Saints vs. Colts gameday: Scouting report; three things to watch; roster report; predictions

SCOUTING REPORT

The Saints secondary is starting to near full strength at the right time.

Sure, it’s only a preseason game, and the result doesn’t matter. But proud teams do not like to be picked on in any venue, and the Indianapolis Colts have the weapons to make it a long night for any secondary.

It’s currently unknown if cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Champ Bailey and Patrick Robinson will return from their undisclosed injuries after taking part in practices this week, but getting them back would go a long way toward New Orleans making this a competitive game.

The Colts, led by quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, can put up big numbers on offense. They accumulated 5,468 yards of offense last season — and that was with Wayne on the sideline recovering from an ACL injury.

It is currently unknown if Wayne will play in Saturday’s game.

It doesn’t matter if New Orleans wins or loses. But the Saints would be better served having their top cornerbacks on the field Saturday night. Otherwise, it’s going to be up to Corey White and rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste to slow Indianapolis down.

THREE AND OUT

1. Drew Brees returns

After missing the first two games becuase of a left oblique strain, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is expected back under center Saturday night against the Colts. The third preseason game is typically treated as a dress rehearsal for the season, so he could see a good number of snaps.

2. Byrd up!

Saturday night should also offer a first glimpse of safety Jairus Byrd, who has not played this preseason while recovering from May back surgery. He was not limited in practices after being cleared for contact earlier this week and should see some action against the Colts. The question is if the Saints will keep him on a snap count.

3. The kicker battle

It’s not the most exciting preseason showdown, but the one between Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke is the most contested. There is not a clear front-runner at this point, but Dimke has kept things close and might be in position to take the lead. He needs to take advantage against the Colts.

KNOW YOUR OPPONENT

Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano has not said if wide receiver Reggie Wayne will play Saturday night, and he has already ruled out linebacker Robert Mathis. That leaves wide receiver T.Y. Hilton as the person of most interest for the third preseason game.

But even before a decision on Mathis was made and Wayne’s status appeared murky, the Saints were already preparing for the speedy Hilton by having undrafted receiver Charles Hawkins, the ex-Southern star, simulate him in practice.

There’s a reason for that.

Hilton is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, and his speed is difficult to prepare for. Last season he caught 82 passes for 1,083 yards, most of which came after he took the top off the secondary.

Hawkins has claimed to have 4.3 speed, which would make him one of the fastest players on the roster, and he used his quickness to cause some issues for the Saints secondary.

Their hope is that Hilton is unable to do the same.

ROSTER REPORT

C Jonathan Goodwin

After doing well so far in his competition with Tim Lelito, Goodwin could lock up the job in his first opportunity to work with Drew Brees this preseason.

FB Greg Jones

In case Erik Lorig isn’t back from a leg injury for Week 1, the Saints are looking at Jones and Austin Johnson. But Jones, as an 11-year veteran, is expensive.

DL Brandon Deaderick

Deaderick has filled in for NT John Jenkins and DE Akiem Hicks following injuries. He’ll be in good position for a depth spot if he does well in Indy.

RB Derrick Strozier

Strozier is the only rookie running back left on the roster after the Saints waived Tim Flanders. He’s a prime candidate for the practice squad.

CB Derrius Brooks

Brooks has been around the ball a lot. His position is crowded, but he’s quietly put himself in dark-horse contention for a fifth cornerback spot.

PREDICTIONS

Ramon Antonio Vargas: From offseason workouts through the Saints’ last practice Thursday, Drew Brees has been precise and accurate with his throws. His eagerness to return to action after missing two exhibitions was palpable this week, and he’ll operate behind an offensive line that’s been improving in pass- and run-protection through this preseason. Expect the starters to open a lead the backups will preserve. Saints 27, Colts 20.

Nick Underhill: This one matters! Actually, it doesn’t. But this is the closest thing to real football you’ll see during the preseason. The Saints spent a practice preparing for the Colts, which is different from the first two games since those contests were approached with a more internal view. So there might be a few things to actually take from this contest, but it still won’t be much. Saints 31, Colts 23.

Scott Rabalais: The third preseason contest is always important, but the Saints have so many key players who need playing time and this team so badly needs to work on its execution (22 penalites) it takes on almost regular-season-like significance. Almost. The Saints hit the important touchstones and won’t mind coming up short on the scoreboard. Colts 24, Saints 21.