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Barry Hirstius

THE SLUMP: Can Saints Break 9-Game Pre-Season Losing Streak at The Dawg Pound?

In the sport of Pro Football, the NFL Pre-Season is generally considered to be "meaningless"; since the games themselves do not count in the standings and the only true objective for all 32 teams in the League is based upon achieving one main goal: staying healthy.

However for the New Orleans Saints recently, the NFL Pre-Season has taken on an entirely different meaning altogether: which is that for the past 2 Pre-Seasons of 2015 and 2016, the Saints Pre-Season has been associated with one main thing: losing.

As in --- all of the games.

Dating back to their Pre-Season final of 2014 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints have lost 9 consecutive Pre-Season games; and have gone winless (0-8) in the past 2 Pre-Seasons.

Now while it's probably a bit disingenuous to label something that has no real true meaning or value (such as NFL Pre-Season games are) by using the term "slump", losing 9 straight games at any level of importance still seems like on its surface anyway; to be somewhat of a concern.

However, if the only true goal is to evaluate back-up players and get the team as a whole mentally prepared for the upcoming regular season, then this Thursday Night's 2017 Pre-Season opener for the Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium in the notorious "Dawg Pound" filled with rabid Cleveland Browns fans; should be a "win-win" situation for the Saints --- even if they end up losing the battle on the scoreboard.

Photo courtesy of Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

If the Saints can escape Cleveland without any major injuries occurring, no one will really care if the Saints lost or not.

At this point, the only thing that matters is making it to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Monday Night Football season opener against the Vikings on September 11th, in one whole piece.

It will be interesting to watch however, how some of the Saints' younger players react to the Browns fans -- whose reputation precedes them. 

Back when the Browns played at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the "Dawg Pound" struck absolute fear in the hearts of opposing teams.

With the beer and alcohol flowing freely, particularly in the cold weather games; the stories of the "Dawg Pound" are the stuff of NFL legend.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Both opponents as well as referees were walking and breathing live targets of Browns fans who would hurl items from the stands at them, which included pretty much anything such as plastic beer bottles, batteries, or essentially anything that they could get their hands on that could take flight in the air.

Those actions usually affected games, which was why legend has it that in a Playoff game in Cleveland in the mid 1980's, the NFL had the head referee actually make the two teams switch sides of the field in the middle of the game, to avoid the end zone in which the "Dawg Pound" was known to occupy.

The newer generation of Browns fans that the Saints will see Thursday Night inside of FirstEnergy Stadium are a bit more reserved than their legendary forefathers, but nevertheless it will be interesting to see how a player like Saints back-up and 3rd year QB Garrett Grayson, who should see a lot of action for New Orleans in this game, handles the intimidation factor of this newer version of the "Dawg Pound".

It'll also be interesting to watch how Grayson handles the attacking defensive scheme of new Browns defensive coordinator and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Williams is slowly building a young attacking defensive unit in Cleveland as he did with the Saints and in the other places throughout the League where he's coached, and this time he has players such as 2017 NFL Draft #1 overall pick Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Danny Shelton at his disposal; along with veteran linebacker Jamie Collins and rookie safety Jabril Peppers.

Photo courtesy of Matt Bush, USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I'm not too sure how well Grayson will fare, and there's more than a 50/50 chance that the Saints winless streak in the Pre-Season could reach 10 straight losses in a row when the final seconds tick away Thursday Night on the shores of Lake Erie.

Just keep this in mind if you're a Saints fan: the purpose of Pre-Season for Sean Payton and the Saints coaching staff is to evaluate players. And if that means winning the game on the scoreboard, so be it.

But if you're expecting to see the Saints try to actively pursue winning the game "at all costs" as they would in the regular season, you're probably going to be a bit disappointed.

The Saints starters on both offense and defense will probably only play a series or two, meaning the most that you're going to see out of Drew Brees in this game is him standing on the sidelines wearing a baseball cap.

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

The Saints will be focusing more on the evaluation of young players such as Grayson, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, WR Travin Dural, and RB's Alvin Kamara and Darius Victor on offense, as well as young defensive players such as Marshon Lattimore (if he even plays), Marcus Williams,  Alex Anzalone, and Trey Hendrickson; to see just what they can do and how well they are able to do it.

Meaning that the current Pre-Season "slump" that the Saints have experienced these last few years, may not end come to an end this Thursday Night.

Again, the Pre-Season games are essentially "meaningless" in relation to how well the Saints will eventually play this coming season, but then it also probably goes without saying:

It'd sure be nice to win one for a change, especially right in front of the folks in the notorious "Dawg Pound"........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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