1. Go figure, the Saints are finally healthy enough to field at team that more closely resembles that which will take the field against Atlanta when the season opens on Sept. 7. And in the third preseason game, no less.
Funny how things happen, huh? Coincidence? Irony? How about we go with coincidentally ironic?
Alas, quarterback Drew Brees will play, which is probably enough to pacify even the most pessimistic Saints fan.
For Brees, tonight is about getting back in the swing of things. Not that he needs much practice, though. Despite missing a few weeks while he rehabbed his oblique injury, he's been sharp since returning last Sunday.
More importantly, though, tonight he'll be joined by several Saints who've yet to wear the Black and Gold against an opponent namely, safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey.
There's no doubt the Saints wish these two could've participated sooner, but they're here now, which, finally, will allow the team to meaningfully assess its secondary.
Byrd wasted little time showing why the Saints ponied up for his services. His two interceptions and pass break up in Mandeville on Wednesday was merely first glimpse at his ball-hawking prowess. All signs point to a high return on investment for Mickey Loomis and company.
Back, too, is cornerback Patrick Robinson. By now, most are aware of his season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last year. Robinson's recovery has been nothing short of spectacular. Prior to his recent setback a few weeks ago -- a 'tweek' as described by Payton Robinson looked to be well on his way to claiming the No. 2 cornerback job opposite of Keenan Lewis.
Bailey has more to prove than any, though. Last season in Denver was a wash, and if the Saints are going to keep him around, he'll have to show them he can still play. Admittedly, he's not the same player he was during his run of 12 consecutive Pro Bowls. At the very least, he must show he's more than just an aging vet who decided to stick around too long. The Saints desperately need him to contribute because beyond Lewis, Robinson and White (and even with latter two) the Saints are very thin at the position.
2. The Saints have to clean up the penalties. Last week's 22 for 183 yards against Tennessee was appalling. Even worse, in two preseason games the Saints have 42 for 292 yards.
Payton put it to the veterans to fix the problem, which he aptly described after squeaking out a 26-24 victory a week ago Friday.
'Here's a number for you. Five takeaways, hear me out, five takeaways we're at the nine-minute mark in the fourth quarter, we're up seven,' he said. 'Let me say that again. Five takeaways, nine-minute mark in the fourth quarter, up seven.
'And we'll say, 'Hey when we get to the regular season, it'll clean itself up.' Hey, that's silliness. Crazy.'
Tonight will be a good barometer of just how much discipline this team has.
3. There are a hand full of players vying for just a few roster spots. Tonight is their best chance to make a statement, not only to the Saints, but also to the league's teams that are most certainly watching.
Here are a few I'll following closely.
DL Brandon Deaderick
WR Brandon Coleman
WR Seantavius Jones
S Marcus Ball
S Pierre Warren
LB Kevin Reddick
LB Kyle Knox
OL Senio Kelemete
OL Marcel Jones
OL Jason Weaver
K Derek Dimke