New Orleans Saints v. Tennessee Titans: Few Stars Out Tonight
Written by  // Thursday, 01 September 2011 10:08 //

New Orleans SaintsDon't expect to see many stars in Thursday's final preseason game for the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans who meet in the Superdome at 7 p.m.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is likely to play 8-10 snaps, but the first-team offensive line will play a lot more. Saints quarterback Drew Brees will not play.

The Saints (2-1) are coming off a 40-20 win over the Raiders and gives the Saints one more game to build momentum heading to the season-opening game against the Packers at Green Bay.

Saints coach Sean Payton talked about the game after their walk-though practice

“Our plan Thursday night is somewhat similar to last year. We are going to mix some guys in there, " said Payton. " There are going to be some starters playing. There will be some guys playing that aren’t starters in the very beginning of the game. A lot of guys will get a lot of playing time. We will try and get some of the veteran players, or guys that have been starters, some playing time that haven’t (played much in the preseason.) Specifically, we will try and get Tracy Porter and Roman Harper some snaps. Will Smith will take snaps. Carl Nicks will take snaps.”

 “There will be a handful of those players that may not have had the snap count in this preseason that they normally would have. In Will’s (Smith) case, it is really just with the depth at defensive end. I don’t know if Jeff Charleston will be able to play. This will be like it is every year for the fourth preseason game. It’s important for a lot of guys and important for us as coaches to manage the game in regard to the situations.”

Can you talk about how important this preseason game is for a guy like LB Nate Bussey?

“It’s very important. He would be a great example. Nate is going to play a lot in the base and a lot in the kicking game. He is a real good example of a guy that is working to make an impression not only on defense but in special teams.”

How set are you with your roster? Are there four or five spots still up for grabs?

“I would say at least that. There is just a lot of scenarios that would not just involve one position group it may involve the decision as to go with a player on defense, offense or someone we think about in the kicking game. Those are the discussions that will have to take place beginning Friday all the way up to Saturday.”

Can you think of a guy who actually played his way onto to the roster in the fourth preseason game?

“I can think of guys not just here but Bashir Levingston was a returner for us at the Giants. I can think of Zuriel Smith at the Cowboys. There were some guys here.”

Would WRs Rod Harper or Lance Moore be good examples of guys that proved themselves in the fourth preseason game?

“Yes, although I think we had a little bit more background with Lance. Rod would be a guy that stood out in the preseason but I am not sure if it was the fourth preseason game though.”

What is your quarterback situation for the Titans game Thursday night?

“We are not going to play Drew (Brees). The plan is to not play him. We are going to start Sean Canfield and he is going to get most of the snaps with Chase (Daniel) being the backup.”

Will there be other starters that definitely won’t play Thursday night?

“Yeah but as I said in the team meeting earlier, I pulled everyone up after team stretch, and explained how there are scenarios in each position group where someone like Jahri Evans will play if all of a sudden (something changes). What happens in this type of situation is you can’t say put your baseball hat on you are not playing. There are enough guys nicked up that that aren’t available to play. Everybody has to be ready. Not only on offense and defense but special teams.”

Are you even more worried about preseason injuries in this final game?

“Every year when you get to the fourth preseason game, and certainly when you open on Thursday night as opposed to a Sunday night, you are always mindful of that. Yet, my experience is that there is really only one way to play this game. I think players recognize that. You have to be all in and at 100 miles per hour till it’s your time to rest. If not, you can run into more problems.

I think it’s too hard of a game to play to cruise through it. I think there are other sports that would be easier to do that in. I think it’s hard to do that in contact sports like wrestling and boxing because of the nature of the game.”

How tough is it this season to evaluate guys like Tom Johnson, who spent some time with the first team but then he got hurt and we haven’t seen him as much?

“This year more so than in years past, there are a handful of guys that we are going to have to make projection decisions on with not the normal amount of snaps or offseason to work with. He is a good example. There are more guys than just Tom. That is the nature of this offseason and this period of time where we are at. I was saying to Mickey (Loomis) earlier, I do feel that there are a few of those players.”

Is the plan in for Green Bay or is there still a lot of work to be done?

“There is still a lot of work to be done. There have been studies, projects and things we have done but the plan is not in.”

Did you work on the Green Bay plan throughout the offseason?

“I think it would be more appropriate in the spring where you begin opponent study with your first three opponents and your division. You have some general thoughts. Then there is a period time in camp where you go back and look at some more film.

We play this Thursday night then a normal ‘day after game schedule’ on Friday. Friday is going to feel like a Monday for all of us. The players will be off on Saturday which will be like a Tuesday. Our game planning will really begin in full on Friday and Saturday for Sunday’s practice.”

Can you put too much preparation in an opening game?

