Saints should exercise extreme caution with starters in preseason finale

Jameis Winston, Saints. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Jameis Winston, Saints. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Saints face a Hamlet-esque question heading into their final preseason game of 2022: to play Jameis Winston, or not to play Jameis Winston?

That is the question.

The pros and cons of each side are quite salient. Playing Winston would give him at least a handful of crucial snaps and potentially streamline his re-integration back into the offense.

But short of covering him head to toe in bubble wrap, there’s no telling what could happen. On top his ongoing rehab, Winston is currently recovering from a minor foot injury he suffered in practice and only just participated in his first full team practice on Sunday.

The league saw firsthand the consequences of playing a starter in preseason when New York Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux took a nasty hit last weekend. Thankfully, the hit didn’t cause a serious injury, but Thibodeaux’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for all NFL teams to give extra rest to their stars.

Will the Saints choose to play with fire or rather opt against tempting fate on Friday night?

NOLA Saints should prioritize players’ health over game action in final preseason game

NOLA’s Jeff Duncan predicts that Winston and some other offensive starters will get “at least a little game action” against the Chargers, though we’re not so sure Dennis Allen is willing to take that risk.

New Orleans Saints writer John DeShazier had a different take that we agree with:

"I don’t think [Winston] will play. He probably has lobbied for a series or two, and missing the joint practices against Green Bay helps his case for wanting live snaps. But does he really, really need the work? Is the risk worth the possible reward? I don’t think so…"

As the most important and most premium position on the field, the quarterback needs to be protected at all costs ahead of a 17-game marathon. There’s no need to put Winston’s health (and career) in jeopardy for a few preseason snaps.

Along with Winston, the Saints may also bench roster mainstays like Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan, Marshon Lattimore, Tyrann Mathieu, Ryan Ramczyk, and others.

In some positions, playing a potential starter makes sense: rookie Trevor Penning, for example, still needs time to develop in the offensive scheme and should keep getting left tackle snaps while James Hurst heals up.

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When it comes to the quarterback, though, Jameis Winston’s future is not something to gamble on so close to the start of the season. Sit him out of this one.