The New Orleans Saints got into a shootout with the Minnesota Vikings in their preseason opener, losing the game 34-25. Sean Payton was likely upset with the number of big plays that his defense allowed throughout the game.
The Vikings put the dagger into the Saints with a 64-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by Mike Boone. This week, Payton is hoping to see a better showing from his defense in their second preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
New Orleans could utilize their starters more this week and we could see the preseason debut of Cameron Jordan. That would provide the Saints with some much-needed pressure off of the edge to begin the game.
To anyone expecting any of the star players to see the field are likely to be disappointed with Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas likely to be on the sideline all game. There’s no reason to deploy any of those guys this preseason.
With that in mind, we should see some of the younger players at the skill positions get a chance to prove themselves to the coaching staff. Here are three players to watch for the Saints as they take on the Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason.
3. Emmanuel Butler
The Saints will likely hold out their trio of offensive cornerstones in Brees, Kamara, and Thomas. With Thomas likely sporting street clothes in this one, that could leave the door open for rookie Emmanuel Butler to get some reps with the first-teamers.
Butler is an undrafted rookie out of Northern Arizona that the Saints have been pleasantly surprised with throughout training camp. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Butler brings New Orleans a possible red-zone threat in the offense.
The undrafted rookie wideout missed the Saints’ preseason opener due to injury but he seems to be ready to take on a large role in his first preseason game. Throughout practice this week, Butler was seen taking reps with the starters alongside Thomas.
For his first NFL test, Butler will face one of the league’s best secondaries in the Chargers on Saturday night. The Saints will likely go to Butler early and often.
2. Dwayne Washington
The Saints are crowded at the running back position at this point of the year. Among their ball-carriers Dwayne Washington is in the midst of a competition with a few of the other running backs on the roster.
Washington is entering his second season with the team after spending his first two seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.
Of course, Kamara will reprise his lead role in the backfield with newly acquired Latavius Murray providing the team with meaningful carries as well. That leaves Washington to compete with Jacquizz Rodgers and undrafted rookie Devine Ozigbo for a role on the team.
During the Saints’ preseason opener, Washington was the second-leading rusher for the team behind the do-it-all quarterback Taysom Hill. Washington rushed for 36 yards on eight carries in his first game with New Orleans this year.
The 25-year old running back will get an opportunity to earn a role on the roster with a noticeable performance against the Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason.
1. Teddy Bridgewater
With Drew Brees saying he sees “more value” in joint practices than preseason, it’s unlikely we see the veteran quarterback in the second preseason game. That leaves all of the reps to go to Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater.
Last week, Hill got the nod as the starting quarterback so it’s safe to assume he starts again versus the Chargers. As a result, Bridgewater should finish the game as the starter in the third and fourth quarters.
The former first-round pick played pleasantly well against the Vikings in the Saints’ first preseason game. Bridgewater finished with 134 yards on 14 completions and a touchdown.
It may be early to hypothesize who will replace Brees when he retires but Bridgewater seems like the eventual starter for New Orleans. Therefore, he will need to continue showing his growth under center for the Saints when they square off against the Chargers.