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Arizona Cardinals Get an Inside Look at the New Orleans Saints

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It's finally here fellas, GAMEDAY. The best day of the week and what we've been waiting for since the final day of 2007. One of the great things about SB Nation is that it's a network with so many other NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA among other blogs and new blogs are added all the time (case in point the newest blog covering the Arizona St Sun Devils). In what will hopefully be a weekly feature, I exchanged some questions with the Saints blogger, Saintsational, of Canal Street Chronicles in an effort to better understand our opponent each week. You can also check out my answers to his questions and let me know if I'm completely off base.

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The Saints have loaded up on Pro Bowl talent this off season with the additions of Jonathon Vilma and Jeremy Shockey, which of them will have the biggest impact for the Saints and what other additions have flown under the radar? Do they offset the players that have departed?

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Thats a tough question. I would say they both have the opportunity to make a very large impact on their respective sides of the ball. Vilma is back in a 4-3 where he should thrive again. His knee seems to be fine and he has been participating in all training camp activities since it started. As far as Shockey is concerned, the tight end position figures to be a large part of Sean Payton's West Coast offense, and with a quarterback like Drew Brees, I expect him to get a lot of touches. We know what a threat he can be with the ball, but it's also the fact that he takes some defensive pressure off our other receivers like Marques Colston that should also make him incredibly valuable. As far as other additions that might have flown under the radar, I would maybe say Bobby McCray. He gives us a lot of speed at the end of the defensive line. The biggest loss the Saints suffered this offseason was Jeff Faine, but with Jonathan Goodwin looking like a solid replacement, I don't see his loss as too great.

Sean Payton's had one magical season in which he seemingly could do no wrong followed by season that they just couldn't seem to put it all together. Which Saints team will show up in 2008 and which team is closer to reality?

This years team should look much more like the 2006 team, only better!

Duece is coming off his second ACL surgery in three seasons, Reggie's success in the NFL has been spotty but last season Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas looked like they had something. How would you describe the Saints  backfield at this point and how do you see it playing out during the season?

Good questions. I am a big Pierre fan and I am hoping the team gives him his due. I think the health of Deuce willT1_mcallister pretty much determine how much of Pierre Thomas we see. Deuce is looking okay after a minor scare with his knee about a week and a half ago. He may not get as many touches as he used to, but he should definitely be able to contribute. Reggie will probably get used more for screens, pitches, quick slants etc. and not as a between the tackles, every down back. As far as Stecker is concerned, if I am being honest, I have no idea where he will fit in, but I am confident that he can shine if he needs to.

The Saints draft class took a hit when Pressley was lost for the season with a fractured foot, how will the rest of the class play out? Is Ellis a day 1 starter?

Losing Pressley was disappointing, but not heartbreaking. He wasn't blowing anyones socks off while he was healthy and he probably wasn't going to see much time, if any, this season. The rest of the class is actually looking pretty darn good. 7th round pick Adrian Arrington is looking like the next Marques Colston and might actually make this team. K Taylor Mehlhaff also has a shot to beat out Gramatica for a spot and offensive lineman Carl Nicks has also been a bright spot during training camp. Tracy Porter is also doing a good job battling for a spot with the other cornerbacks. Sedrick Ellis got to camp late and just this week got reps with the first team. I think he starts week 1.

What position battles are raging in Saints camp this year who are the front runners? Who is a guy that no one outside of the Big Easy has heard of that will be a breakout player for the Saints this year?

Wide receiver and cornerback are the two major battles going on. Colston, Patten and Meachem should have spots at receiver locked up with Terrance Copper, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Adrian Arrington, Skyler Green and Todd Blythe all battling it out for the last remaining spots. It will inevitably come down to their ability to contribute on special teams.

At cornerback, the race is wide open. Mike McKenzie are Randall Gay are sure things, but Tracy Porter, Aaron Glenn, Usama Young, Jason David and Jason Craft all are fighting for their jobs.

I would keep my eye on WR Adrian Arrington, CB Usama Young and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

What are Saints fans expecting out of their team this year and what are they expecting out of this game, if anything? How many starters won't play at all?

I think Saints fans are expecting a trip to Tampa this year, seriously. They are very excited and optimistic, and I think they should be. As far as this game is concerned, it will not be an accurate gauge of how this team will perform during the season. Fans will really be looking at the position battles and seeing who is going to win a spot on this team. Personally, I will be checking out our secondary and making sure it looks vastly improved from last season. Shouldn't be too difficult to do.

The starters that aren't playing for certain on Thursday are: Jeremy Shockey, Deuce McAllister, Tracy Porter, Mike McKenzie, Jonathon Vilma, Brian Young, Josh Bullocks and Devery Henderson. Colston probably won't play either just to be on the safe side with his knee.

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Well it's obvious that neither team will be at full strength but the Saints will still be a decent measuring stick. Thoughts? Any questions that you've got about the Saints?