The Saints host the Arizona Cardinals in the Dome for a chance to move their record to 3-0 to start the season today. How fun would that be? Despite not playing their best football, a 3-0 start would be a godsend when you consider how last year played out. And let's call a space a spade: whatever Colston is doing to the Cardinal defender in this picture, we want more of that. Here's five things I'm looking for in this game:
1. Are Mark Ingram and Jahri Evans active, and if not, how do their fill ins play?
I'm really nervous about the possible absence of Jahri Evans, I'm not going to lie. If he's out, all eyes will be on Tim Lelito and how the undrafted rookie performs in his place. And as far as Ingram is concerned, I kind of hope he's inactive. As good as Khiry Robinson looked in preseason when he wasn't fumbling he might prove a nice addition to the offense.
2. Does the Saints offensive line play a decent game?
The failure of the offense in the first two weeks, and I say failure in comparison to the standard they've set since 2006, is mostly attributable to offensive line play and Mark Ingram. So I want to see the o-line finally show that they can be without Aaron Kromer and perform well. But if Evans is out that will be even harder. Of course, there's always the possibility that the coaching isn't as good anymore, or that the talent isn't there. If Evans is out and the line continues playing the way they've been playing, or worse, things could be real dicey. Or they could put it together (with or without Evans) and play pretty well. Wouldn't that be nice?
3. Does Glenn Foster come in and pick up where he left off?
I've been clamoring for a young defensive talent on the Saints since Sean Payton came. Really since Jim Mora left. The Saints have been able to find young offensive talent in unlikely places (Lance, PT, Colston, Jahri, Nicks, Ivory etc…) but they haven't duplicated that at all on defense. I keep hoping Foster will be that guy, the undrafted rookie defensive lineman that will take the league by storm. And maybe he just got hot in preseason against weak competition and he'll never amount to anything, but I'm so desperate for the Saints to come up with a playmaker on defense that I'm putting all my eggs in one basket with him. Why not? I just want to see him come in, quietly get some sacks, and then several weeks down the road hear announcers talk about him like he was the gem/steal of the undrafted class. Is that so much to ask? I'm not talking Pro Bowl here. Anyway, I'm excited he's healthy and back because of how good he looked. I hope he looks good in a real game.
4. Carson Palmer still kind of sucks, right?
Remember when Carson Palmer was one of the very best quarterbacks in the league? I barely do. 2005 and 2006 were what I considered monster years for him with the Bengals, and he was so young at that point it was assumed he'd continue to be elite for a long time. But he hasn't really been good since, granted he got worse as the talent around him evaporated. Sure he's put up 4,000 yard passing seasons since, but with nowhere near the kind of efficiency he had back in those two stellar seasons. The Saints' defense under Rob Ryan is playing better and I'm counting on Palmer to kind of melt down at some point in this game. He's usually good for one or two horrific mistakes. Fingers crossed. But he's not with the Bengals anymore, and he's not with the Raiders. So the reason I question my opinion ever so slightly is because he actually has talent around him.
5. Will Drew Brees bounce back from two mediocre games?
This is partly on the offensive line to play better but Brees' QB rating is 87.4 through two games. If he ended the season with that rating, it would be his lowest as a Saint and worst since 2003. And with the way last season ended, he's not on a great stretch right now. I want to see him get back to mauling people. He'll try to attack a secondary that features Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, both formerly of LSU.