New Orleans Saints: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Will OsgoodAnalyst IAugust 3, 2012

New Orleans Saints: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    The New Orleans Saints' 53-man roster is not locked in, nor written in stone. Of course there are obvious starters and backups. But there are also a number of players who can still win jobs on the roster with a strong training camp and preseason. 

    Coincidentally, or not, there are also players who could lose out on a 53-man roster spot if they are unable to impress in this year's five-week period of practices and exhibition games. 

    There are some positions where playing time questions and depth chart wrestling are merely the way things must go throughout the preseason period. 

    We all know there will be roster cuts—down to 80 on August 28—and then September 2 when teams must finalize their 53-man rosters. 

    Read on for all the latest news, rumors and predictions for how the New Orleans Saints' roster will be shaped to begin the 2012 NFL season. 

August 28 Cuts

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    Monday the New Orleans Saints cut their roster down to 75 players before evacuating New Orleans due to Isaac. Here are the 15 players the team rid themselves of prior to the August 28 deadline:

    DT Remi Ayodele

    Ayodele was cut most likely because he no longer provided explosive abilities to get into the offensive backfield. And the fact Akiem Hicks looks like he could be the defensive rookie of the year didn't help Ayodele's cause either. Ayodele could go to another team in need of tackle depth but that probably won't happen until teams sustain some injuries at the position. 

    QB Luke McCown

    The Saints will likely get down to two quarterbacks on the final 53-man roster, but as of now it is clear that McCown simply was not going to help this team at the quarterback position. McCown could get picked up at some point for a QB desperate team, but this could also be the end of his NFL career.

    LB Aaron Tevis

    Tevis was hurt by his being hurt and missing time in camp. He did not have enough time to impress the coaching staff. Obviously the team had seen enough to dismiss him as a possible contributor in 2012.

    C Brian Folkerts

    Folkerts wasn't going to earn a starting spot over Brian de la Puente, but he could have earned a roster spot over Matt Tennant. Or at least he could have if he had displayed enough ability to play the position. He obviously did not, hence the reason he was cut.

    TE Jake Byrne

    Jake Byrne had a hard road to climb with five other good tight ends on the roster. The rookie from Wisconsin ultimately did not do enough to prove he deserved a roster spot over any of them. He was the only tight end rid of in this wave of cuts. 

    S Johnny Thomas

    Thomas came in as one of three undrafted safeties. Jose Gumbs and Jerico Nelson outplayed him, so there's little surprise that Thomas would be the first one cut. Those two have to feel better about their chances to make the final roster now. 

    WR Derek Moye

    Though talented, Moye never proved he could beat out the likes of Joe Morgan or Nick Toon. He simply did not do enough to earn a spot above them. 

    OG Paul Fenaroli

    Much like each of these players, Fenaroli faced long odds to make the squad headed into camp. He simply did not do enough in camp to earn that opportunity. 

    OT Hutch Eckerson

    Eckerson was another long shot to make the final roster, though he got his opportunities to play in the preseason. He was a member of the second-team offensive line which struggled the last few games to keep Chase Daniel upright. 

    DE Donavan Robinson

    By far the most surprising cut on this list. Robinson showed signs of brilliance in camp and looked to be a player who could provide a pass rush for the team. At the end of the day the team likely did not see him anchoring the line of scrimmage against the run, and thus determined they already had a better one-dimensional defensive end in Martez Wilson. 

    WR Kevin Hardy

    Hardy was another long shot to make the squad, especially at a position of such depth for this team. Hardy did little to stand out in his brief time in New Orleans. 

    CB Kamaal McIlwain

    McIlwain never was able to jump ahead on a deep cornerback depth chart including six players who could legitimately make the final squad. 

    DT Swanson Miller

    Miller was supposed to get through these cuts as he showed some promise in the preseason. But the Saints decided they have better players at the position. 

    CB Cord Parks

    After being cut once earlier in camp, Parks actually looked like he was headed for making it through this first round of cuts. He was playing well in preseason games. But ultimately the Saints' depth at the position prohibited him from making the team. 

    WR Marques Clark

    Clark was a guy no one expected much out of, but some were hopeful. He saw limited time in the preseason and did little to earn a spot. And that is why he did not make it. 

