As (arguably) an elite team in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints don't have too many weaknesses on their roster. They have a great group of starters and solid depth. With the free agency period just about over and preseason coming close to an end, I'll try me best to break down each position for the Saints heading into the regular season.
As well as giving a grade to each position, I'll also be covering who the lock in starters are, those sure to make the team as a back up, players on the bubble and a bold prediction for each position.
Enjoy! Please leave some feedback, I would greatly appreciate it!
*Note* I put a lot of pro bowl nods, not because I think the pro bowl is that great of an achievement, but because I think the Saints will finally get national attention as a team.
Position Rating: 4.5/5
The Saints have one of the best quarterbacks in the game along with a decent back up who has shown potential.
Starters: Drew Brees
Brees is a top tier QB and arguably one of the top 3 in the entire league. He has never missed a game with the Saints due to injury and continues to constantly be a reliable quarterback who produces beyond standard expectations. He has put up over 4,000 yards every year he's been with the Saints. Drew Brees is the heart and soul of New Orleans. He brought the city their first ever championship after so many years of anguish. Brees will be around for a long time and will continue to put up great numbers.
Sure To Make The Roster: Chase Daniel
Many people think that if Drew Brees were to go down with an injury, the Saints would be in complete turmoil. While I believe that if the captain were to go down then the team would be in a very tough situation, I also think there is some decent insurance with Chase Daniel. Daniel has been learning behind Brees for the past couple years as a consistent back up. He has been challenged for the spot each year by the likes of Patrick Ramsey and Sean Canfield. This year, it looks like he is going to win the job again. Daniel has been getting most of the second team snaps during camps and preseason games and has proven to be reliable. He still has some work to do on his game, but he has a lot of potential, especially as Brees's biggest competitor.
On The Bubble: Sean Canfield
Canfield is a former 7th round pick out of Oregon state who spent his entire rookie season jumping on and off the practice squad and making one stint with the active roster before being waived again a couple days later. The Saints keep him around for insurance. He has not shown flashes of brilliance in games like Daniel has and has struggled to win the fight for the second spot behind Brees. Canfield has some talent, but will have to step his game up in the next 2 preseason games if he wants to make the active roster this time. Right now, it doesn't seem like he is going to make the team due to the crowded 53 man roster.
Bold Prediction: Chase Daniel Will Bring In Trade Offers By End of Preseason
If Daniel continues to have a great camp and preseason, he could be the next Matt Flynn or even Matt Cassel. As of right now, he is flying under the radar. However, a lot of back up quarterbacks that are under a system with a great offensive mind and elite man in front of them bring in a lot of attention. Charlie Whitehurst was an experiment of this idea, but did not turn out too well. If Daniel improves his game and proves his potential, he might be able to bring in trade offers from teams in need of a quarterback such as the Redskins, Raiders or Dolphins.
Position Rating: 3.8/5
This position could turn out to be far better than a 3.8/5, but right now we're just waiting for them to prove themselves to increase that rating to possibly a 5. This is a very young and dynamic group that can drive a defensive coordinator crazy.
Starters: Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram seems to be having the best camp out of all runningbacks right now. He has scored two touchdowns in two preseason games in which he has shown power, burst and elusiveness. As the first and only runningback to be taken in the first round, Ingram was a prize for the Saints who had to give up a couple draft picks to get him. In the end, it seems as though this pick will be worth it because Ingram has not drawn any criticism in camp and is proving that he is ready to take over as the starting back for this offense. The only negative aspect about Ingram coming out of college was his speed as he ran a pretty slow 40 yard dash. However, Ingram has been leaving defenders in his trail all camp so we'll see how fast this bruiser turns out to be.
