Hau’oli Kikaha, Mark Ingram play New Orleans Saints’ X-factors vs. Arizona Cardinals


The preseason is over with and it’s finally time for some more meaningful football games.  The New Orleans Saints have a tough first game against the Arizona Cardinals to kick off the regular season.

Before Carson Palmer went down with a knee injury last year, the Cardinals had the league’s best record.  Now that he is healthy, I’m sure he can’t wait to get back on the field.  Arizona has some legitimate weapons around Palmer with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, possibly Michael Floyd (limited at practice with hand injury), and running back Andre Ellington out of the backfield.  There are a lot of play makers for the New Orleans Saints to match up against, but I think they are up for the challenge.

Brandon Browner, who was just named team captain, should bring a much-needed presence to the injury-plagued secondary and help the younger corners find their way in the league.  However, I think the key to the defense is going to be the pass rush and pressure on the quarterback.  Like I mentioned earlier, Palmer is coming off an injury, so he could be rusty.

Now, I know the Saints didn’t have the greatest pass rush during the preseason, but it was preseason and the team didn’t really do much game planning.  Plus, the starters were rarely on the field.  Also,the Cardinals offensive line is easily their weakest point, especially with starters Mike Iupati out with an injury and Bobby Massie out with a suspension.  Hopefully the pass rush can get some pressure on Palmer and cause some turnovers.

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If the Saints can’t get any pressure on him than that’s going to put a lot of stress on young corners Delvin Breaux and Damian Swann, which would not be ideal if the New Orleans Saints plan to fly out of the desert victorious.  I think Hau’oli Kikaha is going to be the X-factor for the Saints’ defense.  He was one of the most polished pass rushers in this past draft and seemed to get better as the preseason progressed.  If he can add a pass rush presence opposite of Cam Jordan, then New Orleans should be in good shape.

As for the Saints offense, they should be golden with Drew Brees at quarterback and a revamped offensive line. But this Cardinals secondary should be a great test for the offense.  I’m expecting a well-balanced attack with a heavy dose of Mark Ingram to start the game and then for Brees to spread the ball around like he does so well, keeping  Arizona’s defense on their toes.

I’m very anxious to see how this young group of receivers play (Brandin Cooks, Brandon Coleman, Willie Snead).  Expect many targets Cooks’ way and the veteran Marques Colston to be a big factor when the Saints get down in the red zone, especially with Jimmy Graham out of the picture.

 Everyone knows how much Sean Payton loves to throw the ball, but I think the X-factor on offense is going to be Mark Ingram. The New Orleans Saints have boosted their offensive line with the addition of center Max Unger and I expect that to pay off.  Ingram had a breakout year last year, but I feel like he will have an even better season in 2015 with some increased support at the line of scrimmage. Getting the running game going helps create the play action pass and win the time of possession, which is always important.

This will be a very physical and exciting game to watch. As usual, expect whoever can take care of the ball the best to win the game.  Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s all about whose weaknesses get exposed more.  I got the New Orleans Saints starting the year off on a good note, winning the regular season opener on the road, 31-21.

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