In the grand scheme, Thursday night’s exhibition at Cleveland is the first of four this preseason for the New Orleans Saints.
Nothing more, nothing less.
It should be noted, however, that the Saints have lost nine consecutive preseason games dating to 2014, which coincidentally marked the first of three consecutive summer training camps held at the Greenbrier Resort/Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Who’s counting, right?
Sure, it would be nice to win but there are other more important objectives than a final score, such as:
▪ The whole idea is to identify the best 53 players going into the regular season and these tapes provide valuable information for Coach Sean Payton and his team of personnel evaluators.
Each game tape is not an end all, just a means to the end.
▪ The NFL is a violent game and injuries are part of the game. One injury is too many but they regrettably are unavoidable. The NFL also is a multi-billion dollar business and it’s important to keep each team’s most valued assets healthy and productive.
That said, I suspect we’ll see little of Saints quarterback Drew Brees against the Browns, if at all, based on recent history. He played the first three snaps against New England in Game 1 last preseason and did not play against Baltimore and St. Louis in exhibition openers the previous two seasons.
Look for reserve quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Garrett Grayson and maybe Ryan Nassib to take the bulk of snaps.
Other things I’ll be watching:
▪ I’ll be surprised if new Saints running back Adrian Peterson makes his debut. He hasn’t had a preseason carry since 2013 when he played for the Minnesota Vikings, though he claims to be “itching a little more” to carry the ball for his new team. By the way, Peterson and Mark Ingram are listed as co-starters on the team’s unofficial depth chart, perhaps a way by Payton to placate both egos.
▪ The cohesion of the revamped offensive line with rookie left tackle Ryan Ramczyk and the center du jour, either Senio Kelemete or Josh LeRibeus.
▪ The progress of draft picks — safety Marcus Williams, running back Alvin Kamara and linebacker Alex Anzalone. Top pick cornerback Marshon Lattimore may be a scratch with an injured knee.
▪ If designated pass rushers Alex Okafor and Hau’oli Kikaha, among others, can complement two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan and consistently put pressure on the quarterback.
▪ If there is separation among the gaggle of linebackers — A.J. Klein, Craig Robertson, Stephone Anthony, Manti Te’o, Nate Stupar and Anzalone.
▪ The return game: New Special Teams Coordinator Brad Banta hopes wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and Kamara can provide some juice to the team’s dormant kick- and punt-return game.
And finally, it’s worth noting that Bounty Gate protagonist Gregg Williams is now the Browns’ defensive coordinator after being dismissed by the Los Angeles Rams at the end of last season. The last time Williams faced Payton came in Week 12 last season, when Payton embarrassed Williams’ defense, 49-21.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.