The Indianapolis Colts will host the New Orleans Saints Saturday night. I spoke with John Hendrix, editor of Who Dat Dish, to get some behind the scenes information on this weeks opponent.
1. What is the status of Drew Brees? Is his oblique injury something that will be a problem going forward or should we assume that he’s fine since he’s playing in a preseason game?
Brees has been kept out of practice on purpose. The team could have had him back over a week ago (and trust me Drew was eagerly wanting to get in there), but they wanted to take their time with him. As physicians have said, this was the best thing that the team could have done. You see baseball pitchers put on the disabled list, or DL, for at least 15 days when this type of injury occurs. He should be fine.
2. Will the Saints reclaim the NFC South crown this season? It looks like a two horse race between them and the Panthers, is that the case heading into 2014?
The Saints should reclaim the NFC South this season, but it won’t be a ‘gimme’. I gave a bold prediction predicting the Saints to be the first team to ever sweep the NFC South. I also went out on a limb to say that the Bucs would be the team to challenge the Saints for the division this year. Realistically, I believe the race comes down to the Saints and Panthers.
Brandin Cooks has been everything and then some for the team. Cooks has an element that many just don’t understand. There’s sure hands, speedsters, playmakers, Pro Bowlers, All-Pros, and then there’s Brandin Cooks. He’s that good. The team has a playbook of at least 15 plays dedicated to Brandin Cooks, so many of those can be labeled as a ‘Sproles type’ role playbook. The team has veteran running back Pierre Thomas, who saw a lot of the Sproles work down the stretch, to rely on this year out of the backfield in addition to Cooks.
4. Is Jimmy Graham going to be as dominant as he was last season now that he has his new contract? What is the team doing to prevent him from being a non-factor like he was in the playoffs?
Graham should continue to be a dominant player in the NFL. As for how he stacks up to last season, that’s a very interesting question. With the Saints bringing in Brandin Cooks and getting back a healthy Joe Morgan, Drew Brees has got to be salivating with his options this year. Cooks and Morgan help spread the defense, which in turn helps Graham. I believe Graham has to create more separation and get off of the line of scrimmage more aggressively to prevent him from being a non-factor.
5. What can we expect from the Saints defense this season? They gave up 19 points per game and were fourth in yards allowed last season. They also ranked 10th in DVOA, and it appears they’ve added some talented players on that side of the ball.
The big thing to watch here is the health of the defense. Champ Bailey and Jairus Byrd, two of their biggest splashes this offseason, have been out of practice and such, so we wonder how they both fit in with the defense with not as many reps as the others. They are wily veterans, so there’s no doubt about their abilities. The team did wonders under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last year, and now they’ve got extra pieces that can truly make them a contender. Specifically, the emphasis is all about turnovers.
6. What is your expectation for Saturday night’s game? Who do you think comes away with the victory and why?
If we’re truly witnessing the ‘dress rehearsal’ for these teams, then I fully expect this to be a highly entertaining matchup (at least the first half). I think the Colts are a true litmus test for the first team defense of the Saints. The fact that the team could be getting back nearly 6 starters in this game speaks volumes. I think there might be some rust, but history shows that the Saints perform well in this game.
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