Sure To Make The Roster: Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, Korey Hall (FB)
On a New Orleans Saints depth chart, the detonated starter usually does not mean much. Right now, Ingram is listed as the 3rd string back, but that does not mean he will not be featured in the offense. This offense strives off their dynamic playcalling and every single runningback on the roster has a chance to make a play. I think Thomas and Sproles will definitely make the roster behind Ingram. Thomas was just offered a contract extension this year and Sproles was just recently signed to replace Reggie Bush's role (yes, he is replacing the role, not Bush himself.) Thomas is another player who, like Ingram, bring a power presence to the game. He can run between the tackles, but also has the elusiveness to break into the second level of the defense for a big play. He is a very underrated pass catcher out of the back field and is Brees's favorite target when it comes to screen plays. Sproles is like Bush in ways of being elusive and quick. He is not a great between the tackles runner and offers more danger in the open field. He is a big play waiting to happen, but will need to improve his pass catching skills if he wants to make New Orleans forget who Reggie Bush even was.
Ivory could have been the best rookie runningback of the year last year had he not been struck with injury every other week. Ivory is a special case because he is both a strong runner and an speedy one. He can run over a player and break another's ankles. However, he is currently battling injuries and is likely to be put on the PUP list. Once he returns, the Saints will have one of the deepest runningback groups in the game. This will be important because they have struggled with injuries at the position for so long. The team has expressed their disinterest in having Heath Evans return to the team so they will move on with fullback Korey Hall, a former Packer. Hall seems to be the front runner for the starting job as of right now.
On The Bubble: Joique Bell, Patrick Cobbs, Chris Taylor, Jed Collins (FB), Kolby Hurt (FB)
Out of this group, Bell seems to be the front-runner to make the final spot on the roster to fill in Ivory's spot who will remain on the PUP list for a good amount of weeks. Bell is my favorite sleeper on this team. He was an undrafted free agent of the 2010 season out of a division II school. I like his chances because teams often overlook division II athletes, but not the Saints who seem to strike gold every year. I think Bell is this year's "star out of the blue". He is a fast runner who can definitely handle anything the offense gives him. This winner of the division II player of the year has already opened eyes with his performance against the 49ers in the first preseason game.
Patrick Cobbs is an interesting case because he was just recently signed and missed most of training camp. However, his major appeal is the fact that he is a major contributor on special teams. If he can impress on ST, then look for him to bounce on and off the active roster throughout the year. Chris Taylor is the odd man out due to the fact that there are too many runningbacks on the roster already. He is mainly being used as the team's 3rd team runner to close out preseason games and has not shown anything special to plead his case. Collins and Hurt are decent fullbacks, but it seems as though Hall is going to win this job.
Bold Prediction: Saints Rushing Attack Will Place in the Top 5
I think this group has a lot of potential to reignite the rushing attack that was so strong in 2009, the year of the Superbowl run. The major problem for the offense last year was the lack of balance. Now that the Saints have more than enough potential to revive this balance with a strong and dynamic running game, I see them placing in the top 5 with Ingram as the leader.
Position Rating: 4.0/5
This is a very deep and talented group starting with Marques Colston. Drew Brees has many targets to throw to and that is what makes this offense so dangerous. Brees can throw to almost anybody and make a play. The closest thing to a premier receiver on this squad would be Colston who will catch almost anything thrown to him. However, the only thing keeping this group from being a perfect 5.0/5.0 is the question if these receivers would be as successful under a different system.
Starters: Marques Colston, Lance Moore
Two of Brees's best and most reliable targets make the cut as the sure starters. Neither of these two were considered first round talents that every team was fighting to get. In fact, Colston was close to going undrafted along with Lance Moore. However, Mickey Loomis pulled off a miracle by grabbing these two. Colston is a tall receiver who can really get up and make the catch. He was ranked as one of the top slot receivers in the league last year, even though he is a number 1. Brees loves throwing to Colston to make a play and get the first down. He has sure hands and is a very humble guy, unlike most diva receivers. Lance Moore is the official slot receiver for the team who was recently resigned to a new contract. Moore is one of the most underrated slot receivers in the league. He is like a clone of Wes Welker in terms of his size and ability.
Sure To Make The Roster: Robert Meachem, Joe Morgan
Meachem claims that this is the first year that he has gone through camp without an injury. This is great news to hear, because Meachem has been making a lot of good plays. Meachem is the only receiver on the team that was drafted in the first round. He has tons of potential and is the second fastest wide out behind Henderson. Meach is currently the front runner on the team to be the deep threat. He has shown his ability to make big plays in previous seasons and in the last preseason game. However, he has yet to realize his full potential as every year seems to be his potential "break out year". This will finally be Meachem's big year to prove that he was worth that first round pick.
