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Saints eager to kick-off preseason against Ravens

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The Saints take on the Ravens in the team's first preseason game of the season. (FOX 8 Photo) The Saints take on the Ravens in the team's first preseason game of the season. (FOX 8 Photo)
BALTIMORE, MD (WVUE) -

The battle between the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens won't be the only fight Thursday night.

There will be position battles all over the field at certain spots, including the kicking game. Dustin Hopkins and Zack Hocker are fighting for one spot, and neither have ever kicked in the regular season.

"It's a little bit harder maybe in a preseason game.  We'll probably go in and give them each a half. We can certainly control if they kickoff but it's a little easier to control at practice and yet truly that confidence that we're searching for, it really does not show itself until they do it in a game," Coach Sean Payton said.

Last Friday's black and gold scrimmage wasn't defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's finest hour. His defense was penalized for 12 men on the field and also lined up with 10 players another snap. The game against the Ravens is a time for the defense to clean up those minor errors.

"Just get our communication right on the back end with Bush and Vaccaro, those type of guys," cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "Just to see the different formations. Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, veteran group of receivers. They'll give us our hands full, we need to be ready. "

Last season the secondary got burned by numerous quarterbacks in the passing game. The Saints finished 25 out of 32 teams when it came to passing yards allowed. Lewis hopes to improve.

"The guys will come out and compete, and that's something we can't just put behind us," Lewis said. "We can't be that group from last year. The back end, that's the last line of defense, that's what they call it."

For the Saints, it's an official turning of the page from last season's frustrating 7-9 campaign. One which saw them miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

"You are wanting it to be clean, not specifically each play because you know there is going to be a ton to coach," Payton said. "But you really want to make sure stuff that we are doing, they all know well, and then we can see how they do it."

Payton added that fundamentals will be paramount. The games that count are almost here.

"The approach of preseason games means that the season is quickly approaching as well. That is what gets us all excited," quarterback Drew Brees said.

One player that won't start for the defense is Jairus Byrd with an apparent knee injury. 

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