August 31 Cuts

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    Friday, the New Orleans Saints completed their mandatory 53-man roster cutdown. Just because a player was not cut doesn't mean he will make the roster or play September 9. But it does mean has avoided being part of what many league experts call the least fun day of the football year. 

    K John Kasay

    When all was said and done, Kasay's age, and the fact the Saints still had Garrrett Hartley under contract, bit the veteran's butt. Kasay proved a season ago he could still be effective. Thus, he could easily still make someone's final roster. 

    LB Kadarron Anderson

    Anderson shone brightly the past two preseason games, and with a lack of depth at linebacker, his cut actually comes as a bit of a surprise. So long as no one claims him on waivers in the next 24 hours, Anderson will make the team's practice squad. 

    OL DeOn'tae Pannell

    Pannell had a nice preseason, but was still a longshot to make the squad. He could easily be a practice squad member if he clears waivers. 

    WR Greg Camarillo

    Camarillo was signed two weeks ago to provide another camp body at the receiver spot. He was never a serious threat to make the team. With reports that Adrian Arrington made the 53-man roster, Camarillo's release was inevitable. 

    For the remainder of the list, click here

Latest Roster Moves

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    08/27/12: See August 28 Cuts slide. 

    08/20/12: The New Orleans Saints acquired LB Barrett Ruud from Seattle in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick. 

    08/20/12: Neworleanssaints.com reported the Saints waived injured offensive lineman Fenuki Tupou. 

    08/19/12: The Red Zone reported the Saints signed veteran wide receiver Greg Camarillo on Sunday. 

    08/11/12: According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, the New Orleans Saints made a plethora of moves Saturday. The team waived LB Nate Bussey, CB A.J. Davis and sixth round draft pick guard Andrew Tiller.

    It also signed CB Nick Hixson, guard Paul Fenaroli and veteran tight end Daniel Graham. 

    08/06/12: According to the New Orleans Saints twitter feed, the team has waived DB Laron Scott and OL Scott Winnewisser. They have also signed Kevin Hardy and Ramon Humber. 

     

    The Saints have re-signed WR Kevin Hardy & LB Ramon Humber, waived DB Laron Scott and waived/injured G Scott Winnewisser

    — New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 6, 2012

     

    07/31/12: The New Orleans Saints waived rookie defensive back Cord Parks and signed two-year veteran defensive tackle Alex Daniels. Parks was not going to make the roster, of course. Daniels could make the roster as a rotation defensive tackle if the team elects to carry five or more defensive tackles on the original roster. 

Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    QB (2): Drew Brees & Chase Daniel

    RB (5):  Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles & Chris Ivory; Joe Banyard (IR) & Travaris Cadet

    FB (2): Jed Collins & Korey Hall

    WR (7):  Marques Colston,  Lance Moore,  Devery Henderson, Nick Toon & Joseph Morgan, Adrian Arrington & Courtney Roby

    TE (3):  Jimmy Graham, David Thomas & Daniel Graham 

    RT (3): Zach Strief & Charles Brown & Marcel Jones

    RG (1): Jahri Evans 

    C (1): Brian de la Puente 

    LG (2): Ben Grubbs & Eric Olsen

    LT (1): Jermon Bushrod 

    DE (5): Will Smith, Cam Jordan, Turk McBride, Martez Wilson, Junior Galette 

    DT (5): Sedrick Ellis, Brodrick Bunkley, Tom Johnson, Akiem Hicks, & Tyrunn Walker

    OLB (4): David Hawthorne, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring & Scott Shanle 

    MLB (1): Curtis Lofton 

    CB (5): Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, Johnny Patrick, Elbert Mack & Corey White;  

    S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Isa Abdul-Quddus & Jonathon Amaya

    K (1): Garrett Hartley

    P (1): Thomas Morstead

    LS (1): Justin Drescher

Last 5 in

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    Turk McBride, DE. I almost made McBride a roster casualty due to a lack of explosive pass rushing skills, but his overall play got him the nod with the loss of Will Smith for the team's first four games. 

    Jerico Nelson, S. The rookie from Destrehan deserves to make the squad. It's just that the Saints have so many talented players and could have used others for special teams. That said, Nelson makes the roster because of his potential at safety. 

    Braylon Broughton, DE. In Steve Spagnuolo's defense, the Saints simply will never have too many pass rushers. Broughton has the explosion and figures to get better with experience. 

