Predicting the New Orleans Saints' Final 53-Man Roster
The New Orleans Saints have three preseason games in the books, and the roster is starting to fill out with the few exceptions that won't be decided until final cuts.
These next games will be the most the starters will play in the preseason. It will be a really good tell of what's to come in the regular season minus the "vanilla" schemes that will be put out there. (Don't want to show anything in preseason, guys and gals.)
Here's my early take on the Saints' final roster after preseason Week 2.
Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
This position is pretty much locked up, with Brees entrenched as the starter and Daniel outplaying the other backups throughout preseason.
Luke McCown and Sean Canfield will be the not-so-tough cuts upcoming in camp. McCown was more or less an extra camp body when Daniel injured his thumb in mini-camp and Brees was still holding out. He hasn't caught on quick enough to give Chase any competition for the backup.
Canfield will be cut and won't be eligible for the practice squad, seeing as he's already spent the maximum of two years on it.
Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Travaris Cadet
The top three spots on this depth chart are sewn up. Sproles, Ingram and Thomas aren't going anywhere, but the competition for the spot behind them is fierce.
Cadet and Chris Ivory have both gotten their fair share of opportunities, but Cadet has been the better of the two. He is adding a different dimension that Ivory doesn't have, and that is added value in the passing and return game.
With that added versatility and his outstanding preseason, Cadet will make the last cuts, and Ivory will be enjoying a change of scenery.
Fullback: Jed Collins
Collins came out of nowhere last year as an undrafted rookie and has built a good rapport with his teammates due to his hard work and unique personality. He also can help in the passing game. He has distanced himself nicely from Korey Hall.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Wide Receivers: Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Joe Morgan, Courtney Roby, Nick Toon
PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) List: Adrian Arrington
Colston, Moore and Henderson are the locks here. Morgan helped his cause greatly with a long touchdown reception last week that showed off his top-notch speed.
After that it is an up-and-down, injury-filled list of players to fill the depth chart. Injuries to Arrington, Toon and Andy Tanner has caused this race to tighten up over the past couple weeks. Arrington's injury will probably linger into the preseason, so they will start him off on the PUP List after his great start to the preseason.
Roby and Toon should get the last spots due to Tanner's ankle injury, and Tanner will end up on the practice squad if another team doesn't snatch him up.
Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham, David Thomas, Daniel Graham
Jimmy Graham and Thomas are locks here. They have looked great this preseason, and Thomas appears to have no lingering symptoms from those concussions that ended his year early last season.
The last spot is very interesting. There are three guys for one roster spot, and it could be the newbie, Daniel Graham, to grab it.
Michael Higgins and Derek Schouman also are viable candidates, but Higgins will probably land on the practice squad again for one more year. Schouman just doesn't have the championship and veteran leadership that Graham has, and that's what the Saints were looking for.
Tackles: Jermon Bushrod, Zach Strief, Marcel Jones, Charles Brown
Guards: Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Eric Olsen
Centers: Brian De La Puente, Matt Tennant
No surprises anywhere in these picks. The only name that is on here because of injury is Olsen. He will basically be replacing sixth-round pick, Andrew Tiller, who was put on injured reserve earlier in the preseason.
Besides that, the only change on the starting line is a free-agent pickup from the Baltimore Ravens, Ben Grubbs. Grubbs replaces Carl Nicks, who went to division rival Tampa Bay. There has been no dip in production, though.
Every one of the tackles has been exploited this preseason. There are too many examples to run down right now. They have been exposed to speed-rushers and power-rushers alike. It has been one big, glaring weakness on an otherwise smooth offensive machine.
But this weakness is magnified when it is protecting the back-side of Drew Brees. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer needs to shore that part of the line up before Week 1 because Brian Orapko and Ryan Kerrigan of the Washington Redskins come to town.
Defensive Ends: Will Smith, Cameron Jordan, Martez Wilson, Junior Galette, Turk McBride
Defensive Tackles: Sedrick Ellis, Brodrick Bunkley, Akiem Hicks, Remi Ayodele, Tom Johnson
While with the New York Giants and St. Louis, Steve Spagnuolo regularly kept nine to 10 defensive linemen, actively, every Sunday. That should be the same case here minus the lack of quality depth as was in those past stops.
The ends are pretty much set, and all five of those players should have no problem making the team. A player fans should be on the look out for is Donovan Robinson, an undrafted end who had over 30 sacks at Jacksonville State. He could be a candidate for the practice squad for sure.
The tackles are also pretty much set in stone. Ellis and Bunkley are the starters and will be rotated in with a solid second-team tandem of Ayodele and Hicks, the rookie who has come on strong in the last two weeks.
The last slot is looking like it is coming down to Johnson and undrafted rookie, Tyrunn Walker. Johnson has been slowed by injuries, while Walker has come on nicely with a couple of sacks these last two games. He should be on the practice squad also.
Outside Linebackers: David Hawthorne, Scott Shanle, Will Herring, Jonathan Casillas
Middle Linebackers: Curtis Lofton, Barrett Ruud
This positional group has been upgraded as recently as picking up Ruud to offset the season-ending injury of Chris Chamberlain.
The big upgrades have been Hawthorne and Lofton, and both of them are out until the start of the season while getting fully healthy from their respective injuries. Shanle will provide solid production on the strong side, but don't be fooled; he is still the weak link of the starters.
Chamberlain was thought to help push Shanle out of the starting lineup, but that ended abruptly.
The Ruud trade probably pushes preseason stud Lawrence Wilson out onto the street unless he could be brought back to the practice squad.
All of these players had a problem with a missed tackles last week against Jacksonville. That was the main reason to bring in players: to change that culture. That needs to get better, or it's going to be the same song and dance for the defense on that end.
Cornerbacks: Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, Johnny Patrick, Corey White, Marquis Johnson, Elbert Mack
Free Safeties: Malcolm Jenkins, Isa Abdul-Quddus
Strong Safeties: Roman Harper, Jonathan Amaya
Greer, Robinson and Patrick are the best of this group. Greer, a very underrated player, will be back by Week 1 while nursing a sports hernia injury.
Johnson has impressed some while subbing for an injured Robinson, but has also whiffed on some tackles. He has provided some quality coverage though and can be a useful fourth cornerback in this system.
White is improving week by week sooner than expected. He is looking like a solid pick and will provide nice depth. Mack has had an up-and-down camp, but has experience in the NFC South and can help him with making the team.
The safety positions are all locked up. Jenkins and Harper are entrenched and not going anywhere. The backups, Abdul-Quddus and Amaya, had players brought in to compete for their positions, but have held their own and their spots on the depth chart.
There should be at least one undrafted rookie making it onto the practice squad. Jose Gumbs, Johnny Thomas and Jerrico Nelson, a local product from Destrehan, La., have all had solid camps and will make final cuts tough.
Kicker: John Kasay, Garrett Hartley
Punter: Thomas Morstead
Long Snapper: Justin Drescher
Despite suspensions and other needs at positions, no kicker has separated himself from the other. They have rotated in and out, and this could be the same case as 2009, with a veteran starting off the year and Garrett Hartley finishing out the year.
Morstead became the second-highest paid punter in the NFL and has consistently put his punts inside of the twenties and his kickoffs into the end zones. There's not much left to add. He should be the Saints punter for a very long time.
Drescher makes the team based solely on his special teams ability. He adds nothing else to the offense or defense.