New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots: Who we’re watching
By John Hendrix
After a mixed bag from the New Orleans Saints first preseason game, we’re wondering what Saturday’s home contest against the New England Patriots will bring. Injuries plagued the team in the first preseason game, and penalties riddled Payton’s squad. The black and gold look to change their fortune, and put together a game which will make fans feel at ease. I’m giving you my five players that I’m keeping tabs on as the game progresses.
Murphy did a little bit of everything against the Ravens, and was the hero for a brief moment with what looked like the go-ahead touchdown late in the game. Sadly, Rob Ryan’s defense didn’t hold up. In my latest 53-man roster prediction, I’ve left Marcus Murphy off of my projections. I know some respectfully disagree with me, and it’s not that I don’t value Murphy’s abilities as a returner. In fact, I said an alternate scenario exists that if the Saints were to not carry seven linebackers (which is looking good with Ronald Powell being out of practice), then I could see the team carry five running backs. When push comes to shove, Sean Payton sides with veterans. Tim Hightower can be used on the team, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see both of these running backs on the roster if they keep it going.
Brandon Coleman was primarily M.I.A. against the Ravens, at least on offense, but Sean Payton insisted that there was nothing disciplinary involved. Payton also said that Coleman will see first-team snaps in the team’s second preseason game against the Patriots. His height advantage could prove to be very useful, and I could see him in the slot creating mismatches. Coleman is a strong favorite to make the final 53-man roster, and a strong showing with Drew Brees (assuming he plays) will help solidify his spot.
Kasim Edebali led all New Orleans Saints players against the Ravens with 59 total snaps on defense. Although he didn’t grade out favorably, his presence was hard to miss. Edebali turned in two quarterback pressures on the night coming from the right defensive end position. Edebali’s stance pre-snap is similar to that of ex-Saints pass rusher Junior Galette. With all of the focus on Cam Jordan at that position, we’ll feel even better with Edebali raising his game.
It was a scary sight watching Delvin Breaux go down with injury and leave the game in his first NFL action, but luckily he was okay. Breaux appeared in nine snaps against the Ravens before he exited. It will be interesting to see how much action he sees against the Patriots, assuming he does suit up. Breaux has a real legitimate shot to be the team’s starting nickel/slot corner. Overall, the Saints may remain cautious with Breaux.
There’s always that one player who shines above the rest, and last week was arguably Henry Coley. Coley graded out as the highest rated Saints defender on the night at +3.3, sharing honors with safety Jamarca Sanford. Of Coley’s 30 snaps last week, 17 of those were in coverage. I know much is made of the Saints having David Hawthorne and Stephone Anthony as prospective middle linebackers, but Coley is now on more people’s radar with a nice showing against the Ravens.
Thursday night wasn’t the prettiest start to the preseason for tenured guard Jahri Evans, who’s coming off of offseason wrist surgery. Evans’ 18 snaps churned in a -3.4 grading performance on offense, and some are already starting to suggest that his future is in question. For starters, simmer down. Is it discouraging? Sure, absolutely. However, let’s give the Saints all-pro guard the benefit of the doubt before we pass judgement on his future.
Which player(s) are you keeping an eye out for on Saturday when the New Orleans Saints suit up against the New England Patriots?