Projected New Orleans Saints' Final 53-Man Roster, Training Camp Edition
The New Orleans Saints are looking to rebound in the highly competitive NFC South in 2013 after the fallout from the Bountygate scandal resulted in a somewhat disastrous 7-9 campaign in 2012.
Sean Payton is back, and Rob Ryan was hired to implement his blitz-happy 3-4 defensive alignment.
For a team with an elite quarterback, New Orleans has to stay out of its own way this year—something it couldn't do a season ago.
As is the case with every NFL team, there will be a handful of training camp battles this summer, but when the regular season kicks off, these 53 names will be on the final roster.
(3): Drew Brees, Luke McCown, Seneca Wallace
Analysis: Considering he's thrown for over 5,000 yards and more than 40 touchdowns in consecutive seasons and represents a $17.4 million cap hit in 2013, it's safe to say Drew Brees will make the New Orleans Saints roster this season.
Luke McCown, the consummate backup, sits behind him but will be pushed by Seneca Wallace for the No. 2 role.
Watch out for undrafted rookie Ryan Griffin. He could unseat Wallace for the No. 3 spot, but he's a prime practice squad candidate.
(4): Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Travaris Cadet
Analysis: No more Chris Ivory means Travaris Cadet can breathe a little easier this summer. The rest of the running back contingent is safe, and with Sean Payton back on the sidelines, expect a run-game emphasis similar to the one that led to the Saints to the sixth-most rushing yards in 2011 and a team average of 4.9 yards per carry.
Thomas and Ingram will likely be the primary "feature backs," but Sproles and Cadet have the sneaky quick skill sets to be third-down backs used creatively in the screen game and on runs to the perimeter.
No mystery at this position.
(1): Jed Collins
Analysis: Jed Collins is entrenched as New Orleans' fullback. At 6'1'' and 255 pounds, he's a decent run-blocker, but he excels in the passing game and can be classified as the club's H-back.
Without any real competition, Collins is a lock to make the 53-man roster.
(6): Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Courtney Roby, Joseph Morgan, Kenny Stills, Chris Givens
Analysis: Marques Colston and Lance Moore are two of the most underappreciated yet perennially productive receivers in the NFL.
Courtney Roby defines the term "special teams ace," and although he caught only one pass in 2012, you should write him down in permanent Sharpie on the final roster.
Joseph Morgan exhibited some big-play potential a season ago but did get hit with a DWI arrest in late May.
Kenny Stills was picked in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, and Chris Givens—no, not the St. Louis Rams' Chris Givens—has good size at 6'2'' and 211 pounds to be a development player in the Saints' high-powered aerial attack.
(2): Jimmy Graham, Benjamin Watson
Analysis: Jimmy Graham is primed for another monster year in Sean Payton's offense with Drew Brees throwing him the football. Be ready for that, fantasy owners.
The acquisition of Benjamin Watson was a shrewd move by general manager Mickey Loomis, as the former New England Patriots tight end is an underrated, well-rounded player who should have no problem spelling Graham on occasion.
Mike Higgins has an outside chance to make the roster, but with six wide receivers, the Saints will decide to keep only two tight ends.
(4): Charles Brown, Terron Armstead, Jason Smith, Zach Strief
The Saints will likely experience some growing pains after losing Jermon Bushrod in free agency, although the veteran blindside protector did have a down year in 2012.
Charles Brown will fill the void at left tackle, and either Zach Strief or Jason Smith will start at right tackle.
Terron Armstead, one of New Orleans' two third-round picks in the 2013 draft, is the future at one of the tackle positions, thanks to his exceptional athleticism.
Interior Offensive Line
(5): Brian De La Puente, Ben Grubbs, Jahri Evans, Eric Olsen, Andrew Tiller
Analysis: Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans formulate one of the most punishing guard tandems in the NFL.
Brian De La Puente is locked in as the center, and Eric Olsen and Andrew Tiller are ideal backups at this point.
(5): Will Smith, Junior Galette, Martez Wilson, Rufus Johnson, Chase Thomas
Analysis: Victor Butler's torn ACL creates a rather critical opening at this position in Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense. The 280-plus pound Will Smith has been kicked out to play one of the outside linebacker roles, but he should see considerable time at defensive end.
Junior Galette and 2013 sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson will make the roster. Chase Thomas and Kevin Reddick have a shot to sneak onto the team thanks to their pass-rushing specialities.
(*Victor Butler torn ACL)
(5): Jonathan Vilma, David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton, Ramon Huber, Chris Chamberlain
The Saints boast a healthy group of active and impactful inside linebackers in leading tackler Curtis Lofton, Jonathan Vilma and David Hawthorne.
Those three will rotate often, while former Indianapolis Colt Ramon Huber and veteran Chris Chamberlain will be kept for injury insurance.
Expect another huge year from Lofton in the middle.
(4): Akiem Hicks, Cameron Jordan, Kenyon Coleman, Tom Johnson
Analysis: Akiem Hicks was slow to acclimate to the professional game in 2012, but he moves well at 6'5'' and 324 pounds, which makes him a prototypical 3-4 defensive end.
Cameron Jordan hasn't exactly lived up to his first-round draft status; however, he's a mountain of a man who finished with 67 total tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles in his second season in New Orleans. Hicks are Jordan should be the starters at defensive end in Week 1.
Kenyon Coleman and Tom Johnson will be able to carve out roles as situational defensive linemen, but they'll primarily be plugged in on the outside of the Saints' defensive front.
(2): Brodrick Bunkley, John Jenkins
Analysis: Brodrick Bunkley didn't dominate in his first year with the Saints in 2012, but he wasn't a major liability either.
With the monstrous John Jenkins helping to keep him fresh, Bunkley could have a much better season at the nose tackle spot in 2013, all while mentoring the rookie from Georgia in the trenches.
(4): Jabari Greer, Keenan Lewis, Patrick Robinson, Corey White
Jabari Greer and Keenan Lewis should start the year as the Saints' outside cornerbacks, and Patrick Robinson will start as well.
Corey White, the 6'1'', 205-pound Samford product, played situationally as a rookie in 2012 and finished the year with 31 total tackles and an interception.
The addition of Lewis should help a unit that was much maligned a season ago.
(5): Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Rafael Bush
These three will see significant playing time in 2013, and in certain looks, they could all be on the field together.
Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper had forgettable seasons last year, but Vaccaro's do-everything presence should make life easier for the veteran safeties.
Jim Leonhard could make the team, especially if he thrives on special teams.
(3): Thomas Morstead, Garrett Hartley, Justin Drescher
No surprises here. Thomas Morstead is playing under a big contract for a punter, and Garrett Hartley is the best option to kick field goals.
Justin Dresher is the only long snapper on the Saints' roster.