10 Biggest Snubs and Surprises from the New Orleans Saints' 53-Man Cut
Every year, the final cut of the preseason brings about jubilation for players who are fortunate enough to survive the ordeal. On the other end of the spectrum, there is plenty of heartache from the players who aren't as fortunate.
The NFL is a business that can be very fulfilling and rewarding one day, and extremely upsetting the next.
For fans of the New Orleans Saints, the process can feel very much like the latter part of the previous statement. Due to a quality scouting department, it was widely accepted that tough decisions were to be made this preseason.
I'll attempt to decipher between the biggest surprises and snubs of cut day 2013.
Snub: Preston Parker
One of the major points of contention was the fifth receiver spot. The combination of Preston Parker, Andy Tanner and Courtney Roby were all viable candidates. Most believed it would come down to Parker and Tanner with the difference being who could contribute the most on special teams. Well, that was only half true.
As good as Tanner played in the preseason (six catches, 92 yards, two TDs), I believed Parker did enough to surpass him in a myriad of ways. Parker was more productive on offense (nine catches, 122 yards, two TDs) and showed he could contribute to special teams, with seven kick returns for 176 yards (long of 52).
In the end, the Saints went with Tanner who is a complete fan favorite after being cut and re-signed by the team numerous times. I'm not saying the staff listened to the groundswell of support from the fans...but one can't help but wonder if they did.
Surprise: Travaris Cadet
With the emergence of undrafted free-agent running back Khiry Robinson, I was under the impression that last year's camp surprise Travaris Cadet was on the outskirts. As a matter of fact, when it was reported that Cadet didn't travel with the team for the final preseason game, I was certain he done.
What it came down to was a matter of semantics. With the Saints being a team that refuses to commit to the run, keeping five running backs wouldn't seem as beneficial as stockpiling talent at a position like receiver.
Running backs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and the aforementioned Robinson were locks in my mind. I thought the Saints might surprise everyone and keep six receivers if two of them proved to be viable special teams contributors.
Cadet, who seemed like he regressed from last year, made it over a guy like Parker, who I felt was one of the better players of the preseason. With 22 carries for only 51 yards, Cadet must have built up cache from his strong performance last season. Or he must have found my lucky rabbit's foot!
Snub: Jay Richardson
When I found out the Saints signed former Oakland Raiders defensive end Jay Richardson, I figured he would provide quality depth along the defensive front while helping his teammates adjust to coordinator Rob Ryan's new scheme.
When I saw Richardson get the call to start (due to injuries) at outside linebacker, I was all but sure he was a cinch to make the final roster. In the Rob Ryan scheme, the more you can do, the more valuable you become.
Having a natural lineman prove he can be a stand-up rush-linebacker is immense in my opinion. You can essentially save a roster spot by having a primary sub at two positions. The depth of the line is very quality, but the personnel at rush-linebacker can be described as sparse.
With a season-ending injury to starter Will Smith, coupled with injuries to Junior Galette and Martez Wilson, you were almost hard-pressed to find a reason for Richardson not to make it. The trade for veteran Parys Haralson was definitely a major factor in this. And the staff's love for sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson was maybe too much to overcome.
Richardson's five tackles and two sacks, in mostly base defense, should ensure he gets another shot elsewhere.
Surprise: Corey White
This, I must say, is a pleasant surprise.
I've been an advocate for Corey White to possibly be a starter this season. His size (6'1", 205 pounds) and physicality are attributes that separate him from other corners on the roster. Out of all the corners, I believed White fit the new scheme the best.
Being a press-man corner in the Ryan scheme is paramount. Ryan likes to bring pressure in the form of exotic blitzes, which means corners are often on islands. If a corner can force a QB to hold onto the ball, it makes the blitz that much more effective.
White had a horrendous preseason to say the least. He looked inept and incapable. He was consistently beaten for first downs and gave up explosive plays pretty consistently. To make matters worse, most of White's playing time came against reserves.
With the publicity that rookie corner Rod Sweeting was receiving, I already started thinking of what team could use White the most. Maybe the Saints read my mind when reaching their decision.
Because the team White would've fit perfectly with was his hometown Atlanta Falcons...
Snub: Jim Leonhard
I've personally been a fan of Jim Leonhard since his time at the University of Wisconsin. At 5'8", 180 pounds, watching this guy dominate much bigger opponents was a fascinating thing. As a walk-on defensive back, Leonhard once had 11 interceptions in one season.
When Leonhard left Wisconsin, he was the Big Ten's career leader in punt-return yardage for a career. He picked up where he left off as an undrafted free agent for the Buffalo Bills. With subsequent stops in Baltimore and New York, Leonhard garnered the label as a well-respected veteran.
