The New Orleans Saints are in Costa Mesa, California just outside L.A. to face the Los Angeles Chargers in two joint practice sessions at the Chargers’ training facility. The first will be later this morning before they face off once again tomorrow (Friday morning).
The joint sessions, which have taken place between the two teams for the past few years are a precursor to the 2nd preseason game that will take place this Sunday evening at 3:00 p.m. Central Time in a nationally televised game on CBS. The game will be broadcast locally on WWL-TV Channel 4.
With that in mind, here are five players for the Black and Gold that Who Dat fans should watch (all of whom we’ll be watching very closely here at Big Easy Magazine), this Sunday against the Chargers.
MARCUS DAVENPORT, DEFENSIVE END
Hear more in the full podcast here: (link – https://t.co/Eb0qhIJ89j)
— New Orleans Saints Podcast (@SaintsPod) August 14, 2019
College Team: UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Fun Fact to Know: According to the good folks over at Pro Football Focus, they noted that while Davenport only tallied a total of 4 sacks, 28 QB “pressures”, and 7 QB “hits” in his limited action as a rookie last season; his real success came when defending against the run. Out of his 11 credited tackles last year, 5 of them dropped opponents for a loss of yards, and PFF’s in-house “run-stop percentage” stat had him graded as the League’s top-rated rookie defender in 2018 at 9.8-percent.
Why We’ll Be Watching: As most Saints fans are likely aware by now, the Saints D-Line appeared to struggle in last week’s opening 34-25 preseason loss at home to Minnesota, and Davenport, in particular, was singled out for criticism by several observers for his play in that game — most notably by living Saints legend and former All-Pro outside linebacker/edge rusher Pat Swilling.
Now in complete fairness to Davenport, he often gets double-teamed by opponents and despite being labeled as a “raw” talent he’s still only a little over a year into his development; expectations by most are that he has plenty of time to blossom into one of the most feared pass rushers in the sport. Nevertheless, he didn’t exactly give his best effort last week, and it will be interesting to watch and see if he can shut up his detractors with a much better performance against the Chargers.
EMMANUEL BUTLER, WIDE RECEIVER
Today, Saints' training camp star Emmanuel Butler told us he was "back to 100 percent," a statement he backed up with another strong practice.
— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) August 11, 2019
College Team: Northern Arizona University
Fun Fact to Know: Butler played at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, — an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) level school about two hours to the north of his hometown Phoenix — and earned recognition as a two-time All-American for the Lumberjacks program in the Big Sky Conference. The 22-year old holds the school’s single-season receiving yards record (1,208 receiving yards in 2015) and ranks first in career receiving yards and touchdowns at the school. He finished his 4-year college career with 187 receptions for 3,217 yards (17.2 avg.) and 33 touchdowns.
Why We’ll Be Watching: After becoming the breakout star of this summer’s 2019 Saints Training Camp, Butler was sidelined after the Saints’ July 30 practice with an undisclosed injury (thought to be a foot or ankle issue) and left the team’s training facility in a walking boot. He did not return back to practice until more than a week of camp had passed.
But since his return, Butler has essentially picked up right where he left off after sitting out last week’s loss at home to the Vikings. Butler is expected to see plenty of action this Sunday evening against the Chargers, and we suspect that he’ll be looking to have a strong performance in his very first official game-action in the National Football League.
KAYVON WEBSTER, CORNERBACK
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 7, 2019
College Team: USF (University of South Florida)
Fun Fact to Know: Webster is a former World Champion who played a vitally key role as a back-up CB and special teams stand-out for the Denver Broncos as they won Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers in February of 2016.
Why We’ll Be Watching: Webster – who also played for the Rams before tearing an Achilles tendon and being released by Los Angeles – signed with the Saints earlier this off-season, and appeared to show no lingering or ill-effects from that injury. Webster has performed well thus far in Saints Training Camp and seems to have sufficiently healed enough to resume his NFL career with the Black and Gold.
In last week’s preseason loss to the Vikings, Webster drew a pass interference call against Minnesota WR Laquon Treadwell in the 3rd quarter, but after NFL officials took a look at the replay they didn’t find sufficient evidence to overturn the 21-yard penalty against Webster and the Vikings’ drive continued.
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) August 10, 2019
Granted, it’s not necessarily written in stone at this point, but with so much competition this summer at defensive back, it means that Webster needs a much stronger performance in the three remaining preseason games, as they ultimately could determine Webster’s future in New Orleans when the team makes its final roster cuts during the first weekend of September.
