkable comeback after sitting out three years due to a knee injury and complications that arose after surgery. But Payton also said that Hightower's inclusion on the roster may be a numbers situation, that he could be competing for a roster spot against a linebacker more so than against another back. Hightower, too, should get some work against the Packers. If he hasn't already swayed the staff, this will be another chance to do so.

The No. 1 defense has had two spotty showings in preseason (against Baltimore and Houston), and one lock-down performance (against New England). It probably won't have a chance to post another solid showing, given that escaping preseason in relative good health becomes a priority for every team, and that the Saints have suffered their fair share of injuries defensively this preseason. However, whoever is on the field defensively will be expected to show that they understand the concepts that have been installed. So linebackers like Jerry Franklinand Henry Coley, linemen like Bobby Richardsonand Aubrey Mabryand defensive backs like Brian Dixoncan make an impression here. If they can't make the 53-man, perhaps a practice squad spot will be available.

Reserves or not, the Saints need to cut down on their penalties. Already this preseason they've committed 34 – 15 against Baltimore, eight against New England and 11 against Houston. The mental errors have been the most egregious – lining up offside, illegal procedure, a personal foul to wipe out a significant punt return. Other penalties (defensive holding, pass interference), coaches believe can be corrected through the use of proper technique and reinforced instruction. But the mental busts display a lack of concentration and discipline, and no coaching staff wants to see that. This game could get a little confusing based on the names that fans aren't familiar with, considering the number of bottom-of-the-roster, fringe-roster players that will be on the field. That doesn't mean Payton and his staff don't want to see the game played cleanly.

Faces of the 2015 New Orleans Saints roster as of Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

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