The decisions of a coach and a GM this week can make or break a young player's career.
This Saturday can be labeled Black Saturday, as many young NFL hopefuls and aging veterans alike anxiously await their football fates. NFL teams are required to trim their rosters from 80 down to 53 by the end of this week.
For the Saints, some players, such as Jason David and Glenn Pakulak, received their walking papers more than a week in advance. Others, like Skyler Green, Courtney Roby, and Anthony Hargrove, must sweat it out for one more preseason game before they learn their fates.
Here is how I predict the final 53-man roster will appear on Saturday.
QB—Three: Drew Brees, Mark Brunell, and Joey Harrington.
There has been some speculation that the Saints will only keep two quarterbacks. If that is the case, I expect the Saints to keep the younger Harrington over Brunell.
HB—Three: Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell.
I think this is a position where the Saints are going to keep one less player than what is ideal. Even though the Saints are not a running offense, it's always good to have two power backs in the lineup. If Thomas or Bell gets hurt, the Saints have no depth behind them.
FB—One: Heath Evans.
This has been Evans' job to lose all summer. The Saints did not cut Mike Karney in favor of Evans for no reason. Olaniyi Sobomehin, it was nice butchering your name over and over. See you on the practice squad.
WR—Six: Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Rod Harper, and Adrian Arrington.
The first four receivers appear to be locks to make the roster. I have doubts about the last two.
Harper started off camp as maybe the eighth best receiver on the team, and now I have him at fifth because he has impressed with return ability and appears to be a weapon in the offense.
Arrington, on the other hand, is slipping. He has flashed some potential but has been slowed by injuries in consecutive training camps.
TE—Three: Jeremy Shockey, Billy Miller, and Darnell Dinkins.
Shockey and Miller are locks to make the roster, while Dinkins has made fewer mistakes than Buck Ortega.
OT—Four: Jammal Brown, Jonathan Stinchcomb, Zach Strief, and Jermon Bushrod.
If it wasn't for Brown's injury, then the Saints may have gone with just three tackles. Strief has been a reliable backup over the past few years, and Bushrod has started the last two preseason games in Brown's absence.
OG—Three: Carl Nicks, Jamar Nesbit, and Jahri Evans.
The Saints have two young, talented guards in Nicks and Evans.
C—Two: Jonathan Goodwin and Nick Leckey.
This is probably the weakest part of the offensive line. Goodwin and Leckey are serviceable but aren't nearly what Jeff Faine was when he was here.
DE—Five: Charles Grant, Will Smith, Bobby McCray, Paul Spicer, and Anthony Hargrove.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past nine months, you know that Charles Grant and Will Smith will likely be suspended for four games this season. Because of this, New Orleans will have to keep one or two more defensive linemen than they want.
DT—Four: Sedrick Ellis, Kendrick Clancy, DeMario Pressley, and Remi Ayodele.
This group needs to get a more consistent push up the middle. My guess is that Sean Payton ends the Rod Coleman experiment (one tackle in three preseason games).
OLB—Four: Scott Shanle, Scott Fujita, Troy Evans, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
This group will look exactly as it did last year. All players in this group are solid, but none are spectacular.
MLB—Two: Jonathan Vilma and Marvin Mitchell.
Based on what I have seen so far, Vilma could turn into the best defensive player in the division.
CB—Five: Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, Randall Gay, Malcolm Jenkins, and Leigh Torrence.
There shouldn't be any surprises here. Greer and Porter have looked outstanding all summer long. Jenkins is a first round pick.
Though Torrence has struggled at times, the Saints obviously see something in him since they re-signed him as a restricted free agent.
FS—Two: Darren Sharper and Usama Young.
In limited action, Sharper has shown a nose for the football. Young is wisely picking his brain.
SS—Two: Roman Harper and Pierson Prioleau.
Harper may be the biggest beneficiary of Gregg Williams' arrival. Prioleau has been with Williams almost his entire career and is a special teams ace.
Punter—One: Thomas Morestead.
This race was officially over when the Saints cut Pakulak.
Placekicker—Two: John Carney and Garrett Hartley.
This was solely Hartley's gig until he got hit with the four-game ban. Last year, Carney was an injury replacement in New York for Lawrence Tynes and made the Pro Bowl.
LS—One: Jason Kyle.
He has had no competition since he arrived in New Orleans.
NFL teams can sign players to their practice squad beginning Sept. 7.
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