Bucs at Saints
New Orleans will look drastically different than it did for much of 2007, when it went 7-9. RB Deuce McAllister is back after a season-ending knee injury that limited him to three games. New faces are elsewhere, too, with former Giants star TE Jeremy Shockey on board after an offseason trade. First-round pick Sedrick Ellis will start at defensive tackle, buoyed by Charles Grant and Will Smith — the longtime starters at defensive end. The Saints also welcome LB Jonathan Vilma from the Jets.
Bucs: FB B.J. Askew (foot), WR Antonio Bryant (knee), WR Michael Clayton (chest), DT Jovan Haye (groin), S Sabby Piscitelli (knee) are expected to play.
Saints: DT Hollis Thomas (triceps), LB Troy Evans (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
KEEP IN MIND
The Saints allowed 16 sacks last season, fewest in the NFL. It's a remarkable statistic given they led the league in pass attempts, too (440). The good news for the Bucs is they netted five sacks in their two meetings against the Saints, including three on Dec. 2 at the Superdome. Still, getting to QB Drew Brees can be a challenge.
"He's someone who tries to play with urgency, and he's got a pretty good idea of where he wants to go with his progressions," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "And I think when you see a number that's uniquely low like his, it's a combination of his timing and his clock in his head. He's not afraid to throw it away."
Defending Jeremy Shockey, top, will be a taxing chore as he is one of the most elusive tight ends. His addition means LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June, bottom, will have to be ever-conscious of his location, as both will share the responsibility of covering him in passing situations.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"I think there's a unique tie with our team and our region. I would imagine that most, if not everyone, will be back by the weekend, and I think the atmosphere will be fantastic."
Sean Payton on his expectations for a big, vocal crowd at the Superdome despite Hurricane Gustav's aftermath