    Donavan Robinson, DE. The lightweight rookie is a special pass rusher. Because of the weight issues he figures to struggle when trying to help in the run game. His explosive pass rushing ability should get him this spot. 

    Editor's Note: Monday, August 27 Robinson was waived by the team. 

    Corey White, CB. Corey White was a huge surprise as the Saints' fifth round pick in the 2012 draft. His inclusion on the initial 2012 roster is almost as surprising. He will beat out Marques Johnson among others because of his draft position. 

Last 5 out

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    Nate Bussey, LB. Though Bussey would have been effective on special teams, he could be a casualty due to the Saints needing an extra roster spot at defensive end. He wasn't going to get much time at linebacker either. 

    Update: Bussey was waived Saturday, August 11. Thus he will not be one of the last five out. 

    Greg Camarillo, WR (Replacement for Bussey). Camarillo seems like the perfect fit as the fifth wide receiver but the team's playbook will be too hard to figure out in a mere two weeks. 

    Adrian Arrington, WR. Arrington has been a project for the Saints the past four years. He was supposed to take off in 2011 and never did. In 2012, it is simply too late. 

    Derek Schouman, TE. Schouman is a recent signee for the Saints, who figures to compete for a roster spot. But Michael Higgins will beat him out, because he's Michael Higgins; in other words, awesome. 

    Travaris Cadet, RB. The Saints may not find a team willing to trade for third-year back Chris Ivory. As a result, the Saints would keep the veteran and cut the promising young rookie. 

    Marcel Jones, OT. The seventh round pick from Nebraska has been impressive thus far in camp. But ultimately the team will stay with the duo of Zach Strief and Charles Brown at right tackle. 

Quarterbacks

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    QBs on Roster (4): Drew Brees, Sean Canfield & Chase Daniel 

    Projected Starter: Drew Brees

    Offseason Additions: Luke McCown

    Roster Cuts: Luke McCown

    Projected Final Roster: Drew Brees & Chase Daniel

    Drew Brees will be the team's starting quarterback, no ifs, ands or buts about it. That is unless the unlikeliest of likelihoods arose—a major injury. 

    Assuming that does not happen, the most interesting battle at the position throughout the remainder of the preseason will be for the No. 2 job. Chase Daniel held that job with no questions asked the past two years. 

    With veteran Luke McCown now in the fold, Daniel's hold on that spot may not be quite so automatic. Of course McCown is comfortable with the Saints' scheme after playing in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden (who used the same basic offense as the Saints). 

    With those three solid veterans it is highly unlikely that Sean Canfield will be able to maintain a roster spot New Orleans any longer. The Saints would have to determine it better to keep a youngster with next to no salary than a veteran essentially making the veteran's minimum. 

    Training camp and the preseason will go a long ways toward determining both of those eventual decisions.  

Running Backs

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    RBs on Roster: Joe Banyard, Travaris Cadet, Jed Collins (FB), Korey Hall (FB), Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles & Pierre Thomas

    Projected Starter(s): Jed Collins (FB), Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas & Pierre Thomas

    Offseason Additions: Joe Banyard & Travaris Cadet

    Roster Cuts: None

    Projected Final Roster: Jed Collins (FB), Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas & Darren Sproles

     

    As the Saints look ahead to the regular season they have an interesting conundrum staring them right in the face. That of course is possessing four running backs worth close to double-digit carries. 

    I outlined a plan for how the team can handle that here. The assumption that Mark Ingram should handle the majority (50 percent or more) of the carries is dependent upon his being healthy through camp and the entirety of the preseason schedule. 

    That has been an issue for him ever since he won the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore year at Alabama. Simply staying healthy for training camp would be a good start for the uber-talented feature back.

    Perhaps more importantly, the Saints have to figure out how they're going to handle having a player the caliber of Chris Ivory possibly sitting in team warmups on the sidelines for multiple games. 

    That question likely won't be answered as a result of training camp or the preseason schedule. Instead, it will be answered in the coaches' meetings and in conversations with Mickey Loomis as the roster cut deadlines approach (August 28 and September 2). 

    Travaris Cadet and Joe Banyard each have an opportunity to make that conversation more difficult, though in some senses it would also make it easier. Either would be a more cost-effective option than Ivory, and would allow the team to shop Ivory to a team desperate for talent at the position. 