Joe Morgan, on the other hand, is another undrafted player that seems to be drawing more and more attention every week. Throughout camp, he received a lot of compliments for his big play ability. Now, in preseason, Morgan has shown off his skills in each game. Against the 49ers, he returned a punt for a touchdown with some nifty moves. In the next game against the Texans, Morgan caught a nice deep ball from Chase Daniel for a 40+ yard touchdown. If Morgan continues to impress, he may dethrone both Roby and Henderson.
On The Bubble: Devery Henderson, Adrian Arrington, Courtney Roby, Jarred Fayson, Montez Billings, John Chiles, Andy Tanner
There are a lot of surprises on this list starting with the first three names. Most people think Henderson and Roby would be a lock for the roster. Arrington is also a fan favorite who most though could be the next Marques Colston as he was a 7th rounder who has shown more than just flashes of potential. However, all three of these guys have their downside as well. Henderson has had an up and down career. He is a burner who can really stretch the field and is one of the fastest in the league. However, his problem has always been his hands. Henderson is not the surest catcher and that is his major downside. He really digressed a lot last year and was not able to make the big plays that he was asked to. Roby is fighting for a roster spot as the premier returner with Sproles and Morgan. As of right now, it appears as though Morgan may win the spot due to his ability to make a play in both the return and passing game. Roby's upside is the fact that he is one of the best gunners for the Saints. Jarred Fayson is another receiver who has received a lot of compliments. Fayson has a lot of raw talent. He definitely has the big play ability and speed to make this roster. However, he has not made enough big plays to make a name for himself and will need to do something big in the next couple weeks. Everybody wants to see Arrington make the team. Everybody. The only person stopping him is Arrington himself. Every year, he has been plagued with injuries and has been unable to be a reliable source. Arrington has a lot of talent, but he once again hurt his chances this year with another injury and has a limited role in camp and in preseason games. He seems to be the odd man out at this point as the team has found talent in other places.
Billings, Chiles and Tanner are all camp fodder. They don't have the potential that all the other receivers have and are victims to a crowded roster. Unless they do something incredible, these guys don't stand a chance.
Bold Prediction: Henderson and Arrington Will be Released
I think this is finally the year the Saints part ways with Henderson. He does not have much left to offer and the Saints found talent from other players that can take over his role. This was Arrington's final chance to make the roster but injuries hurt his chances and he has not done enough to plead his case. Saints fans can finally say goodbye to what almost was.
Position Rating: 3.7/5.0
The Saints aren't exactly deep at this position, but have a great starter and a decent back up. Jimmy Graham is one of the top young talents in the league right now at the position and David Thomas is as sure of a target as any that brings a veteran presence to the group. The only 5.0/5.0's in the league that I would choose would be the Patriots or Packers
Starters: Jimmy Graham
Graham is said to be the next Antonio Gates of the league. However, lately it seems as though any former basketball player who is converting to football at the pro level is being called the next Antonio Gates. The upside to Graham is that he has Drew Brees. Graham is a Miami product and that should say enough on its own. He has tremendous raw talent and athleticism. He has made remarkable one handed grabs. His ability to get a jump ball makes him one of the most dangerous redzone targets. Last year, he sat behind Shockey. Now he is the number one guy and will relied on to be the inside the numbers receiver to make a play when needed. Look for Graham to have close to 10 touchdowns or even more.
Sure To Make The Roster: David Thomas
David Thomas come from New England as a backup tight end and remained on on the Saints roster. However, he is one of the best backup tight ends in the league due to his effectiveness in both the running and passing game. Thomas is a veteran who knows his stuff and can pass on a lot of knowledge to Graham as he has Superbowl championships under his belt. Thomas is an underrated receiver. He caught a good amount of passes from Brees throughout the past two years and has been able to make a few plays when needed. He brings great depth to the this team as he can also play fullback.
