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John DeShazier: Saints starters expected to play early vs. Ravens

Coach Sean Payton said first unit will see action Thursday

New Orleans Saints starters likely can expect to play at least a quarter in Thursday's preseason finale against Baltimore at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

With the offense and defense having struggled in several areas during the third preseason game against Pittsburgh, Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday morning that the plan is for his front-line players to receive some work against the Ravens as the Saints look to exit the preseason with a better feel toward the play they've submitted.

In the wake of the 27-14 loss, at least a couple of position switches were made. On offense, right guard Andrus Peat was moved to left guard, and the left guard position battle between Senio Kelemete and Senio Kelemete now has been moved to right guard. Given the relocations, the guards may play a bit longer than the rest of the starters.

"We're going to play a lot of our guys early on in this game," Payton said. "I think it's important that those guys get work at those (guard) positions. Our plan early in the first quarter is to play our starters and then make a transition at some point.

"There'll be a handful of players that we'll continue to give more snaps to, and (Peat) would be a candidate, along with the right guard position. A lot of it will just be dependent on the numbers and where we're at starting the second quarter.

"Our plan in this game is to start the game playing our guys. That's our plan."

Also, backup quarterback Garrett Grayson is expected to play about a half, Payton said. The second-year player struggled against the Steelers, with two interceptions, after playing fairly well in his preseason debut against the Patriots.

"I think any time, especially at the quarterback position, the challenge there is a little different," Payton said. "It seems like it's a lot easier to get receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen – it's a lot easier to get those guys X amount of snaps and it's just a little bit more challenging to do at quarterback. You're just playing one.

"So any time you're out there, I think the rule of thumb is you're putting your tape out, not only for the Saints but for every other club that's paying attention, which all 31 others are. So I think you're constantly mindful of that, your body of work. I'm sure he's excited to get back out and get some playing time this Thursday and improve on some of the things that he feels like he can.

"He'll get some good work. I would guess he'll have a half."

NOTES: Payton also confirmed two roster moves, the trade for Miami defensive end Chris McCain and the signing of offensive lineman Khalif Barnes following his workout on Monday. Each is expected to play Thursday. Also, Payton confirmed that defensive back Damian Swann is in Philadelphia to see a specialist, reportedly Dr. William Meyers, who specializes in core muscle injuries. | READ MORE

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