Saints play some old friends in final preseason game
By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Aug. 28, 2003
METAIRIE, La. New Orleans Saints fans who wax nostalgic won't want to miss the first quarter of the team's final preseason contest when they entertain the Miami Dolphins tonight at 7 inside the sold out Louisiana Superdome.
Fans still holding a soft spot in their hearts for the likes of former Black and Gold members Ricky Williams and Sammy Knight will have to make sure they are looking on when the Dolphins take their first series on both sides of the ball to get a glimpse of the pair.
Knight, who left via free agency this summer because of salary issues, is one of the starters at safety for coach Dave Wannstedt. This is Williams' second season in South Beach, having made the Pro Bowl in February after racking up an astounding 1,853 yards rushing, which gave Saints GM Mickey Loomis a higher draft choice.
As for the fans seeing their own starters, well, the same rule applies, in this, the most meaningless of the exhibition slate.
Typically, NFL coaches reserve the final preseason game to get one final look at some guys who are on the proverbial bubble, rather than take a chance at risking a serious injury to a player already deemed as an integral part of the final 53 roster of names that will be determined by Sunday afternoon. And with the opener less than two weeks away, keeping players rested up is a goal, too.
Following practice Wednesday, Saints coach Jim Haslett said fans shouldn't expect too much, but will see the marquee guys a little at first.
A couple of starters you won't see tonight are defensive line bookends Charles Grant and Darren Howard, who are each nursing injuries. In the absence of Grant (calf), Meridian native Kenny Smith will get the nod. Team sources have said recently that Smith is the member of the defensive line currently playing at the highest level.
Haslett said Smith could continue to play at the spot in a pinch if injuries to the regulars persist through the season.
On the other side, former Auburn star Willie Whitehead will sub for Howard (knee). The two nicked up ends are vital to a pass defense that has absorbed some heavy fire already in the preseason. Haslett said both should be in the lineup when the team heads to Seattle one week from Sunday.
On offense, wideout Donte Stallworth will sit out against the Dolphins to nurse a slight hamstring pull.
That may not be enough time, however, to fix the problems the team is currently experiencing in pass defense.
That's also true of 19 other guys who won't be on this team very long after Miami leaves town. Don't be surprised to see some stellar, all-out efforts from some relatively unknowns making one last gasp at staying.
And that again means backup runner Ki-Jana Carter will get plenty of time to run against the likes of Knight and Junior Seau. "There are still spots open," Haslett said. "It will be (a make or break situation) for some of (the players.)"
If Carter can continue his positive progress, he may not be in the same situation he was in at the end of preseason a year ago. "He will get a lot of action this week. I can't wait to see him run. I thought he did an excellent job (in practice). He is very intelligent."
Haslett added that whether or not starting running back Deuce McAllister would get many reps at all against Miami was yet to be determined.