Game Preview: Seahawks at New Orleans Saints

It's finally here. The Seahawks kick off the preseason on Friday in New Orleans for a rematch with the Saints in the Superdome.

What: First preseason game
When: Friday, August 12th, 5 p.m. (PST)
Where: Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
TV/Radio: KONG TV and KIRO 710 AM

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Saints Key Players:

QB Aaron Brooks: Brooks continues to be one of the biggest enigmas in the league. Blessed with outstanding athleticism, a rocket arm and quick feet Brooks is the equal physically to Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Dante Culpepper. The problem has never been physical for Brooks, it's been the mental aspect of the game. Following what many thought was a break-out season in 2003, Brooks settled back into his old ways throwing for 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His success will largely tell how the Saints do during the regular season.

RB Deuce McAllister: Fantasy owners drooled over McAllister last August when they were drafting their teams, but he largely disappointed dropping from 1,641 yards rushing in 2003 to only 1,074 yards in 2004. He did rush for nine touchdowns and also caught 34 passes for another 228 yards, but his effectiveness was limited by several nagging injuries, including a high-ankle sprain. McAllister also struggled with the offensive scheme that opted for a second tight end instead of a lead blocking fullback as their main set. This year he will have the two-back set more and that should help him out immensely.

WR Joe Horn: Brooks' go-to guy, Horn continues to excel even at the age of 33. He isn't exceptionally fast and not the most explosive guy, but he uses his body well, is super-strong and has excellent hands. He also runs crisp routes, allowing Brooks to hit him in stride and then using his outstanding open-field running ability to take it to the house. In 2004 he went to his fourth Pro Bowl in five seasons and there is no reason to think he will slow down anytime soon.

CB Mike McKenzie: Acquired in a trade with the Green Bay Packers in early October, McKenzie immediately improved the Saints' secondary. He led the team with five interceptions and his toughness was contagious with the rest of defensive backs. He combines with five-year veteran Fakhir Brown to form one of the better cornerback tandems in the league.

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Key Matchups:

Saints defensive line vs. Seahawks offensive line: This would be an unbelievable match-up if this was a regular season game. Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson form arguably the best left side of any offensive line in the league. C Robbie Tobeck is smart and technically sound and Floyd "Porkchop" Womack and Sean Locklear along with veteran Chris Gray form a nice right side. The Saints are loaded with first-rounders on their defensive line and between their three defensive ends (Will Smith, Charles Grant and Darren Howard) they had 29 sacks in 2004. At tackle, Howard Green and Brian Young are high-motor guys who get by on effort and savvy more than athleticism. Willie Whitehead is also in the mix as a run-stuffer.

Seahawks wide receivers vs. Saints secondary: The Hawks have a new look in their wide receiver corps and it will be interesting to see how they work with starting QB Matt Hasselbeck. Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram are the starters with Joe Jurevicius the third wideout. Alex Bannister, Jerheme Urban, Jerome Pathon, Bobby Shaw and D.J. Hackett are the five players vying for the final three spots on the roster. The Saints secondary is tough on the corners, but relatively slow at the safety spots. They have some solid players including FS Dwight Smith -- who replaces the underacheiving Tebucky Jones -- and Jay Bellamy, but rookie Josh Bullocks may be pushed into starting duty if the team feels it needs to improve the athleticism in the deep third.

QB Seneca Wallace vs. Saints second defense: By all reports, Wallace has had an excellent offseason and appears to have locked down the backup job to Hasselbeck. The first two preseason games are huge for Wallace, because if head coach Mike Holmgren doesn't feel set with him, he may go out and get a veteran to back up Hasselbeck. Wallace needs to hit his receivers in stride, make his reads correctly and move the team on a regular basis. Otherwise the head man may lose faith in his abilities to be the permanent backup.

Seahawks secondary vs. Horn: Horn can make cornerbacks look stupid at times. Marcus Trufant has played him twice already in his career and seems to play well against him. With the free agent signings of Kelly Herndon and Andre Dyson, Trufant may not be on Horn all night, but he will be tested yet again by the wily veteran.

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News and Notes: Shaun Alexander is expected to start against the Saints. Some battles to watch between teammates: Seahawks punters Leo Araguz and Chris Kluwe. Kluwe has looked excellent in camp and shown off his big leg. Araguz is consistent and has good hang time. At LDE, Bryce Fisher and Antonio Cochran are battling for the starting spot. With the top three wideouts set (Jackson, Jurevicius and Engram) the other three spots are up for grabs. Whoever makes plays in the preseason games will help themselves big-time.

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Prediction: Seahawks 20 – Saints 13

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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