Friday, 19 August 2011 14:33

New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans, Brees, Reggie Bush

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SaintsTwo of the NFL's most high-powered offenses will be on display when the Saints (1-0) and Texans face off for a preseason game on Saturday night at Reliant Stadium at Houston. The Texans are favored by 1 1/2 points. However, defenses stood out for both teams in their opening victories.

The Saints were stifling on defense in last week's 24-3 victory over the 49ers, while an overhauled Texans defense drew high marks for its first effort under new coordinator Wade Phillips in Monday night's 20-16 home victory over the Jets, two-time AFC runners-up.

Houston routinely had trouble stopping the opposition during their disappointing 6-10 season of 2010, but were able to unleash a furious pass rush on the Jets. The Texans racked up seven sacks and was credited with 16 quarterback pressures with their reserves creating the majority of the havoc.

The Saints' defense produced plenty of pressure of its own, amassing six sacks and a pair of interceptions while limiting the out-of-sync 49ers to a mere 234 total yards.

The Texans will get back several top players from injuries for the Saints and coach Gary Kubiak plans to play his starters for most of the first two quarters.

Per the Houston Chronicle, if there was concern regarding Arian Foster's mindset, specifically whether the previous 10 days he'd spent nursing a nagging hamstring  injury had any lingering mental effect on the Texans running back,  it was alleviated after Wednesday's practice.

Asked how many reps he might need should he start on Saturday against the Saints, Foster replied, "62."

"It's a science. man," he told the Chronicle. "It's science." Foster was the NFL's leading rusher last season.

Texans running back Ben Tate said he has recovered enough from a hamstring injury to play against the Saints. Texans All-NFL receiveer Andre Johnson said he'd play despite a dislocated finger early in training camp. Running backs Derrick Ward (concussion) and Steve Slaton (hamstring) will be inactive. The same goes for linebacker Brian Cushing (knee).

Saints quarterback Drew Brees should get a few more reps in this game and should be buoyed by the expected return of his No. 1 receiver, Marcus Colston, who has been cleared to play after resting his surgically repaired knee.

One position battle to watch for with the Saints will be at right tackle, where six-year pro Zach Strief and second-year man Charles Brown are competing for the spot left open by the recent release of Jon Stinchcomb.

KC Joyner passed along a copy of "The Football Scientist Fantasy Football Draft Guide" for 2011. Of the Saints, Joyner wrote: "Drew Brees had something of an off year in 2010 because of a variety of factors. This year could see a turnaround from a health perspective, but he could still have an off year due to the brutal schedule.

The guide quantifies items of this nature through a matchup strength number. The matchup strength takes a look at a variety of defensive metrics (both for individual players and for the team as a whole) and assigns points based on where they rank league-wide. The more favorable matchups are given to higher point totals, so the more matchup points someone has, the better.

Brees has 64 matchup points, a total that ranks tied for dead last among quarterbacks. Since the Saints are on the opposite side of that ledger in the running game (their 36 matchup strength points in that category ranked tied for 3rd), it could very well be that this is a season where they lean on the ground attack more than usual.

The Saints traded back into the first round to get running back Mark Ingram and there's little doubt they are going to use him a lot.

The Saints and Texans are scheduled to play one another again in Week 3 of the regular season.

The Saints will fly to Oxnard, Cal., immediately after the game where they will train for their final week of camp. Spending a week in Oxnard makes sense on many levels for the Saints. They have to travel to the West Coast anyway for a game with the Raiders. It's just as easy to come out early and get some quality practices in under the cool temperatures Oxnard provides. It's extremely hot and humid in New Orleans this time of year and that limits how much time and how hard the Saints can practice. 

Because of the lockout, teams are playing catch-up this year. The cooler temperatures in Oxnard will make it easier for Payton and his staff to get their team ready because they can practice longer and harder.

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. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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