Leonhard is known for his ability to pick up the nuances of a complex defense. A great deal of his pro career was spent under Rex Ryan, the brother of Saints coordinator Rob, where he was seen as the QB of possibly the most complex defense in the NFL.
By most accounts, Leonhard was having a solid camp and was thought to be one of the five or six safeties who would embark on a season-long journey toward the Super Bowl. In the end, his 13 tackles (third on the team) weren't enough to etch a spot on the roster.
Here's to hoping that Leonhard catches on elsewhere to extend his very productive career.
Surpise: Tom Johnson
A surprisingly deep spot on the roster happens to be defensive line. For a scheme that uses only three down linemen, it seems as though it would be in the best interest of the team to overly stock the position. But with Tyrunn Walker, Glenn Foster, Akiem Hicks, John Jenkins, Brodrick Bunkley, Cam Jordan and Glenn Foster, the Saints did exactly that.
The beauty of the Ryan scheme is that it forces linemen to be versatile as they may line up at different techniques, even on one drive.
Johnson has the size (6'3", 288 pounds) to line up at 5, 3 and even 0-technique in the scheme.
But so does everyone else.
To me, all the aforementioned linemen flashed a lot more during the preseason than Johnson. His two total tackles weren't anything to phone home about.
I believe Johnson can be a viable part of the rotation. But was he a necessity given the amount of talent on the line?
Mickey Loomis and the staff say yes. So I'll take their collective words for it...
Snub: Ryan Griffin
Undrafted free-agent quarterback Ryan Griffin is a fan favorite. As a four-year starter at local Tulane University, Griffin proved himself to be a very solid prospect for the NFL level.
At 6'5", 205 pounds, Griffin is a decent athlete with good arm strength and pocket awareness. With Drew Brees progressing in age (turns 35 in January), having a developmental QB behind him would seem ideal at this point.
Griffin went 32-of-59 for 380 yards with two touchdowns in preseason play. Veteran QB Luke McCown played about as well as a veteran backup could, cementing his spot as the No. 2 option behind Brees, but at 32 years old, he's no long-term solution. Griffin could essentially be the future of the franchise years down the road.
More than likely, Griffin will clear waivers and end up on the Saints' practice squad. Meaning, anytime a team is in need of a quality young QB, it can pluck him right off the practice squad. I know the NFL is a win-now business, but securing your future has to be taken into consideration as well.
Note: Griffin was indeed signed to the practice squad. Time to watch out for the practice squad vultures...
Surprise: Will Herring
Special teams is more important than most people give it credit for. Field position is one of the most overlooked aspects in football. For something so innocuous, the effects can be paramount.
For Saints inside linebacker Will Herring, this is an area where he continues to stand out. I just don't think he stands out enough to warrant a roster spot.
With one tackle in the preseason, I barely even noticed he was still on the team. Playing behind Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber, Kevin Reddick and Jonathan Vilma, Herring won't see the light of day during defensive play.
To warrant such a status, Herring would have to be playing at a Pro Bowl level on special teams to even be considered a great fill on this roster.
I'm not sure how Herring made it over a guy like Parker, who was a standout on both offense and special teams.
But it's the NFL, and stranger things have happened.
Snub: Chris Carr
Veteran corner Chris Carr is a versatile player. He's been a standout on special teams, he's a solid tackler and a decent man-to-man corner.
At an area where the Saints are sparse in talent, you would think that a corner of Carr's ilk would be a lock to make the the 53-man roster.
Carr played for Ryan when both were members of the Oakland Raiders circa 2007. Carr is versed at playing both inside and outside corner, which in turn provides depth in a couple of key spots. Carr had been dealing with a nagging injury and believes that may have been his downfall.
Whatever the case may be, Carr would've provided quality depth at a position of need. I would have to think that he'll be on speed dial unless he signs with another team during the season.
Surprise: Jonathan Vilma
This may be a controversial one.
Vilma should've had his name included on the list of cuts. At 31 years old, Vilma is injury prone and a possible bad fit in a 3-4 scheme. Once known as a smart, athletic and agile linebacker, Vilma now seems be lacking in the athletic department. To complicate matters, Humber, Hawthorne and Reddick were three of the better players this preseason.
All three play Vilma's position of inside linebacker. If you add in Curtis Lofton—the best inside linebacker on the roster—the Saints have four very capable linebackers comprising a position that only uses two players on base downs.
In addition, Vilma originally came to the Saints via a trade with the New York Jets after they switched to a very similar scheme under new coach Eric Mangini. Saints coordinator Ryan was once a coordinator under Mangini running this same scheme!
Vilma is also dealing with a knee injury that held him out the entire preseason, although it's been reported that he will possibly return for the opener against Atlanta.
To me, all that does is delay the progress of a couple of young and explosive players in Humber and Reddick. The future is now, and Vilma is the past.
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