    For that scenario to develop one of the two rookies (or both) must step up and show they are capable of filling that fourth back spot. Because the team has had great depth issues at running back over the years, that spot is very coveted and necessary. 

    Then there's the fullback spot. A year ago the team elected to keep two (Jed Collins and Korey Hall). Hall hardly ever played in offensive packages but was an effective player on special teams. 

    Because of other positions needing more bodies, the Saints are unlikely to have the luxury of carrying two fullbacks again. And based on last season's performance, it would seem the job is Colins' to lose. Hall is unlikely to wrestle that spot away from Collins. 

Wide Receivers

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    WRs on Roster: Adrian Arrington, Greg Camarillo, Marques Colston, Chris Givens, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Joseph Morgan, Courtney Roby, Andy Tanner & Nick Toon

    Projected Starting WRs: Marques Colston, Lance Moore

    Offseason Additions: Nick Toon, Chris Givens, Marques Clark & Derek Moye

    Roster Cuts: Derek Moye, Kevin Hardy & Marques Clark

    Projected Final Roster: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Joseph Morgan & Nick Toon

     

    Two veterans have been speculated as possible roster cuts by the media. Those two are Devery Henderson and Adrian Arrington. 

    Early reports indicate Arrington has shown well in camp thus far. Given the reality of his being cut, it is so necessary that he continues in that upward direction. 

    Henderson has done nothing to hurt or improve his stock. With Henderson the Saints know exactly what they're getting—an inconsistent explosive receiver. 

    Two youngsters could put a ton of pressure on the older veterans. Second-year Walsh College alum Joseph Morgan is a favorite to get significant reps in the return game. 

    But at 6'1", he also has a chance to be a near perfect replacement for Robert Meachem as the vertical passing threat this offense needs. 

    Rookie Nick Toon was a surprise get in the fourth round in the 2012 draft. Most draft experts had him going third round or earlier. Though he doesn't necessarily fill a hole in the Saints' passing game as Morgan does, he could develop into a Malcolm Floyd/Vincent Jackson-type receiver over the next few years. 

    Of course Drew Brees had the chance to bring V-Jax along in his rookie campaign in San Diego. He could have a similar impact on the young rookie out of Wisconsin. 

    Marques Clark, Derek Moye and Chris Givens are three undrafted guys who would love to pull a Marques Colston and not just make the roster but turn in an outstanding rookie campaign. Of course the depth at the position is much greater than it was in 2006. 

    Greg Camarillo could develop into an excellent veteran option, if he is able to learn the intricacies of the Saints' elaborate playbook in a mere two weeks. His signing brings up questions of whether the team is comfortable with the presumed grouping of Nick Toon, Adrian Arrington and Joseph Morgan, who were supposed to be fighting for the fourth and fifth receiver spot. 

Tight Ends

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    TEs on Roster: Daniel Graham, Jimmy Graham, Michael Higgins, Derek Schouman & David Thomas

    Projected Starter(s): Jimmy Graham, David Thomas (see below)

    Offseason Additions: Jake Byrne & Derek Schouman

    Roster Cuts: Jake Byrne

    Projected Final Roster: Jimmy Graham, Michael Higgins & David Thomas

     

    Of course the Saints want to make sure Jimmy Graham is committed to improving this preseason, and not content with one outstanding season as he had a year ago. Camp should begin to shed light on that. 

    Nearly as important is the opportunity to see what role David Thomas will have in the offense. If Thomas goes back to lining up all over the field, including the fullback spot, it is likely the team will not carry two fullbacks as it did a season ago. 

    A season ago the team had about eight tight ends in camp, and kept only two of them. This year there are only five, and most likely the team will keep three on the initial 53-man roster. 

    Until the team signed Derek Schouman mere days before training camp began, it appeared rather obvious who the three would be. Michael Higgins was the presumed No. 3 at the position. 

    He still has the odds in his favor for that particular role. But Derek Schouman is a veteran with more experience than Higgins. It is possible that experience could enable him to impress early despite not having the same amount of time in the system as Higgins. 

    Either way, that player will get plenty of opportunities to see the field and catch passes in the most collectivist offense in the league. Just earning playing time in the New Orleans offense means tight end No. 3 will likely grab close to 20 balls and a couple touchdowns in 2012. 

    That is what Schouman, Higgins and rookie Jake Byrne are battling for in this particular camp. 

