Hall of Fame Game: New Orleans Saints Open Their Year Without Sean Payton Against the Arizona Cardinals

In 2009, Kurt Warner was targeted by several hard hits in the playoff game against New Orleans. That game is at the center of the “Bountygate” penalties handed down against New Orleans. Now with Sean Payton suspended for the year, the Saints begin their preparations for this season against that same organization. The Arizona team, though, is much different, particularly at quarterback where competition to replace Kurt Warner is still ongoing.

The Hall of Fame game was canceled last year, which only meant that our thirst for football, even in small, hard to swallow drops, was delayed. Now, we get to start this season off, albeit in likely unsatisfactory dosage. Small steps, so you can build up your stamina heading toward September. It’s doubtful you’ll need to engage in a three hour football marathon here.

The key points tonight are the transition for the Saints, who will have Joe Vitt working the sideline ahead of his own suspension, and the depth chart at receiver with Robert Meachem out of the mix. Adrian Arrington, who has 9 career catches, is currently in the top 4 on the depth chart, along with Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore. Can he sustain training camp success? The opportunity is there, and whoever emerges will be a sleeper. Courtney Roby, who has operated almost exclusively as a special teams player, and rookie Nick Toon, are next on the depth chart.

For the Cardinals, the key issue is the quarterback rotation. Kevin Kolb is likely the leader entering the preseason games, but he’s not guaranteed it if John Skelton outplays him in the preseason. I expect both to get some action this game.

Finally, it is the first game with replacement referees as the league and officials still face off in a labor dispute. I expect more talk than actual proof of any fall off. It is after all, a preseason game with lots of players who won’t be starting in September, and officials–replacement or not–need practice too.

The game starts at 8 eastern time on NFL Network.

[photo via US Presswire]




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