New Orleans Saints: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post Ravens Game
The New Orleans Saints’ 2014 preseason came to an end on Thursday night with a 22-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and now the team must decide on its 53-man roster, which will be revealed on Saturday.
Multiple Saints’ starters didn’t play in the game, which was New Orleans’ first loss of the preseason.
The Ravens dominated the line of scrimmage for much of the contest. They rolled up 436 yards of offense, compared to just 190 for the Saints, while more than doubling New Orleans in time of possession.
One positive Saints coach Sean Payton can take from the shabby performance is the fact that his team was only flagged for one penalty. The Saints struggled with infractions in their first three contests and were penalized 22 times against the Tennessee Titans in Game 2.
Payton and the Saints’ staff must now turn its full attention to trimming the squad down to 53 players as next Sunday’s season opener against the Atlanta Falcons draws near.
Following is a prediction for New Orleans’ 53-man roster, with players making the final cut listed in bold.
One of the more intriguing position battles for the Saints this preseason has been the competition for the backup quarterback spot. Eleven-year veteran Luke McCown performed well through four games while working extensively with the first-team offense, as starter Drew Brees nursed a strained oblique.
Second-year signal-caller Ryan Griffin, meanwhile, demonstrated considerable improvement from his rookie year, although his final outing against the Ravens was less than stellar.
While McCown may have secured backup duties for the time being, Griffin has earned a roster spot and is a player to keep an eye on as he continues to develop.
Running Back and Fullback (5)
Erik Lorig (fullback)
Mark Ingram solidified his status as the Saints' primary ball-carrier with a series of impressive preseason performances, while Pierre Thomas showed he can still be a force in the passing game.
Robinson wasn't overly impressive this preseason, but he's still a lock for a roster spot, and he could very well be New Orleans' featured back of the future.
Fullback Erik Lorig missed most of training camp, but he'll still occupy a spot as a fullback. If Lorig isn't able to go, however, Austin Johnson will likely take his place on the roster.
Rookie Derrick Strozier, meanwhile, is the odd man out, and he'll probably be released sometime before Saturday, as will fullback Greg Jones.
Wide Receiver (6)
With four receptions for 33 yards against the Ravens, Joseph Morgan continued to make his case for the Saints' No. 4 receiver slot. The fourth-year man has performed at a high level throughout the preseason, and it will be hard for the Saints to deny him a roster spot when the final cuts are made.
Undrafted rookies Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones are certainly impressive from a physical standpoint, but both are still in need of a bit more seasoning. Coleman and Jones are perfect candidates for the practice squad, and although they won't make this year's final roster, Saints fans probably haven't seen the last of either one in black and gold.
Tight End (3)
In Jimmy Graham, the Saints have the best tight end in football, but they also like to utilize Benjamin Watson in the short passing game.
Second-year player Josh Hill will also grab a roster spot, and the former Idaho State standout should improve on his six catches and 44 yards from a year ago.
Rookie Nic Jacobs is likely to be a casualty, unless the Saints elect to place him on the practice squad.
Offensive LIne (9)
Terron Armstead (OT)
Ben Grubbs (OG)
Jonathan Goodwin (C)
Jahri Evans (OG)
Zach Strief (OT)
Bryce Harris (OT)
Tim Lelito (C/OG)
Marcel Jones (OG)
Thomas Welch (OT)
After a three-year stint in San Francisco, center Jonathan Goodwin returned to New Orleans this offseason. He started for the Saints for three years before his tenure in San Francisco, and he appears to have beaten out Tim Lelito to take back his old position as the anchor of the New Orleans offensive front.
Jahri Evans is one of the top guards in the game, and he'll spearhead what should be a deep, physical Saints offensive line in 2014.
Sixth-round draft choice Tavon Rooks had his troubles in pass protection this preseason, and the practice squad could be in his future. Reserve linemen Senio Kelemete and Jason Weaver, although they played well this preseason, are unlikely to survive the coming onslaught of cuts.
Defensive Line (7)
Cameron Jordan (DE)
Akiem Hicks (DE)
Brodrick Bunkley (NT)
Glenn Foster (DE)
Tyrunn Walker (DE)
John Jenkins (NT)
Brandon Deaderick (DL)
The New Orleans defensive line is expected to be a strength this season, as defensive end Cameron Jordan looks to build on his 12.5 sacks from a year ago.
Fellow end Akiem Hicks is poised for a breakout season, while nose tackles Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins form a stout 1-2 punch in the middle.
The Saints may have a quality defensive line, but it’s not much on quantity. The group lacks depth, although the addition of former New England Patriot Brandon Deaderick provided a much-needed boost to the unit.
As for cuts, look for the New Orleans to release rookie nose tackle Lawrence Virgil, who wasn’t particularly impressive this preseason.
Junior Galette (OLB)
Curtis Lofton (ILB)
David Hawthorne (ILB)
Parys Haralson (OLB)
Ramon Humber (ILB)
Khairi Fortt (OLB)
Ronald Powell (OLB)
Junior Galette leads an active group of linebackers that could be the key to the Saints achieving their goals in 2014. Curtis Lofton is a steady presence in the middle of the New Orleans defense, while David Hawthorne has had an up-and-down career since joining the Saints as a free agent in 2012.
Ramon Humber had a nice preseason on the inside, and he'll see plenty of playing time this year.
Another linebacker who made noise this month is Kyle Knox, who came over from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he saw playing time in four games last year. Knox played at a consistently high level throughout the preseason, and if he doesn't crack the final roster, look for him to end up on the practice squad.
Undrafted rookie Kasim Edebali made a serious push for a roster spot, but he failed to come up with plays against Baltimore despite several opportunities, and he could be looking at being released.
Outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson was added to the roster in the middle of the season last year, and he certainly hasn't been terrible this preseason. With promising rookie draft picks Khairi Fortt and Ronald Powell now in the fold, however, there's a surplus of outside 'backers in New Orleans, and Dawson looks to be the odd man out.
Keenan Lewis (CB)
Patrick Robinson (CB)
Jairus Byrd (S)
Kenny Vaccaro (S)
Rafael Bush (S)
Corey White (CB)
Champ Bailey (CB)
Marcus Ball (S)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB)
Vinnie Sunseri (S)
The Saints secondary may be the team's most difficult position to trim.
Keenan Lewis, Patrick Robinson, Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro look to be the starters in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's base defense, but plenty others will see the field this season.
Offseason acquisitions Champ Bailey and Marcus Ball have both suffered injuries this preseason, but it would be surprising if one of them didn't make the final cut, especially Bailey.
Rookie corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste struggled in coverage for the entirety of the preseason, but his 6'3" frame gives the coaching staff a lot to work with from an athletic standpoint.
New Orleans' other rookie draft pick, hard-hitting safety Vinnie Sunseri, has enjoyed a fine preseason, and it seems almost a lock now that he'll make the team.
As for cornerbacks Trevin Wade and Brian Dixon, as well as safety Pierre Warren, walking papers appear likely, although Warren would be a great addition to the practice squad.
Derek Dimke (K)
Thomas Morstead (P)
Justin Drescher (LS)
Thomas Morstead is one of the game's top punters, and he's had another solid preseason.
The Saints have held an ongoing competition for a kicker throughout camp, as Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke have dueled for over a month now.
Graham is by far the more experienced kicker, but Dimke has the stronger leg of the two, and his 49-yard field goal in Thursday's game may have signaled the end for Graham in New Orleans.
The Saints' long snapper will once again be Justin Drescher, who's been with the club since 2010.