The guess-o-meter is high for the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Caesars Superdome.
Which frontline players for the New Orleans Saints will play? A handful? Ten? None?
Speculating is half the fun.
SAINTS VS. CHARGERS FIRST QUARTER:
Jameis Winston wants to play, looks ready to play, is willing to play. I don't think he'll play. He probably has lobbied for a series or two, and missing the joint practices against Green Bay helps his case for wanting live snaps. But does he really, really need the work? Is the risk worth the possible reward? I don't think so, but Winston is a persuasive guy so maybe, just maybe, he gets on the field. Even if he does, it won't be long before he gives way to Ian Book. Running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II, receiver Michael Thomas, defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Tyrann Mathieu, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, left tackle James Hurst and receiver Jarvis Landry are among those I don't expect to see. But, we'll see. Rookie Trevor Penning again opens at left tackle, even though Penning already has played a ton of snaps, because his education is ongoing and the work has proven to be highly beneficial. The rest of the starting offensive line – left guard Andrus Peat, center Erik McCoy, right guard Calvin Throckmorton and right tackle Lewis Kidd – help provide the protection, briefly. Tony Jones Jr. is at running back.
SAINTS VS. CHARGERS SECOND QUARTER:
Starters are off the field after a series or two. Book is in at quarterback, and maybe Abram Smith is handling the running back chores. I'd assume rookie receiver Chris Olave started and is out, and there isn't much use putting Deonte Harty and Tre'Quan Smith to the hazard, so Dai'Jean Dixon, Kawaan Baker and Rashid Shaheed are in the mix at receiver. On defense, Nephi Sewell started at linebacker and might still be on the field, alongside Jon Bostic. Eric Wilson, who had a hand in two turnovers so far, is in soon. If Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby started at cornerback, they definitely have been long gone by now, so Brian Allen and DaMarcus Fields are in coverage. Payton Turner may still be getting reps on the defensive line, but more likely Tanoh Kpassagnon and Taco Charlton could be on the ends, Malcolm Roach and Albert Huggins at tackle. Justin Evans could be playing safety, and he has been able to turn some heads during training camp and preseason games.
SAINTS VS. CHARGERS THIRD QUARTER:
Book is going to finish the game at quarterback. Receiver-turned-running back Kirk Merritt gets a healthy opportunity to show what he can do at his new position. Dixon, Baker and Shaheed getting long looks, lots of snaps at receiver. Lucas Krull and J.P. Holtz are the tight ends to finish out the quarter and game. Bostic might be off the field at linebacker, but Wilson might still be there with Andrew Dowell. The offensive line only goes so deep, so maybe Nick Martin is at center and Derrick Kelly II is playing tackle by now.
SAINTS VS. CHARGERS FOURTH QUARTER:
Not sure if anyone will be so impressive as to claim a roster spot in this one, but the Saints are looking for a reason to keep Merritt around. He could be a great practice squad candidate, and he may have a chance to stack some numbers late in this one if he has enough patience to wait for holes to develop, and if this version of the offensive line can help develop those holes. The secondary will be an interesting mix, as will the receivers as Dixon figures to make a last push for the practice squad.
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.