NICK EASTON, CENTER
#Saints C Nick Easton (@makeitlookeasyy) first visited New Orleans as a ninth-grader lending a helping hand after Katrina. The city will now depend upon his strength, once again, as an important addition to the offensive line.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 2, 2019
College Team: Harvard University
Fun Fact to Know: During his Pro Day workout in Cambridge, Massachusetts four years ago, Easton weighed in at 6 foot 2 and 3/4, 303 pounds, and timed the 40-yard dash in 5.12 seconds. His 1.64 second split at 10 yards was highly regarded among prominent NFL scouts for a player of his size and physical stature.
Why We’ll Be Watching: Signed by the Saints this past off-season to fill the hole left at the center position after the sudden and unexpected retirement of former starting Saints center Max Unger, the 27-year old became a free agent after spending the 2018 season on injured reserve following neck surgery. He was Minnesota’s starter at left guard in 2017, after being acquired in a trade with San Francisco in 2015.
However, the Saints subsequently drafted Texas A&M center Erik McCoy in the recently-completed 2019 NFL Draft, and the impressive rookie has come in rather quickly and made an immediate impact; at this point, he appears to be taking over the position in his very first few month’s worth of NFL action.
#Saints unofficial depth chart for Sunday’s preseason game against the Chargers. For second straight week, no big surprises. Team still lists Erik McCoy as co-starter with Nick Easton, but it’s basically been McCoy with the ones since July 30. pic.twitter.com/bUuiRwoyuo
— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) August 13, 2019
While it would seem unlikely that Easton is in any danger of being cut or released following McCoy’s sudden emergence, Easton still needs to prove his worth and value to the Saints franchise going forward; and doing well against the Chargers this Sunday evening would ensure him of sticking around and to continue providing the Black and Gold with some much-needed depth and experience.
DAN ARNOLD, TIGHT END
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 1, 2019
College Team: UWP (University of Wisconsin-at Plattville)
Fun Fact to Know: A former wide receiver who the Saints have converted into a tight end since signing him as an undrafted rookie during the 2017 off-season, Arnold earned recognition as the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, after he received All-Region honors and was an All-American selection. He finished his 2016 senior season with 65 catches for 1,176 yards and 16 touchdowns, a UW-Platteville record. His accomplishments attracted plenty of attention from NFL scouts, and ultimately a roster spot with the Black and Gold.
Why We’ll Be Watching: There might not be a more polarizing player on the Saints roster among Who Dat fans than the 24-year old Arnold, who is in a heated battle to hang on to the #3 TE spot behind starters Jared Cook and 2nd-string TE Josh Hill against fellow back-up TE’s Garrett Griffin and this year’s 7th-Round draft pick, Alizé Mack.
There are many Saints fans that are still upset over Arnold’s performance against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game when he dropped what could have been the game-sealing touchdown pass that would have given the Saints an insurmountable 21-0 lead early in the game. That game was, of course, ultimately won by the Rams in overtime thanks to the controversial “no-call” by NFL officials.
— Paul Boron (@pboron88) January 20, 2019
With those events behind him, Arnold has performed well in camp for the most part and during last week’s loss to Minnesota, he tallied two catches for 27 yards and caught an 18-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter from QB Teddy Bridgewater. But as fate would have it, Arnold ended up drawing more scrutiny upon himself later in the 2nd half.
On an early 3rd quarter pass from 3rd string QB Taysom Hill, Arnold momentarily had both hands on the ball and appeared to make the catch before he lost control of the football, which then bounced right into the hands of Minnesota rookie CB Nate Meadors, who ran untouched into the end zone for a 30-yard Vikings touchdown.
Vikings CB Nate Meadors gets a pick-six TD after Saints TE Dan Arnold drops and bobbles a wide open pass pic.twitter.com/GY1OUGTbBR
— Sports Gifs & Videos (@Supreme_gifs) August 10, 2019
More than just a few passionate Saints fans were quick to criticize Arnold once again for his misfortune, but head coach Sean Payton told reporters after the game that he likes what Arnold has done for the team, and they have no intention of holding those few unfortunate plays against him. However, it has to be very demoralizing to Arnold’s self-confidence, and it will be interesting to watch if he can shake off the negative vibes and be able to keep his roster spot when the final roster cuts roll around in a few weeks.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius