The Saints will be taking on the Los Angeles Chargers for the third straight year in the preseason with both teams sharing some common bonds. It is also the third time they have held joint practices together in preparation for the match-up. The Black and Gold have won the previous two games with last year’s one being a one sided event. Hopefully we can see more of the same this time around. The Chargers managed to get to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2018 and should provide solid competition on Sunday.
Here are the key factors to look out for in this week’s game:
It is unclear at the moment how long we will see the starters play but assumption would be that they would get at least a quarter or two. Given the amount of depth at every position, it would be more logical to get the second and third team candidates as much playing time as possible. Their performances last game against Minnesota did not give them much adoration, especially on the defensive side where there was little to no pressure in the pass rush and struggles containing the run. Hopefully with these joint practices, it will give the younger guys a better chance to improve their stock.
As we saw last Friday, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill had average games at best. This week, we should expect Hill to take the first half and Bridgewater the second half. The impact of this move is to see how consistent they can play behind certain units. With no other quarterback to split time with, seeing both of them all preseason is a great view for the fans to see who will succeed the great Drew Brees down the line. For Hill, it will be telling if playing behind the first unit will give him better success or if his development still needs work. For Bridgewater, it is about maintaining the same mindset and replicating his play with the second and third units. Overall, we should expect a much better game for both players.
The first team offensive line had a solid outing against the Vikings. The same could not be said for the second and third units. On the defensive side, no one was able to get sustainable pressure throughout the game, leaving many questions to be answered. Nonetheless, improvement to both sides is what will be looked at against the Chargers. Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson will be the most sought after given their expectations for the upcoming season. Furthermore, the rest of the second and third unit players will have to make a big step to have any chance of earning a roster spot or even practice squad selection. The same will be said offensively with the focus on the tackle positions given the unsure depth on both sides. Look for a veterans like Marshall Newhouse and Michael Ola to take every opportunity they get during the game.
Still Wide Open
Rishard Matthews unexpectedly left the team and retired, taking one piece away from the complex receiver puzzle. The most notable names to watch this week are Emmanuel Butler, Simmie Cobbs and Lil Jordan Humphrey. Butler dressed last week but did not see the field and has been turning heads all camp. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate that production on game day. Cobbs has stayed consistent during camp and should be looking to be more involved this time around. Humphrey showed why he was a playmaker at Texas against the Vikings with an all out effort touchdown reception. Knowing he has not been solid in camp, it was a pleasant surprise to see him produce. Also be on the lookout for Deonte Harris to see if he gets time at receiver after showcasing his return ability.
Next Man Up
With Alex Anzalone missing the entire week of practice, Kaden Elliss has gotten plenty of reps at middle linebacker. The Saints took him in the seventh round this year because of his versatility. This would be the best opportunity for him to warrant a spot on the team, especially going into next year. If Elliss can show he his capable of holding his own in a starting role, it will give the depth at linebacker a more comfortable feel. Not to mention he can also contribute on special teams as well. He is looking more and more like a draft steal if things pan out.