Props to Coach Dennis Allen, who made a chunk of this much clearer, and perhaps easier.
When the New Orleans Saints coach said his starters will play in Sunday’s preseason opener against Kansas City at noon in the Caesars Superdome, it erased a chunk of studying (OK, call it guesswork, but do it with respect). Anyway, here's who we believe the Saints will line up with against the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
FIRST QUARTER: Thanks D.A., because we'll just say the starters on offense and defense – minus linebacker Demario Davis and left guard Andrus Peat – look good to go for at least a series, perhaps two. That possibly will eat up the entire quarter. Add to the missing receivers Rashid Shaheed and Tre'Quan Smith, listed as second-teamers but guys who ordinarily would receive early snaps. The good part is, quarterback Derek Carr, running backs Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams, receiver Michael Thomas, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and linebacker Pete Werner should open on the field. Expect a hookup between Carr and receiver Chris Olave, who arguably has been the best offensive player in training camp. Cam Jordan starts at his customary left defensive end spot, but it'll be interesting to see how soon the staff wants to get a look at defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, the first-round pick who's listed as a backup but has shown signs of being capable of getting to the quarterback during training camp.
SECOND QUARTER: Definitely, expect to see Bresee on the field if he doesn't get in all his work in the first quarter. Cue up cornerbacks Alontae Taylor and Bradley Roby, too. If Juwan Johnson starts at tight end, this could be time for Taysom Hill to get some work in, with Jameis Winston at quarterback. Malcolm Roach will be in at defensive tackle, too. Since Zack Baun likely will have drawn the starting assignment at linebacker with Werner, D'Marco Jackson and Nephi Sewell could be on the field, and let's say Johnathan Abram and Lonnie Johnson will be working at strong and free safety. The offensive line depth took a blow on Friday when tackle Landon Young suffered an MCL injury, so Lewis Kidd steps in as the second left tackle, unless James Hurst kicks out after starting at left guard. Storm Norton is in at right tackle, and Max Garcia is snapping the ball to Winston. Versatile Calvin Throckmorton could play a decent amount and possibly will move around.
THIRD AND FOURTH QUARTERS: It actually feels safe to combine both quarters of the second half, because I think what we're going to see is an extended look at most of these guys. For instance, once rookie quarterback Jake Haener enters the game – possibly in the second quarter, definitely to open the second half – he won't be coming out. Running backs Kendre Miller and Ellis Merriweather, likewise, are going to carry the load at that position. A hodgepodge of receivers will get to show their wares after Keith Kirkwood, James Washington, Kawaan Baker and Bryan Edwards finish out the first half behind Chris Olave and Thomas.
Rookie A.T. Perry may shine, and Lynn Bowden Jr. has made some plays during training camp. I don't think tight end Jimmy Graham is going to be on the field for long, especially in this situation, but Foster Moreau may be in for an extended stay because the Saints are without tight ends Lucas Krull and Jesse James. Offensive linemen should include Tommy Kraemer, Mark Evans II and Chuck Filiaga.
On defense, rookie defensive end Isaiah Foskey makes his bid to impress the coaching staff, along with defensive tackles Prince Emili and Jack Heflin. Linebacker Jaylon Smith, who signed Friday, isn't expected to play but Ty Summers, Nick Anderson and Anfernee Orji will. This also will be the opportunity for safeties Jordan Howden, Smoke Monday and Ugo Amadi, along with cornerback Troy Pride, to stack more plays on top of the ones they've made in training camp.
Pay attention to the returners, with Shaheed out. Coaches want to see returns during the preseason, and someone could splash there. And keep an eye on the kicking game; kicker Wil Lutz has had an outstanding offseason but Blake Grupe may be capable of kicking in the NFL somewhere, if not New Orleans. And, maybe, Blake Gillikin hasn't shut the door completely on Lou Hedley at punter. Preseason games and joint practices may have a say in that department.
Full coverage of the New Orleans Saints workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Friday, August 11.