After a brief "walk-through" practice later this morning, the Saints this afternoon board a plane and fly out west to Southern California, to conduct 2 back-to-back Joint Practices with the Los Angeles Chargers (who were formerly down the coast in San Diego for over 50 years) tomorrow and again on Friday before facing them in a nationally-televised game on Sunday Night (7 p.m. Central on the NFL Network).
Tomorrow and Friday's Joint Practices, as well as Sunday Night's contest, will all take place at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California, one of Los Angeles' largest suburbs. The Stub Hub Center is a former minor-league soccer stadium that originally opened in 2003 that has been converted to an NFL facility to be a new home for the Chargers.
StubHub’s football seating capacity is 27,000 people --- and it will be less than half of every other NFL stadium. Not not since 1965, when the Oakland Raiders played their final season in 22,000-seat Frank Youell Field, has an NFL or AFL team played in a facility this small.
Now that we've "set the scene" for you for the next few days of what will be happening with the Saints, here are 3 main things the Saints News Network will be watching very closely in the next few days as well as Sunday Night's game:
#1. SAINTS ROOKIE LEFT TACKLE RYAN RAMCZYK VS. THE CHARGERS ELITE PASS RUSH OF JOEY BOSA AND MELVIN INGRAM
Since this is the 2nd game of the Pre-Season, the Saints regular starters that you will see on Sundays during the season are only expected to play for most of the 1st Quarter on Sunday Night, but should see extensive work in the Joint Practices.
Of all the starters who will see action in the next several days, perhaps no one will be more scrutinized than rookie tackle Ryan Ramczyk; who will be filling in for regular starting left tackle Terron Armstead --- who's expected to miss a majority of the 2017 regular season with a torn labrum.
After missing the first Pre-Season game, Ramczyk will get his first REAL taste of pass protection against "elite" caliber pass rushers, when he has to face Chargers defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Bosa was the 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, and he is likely to be the one who lines up directly across from Ramczyk for most of these next few days. Ingram could also test Ramczyk, to see how well (or not) the rookie fares at protecting the QB's "blind spot"
Coincidentally, at Sunday's post-practice press conference with the media, Ramczyk was asked about the potential battle with Bosa specifically, and it was noted that he should anticipate some trash talking from Bosa, who's well-known for such antics.
Said Ramczyk: “I don’t do too much trippin’ but we’ll see.” Sounds like fun times ahead.
#2. THE SAINTS STARTING CORNERBACKS
As you know by now if you're reading this as a Saints fan, you're more than well aware of the furor surrounding the injury problems associated with Delvin Breaux, the team's starting #1 CB since the 2015 season, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks from a leg fracture that was revealed by X-Rays on Monday which led to the discovery of a problem much worse than originally first believed.
There had been some speculation (unconfirmed) that perhaps the Saints coaching staff -- specifically head coach Sean Payton -- felt that Breaux may have been "milking" the injury somewhat, and should have been out on the field practicing, since he has missed most of Training Camp.
Monday's X-Ray results now obviously have debunked that speculation and the accompanying rumors, which had led to reports that the Saints were actively seeking to trade Breaux.
Payton refused to acknowledge those trade reports, and only said in regards to Breaux being able to practice (or not) that: "Its important to be out here, not getting into specifics...but availability is as important as anything else".
Decipher that however you choose, but that suggests that he (and the team) had felt that Breaux should be practicing.
Perhaps Payton's mind will be changed now by the report a short while ago from ESPN's Mike Triplett that the organization has fired two members of its medical team, after the club learned Breaux had been suffering from a fractured fibula, that was apparently initially diagnosed only as a 'contusion.'
Saints have fired orthopedists Deryk Jones, Misty Suri, per source, after learning CB Delvin Breaux has fractured... https://t.co/XVNAmN80Mk
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) August 16, 2017
Triplett says that Breaux will likely need surgery that will now have him out 4-6 weeks (no word as of yet if Payton and the organization has since apologized to Breaux for the misdiagnosis).
NOLA.com / The Times-Picayune beat writer Josh Katzenstein additionally reported that Breaux's camp decided to seek a second opinion at Ochsner Medical Center; after he felt that he was being "pressured" to return to the field, thinking he was healthy enough to practice despite Breaux saying he was still in pain, according to a source.
The entire incident would now only seem to speak to a much deeper issue for the Saints organization, and the BLATANT INCOMPETENCE of the team medical staff that's been misevaluating player injuries for some time now.
Anyway you slice it, at least what we do know as of right now is this:
Which is that it appears as of now, the Saints starting CB's heading into the 2017 Season Opener on Monday Night, September 11th at Minnesota, will be P.J. Williams and Ken Crawley, if we are believe the current "unofficial" team depth chart.
With rookie Marshon Lattimore just now getting healthy after missing time with a injury, it appears he will remain a back-up --- which leaves Williams and Crawley as the current starters on the outside boundary (Lattimore is expected to see his very first taste of game action on Sunday Night).
What fans will want to watch over the next few days is to see WHO specifically lines up at the two outside boundary positions in the Joint Practices and Sunday Night's game, to find out if it's eventually indicative of who the actual starters will be in a few weeks from now.
The guess here is that veteran CB Sterling Moore, who filled in as the starter for Breaux when he was hurt last year, will also be in the mix as well this weekend and again to open the regular season at Minnesota.
#3. THE SAINTS "STARS" ON OFFENSE --- AND THE ONE WHO'S FAR FROM IT
Saints fans were buzzing with excitement over last Thursday's game at Cleveland, not because the Saints eventually lost the game itself (20-14), but because of the very small taste they got to get of the Saints' "stars" on offense, specifically rookie RB Alvin Kamara and 2nd year / new #1 WR Michael Thomas.
Kamara was dynamic, showing off the moves and quickness that are a part of his repertoire full of incredible athleticism and innate running ability. Meanwhile, Thomas was equally impressive, and had a reception that he nearly "took to the house" before getting caught from behind.
It will be interesting to see how much more that Saints and head coach Sean Payton decide to "show" in these Practices with regard to how players such as Kamara, Thomas, and All-Pro veteran RB / free agent RB Adrian Peterson will be deployed within the Saints offensive scheme, since the choice would seem to be to limit touches to keep players healthy and opponents guessing until the regular season.
On the "flip side", there's back-up QB Garrett Grayson, who looked nothing like a "star" against the Browns last Thursday. In spite of posting decent numbers in the loss (11 out of 16 for 126 yards), Grayson looked indecisive, downright flustered at times, and struggled with making his reads quickly enough. That included one pass where he "led" rookie WR Travin Dural directly in the path of a direct hit from Browns DB Trey Caldwell.
In short, he looked like a QB that belonged in the Arena Football League, instead of the NFL.
These next few days will be the critical juncture for Grayson as far as his time in New Orleans and his potential to eventually become a starter one day in the NFL. Based on what's he's shown us so far, he might want to book some flight reservations out of NOLA on September 4th --- the day after the Saints cut their Final Roster down from 90 to the 53 they'll go into the regular season with.
As of this very moment right now, unless something changes, there's no way in hell that Grayson will be one of them.....