The NFL’s marquee match-up to start the 2011 season is nearly here, a contest pairing the last two Superbowl winners in the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
Both teams are eerily similar – top aerial attacks led by elite quarterbacks, deep talented group of receivers, stingy opportunistic defenses, and aggressive play-calling head coaches.
All reasons why the NFL match makers decided to throw them together in an effort to drum up fan interest after the head numbing off-season labor battle.
But with memories of the strife quickly fading, everyone is now anxiously awaiting football’s glorious return.
The Saints underwent many changes this off-season, re-building the defensive line to be better equipped against stopping the run, as well as completely overhauling the roster at the running back position.
Polarizing running back Reggie Bush was traded to the Miami Dolphins after five injury plagued seasons. Essentially he was replaced by Alabama running back Mark Ingram, whom the Saints traded back into the first round of the draft this year to select.
Free agent running back Darren Sproles was signed to “fill in” for the role that Bush vacated. He will line up as a receiver, contribute on special teams, and be a pawn piece for Sean Payton to utilize in his offense.
The Saints will deploy both Ingram and Sproles in concert with Pierre Thomas against the Packers. Sproles is a veteran with plenty of game action, but for the rookie Ingram it will be the first true test of his professional career.
Much of the team success against the Packers will fall on his shoulders. But he is not the only new Saint that will play a big role come Thursday.