The Saints are gearing up for their third preseason game. For many, this is a players’ only shot to show what they can do catching passes from Drew Brees and playing alongside Cam Jordan. Roster cuts will begin less than a week after this game, so there is a lot on the line for some of these guys. Let’s look at five Saints you should keep an eye on throughout the matchup in New Jersey.
Butler has been the stand out of camp, or at least was before his injury. He’s seemingly been supplanted by DE Trey Hendrickson since. Regardless, he’s been a fan and team favorite this summer. The Northern Arizona product saw some snaps last week along with three targets, two of which were off the mark and one he took off the facemask. Not the showing he’d hoped for in his debut. This week though, he’ll get a shot with Drew Brees under center with whom he has shown effective and repeated chemistry. A good showing with Brees could land the former Lumberjack a spot on the 53-man roster. A poor showing could send him into the final preseason game with a ton to prove. This is an important game for Butler. We’ve seen in the past that if you’re a young gun who draws praise from Drew, there’s a spot for you in New Orleans. Keep an eye on the 6’3″ receiver to try to make an impact early.
The Saints’ first of five draft picks this season is entrenched in an three-way battle for the starting Center position. So far, McCoy has not forfeited that spot since gaining it back at the end of July. Coach Payton seems to mention daily that the battle is still wide open and perhaps that’s because he’s yet to see McCoy with Drew Brees in live game action. This could be the drive or drives that set up McCoy as the starting anchor for the Saints offense for years to come.
Davenport has yet to really impress over the first two preseason games, but he may have running mate Cam Jordan operating opposite him today. In which case, we’ll really get a look at what Davenport and Jordan an look like as fearsome tandem on the edge. Jordan is going to demand a ton of attention anytime he’s on the field. That should open the door for Davenport to put on full display the potential that led the Saints to make a huge move to draft him in the first round last season. Seeing the former Road Runner pop these next two games, though his snaps will likely be limited against the Dolphins, would help establish his case at the primary pass rusher opposite Cam.
The Return of Mack is officially on and that’s a joke I may never stop making. Along with Mack’s return comes the opportunity for him to enter the battle for TE3 full swing. Dan Arnold seems to be hanging on by a thread despite a few disappointing plays this preseason and Mack could be returning just in time to swoop in for his roster spot. It will take more than just a couple of decent games, though. He’d have to be a standout. While Saints fans continually find themselves disappointed in Arnold, he’s made enough plays throughout camp to keep himself well within the grasp of a roster spot but with increasing competition, the standard of play should raise. Look out for A.J. Derby in this competition as well.
Kirkwood was a stand out last season, jumping into the mix as an undrafted Free Agent from the practice squad after Dez Bryant was signed and immediately lost due to his injury in practice. In Kirkwood’s first game he grabbed two passes against a very weak Bengals secondary (and team in general) for 45 yards. After that game he went on to top 30 yards for times, five games over that mark in total out of the eight he played. Through the seven games he played and actually registered a catch, Kirkwood averaged just under 30 yards. Over 16 games with that average he would have been the team’s second leading wide receiver in yardage. He’s been a promising product since coming into the league last year from Temple, but he’s also been missing from action so far this preseason and a large portion of training camp as well. This could be Kirkwood’s opportunity to fend off some of the newest young guns that are producing from his position and establish himself as a returning and trustworthy commodity.