Costa Mesa, Calif. – Again, a tip of the visor to New Orleans Saints Coach Dennis Allen for providing a bit of a guide to this, because otherwise it'd look a lot more like total guesswork instead of somewhat knowledgeable guesswork.
So, for Sunday's second preseason game, against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, here's our thoughts on who'll play, and when, after the Saints and Chargers held joint practices Thursday and Friday.
FIRST QUARTER: Quarterback Derek Carr essentially said that the opposing defense often gives better, regular-season like looks in joint practice than in preseason games. And he got in a lot of reps Thursday and Friday, so don't expect to see him Sunday. Jameis Winston starts at quarterback, maybe plays a quarter and yields to rookie Jake Haener, who didn't get any reps against the Chargers. Haener will be in heavy use the last two preseason games. Also, don't expect to see Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramcyzk and Chris Olave on offense, or Cam Jordan, Khalen Saunders, Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye, Demario Davis (recovering from hamstring injury) or Marshon Lattimore (tweaked his knee Friday) for the defense. Second-year left tackle Trevor Penning and rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee will have a decent amount of work, and Jaylon Smith will make his Saints debut at linebacker – if not as a starter, then definitely early. Running back duties may begin with Jamaal Williams, but Kendre Miller (knee) worked and will play early.
SECOND QUARTER: So, after Bradley Roby and Paulson Adebo or Alontae Taylor start at corner – and figure on Taylor, who had two solid days of work against the Chargers, playing a little bit more – figure on some combination of Troy Pride Jr., Isaac Yiadom and Anthony Johnson at corner. Ugo Amadi probably has earned early snaps at safety, and rookie Jordan Howden gets to show how much he has absorbed. Payton Turner and Carl Granderson may still be working at defensive end along with Tanoh Kpassagnon, but rookie Isaiah Foskey needs the reps. He hasn't flashed as much as you'd like to see from a high pick, but sometimes it simply takes time. Keith Kirkwood and rookie A.T. Perry may be off the field at receiver, so Bryan Edwardsand Kawaan Baker should be in the mix. The No. 2 offensive line – including Storm Norton, Calvin Throckmorton, Max Garcia and Nick Saldiveri – should be providing the protection.
THIRD AND FOURTH QUARTERS: Haener opens the second half at quarterback after finishing out the first half, and he's in for the long haul. He should be settled into a flow if the line can keep the rush off him. Ellis Merriweather and Kirk Merritt are swapping the reps at running back by now, and the game will finish with those youngsters looking to turn heads. The tight end situation is settled in with Jesse James and Lucas Krull, and Shaquan Davis, Lynn Bowden Jr. and Jontre Kirklin probably will be cleaning up at receiver. At defensive tackle, Prince Emili and Jack Heflin will do the heavy lifting along with Jerron Cage. Kyle Phillips, the hero of the preseason opener with a late interception to set up the game-winning field goal, has the chance to make another splash or two, or just be a steady force during the time he's on the field. Niko Lalos is in the mix at defensive end, too. Linebackers Ryan Connelly, Ty Summers, Nick Anderson and Anfernee Orji really will have a chance to shine because they'll get the majority of the work. Keep an eye on the specialist work throughout, especially at punter. Blake Gillikin wasn't as consistent as he wanted and needed to be last season, and maybe hasn't quite closed the door on Lou Hedley.
Full coverage of the New Orleans Saints workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Friday, August 18.