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Saints Players to Watch vs. Texans

Saturday evening brings us the first preseason game for the Saints under Dennis Allen. Here's a list of players we'll be paying close attention to.

We're one day closer to seeing the Saints taking on the Texans in Houston for their first preseason game. New Orleans is traveling on Friday, and the game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff from NRG Stadium. Here's a look at some players we're playing close attention to throughout the game, regardless of how many snaps they get.

TRAINING CAMP RECAPS: Day 14Day 13 | Day 12 | Day 11 | Day 10 | Day 9 | Day 8 | Day 7 | Day 6 | Day 5 | Day 4 | Day 3 | Day 2 | Day 1

It's important to remember that certain players probably won't be in this one, starting with Alontae Taylor. He's dealing with a hip flexor. Several starters won't be in either like Marshon Lattimore. Players who are in a 'ramp up' period like Taysom Hill may also not be in the lineup, and players who have been doing work off to the side like Zack Baun will likely not play.

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Trevor Penning

The rookie left tackle has been the subject of a lot of national takes for some scuffles that have went viral. It's even been thrown out of proportion that the reason he was kicked out of practice was for three straight days of fighting. That's definitely not the case, but regardless, Penning is developing a rap sheet across the league for his 'playing to the whistle' style.

Now, he gets to put it to good use against the opposing team, something that he can't wait for.

"Really looking forward to it," Penning said on Thursday. 

"Get back out there, play football again. It's been a while since I've played an actual football game. I'm super excited to get back out there and play football again."

Penning still has a good bit to show before we even talk about him being the team's starter over James Hurst, but this is a good test for him.

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"Nothing's nice about football. You've got to be mean. You want the guy across from you to hate your guts. If the guy across from you hates you, you're doing your job."

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Ian Book

Book figures to play a good bit in this game and throughout the preseason, and he has a lot to prove. He's displayed signs of growth from last season, and looks a lot more comfortable going into his second season. Whether the Saints look at keeping two or three quarterbacks on the active roster this year may depend heavily on what he does.

Look for key things regarding decision-making and not holding onto the ball too long. He can also be quite the runner, giving some good scrambles in training camp, whether it be by design or escaping pressure.

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The Running Backs

One of the best things to happen to this group was seeing veteran Malcolm Brown getting released. Tony Jones Jr., Devine Ozigbo, Dwayne Washington, and Abram Smith will all be players to watch on Saturday. Don't expect much from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The Saints are needing to figure out their third running back situation. Jones Jr. arguably has the leg up right now.

Dwayne Washington told us on Thursday that he's been very motivated this season by the addition of his third child, joking that he needs to be sure to put 'more food on the table'. It's hard to think he's been in the league since 2016 and with the Saints since 2018. Each of these players have had some good moments in camp, and now it's time for them to distance themselves. 

Other Players to Watch

  • Kirk Merritt - He's been a standout in training camp, and this is going to be an important game for him. The pressure is certainly on Marquez Callaway too, so things could get a bit interesting for the final spot at wide receiver. That's also assuming the Saints keep six wideouts. 
  • Eric Wilson - Not having Pete Werner in the mix due to a groin issue will give Wilson a lot more looks. He's been a familiar partner in crime alongside Demario Davis. He's also someone that not many have been talking about.
  • Dai'Jean Dixon - Like Merritt, he has been one that's been flashing in camp. Another local product will get a huge opportunity. He may not be able to crack the 53-man roster right now, but these reps will matter for the practice squad.
  • Chris Olave - It's not that he isn't important in the grand scheme of things, but we've seen plenty from the team's first rounder. Have him playing in a series or two will be good experience, but we know that he's destined for a great season.
  • Carl Granderson - He's been someone that's doing extremely well since the start, and looks to get some featured opportunities on Saturday. Granderson bulked up to 285 pounds this offseason, and has put more of an emphasis of stopping the run this year. He's been opposite of Cam Jordan in walkthroughs and in game action, and his development will hopefully be on full display.
  • Lucas Krull - I'd add Nick Vannett here too. Both are needing to string together some good stuff, as the pecking order looks to be Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill, and Juwan Johnson right now. It's interesting that Dennis Allen said on Thursday that someone like J.P. Holtz has doubled as a fullback. Krull has been relatively quiet, and Vannett is a veteran who is on the bubble.

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