    The addition of Daniel Graham on Saturday creates an interesting dilemma for the Saints. Do they keep two blocking tight ends (D. Graham and Thomas) or one receiving tight end (J. Graham), one do-it-all tight end (Higgins) and one blocker (Thomas)? Or do they do something else altogether? 

Offensive Tackles

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    OTs on Roster: Charles Brown, Jermon Bushrod, Marcel Jones, Aderrious Simmons, Zach Strief & Fenuki Tepou

    Projected Starters: Jermon Bushrod (LT) & Zach Strief (RT)

    Offseason Additions: Hutch Eckerson, Marcel Jones, Aderrious Simmons, Fenuki Tepou & Scott Winnewisser

    Roster Cuts: Fenuki Tupou, Hutch Eckerson

    Projected Final Roster: Charles Brown, Jermon Bushrod & Zach Strief 

     

    The big story for Jermon Bushrod is whether he will get any kind of contract extension prior to the beginning of the 2012 campaign. He has one year left on his current deal, and is coming off his first Pro Bowl nod. 

    The other large question for this group is at the right tackle spot. Zach Strief is the assumed starter, but Charles Brown has all the skill and athleticism to not just challenge for the spot but become a great player at right tackle. 

    Brown's inclusion in the starting lineup would give the Saints greater flexibility in terms of their offensive capabilities. Rollouts and swing screens could return to the offense in greater number, as could the jumbo package with Strief. 

    But if Brown does not earn the job, the team could cut or trade him. That would likely be due to the inclusion of seventh round pick Marcel Jones on the 53-man roster. 

    A lot of what Jones did at Nebraska offensively the last four years resembles what the Saints currently do, especially along the offensive line. He has to be a favorite for a roster spot in  2012. 

    Three undrafted rookies are also battling for the right to either make the Saints' roster or, more likely, earn a spot on the team's practice squad.  

Offensive Guards

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    OGs on Roster: Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Eric Olsen, DeOn'tae Pannell & Matt Tennant 

    Projected Starters: Jahri Evans (RG) & Ben Grubbs (LG)

    Offseason Additions: Ben Grubbs, DeOn'tae Pannell & Andrew Tiller (waived Saturday)

    Roster Cuts: Paul Fenaroli

    Projected Final Roster: Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Eric Olsen & Matt Tennant

     

    No one questions who the starters at either guard spot will be. Jahri Evans is generally assumed to be the top right guard in football, and Grubbs was a Pro Bowl left guard a season ago for the AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens

    All camp means for them is the chance to get in a groove. For Grubbs it is an opportunity to gain cohesion with the rest of his linemates and earn the trust of Drew Brees and the running backs. 

    But in case Evans or Grubbs get hurt, the team needs at least one guy who could step in and play in their stead. The presumptive favorite would be the versatile Matt Tennant, who can also play center. 

    That doesn't mean sixth round pick Andrew Tiller should simply be assumed a misfit. His assimilation into the Saints' offense should be an easy one mentally due to his familiarity with the verbiage. 

    He of course learned how to play upper-level football at Syracuse under former Saints' O-Line Coach/Offensive Coordinator Doug Marrone. (Update: Saturday Tiller was waived by the Saints). 

    Veteran Eric Olsen and DeOn'tae Pannell each have an opportunity to impress and earn that coveted backup spot as well. Olsen would likely be cut if he does not earn the spot, whereas Pannell could earn a practice squad spot. 

Center

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    Centers on Roster: Brian de la Puente & Matt Tennant

    Projected Stater: Brian de la Puente

    Offseason Additions: Brian Folkerts

    Roster Cuts: Brian Folkerts

    Projected Final Roster: Brian de la Puente & Matt Tennant

     

    Brian de la Puente was pretty much a nobody this time last season. Olin Kreutz was the obvious starter for the team at center. Behind him figured to be 2010 fourth round pick Matt Tennant. 

    When Brian de la Puente made the final roster it was a giant surprise. Matt Tennant made the squad as well, but more to backup the guard spots on the team. 

    This season Tennant is again the presumed backup at both center and guard. Brian de la Puente, though, is the obvious starter at the position. 

    And really the only person at this point who could change any of that is Brian Folkerts. If he were to impress in camp and preseason he could possibly earn the backup center spot. 

