Saints vs. Cardinals; Beyond the Numbers

Fantasy Football Fanatics

Hall of Fame Game

By, Eric Hartvigson

 

Saints

Perhaps the most apparent observation made during this game was how little the Saints offensive system will change in 2012, despite the absence of head coach Sean Peyton.  New Orleans opened the game putting the ball in the hands of Drew Brees with rapid decision making marching straight down the field to score a quick touchdown.  Those who questioned Brees 2012 fantasy value got their answer (myself included).

This game also taught us the Saints will continue to utilize all 3 runningbacks in the same role from last season. Pierre Thomas started the game, garnering most of the carries between the 20s.  Darren Sproles entered the mix primarily as the “pass catching runningback”, while Mark Ingram finished the scoring drive taking the goal line carry in for a touchdown.  Sproles still looks to be the player to own, but the timeshare will continue.

The battle between kicker John Kasay and Garrett Hartley didn’t become any clearer.  Kasay handled field goal duties going 1-2 with a block, while Hartley nailed both extra point opportunities.  Whoever emerges has serious fantasy value.

Considering the physical nature in which Jimmy Graham plays the position, we should note the Saints backup tight end looks to be Michael Higgins.  Although miniscule now, put this in the back end of your notes, especially if Graham is your starting tight end exiting the draft.

 

Cardinals

Exiting last season, and throughout the offseason the hot topic coming out of Arizona has been the quarterback competition.  As expected, Kevin Kolb started the game only to throw an ugly interception on his first pass attempt after failing to recognize the coverage of Malcolm Jenkins.  On the Cardinals third possession Kolb would be hit hard and forced to leave the game with an injury the Cardinals are calling a rib contusion (fancy word for bruise).  We should remember that Kolb has never played more than 9 games while struggling with numerous injuries ranging from turf toe all the way to concussions (get it, head to toe).

Replacing Kolb was third year player John Skelton.  During my offseason breakdown of the Cardinals I noted that Skelton proved to be the superior player in 2011 while increasing the value of all Cardinals offensive players, especially Larry Fitzgerald.  Skelton did not disappoint correctly reading the Saints defense, adjusting the play and making accurate throws in the face of pressure (nothing feels better than when a bold prediction is validated).

Examining this game we should also recognize that Larod Stevens-Howling was the Cardinals starting runningback with Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams both recovering from injury.  Stevens-Howling generated a formidable ground game picking up 25 yards on 4 carries.  He is certainly a player on our “watch list”.

Stevens-Howling was later replaced by 4th string RB Alfonso Smith.  A free agent pick up in most leagues last season, Smith continued to display tough downhill running and allusiveness.  Although most of his runs came against the Saints 2nd string defense, Smith managed 46 yards and 1 touchdown on 8 carries.  Smith is also a player worth monitoring as we near the regular season.

Despite a bad drop in the 3rd quarter, Cardinals tight end Rob Housler also looked impressive. During the offseason the Arizona coaching staff has made it clear they intend to utilize the tight end position with greater consistency.  We should note that head coach Ken Whisenhunt played tight end in college while being a tight end coach during the early stages of this coaching career.  Housler is a Cardinals player also being placed firmly on the “watch list”, but not yet draftable with starter Todd Heap still in the mix.

 

After yet another long, cold offseason it was awesome to finally watch some football.  With our league draft just around the corner we can now begin monitoring the preseason action, start firing up those mock drafts and putting together our draft plan because it time to play football.

 

About Eric Hartvigson