METAIRIE, La. — When the sun came up on Monday morning and reality set in on Airline Drive that the New Orleans Saints had indeed lost to the Washington Redskins, there was no head-hanging, no looking back and asking what if.
Interim head coach Aaron Kromer didn’t even need to deliver a rousing speech to put his players in the right mind.
He already sensed they were there.
“I sensed determination,” Kromer said. “I sensed focus. I sensed a wakeup call. That’s what I sensed.”
What Sunday’s 40-32 loss to the Redskins provided was template for what ails the Saints (0-1) and gave them direction in beginning to correct the issues at hand.
In other words, it showed the team its weaknesses, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. That’s a good thing heading into this Sunday’s showdown with NFC South rival Carolina (0-1) and its athletic quarterback Cam Newton.
“I guess you say it was a good way to get ready,” Jenkins said. “We know where our weaknesses are now. All we can do is improve. I think opening up with RG III definitely prepares us somewhat to what we’re going to see this weekend in Cam. He’s phenomenal athlete. We saw him twice last year. We know what he can do.”
In two games against Carolina last season, Newton combined for 59 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries while going 31 of 56 for 382 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked three times.
At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Newton is bigger than Robert Griffin III’s 6-2, 217-pound stature. But they’re styles are similar and the offenses both play in take advantage of their ability to not just run, but pass the ball.
“We got a little taste of what a running quarterback and zone read and everything,” Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “We’ll go watch film, make those corrections so when we go against Carolina and they try to do the same things, we’ll be ready.”
On Wednesday, they got started with a practice outside, the first time this season they worked on natural grass.
The Saints will face a Panthers team coming off a loss to Tampa Bay, a game in which Newton was kept to just four yards on five attempts. While he passed for 303 yards and a touchdown, he was sacked three times and threw two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Griffin accumulated 42 yards on the ground and 320 through the air, throwing two touchdowns.
While facing Griffin will help in preparation for Newton, Jenkins cautioned that Carolina’s quarterback is just different enough that they can’t totally rely on who they faced the first game.
“I think they’re a little different athletically because Cam is a bit bigger and harder to get down,” the safety said.