Rookie Trevor Penning may have heavier role in preseason game against Packers

Published 6:27 pm Thursday, August 18, 2022

By John DeShazier

NEW ORLEANS — The forecast got a little less cloudy as the week progressed.

Still no inside, behind-the-scenes, covert-phone-call, slipped-a-piece-of-paper info as to how the New Orleans Saints plan to use players for Friday’s preseason game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field. It’s still a guessing game. But some guesses are a little more educated than others after the teams had two competitive joint practices, so here we go:


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With starting quarterback Jameis Winston (foot) ruled out, Andy Dalton again. He was scripted to go 10 plays in the opener against Houston, and went 10 while leading a touchdown drive on his one and only possession. The guess here is that Dalton’s workload will expand a bit; maybe he goes 20 plays. The caveat, of course, is that if he leads a pair of five-play touchdown drives, well, that’ll be enough. Trevor Penning likely opens at left tackle, since James Hurst left Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury, and Lewis Kidd may open at right tackle because Ryan Ramczyk practiced in team drills Tuesday, and that might be as much quality work as he needed for the week. The Saints are a tad thin on the offensive line at present, so recent addition Derrick Kelly II actually might play Friday night. I still don’t think Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II will be involved at running back, and Michael Thomas probably won’t line up at receiver. But rookie Chris Olave will. On defense, if defensive end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis, safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Marshon Lattimore got enough good work in the joint practices, they may get the bubble wrap treatment, too. Kaden Elliss and Chase Hansen and Andrew Dowell will get snaps at linebacker, but recent addition Jon Bostic could get into the mix early. He’s a veteran and his learning curve should be compressed because of it. Wil Lutz will handle all the kicking duties. Don’t expect to see anything too sexy on offense or defense, because that’s not what preseason games are all about. Fundamentals, keys, technique, etc.


Figure to see Ian Book in this quarter. He may have gotten snaps by the end of the first, depending on how well things go with the No. 1 offense. I think Penning still will be on the field at left tackle, and that Olave still could be in at receiver. The rooks got a lot of good reps Tuesday and Wednesday, but they still can use the work. Kelly may be in early at tackle. Book gets the opportunity to have a cleaner showing (two turnovers against Houston in the preseason opener) and show that he learned from the errors that led to the interception and lost fumble. The battle at backup running back continues between Tony Jones Jr. Devine Ozigbo and Abram Smith. I don’t include Dwayne Washington simply because his special team value is so high, I think he’s in even if he’s not the No. 3 running back (though he has made a strong case for that, too). Payton Turner started at defensive end and he may still be on the field, along with Carl Granderson, or Tanoh Kpassagnon, or Taco Charlton. Elliss is still in at linebacker, but cornerback Paulson Adebo may be off the field and Bradley Roby could be wearing a cap before the end of the quarter, too. Bostic definitely should be on the field by now.

Book is still on the field and, like the opener, I expect him to get most of the reps at quarterback because, one, there’s no need to expose Dalton further and, two, Book needs the live reps. Jones or Ozigbo is in at running back. The receiving corps has gone through Olave and Tre’Quan Smith, who also could use a good showing, and Marquez Callaway possibly will be getting the work alongside Deonte Harty. Harty won’t be involved in the return game because the Saints know what they have in him, so others (including maybe Jones again on kickoff returns) get the work there. Undrafted rookie receivers Dai’Jean Dixon and Kirk Merritt continue to press their cases for the sixth receiver/practice squad. Cornerback play has to step up a little bit, it was a bit too feast/famine with Brian Allen against Houston.


The biggest question probably is whether Book finishes out the game, or whether K.J. Costello gets some snaps at the end. Regardless, Abram Smith is at running back and hopefully keeps all the positives (seven carries, 30 yards) and eliminates the negative (a lost fumble in the red zone) from the preseason opener. There’s enough depth and talent on defense, even in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, to put on a decent showing, as New Orleans did for 58 minutes against Houston. That’s where Allen, cornerback DaMarcus Fields, safety Daniel Sorensen and others come into play. One hiccup – a bust resulting in an open receiver – can cost a game, one forced turnover can seal it.