New Orleans Saints: Week 1 impact players that can help pilot a victory
By John Hendrix
As the New Orleans Saints continue to prepare for their first contest of 2015, let’s look at some of the players that can help the black and gold power their way to a road victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Arguably, the most important Saints player on Sunday is their general, Drew Brees. Brees enters his 15th NFL season this year, and has met much criticism. Contrary to popular belief, he’s showing little to no signs of slowing down. Despite Brees suffering from a pesky oblique injury (and more), he still finished as one of the league’s best quarterbacks last year. Brees brings the ultimate weapon into this game and this season: unpredictability. Not having Jimmy Graham in the equation simplifies and complicates things at the same time. Brees is arguably the most dangerous when he spreads the ball around, and that can frustrate opposing defense. Just when you think Brees gets in a groove with one respective player, he can easily change that. Look for Brees to have a strong first outing, and ultimately stems from the protection and time in the pocket his offensive line can give him.
Aside the negative press surrounding Cam Jordan currently, he’s simply one of the most important pieces to the Saints defense this year. Without Junior Galette in the picture, this team needs Jordan to return to his 2013 Pro Bowl form and get after the quarterback. With uncertainty on the interior defensive line, you’re likely to get most of your sack production primarily off of the edge right now. Jordan returns to the ‘Joker’ position in the 4-3, where he’s clearly more comfortable in. Carson Palmer isn’t exactly your most agile quarterback, and with questionable pieces on the offensive line due to injury, Cam Jordan could wreak all kinds of havoc on the day.
Without the services of C.J. Spiller, it’s a great time for Mark Ingram to shine. Recently, Ingram indicated that he could serve as a three down back in Sean Payton’s system. Ingram doesn’t necessarily have to carry the ball thirty times per game, but can handle the workload if needed. Ingram proved that he isn’t just a running threat in the preseason, exhibiting his abilities as a route runner out of the backfield to exploit potential mismatches against opposing linebackers. Ingram faces a tall task with a talented Cardinals front seven, but running behind a revamped and rejuvenated offensive line figures to help him most.
The New Orleans native with perhaps one of the best stories in pro football history finds himself being thrown into the mix from the very start. Keenan Lewis will be out of action, at least for the first several weeks to our knowledge, so Breaux will get the nod to start for Rob Ryan’s defense. Breaux has been extremely impressive during the offseason, and has embraced his opportunity to play for his hometown. It will be extremely interesting seeing which receiver Breaux is tasked with guarding, and you can fully expect Carson Palmer to work on the first year cornerback.
It’s rare, but not uncommon, to find anyone put a kicker as an impact player on anyone’s list. For the Saints, Zach Hocker is someone to keep an eye on. Sean Payton worked out veterans Caleb Sturgis and Nick Novak (which is routine) on Tuesday. Basically, a short list is kept by teams in case someone’s game was to go in the garbage. Hocker is extremely useful from long-range, but observations throughout camp indicate that there may be some concern from shorter ranges inside the 35-yard line. If that sounds familiar to anyone else, that’s because it is. Garrett Hartley was notorious for drilling the long ball, but struggled from short-range. In a season that could feature as many as twelve indoor games, kicking is crucial to the 2015 season.
Who is an impact player that you are watching for to make a difference in Sunday’s contest against the Cardinals?