“I just think you have to be thorough you have to have a plan. It always starts with who is available for your own team. You work forward from that. The plan is a series of nights. Its starts with the base first and second down. The next practice is third down and so on. There are a series of installations that take place. I think we have a pretty good formula for how we go about doing that. We are experienced at it. There hasn’t been a lot of staff turnover. That being said, it would be no different from a first playoff game. In the first game of the season you are mindful of what you have done and what you have done well. You dress up formations and add a few wrinkles that we haven’t shown in the preseason.”

 Saints middle linebacker and defensive  captain Jonathan Vilma:talked about the Saints improving defense after Wednesday's workout.

Coming off of that Oakland game, what are your thoughts on how you guys performed?

“We like to treat that third preseason game as close to a regular season game as we can get.  I felt like we definitely improved as a defense from that Houston game to the Oakland game.  There are still some things that we need to correct.  We came out yesterday and today and got some really good work in.  We’re always trying to work on those little things, the little details.  We’re in a good place right now heading into next week against Green Bay.”

Can you be specific on what details you touched on today and yesterday at practice?

“It’s always continuing on the fundamentals.  Our tackling was still a little spotty at times in the Oakland game.  Our run fits weren’t exact at times.  We harp on and preach hustling and effort.  We wanted to make sure we got something out of practice yesterday and today and we did that.”

Do you contribute those factors to the new training camp schedule with only one practice?

“No.  We don’t like making excuses.  We work on trying to fix it and get it right and get it to our standards.  That’s our focus.  We don’t worry about why’s it’s not happening, we just get it corrected.”

You mentioned the tackling.  How worried are you about it at this point in training camp?

“Not at all.  We don’t make that an issue.  As I said, we just worry about correcting it.  We’ve been doing that.  We did it yesterday and we did it again today.”

Not going through two-a-days, has that helped your legs at all or is it a non-issue?

“It depends on the way you approach it.  If you take care of your body, it should help you out.  Naturally you’re going to be tired just from the grind of camp.  Aside from that, you just try to get back and get ready for the regular season.  There are always pros and cons to two-a-days and not having two-a-days.  I would say that nine times out of ten guys would pick this new schedule over the old schedule.”

How heavy have you guys been involved in preparing for the Green Bay game?

“I don’t want to get into too much detail about that.  I will say that when September 8th comes, we’ll be ready.”

It’s a tough thing to go play the defending Super Bowl champion in their stadium to open the season.  How big would it be to go in there and get a victory?

“We haven’t really looked at it that way.  We do know the history though.  They’re a very, very good team.  They have a very good quarterback.  For us, that would be a quality win to start the season off.  I don’t think we look at anything else besides that.  You don’t want to make it bigger than it is, because at the end of the day you still have 15 games after that.  We would love to get a quality win on the road against a NFC opponent.”

How much has playing in the opening game last year helped? 

“It helps in the sense that the schedule will be very similar besides the fact that we’ll be traveling instead of staying at home.  For a lot of the guys, it’s been there, done that.  We know that we’re going to be on a short week.  We’ll have seven days after tomorrow’s game.  The familiarity of it is good but we still have to go out and play.  We have to practice and perform.

It’s been a different preseason this year than in the past.  Does that change the way you approach this fourth preseason game?

“Not at all.  We approach it the same.  I think guys have practiced mentally and physically the same way.  I’d be surprised if they did change some of their routine because of the lockout.  Everything is back to status quo.”

Can you talk about how much you’re going to play and how many snaps you’ll get?

“I would compare it to last year.  Whatever we did last year as far as the guys and reps, I think it will probably be similar.  I’m pretty sure Sean (Payton) would want to keep it the same.”

Are you happy about where you guys are eight days from the game against Green Bay?

“Yes, I’m happy where we are.  The biggest thing is that we want to get better and constantly improve.  Our coaches always tell us it’s a race to improve so wherever we’re at right now we don’t want to stay there eight days from now.  We want to keep improving and get better so that we can be ahead of our competition

Sean Payton on his Tuesday  visit to PFT Live addressed the question of whether he'd prefer to have a team picked to win the Super Bowl  or whether he'd prefer to have it not picked to win it. Payton said he would want his team to be in the discussion...President Obama has moved his Congressional address from Sept. 7 to Sept. 8, which conflicts with the Saints-Packers game...WR Lance Moore and DT Aubrayo Franklin returned to the Saints practice on Wednesday and should be ready for the opening game. Moore will approach starters snaps this season and Franklin will likely open as the No. 3 interior tackle behind Sedrick Ellis and Shaun Rogers...

UPDATE: As the NFL and NBC try to figure out plans for the season-opening game between the Saints and Packers in light of President Obama's plan to address a joint session of Congress on the same night. Obama apparently plans to steer clear of the start of the football game .His speech will begin an hour before the 7:30 p.m.kickoff...

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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