    If he were to pull that off, it may force the Saints' hand to get rid of Tennant. Considering Tennant was drafted a center, and the team has some good options for the backup guard spots aside from Tennant, there would be little reason to keep him around. 

    So Folkert's efforts in camp are almost as important to Tennant's status on this team as his own performance. Of course they are not, but it is somewhat close. 

Defensive Ends

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    Defensive Ends on Roster: Braylon Broughton, Junior Galette, Cam Jordan, Turk McBride, Will Smith & Martez Wilson 

    Projected Starters: Cam Jordan, Turk McBride & Will Smith (see below)

    Offseason Additions: Braylon Broughton & Donavan Robinson

    Roster Cuts: Donavan Robinson

    Projected Final Roster: Braylon Broughton, Junior Galette, Cam Jordan, Turk McBride, Will Smith & Martez Wilson

     

    Off the bat, you are likely to notice the projection of each defensive end in camp making the final roster. That is no typo. 

    First of all, Will Smith will miss the first four games due to a suspension for his part in the 'Bountygate' scandal. Without him, an extra spot on the roster would seem to automatically go to another defensive end. 

    Second, we already know Steve Spagnuolo is an equal-opportunity employer of his pass rushers. He likes to throw as many out there as he can get. 

    Six defensive ends seems reasonable, with or without Smith. Without Smith it means seven on the roster, but obviously only six of them can dress those first four games. 

    That said, the two rookies on the list (Braylon Broughton and Donavan Robinson) are going to have to prove in camp and in the preseason that they belong. If they can simply exhibit explosion from that position it will go miles to getting them on the field in regular season games. 

    The other primary question is whether Martez Wilson can successfully make the transition from linebacker to defensive end. If he can, that also should go quite a ways toward improving the team's four-man pass rush. 

    If he does not show it early on, the team may move him back to outside linebacker, but still try to use him in hybrid role as a situational edge rusher. 

    Finally Cam Jordan needs to improve his overall pass rushing ability. He showed last year he really knows how to play the run, but looked lost trying to find the quarterback. Year two, he needs to improve, and training camp is really the time for him to learn the techniques at full speed to make that happen. 

Defensive Tackles

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    DTs on Roster: Brodrick Bunkley, Alex Daniels, Sedrick Ellis, Akiem Hicks, Tom Johnson, Swanson Miller & Tyrunn Walker

    Projected Starters: Brodrick Bunkley & Sedrick Ellis

    Offseason Additions: Remi Ayodele, Brodrick Bunkley, Alex Daniels, Akiem Hicks & Tyrunn Walker

    Roster Cuts: Remi Ayodele

    Projected Final Roster: Remi Ayodele, Brodrick Bunkley, Sedrick Ellis, Akiem Hicks & Tom Johnson

     

    With the recent signing of Alex Daniels, who can really play end and tackle, the Saints bolstered the depth at both spots. Considering defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's by-committee approach to the defensive line, depth and lots of bodies is the key for the New Orleans Saints. 

    Of course, there is little question that Sedrick Ellis, Brodrick Bunkley and Remi Ayodele will be rotation players along the defensive line at the tackle spots. Each does something a little different very well. 

    The three complement one another very well. Add in Tom Johnson, and you've got four players pretty much penciled in for the first four tackle spots. Training camp for each will be more of a conditioning and learn-the-defense time. 

    For Daniels, Swanson Miller and Tyrunn Walker it's an opportunity to impress coaches, and preseason games provide a chance to impress other teams as well. Of course they must also learn the defense like the proven veterans. 

    Then there's Akiem Hicks, the team's first pick in the 2012 draft (third round, No. 91 overall) from Regina College in Canada. For him training camp is his first opportunity to impress the coaches of his abilities in pads. 

    The preseason is his first chance to play upper-level 11-on-11 football since early in his college career at LSU. He must not only pick up the defense and impress coaches with his abilities but he must adjust to the radically different speed and style of NFL football. 

    The adjustment will be difficult for him for sure. Luckily, he is pretty close to a sure thing to make the final 53-man roster. 

Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on Roster: Kadarron Anderson, Chris Chamberlain, Ezra Butler, Jonathan Casillas, David Hawthorne (MLB), Will Herring, Ramon Humber, Scott Shanle & Lawrence Wilson

    Projected Starters: Chris Chamberlain & David Hawthorne

    Offseason Additions: Kadarron Anderson, Chris Chamberlain, David Hawthorne, Aaron Tevis & Lawrence Wilson

    Roster Cuts: Nate Bussey & Aaron Tevis

    Projected Final Roster: Jonathan Casillas, David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber & Scott Shanle

     

    The interesting thing about the makeup of the Saints' roster is that they have 10 outside linebackers on their squad and only two middle linebackers (and one of them is going to start at outside linebacker). 

    Presumably David Hawthorne, Chris Chamberlain and Jonathan Casillas are locks to make the roster as outside linebackers. It is possible veterans Will Herring and Scott Shanle could as well. 

    Some younger talented players such as Nate Bussey and Aaron Tevis may not, simply because of how many players are on the particular roster at the spot already. 

    So it seems appropriate here to mention that Bussey, Tevis, Anderson and Butler are all playing for their NFL lives this preseason. None are likely to make the Saints squad, but any of them could find their way on another roster. 

    The veterans Herring and Shanle may be playing their final games as professionals, based on how little seems to be left in the tank of both players. A good camp for either could easily change that assertion though. 

    Then there's the interesting story of Lawrence Wilson. The team took a wise no-frills waiver on him this offseason. Based on talent alone, the guy should make this squad. Character has been a major issue early on his career, and the play hasn't been there either. 

    The fact his character issues have already led to a one-game suspension (he's just starting his second year in the league) means he is unlikely to make the team. There's almost no way the team elects to keep two suspended players on its roster. 

    With the injury of Chris Chamberlain (out for the year), Scott Shanle--aka The Guy You can't Get Rid of, No Matter How Hard You Try--appears set to take the final linebacker roster spot for the seventh consecutive year, or so it seems. 

Middle Linebackers

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    MLBs on Roster: David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton & Jonathan Vilma

    Projected Starter: Curtis Lofton

    Offseason Additions: David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton & Barrett Ruud

    Roster Cuts: None

    Projected Final Roster: David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton & Barrett Ruud

     

    If I linked even a third of the stories available related to incumbent middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and his offseason, you'd have enough reading to get you through the end of the regular season. 

    Let's keep it simple. Unless something unforeseen takes place, Jonathan Vilma will not play in 2012. As a result, Curtis Lofton will play middle linebacker for the 2012 New Orleans Saints. 

    What will be interesting to see in camp is how Spagnuolo uses Lofton and Hawthorne together. The options are plentiful. 

    He could easily combine the two in some 3-4 type looks. The two could play the inside linebacker spots. In nickel situations, those are two who will stay on the field most often. 

    Will Spagnuolo get even more creative than that? He very well could. Training camp probably won't answer all those questions. But it should begin to give some answers. 

    With the team lacking depth at the linebacker spot, the team went out aggressively to pick up Barrett Ruud, a player the team knows well after he spent six seasons in Tampa Bay from 2005 to 2010. 

    Ruud will likely play outside linebacker as soon as Curtis Lofton returns from injury. Until then, Ruud is the most likely player to man the middle linebacker spot. 

Cornerbacks

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    CBs on Roster: A.J. Davis, Jabari Greer, Nick Hixson, Marquis Johnson, Elbert Mack,Johnny Patrick, Patrick Robinson & Corey White

    Projected Starters: Jabari Greer & Patrick Robinson

    Offseason Additions: A.J. Davis (waived), Marquis Johnson, Elbert Mack, Kamaal McIlwain, Laron Scott & Corey White

    Roster Cuts: Cord Parks, Laron Scott & Kamaal McIlwain

    Projected Final Roster: Jabari Greer, Elbert Mack, Johnny Patrick, Patrick Robinson & Corey White

     

    So much is happening at the cornerback spot. First of all, the Times-Picayune reported Thursday Jabari Greer had surgery to correct a sports hernia injury he suffered in camp. He is expected to be out until the fourth week of the preseason. 

    That will be crucial in giving Patrick Robinson and Johnny Patrick time to work as the starting corners during the first three weeks of the preseason. Considering that could easily come to fruition at some time during the regular year, this must actually be seen as a positive. 

    Of course, that will also push along the learning curve for rookies Kamaal McIlwain, Corey White, Laron Scott and A.J. Davis. White is of course the one with the best shot to make the roster as a result of his being the team's fifth round pick in the draft. 

