W2W4: New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints (2-0) and Indianapolis Colts (0-2) will meet in the third preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium tonight, with the game televised nationally on CBS. Here’s What 2 Watch 4:

1. Look at the stars: Tonight’s game will be much closer to the real thing than New Orleans’ first two preseason outings. Quarterback Drew Brees will make his debut after missing the past two games with a strained oblique, and said he wants to get in a good groove since he’s not expected to suit up in Week 4 of the preseason. Safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Champ Bailey, guard Jahri Evans and receiver Kenny Stills are also expected to make their preseason debuts after recovering from various injuries. I’m very interested to finally see both the offense and defense intact for the first time -- especially against a quality opponent like the Colts in a game where the starters are expected to play about a full half of football. I hope rookie receiver Brandin Cooks is on the field after battling a stomach virus all week, because I’m anxious to see Brees out there with his full array of mismatches to choose from.

2. Secondary is primary: Finally, we’ll start to see what this highly-touted Saints secondary looks like with all of the veterans on the field together. I’m not actually sure how much we’ll get to see Byrd and Bailey since the Saints have been cautious with their recovery timetables. But Byrd certainly didn’t waste any time living up to his reputation as a ball hawk in full-team drills this past week, intercepting two passes and breaking up another in the end zone on just his second day of full participation. As for Bailey, I think his roster spot is pretty secure, but his starting job remains up for grabs against fellow dinged-up veteran Patrick Robinson and Corey White. As coach Sean Payton said of Bailey earlier this summer, the Saints don’t need to see it every day, but they do need to see it once in a while. A strong outing against Andrew Luck & Co. would help.

3. No yellow flags: Sure, penalties are up around the league. But the Saints have been turning it into an epidemic, with 10 of them in Week 1 and 22 last week (plus six others that were declined). Payton was seething after the game, refusing to dismiss the problem as “just the preseason” and suggesting that it’s a sign of poor discipline and poor coaching. Obviously the Saints will be looking to clean up their act so the issue of “sloppy play” isn’t hanging like a black cloud heading into the regular season. … The guys it’s probably most important for are the offensive linemen who are still jockeying for roster positions (be it centers Tim Lelito and Jonathan Goodwin battling for a starting job, or guys like Bryce Harris, Marcel Jones and Senio Kelemete battling for backup roles).