4. The secondary of the Saints has a few new faces that will be on display tonight. The Saints used their first round pick to select the best safety in the draft when they took Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th pick. In free agency they also made a splash after signing former Steeler corner back Keenan Lewis, who lead the NFL in pass deflections last season with 28. These two players will be thrown in with returning veterans Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, and Jabari Greer in hopes they can make an immediate impact. So far in training camp both have garnered plenty of attention, Vaccaro for his aggressive play, and Lewis for his air tight coverage. Can they continue this dominant play in real game action?
3. New Orleans has vowed a renewed focus and reliance on the run game, moreover the zone blocking run scheme. Throughout training camp they have worked hard with the offensive line and running backs to re-establish the scheme, and no one has seemed to prosper more than third year running back Mark Ingram. Although Ingram finished up the 2012 season strong, his time with the Saints has mostly been a disappointment as he has failed to live up to the expectations placed on a first round pick. But Ingram has been the darling of camp so far in the preseason and many close to the organization expect him to have a monster year as the teams primary rusher. Ingram has been described as fast, fluid, and powerful as he has routinely ripped off impressive runs in camp. Tonight is the first live look at Ingram and the zone blocking scheme. Will he and the Saints offensive line impress?
2. The Saints have lacked a consistent pass rush since the days of the famed Dome Patrol. If Rob Ryan has anything to do with it, the pass rush will be reborn in New Orleans with his guidance. Early indications are that the Saints players are picking up Ryan’s scheme beautifully, evident by their reported routine dominance of the Drew Brees led offense. During the teams “Black and Gold” scrimmage the defense compiled five sacks, caused three turnovers, and held the offense to just two touchdowns in twelve total drives — a glowing debut for Ryan’s 3-4. But still questions continue to surround the unit. Will Junior Galette really become the teams elite pass rusher? Can Jonathan Vilma really fit inside the 3-4? Can Akiem Hicks fill in adequately for Kenyon Coleman? Will the Saints finally generate a consistent pass rush? Tonight will be the defense’s first test against an actual opponent.
1. Sean Payton famously said “I look at that spot (on the depth chart) like there’s a magnet with no name on it. Gray, it’s just gray.” when referring to the left tackle position vacated when Jermon Bushrod signed a lucrative contract with the Chicago Bears in free agency. Left tackle is arguably the most important position on a teams roster behind only quarterback, especially when that left tackle is slated to protect someone as valuable as Drew Brees is to the Saints. Charles Brown, a former second round pick, would be the teams starter should the season start today. Brown has done a fine job so far in training camp, but admittedly his lack of experience and injury history is concerning to say the least. New Orleans also drafted an intriguing prospect in Terron Armstead this year in the third round and signed former first round pick Jason Smith as competition. Just as the coaching staff are likely holding their breath, Saints fans certainly are and will have their eyes trained on Brown to see if he can indeed hold up. If not it may be a long, long season