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Hebert and Deuce: What to watch for in Saints/Jaguars preseason game

Kristian Garic
August 08, 2018 - 11:12 am
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Finally! Football is here. Some will bemoan the arrival of preseason games, and while I am sometimes guilty of that, I am more excited about this preseason than those in the past handful of years.  The high expectations surrounding the Saints have a little to do with that.  However, after 12 training camp practices, I want to see if what I'm seeing in practice transfers into a game environment, albeit one that doesn't count.  

The Saints defense has forced several turnovers in practice during camp "Well if you can do it practice, you can do it in the games, which is the closest thing to the regular season. How could you not be a fan of that if that trend continues into the regular season," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.  Last season the Saints collected 20 interceptions, and Hebert thinks that's the sweet spot again this year. "That was third best in the NFL. The Saints did not excel in recovering forced fumbles. They forced 20 fumbles and only recovered five.  So what if they get 9 of those? The Saints would have been tied with the Eagles with plus 11 in the giveaway/takeaway ratio." 

What Bobby is saying is if they collected on just five more fumbles last season the Saints might have been in the Super Bowl. 

The Saints starters won't play much if at all in the preseason opener Thursday night.  It will still be important to watch a couple of key position battles.  Saints all-time leading rusher Deuce McAllister has a big question.

"Who's going to be the guy that spells Mark Ingram during his four game suspension to start the season?"

Running backs Shane Vareen, Terrance West, Boston Scott and Trey Edmunds will each compete to prove to the coaches they can carry the load in Ingrams' absence. "It's going to come down to who do they trust with ball security and pass protection.  Sure, they want production in the rushing game; but also what they can contribute out of the backfield as a passer," added McAllister. 

The punt return job is another interesting one to watch.  After a few days of camp, Sean Payton wasn't happy with how the returners were performing, and he compared the competition to a reality TV show called the Bachelor in an attempt to provide some humor.  Wide receivers Tommylee Lewis, Brandon Tate, Tedd Ginn Jr. and Austin Carr, along with running backs Alvin Kamara, Boston Scott, have been the players competing for that spot in practice. 

"Brandon Tate looks the smoothest to me, but the Saints have to find a guy that can give them a spark returning punts. Ideally, if you can average more than 10 yards a punt return, that's really solid; and getting it done at a high level would be averaging 14 yards a return," Hebert said.  Think about that? Giving Drew Brees and company 14 fewer yards to navigate.  That translates into points. 

I'm really intrigued to see if the defense forcing turnovers spill into the preseason.  I remember in 2009 in training camp the defense forced a lot of turnovers in practice, and then it continued into the preseason and regular season.  Those kinds of penchants or habits tend to follow teams.  Just like if you're not practicing good habits, that will follow you in the games as well. 

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