The Saints and Colts battle tonight in the third preseason game, which is the most important preseason game. The starters will play into the third quarter and jobs will be won and lost.
Here are a few things I’ll be watching tonight:
Drew Brees will be on the field for the first time this preseason. I doubt he’ll be rusty, but it’ll be good to see him get some live-action reps in. I expect a couple of shots downfield to show off rookie first round pick Brandin Cooks and Brees’ chemistry, which they haven’t had much time to perfect. Mark Ingram has run hard and well in the preseason. I’m hoping his effort continues into the regular season. We’ll see how he handles the Colts defense, which was terrible against the run last season but is much-improved this preseason. Is Robert Meachem fighting for a roster spot? A good showing by Nick Toon could make decisions difficult in WR land. Starting center is up for grabs, too. I’m interested to see how the line protects Brees against the Colts front four. There’s some uncertainty at fullback with starter Erik Lorig suffering from a mystery ailment that could force him to miss some regular season time.
Cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Jairus Byrd are expected to make their preseason debuts. Bailey needs to show something on the field to solidify his roster spot. Byrd has looked impressive in the few practices in which he’s participated coming off back surgery. Rookie corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste had a rough outing last week. The secondary will be challenged by third-year quarterback Andrew Luck.
Someone will likely win the place kicking job tonight — either veteran Shayne Graham, 36, or free-agent Derek Dimke, 24. Graham is nearing the end of his career and Dimke has never kicked in a regular season NFL game. This has been a pretty even battle throughout training camp, but I like Dimke here. Punter Thomas Morstead is as solid as they come. He should have another great season, so no concerns there. Who will be the full-time kickoff and punt returner?
A few questions left to be answered and not a lot of time to answer them. The regular season begins Sept. 7 in Atlanta against the Falcons.