What to look for as the Saints go up against the Houston Texans

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Aug 11, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Tony Carter (29) runs with the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 11, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Tony Carter (29) runs with the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /
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Last week the New Orleans Saints went up against the New England Patriots and came away with a loss. There were plenty of things to be optimistic about, but there are also some things that need to be corrected.  

Tonight, the Saints take on the Houston Texans in NRG Stadium.

The Saints come into this game following a tough week in New England, and a long week of practice in West Virginia, followed by a trip to Texas for joint practices with the Texans.

The preseason results may not be the most important, but seeing improvement and production from certain players is, so against the Texans, we hope to see improvement in certain areas.

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Here’s some things to look out for as the Saints go up against the Texans:

The Turnover battle

Last week against the Patriots, the Saints gave up the ball four times. That, in itself, is unacceptable. However, when the defense doesn’t manage to get one takeaway for the entire game, it’s almost impossible to win –under any circumstances.

The offense needs to be more careful with the football by making sure they don’t give the other team good field position or points off of turnovers.

On the other hand, the defense needs to make plays when they get the chance. There was several plays last week in which the secondary dropped the ball when they had the opportunity to turn the game around. That can’t happen. Even in preseason.

This week, they will have to try and get their hands on the football. That means both ripping it out of the ball carrier’s hands and securely catching the ball when you get the chance.

Red-zone interceptions, pick sixes, fumbles leading to touchdowns and dropped interceptions shouldn’t happened against the Texans and hopefully they will not.

Aug 11, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Garrett Grayson (18) looks to make a pass during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 11, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Garrett Grayson (18) looks to make a pass during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Defending the run 

After the first preseason game, Sean Payton pointed out that the run defense wasn’t what it needed to be. The Saints gave up 5.0 yards per carry, which is a very high number that needs to be worked on. To be fair, most of it came on big plays, where the defense failed to hold their gap and make the tackles, so they were not consistently bad. Guys like Nate Stupar, Tyeler Davison, James Laurinaitis and Kenny Vaccaro showed they can make a difference in stopping the run.

This week, every player on the defensive unit will have to work hard to keep the yards per carry number down and show they have what it takes to improve the awful 4.9 yards per carry they gave up last season. That means shooting the gaps and pushing the linemen back into their own backfield; that is something we will hopefully see against the good offensive line the Texans possess.

Finding a way to replace Sheldon Rankins 

This was a hard week for most Saints fans, as they learned Sheldon Rankins will be out around 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula. It was thankfully better news than many would have expected after he was carted off the field, but it’s still serious enough to keep him out for some time.

So what do the Saints do now? The injury will probably result in us getting to see a lot more of Nick Fairley. Not a bad thing, as he is a very good defensive tackle. He excels in both the run and pass game and should help a lot. Outside of him, guys like Bobby Richardson and David Onyemata will most likely get more playing time than we initially expected.

Replacing Sheldon Rankins will not be an easy task for this new Dennis Allen defense, but they have the pieces to make it happen and we’ll get a chance to see how they plan on doing it tonight.

The secondary’s continued development

All training camp we have been hearing about the new and improved secondary. The Saints already had one of the best young and upcoming defensive backs in the league with Delvin Breaux, but outside of that, the position looked really thin.

Now, P.J. Williams is back and showing why he was considered one of the steals of the 2015 draft. Undrafted guys like Ken Crawley and De’vante Harris have been playing lights out in almost every practice, and Damien Swann recently returned from injury.

With the release of Keenan Lewis, all of these guys could get a roster spot. They just need to show they can play just as good in games as they do in practice.  That means that we’ll have to keep an eye on them as they go up against the Texans’ wideouts.

Limiting Penalties

Just like the first preseason game last season, the Saints had way to many penalties against the Patriots. They gave up 93 yards on 9 penalties. A very high number that needs to be corrected as the Saints go on through the preseason.

The defensive backs needs to be physical, but know the limit, and the offensive linemen have to hold their blocks and not give up a free 10 yards to the defense. If they can do that against the Texans, we should see the penalty number drastically decrease.

Next: The New Orleans Saints 50th anniversary series: No. 50

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