Saints look to gauge improvement against Playoff team

The Saints make their 2017 home debut Saturday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as they host the Houston Texans. New Orleans is coming off of a 13-7 win against the Chargers where the defense recorded eight sacks. Houston is also coming off of a win as they beat New England at home 27-23.

Both teams had joint practices on Thursday and Friday and since 2007 they have met every year in the preseason or regular season except for the 2014 season.

New Orleans is a 3.0 favorite.

THE ENEMY

Houston enters the 2017 season looking to win the AFC South for a third season in a row. The Texans finished 9-7 and hosted a Wild Card game against the Raiders and won 27-14.

Head coach Bill O’Brien name Tom Savage over rookie Deshaun Watson who was drafted with the 12th pick overall a move that required the Texans to move up 13 spots to grab him. O’Brien has led the Texans to three straight 9-7 season but has used eight different quarterbacks.

The Texans were the 29th ranked offense by being the 8th best rushing offense but 29th in passing. Houston was the top overall ranked defense in the NFL a season ago. Houston was ranked 12 in stopping the run and 2nd in stopping the pass.

HISTORY

The Texans lead the preseason series 5-4 after they beat the Saints 16-9, last year in Houston. The regular season is tied at 2-2 with the Texans winning the last meeting back in 2015 via a 24-6 victory.

HOW THE SOUTH IS WON: DIVISION IN ACTION

Carolina          2-1      @        Jacksonville    1-2       24-23 F

Arizona           1-2      @        Atlanta            0-2      -3.5

Cleveland       2-0      @        Tampa Bay     1-1      -3.5

STORYLINES  

DEFENSE

A week ago the Saints defense recorded eight sacks against the Chargers getting those plays from the defensive line, linebackers and secondary groups. Thursday in the join practice the Saints once again saw excellent play from all three areas. DE Cam Jordan had a pair of sacks, LB A.J. Klein was all of the field and secondary saw several pass break ups and an interception by S Vonn Bell. Saints fans are hungry for a defense to finally be a defense. The Who Dats would love to see what we’ve been writing or talking about unfold before their eyes. I’m eager to see how the Saints do against rookie QB DeShaun Watson. I love this kid and was impressed with what I saw in the joint padded practice. The kid has a nice touch on the deep ball, can fling it when needed, looked smooth and more importantly has escapability.

OFFENSE

Drew Brees this week spoke as if he expects to play in the game and said that the key to how long he would play was based on how well the unit played. Brees hasn’t seen a snap in the first two-preseason games and said that the work he got against the Chargers in the joint practices outweighed any potential work he would have got in 12-15 snaps in the game.

Head coach Sean Payton even said it was important this week to get players that taste of live action. RB Adrian Peterson who hasn’t seen a preseason carry since 2011 says practices can only give you so much and that nothing compares to live action. Peterson said he gone about the week preparing as if he’s playing. RB Mark Ingram also hasn’t played and said he is ready to go if his number is called.

Regardless if Brees plays or not the Saints offense hasn’t looked good aside from a drive here or there or an Alvin Kamara carry. IF this is to be the final dress rehearsal for the season opener it would be nice to see the team have some scoring drives against last season’s number one overall ranked defense.

Look selfishly I was to see Brees play as I’m tired of poor quarterback play this preseason but after seeing Thursday’s practice I’m concerned for Drew’s well being. First round pick Ryan Ramczyk left practice early, and his replacements Bryce Harris and Khalif Barnes provided no resistance to Houston’s Jadaveon Clowney. In the end though you can’t play football with fear and a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and have put a huge emphasis on the start of the season probably have to play their top guys at least a series.

PLAYERS TO KEPP AN EYE ON

OFFENSE

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Texans per QB Drew Brees have one of if not the best front seven in the NFL. It’s a test no doubt and if they can do a solid job while say Brees is in there and the offense pick up some points, it’ll go a long way to adding confidence to a group that is waiting for starting cent Max Unger to return. Head coach Sean Payton had targeted Unger to play in this week’s game and in the preseason finale next Thursday against Baltimore.

WR MICHAEL THOMAS: Thomas is just solid and in the joint practice he made several good catches in traffic and or contested. The Texans had the second ranked passing defense a season ago and Thomas is the #1 receiver on the team. This should be a nice preview of maybe how teams will play him.

RB ALVIN KAMARA: It’s the third week in a row he is on the list for no other reason that he is exciting to watch. A 50-yard TD run against the Chargers a week ago, what will he do this week? Well at practice on Thursday he had a 60-yard TD run. 

DEFENSE

LB A.J. KLEIN: Klein seems to look better literally every practice. In the joint workout he sealed holes, pressured the quarterback, wrapped up running backs immediately. Wednesday he had a fantastic PBU a good 40 yards down field covering TE Colby Fleener. He’s fun to watch as he directs, verbalizes and makes plays. He’s the player the Saints have needed in that position group for a very long time.

DE Cam Jordan: He hasn’t seen action yet and when he does you’ll know. Sacks in the joint workout, sacks at practice, pressures, runs stops, you name it #94 is doing it.

CBs P.J. WILLIAMS AND KEN CRAWLEY: 1st rounder Marshon Lattimore left practice on Thursday reportedly after feeling light headed. S Kenny Vaccaro then told the Advocate’s Nick Underhill that it’s tough to play with players that aren’t always on the field and that the team needs 4-5 guys that will be the guys to then work together in action so they can learn to play with one another. Kenny also said veteran Sterling Moore should be with the 1s, to me a mild call out to everyone else to step up their game. Who are the 2 starting corners come week 1?

NEXT UP

The Saints will play their final preseason game on Thursday against the Ravens.


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