    But Greer's injury could benefit any of the three, as it will certainly add to each more opportunities to display greatness. It also figures to benefit veterans Marquis Johnson and Elbert Mack, who can show coaches just how much the team needs another veteran presence in the defensive backfield. 

    After Greer, Robinson and Patrick, there seem to be two spots open. Mack would seem to have a firm grasp on one of them, and White may be the most likely for the fifth spot, but a guy with a great camp could presumably steal that final spot. 

Safeties

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    Safeties on Roster: Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jonathon Amaya, Jose Gumbs, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins & Jerico Nelson

    Projected Starters: Roman Harper & Malcolm Jenkins

    Offseason Additions: Jose Gumbs, Jerico Nelson & Johnny Thomas

    Roster Cuts: Johnny Thomas

    Projected Final Roster: Isa Abdul-Quddus, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins & Jerico Nelson

     

    Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins will start at the two safety spots in Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Isa Abdul-Quddus will probably take the third spot. 

    After that, it's a fight for the fourth spot. Myself and most fans are probably rooting for Destrehan native Jerico Nelson. He would become the newest home town favorite for a team so proud of each and every player that steps on the field in black and gold. 

    With a great training camp and preseason the former Arkansas Razorback could secure a spot on the roster. But incumbent fourth safety Jonathon Amaya, among others, will have something to say about that. 

    Amaya was anything but dazzling in his inaugural campaign in black and gold, after coming over in the deal with Miami for Reggie Bush. He must show improvement in training camp and preseason to even make the team in 2012. 

    Other rookies Johnny Thomas and Jose Gumbs could realistically challenge for the fourth safety spot as well. Of the two, Thomas would seem to be the favorite. But Gumbs has some game, and won't make it easy on Amaya, Thomas or Nelson. 

Kicking Specialists

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    Specialists: Justin Drescher (LS), Garrett Hartley (K), Jon Kasay (K) & Thomas Morstead (P)

    Projected Starters: Justin Drescher (LS), Garrett Hartley (K) & Thomas Morstead (P)

    Offseason Additions: None

    Roster Cuts: None

    Projected Final Roster: Justin Drescher (LS), Garrett Hartley & Thomas Morstead

     

    The obvious storyline here is the duel between old man river Jon Kasay and the young clutch guy Garrett Hartley. Both have their pros and cons. 

    For Kasay, he's got the experience. Then again he's also over 40 and lost a bit of his leg. Hartley has played a huge role in winning a Super Bowl. But he's also lost games due to his amazing inconsistency. 

    Training camp probably isn't the best place to decide such an important race, but between it and preseason there's really no other way for the coaches to make the decision of which to go to battle with in 2012. 

    While that is a radically crucial decision for the team to make, there is no doubt who will be handling the punting duties. In fact, Thomas Morstead just re-upped through the rest of the millennium to be the Saints punter. And he will also undoubtedly handle kickoff duties. 

    Then there's long snapper Dustin Drescher. Similar to Morstead, unless he falls off a cliff or something like that (pretty sure there aren't any cliffs in New Orleans), Drescher will be the Saints' long snapper in 2012. 

    That's pretty simple isn't it? 

Return Specialists

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    Return Specialists On Roster: Lance Moore, Joseph Morgan, Courtney Roby & Darren Sproles

    Projected Starters: Darren Sproles

    Offseason Additions: None

    Roster Cuts: None

    Projected Final Roster: Lance Moore, Joseph Morgan & Darren Sproles

     

    Darren Sproles was the full-time returner a season ago for the New Orleans Saints. Rare was the kick return, or punt return Darren Sproles did not take. 

    The 2012 season promises to have that dynamic chance some. In the 2011 preseason Joseph Morgan proved to be one of the most exciting punt returners in football. Only a season-ending injury derailed his opportunity at opening the season on the 53-man roster. 

    Look for Morgan and Sproles to have a friendly competition in training camp and throughout the preseason to see who can best the other 

    The winner will probably not gain exclusive return rights throughout the year. But he probably would garner the majority of them early on in the season. 

    Of course, it is completely possible the team could decide to split the duties by having Morgan take kickoffs and Sproles punts, or vice-versa. I suggest that particular order because Sproles struggled in the kick return game a season ago.