Predicting the New Orleans Saints' 2012 Final 53-Man Roster
We have effectively reached the middle of May without any controversy this offseason. All the New Orleans Saints have had to endure this offseason is losing their best offensive lineman, and they were able to replace him with the next best free-agent target at the position.
Aside from that I can't think of anything noteworthy revolving around the Saints (how long 'til I break?). Yeah, they replaced their middle linebacker with a younger version from the rival Atlanta Falcons. That was noteworthy as well, but hardly controversial.
Searching...It's like XBox Live...Nothing coming to mind...Oh wait, there was that whole Bountygate thing, then Sean Payton and Jon Vilma were suspended a whole year and then Mickey Loomis was accused of wiretapping opposing coaches' communication sets from 2002-04. You know, the normal offseason—that's all it was.
Now that we've got that less-than0positive intro out of the way, and the offseason has finally, mercifully progressed past the despicable consequences and events we've been spilling over the past few months, we can look ahead to training camp and the regular season.
We can do so mainly because that's what the team is doing. The Saints just finished up their rookie mini camp this weekend and are preparing for organized team activities and the rest of the offseason program. All of that leads up to training camp, the exhibition season (of which the Saints have the unusual five preseason games) and then the 2012 regular season.
Just as the team is looking forward to the upcoming season, we are as well. Here is a still much-too-early look at what the 53-man roster (and practice squad) should look like as the Saints come out of training camp and take the field on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Brian Brohm (extra QB spot)
Obviously, Drew Brees is going to make the roster. Obviously, he's going to start at quarterback. And he's obviously going to put up great numbers as he has each year since joining the New Orleans Saints.
Chase Daniel's prospectus is on the upswing, and with a little playing time in the preseason, the Saints may be able to find a suitor for the young QB in the offseason of 2013. A draft pick should be coming their way as a result.
Brian Brohm came into the league as a well-thought-of quarterback from Louisville. He has done nothing of note in the league, but the possibilities still exist. Keeping him on the roster in 2012 gives him a great shot to take the backup spot in 2013 when Daniel is likely gone.
Running Backs (4+1)
Chris Ivory (game-day scratch)
Mark Ingram likely will be the official starter at tailback, while Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles get just as many snaps and remain just as integral to the offense's success. Chris Ivory will not see the field unless, or until, one of the three misses a game due to injury.
Jed Collins will again win the fullback battle over Korey Hall. And Hall will not gain a spot on the roster this time around.
Tight Ends (3)
It's easy to say Jimmy Graham and David Thomas will make the roster. Everybody knows the two will see as much as playing time as they can possibly handle as both are integral to the success of the Saints offense.
In 2011, it was interesting that the Saints had eight tight ends in camp (I believe, but eight is also the number I always use when I'm exaggerating, so take your pick as to which one I'm using here). They cut all but Graham and Thomas. This season they figure to bring fewer to camp after having not drafted one against my advice.
Michael Higgins finished the year as the Saints' second tight end after Thomas got hurt. In 2012, he figures to win the all-important third tight end spot.
Offensive Line (7)
Brian de la Puente
Marcel Jones (practice squad)
The starting five is, for all intents and purposes, locked in. From left to right, the line figures to include Jermon Bushrod, Ben Grubbs, Brian de la Puente, Jahri Evans and Zach Strief. Only Strief and the right tackle spot are even debatable.
Charles Brown, Matt Tennant and Andrew Tiller make the most sense as the guys to back up one of the best offensive lines in the league. Brown can play both tackle spots, Tennant is mostly insurance for de la Puente, and Tiller is youthful insurance for either guard spots who can grow and learn how to play.
Obviously, the team likes Marcel Jones and will do everything it can to keep him in its building, which is why he gains the practice squad designation.
Wide Receiver (4+1)
Nick Toon (game-day scratch)
The top three on this list are absolutes—the Saints know what they're getting out of each. There could, however, be a training camp battle for the fourth spot between Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon.
The presumptive winner is Arrington, though, due to his time and experience in the offense. However, the Saints cannot afford to cut Toon and risk the other 31 teams in the league guaranteeing him a spot on their active roster. For that reason the Saints will keep him on the roster but probably won't dress him on game day until he is ready.
Defensive Tackles (5+1)
Akiem Hicks (game-day scratch)
Swanson Miller (practice squad)
As much as the Saints would like to see rookie Akiem Hicks turn heads and be ready to contribute upon the initial whistle of 2012, it just isn't likely. As such he will likely begin the year on the roster but will dress in warmups, not pads on game day.
Sedrick Elllis and Brodrick Bunkley figure to start in Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 alignment, while Remi Ayodele, Tom Johnson and Mitch King figure to fit into the deep rotation that Spags prefers. Swanson Miller is the perfect guy to place on the practice squad in hopes he will develop into a rotation player in the next year.
Defensive Ends (6)
With Will Smith missing the first four games of 2012, undrafted rookie Braylon Broughton is most likely to take his roster spot in those first four games. That said, linebacker Martez Wilson is most likely to take Broughton's unused reps at the end spot.
Cam Jordan will again start, as the Saints cannot afford to have both edges futile in run defense. At least Jordan will create one strong edge. Between Turk McBride, Junior Galette and Greg Romeus, the Saints will rotate a number of players in hopes of getting sustained pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The obvious starting three is the combination of Curtis Lofton inside with Chris Chamberlain and David Hawthorne outside. The nice thing is Chamberlain and Hawthorne are versatile and allow the Saints flexibility in sub-packages and in the different things they want to do.
Martez Wilson will get some reps at outside linebacker but will mostly fill in along the line in pass-rushing situations. Jonathan Casillas is a great nickel guy who can cover guys down the field as well as any player the Saints defense has.
Nate Bussey and Ezra Butler figure to provide exceptional special teams play and can play in emergency situations as necessary.
Notice also the absence of Scott Shanle and Will Herring. That is because I am predicting both will be cut in fall camp.
Johnny Thomas (practice squad)
Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins are the obvious starters, while Isa Abdul-Quddus will resume his role as the third safety who can play in some nickel situations.
Jerico Nelson gets a roster spot to learn the safety spot and provide tremendous hustle and determination in the "teams" element of the game.
Fellow newbie Johnny Thomas earns a practice squad roster spot to learn the Saints' system and give a look in practice.
Laron Scott (practice squad)
Corey White (practice squad)
Josh Victorian (practice squad)
Jabari Greer and Pat Robinson are the guys everybody and their mom know are starting at corner for the Saints. Johnny Patrick is the obvious choice for the nickel spot. After that? It's as much a crapshoot as any position on the team.
Mainly because I know nothing about them, Kamaal McIlwain and Laron Scott seem like good choices to take the fourth and fifth spots at the position, though Scott was a late add to the practice squad to get under the 53-man limit.
Though the team drafted Corey White in the fifth round, there is almost zero chance he will make the final 53-man roster. That said, he will be brought back on the practice squad because no other team in the league likes him enough to replace anyone on their own roster.
Josh Victorian gains a practice squad, 'cuz heck, why not?
P Thomas Morstead
K Garrett Hartley
LS Justin Drescher
Returner Joe Morgan
None of these are likely surprises. However, Joe Morgan taking Darren Sproles' spot as the returner is a huge priority to improve the return game and maintain Sproles for the offensive packages he is a part of.