The last time the Chiefs came into the Superdome is a game that will haunt me for a long time. Granted this is just preseason, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'd get at least a tiny fraction of satisfaction out of watching the Saints skull drag the Chiefs. Beyond that, it really is just another meaningless game that will mostly focus on the second half of the roster battling for a spot on the team come the regular season. I expect the starters to play one quarter, if that, and they may just play one drive. That doesn't mean there aren't some things worth paying attention to, though. Here's the five things I'll be looking at most closely:
1. Do the Saints survive without any major injuries?
Get used to this one being something I look for, that will probably be the #1 thing for all four preseason games. I have a hard time getting up for these games every year for this very reason, but when you lose three key players before the first game it's accentuated. I'd rather the Saints lose 85-0 with no injuries, frankly, than lose one guy but look amazing. These games are just not worth losing starters over. I really wish there were just two. And the defense, especially, has already lost two starters and Martez Wilson for four weeks when they are trying to rebound from the worst year of all time. I just want my team relatively healthy for the opener.
2. Does the defense show us anything?
With the injury fear out of the way, talking the actual game, I'd love to see something from this defense. Anything really. It could be Junior Galette dominating like he did in the scrimmage. It could be Akiem Hicks this time. A couple fumbles, a couple picks… some great 3rd down or red zone play. Or just sound tackling. I don't really have anything specific in mind, I just want to see the defense show something. It will prove that Rob Ryan is doing a good job, and players are executing his orders.
3. The backup receiver battle.
I doubt Colston will play as he's just back, and I doubt Lance Moore will see much time either. I expect Nick Toon, Kenny Stills, Andy Tanner, Steve Breaston, Saalim Hakim and others to get a monster load of reps. And I want to see how they all do. Which one is impressive? Which one doesn't live up to expectations? I think this battle is pretty wide open and there for numerous guys to take. It all depends on who steps up and stays healthy. This is their chance to stand out and show what they can do. Hakim in particular has to show his speed can make a difference, because I don't think there's any way 2nd and 3rd string DB's are running with him.
4. Do the Saints feel secure with Garrett Hartley?
I want to see Hartley get some reps in this game, and I want him to look solid. There is no competition in camp for him anymore and he just had the most horrific practice of camp directly following the release of Maltos. If he can go say 2 for 2 with a 43 yarder and a 36 yarder, both right down the middle, I think we'll all feel a world of a lot better about that situation. If he misses a kick or two, better get some competition back in quick.
5. How does the draft class perform?
Kenny Vaccaro, Terron Armstead, John Jenkins, Kenny Stills and Rufus Johnson are probably the five players who's individual performance I will watch most closely. The first three are locks to make the roster, and I'm very curious just how involved they will be on every down with the Saints in year one. Stills and Johnson are on the outside looking in, so those two will have to show something to stick. But anytime you add young talent through the draft you want to see those guys succeed as an endorsement of your talent evaluation.
Enjoy the game, WHO DAT!