On The Bubble: Tory Humphrey, Tyler Lorenzen, Michael Higgins
The third tight end spot is up for grabs at this point. The major battle is between Humphrey and Lorenzen right now as both have bounced around with the team. Both are getting looks in games and camp. It is tough to say who is front runner right now, but my best guess would be that if the team were to bring in a 3rd tight end, it would be Humphrey. However, he hurt himself the other night by showing poor pass blocking skills leading to a forced fumble. It's his spot to lose right now. There is no verdict on Michael Higgins yet, who was just recently signed.
Bold Prediction: Jimmy Graham Will Go to the Pro Bowl
With Brees throwing him the ball, sky is the limit for this kid. He showed flashes of sheer brilliance last year later in the season. This year he will be a full starter and begin his reign as one of the league's top tight ends. In the NFC, his competition will be Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow.
Position Rating: 2.7/5.0
I believe this is one of the weakest positions on the team. This is a young squad that does not have much starting experience and has shown more difficulty in protection rather than potential. Their play this year against elite squads will let the Saints know if they need to address this position in the draft again.
Starters: Jermon Bushrod, Zack Strief
Bushrod has started for the Saints since the beginning of their Superbowl run when pro bowl tackle Jamaal Brown went down with an injury early on in the season. He has been somewhat of a reliable starter for the Saints, but he can not be called any better than a decent player. He is not terrible by any means, but at the same time he is not great. He will occasionally lose the battle to elite rushers. He has taken over the position to protect Brees's blindspot, however and was not challenged for it. Zack Strief and Charles Brown were both listed as starters at the RT position, but after the Texans game I think Strief has won the job. Strief didn't win due to his own play, but due to Brown's. Brown had a terrible night as he was constantly beat and was unable to stand his ground. He was slow and could not handle what was thrown at him. Strief has been around for awhile now. Most remember him by "number 64 has reported in as an eligble receiver" because he usually plays the 6th man on a goal line formation. Now that the Saints have parted ways with Jonathon Stinchcomb, Strief has to take the reins and he + Bushrod will have to do a good job against a division with Charles Johnson, Ray Edwards, John Abraham, DaQuan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn.
Sure To Make Roster: Charles Brown
Even though Brown had a terrible night, the Saints will keep him around due to his potential. He is a former 2nd round pick and was one of the top OT prospects of his class. However, he has shown that he is not ready to be thrust into a starting position and will need more time to develop. Fans are crossing their fingers, hoping that he does not turn out to be another bust.
On The Bubble: Jordan Black, George Foster, Dan Gay, Alex Barron (IR)
All of these guys are considered "washed up" players or disappointments. They are all projects for this team as some insurance was needed behind Bushrod and Strief. Black seems to be the best of the group and will most likely play the primary back up for both sides.
Bold Prediction: Saints Will Use Their First Pick on an Offensive Tackle in Next Year's Draft
I believe it is finally time that the Saints look away from the defense for a quick second and find some sure talent in the draft for the line. They always seem to find gems in the later rounds and since the defense is finally overflowing with potential talent, it is time they use their early picks for a big name prospect to upgrade their tackle group.
Position Rating: 5.0/5.0
The Saints have two the of top guards in the NFL and, undoubtedly, the best tandem. These two have not missed a game since they started out in the league and will reign as the best for a long time.
Starters: Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks
Evans and Nicks were voted by their peers as two of the top guards in the entire league. Not many match up to these two young talents. They shine in both the run and passing game and can do it all. The biggest debate is which guard is better? They were both late round gems that turned out to be studs. Evans currently has a large contract as one of, if not, the top paid guards in the league. Nicks recently signed his RFA tender and is looking for a long term contract as well.
Sure To Make The Roster: N/A
On The Bubble: Roger Allen, Brian de la Puente
Is is tough to say either one of these guys is sure to make the roster, but the Saints will definitely bring at least one of them, if not then both, back to play back up for Evans and Nicks. However, Nicks and Evans are extremely durable as they have both made every start possible. There has not been major news about either backup, but they will be kept around for insurance. However, I think one of them will go due to the fact that Matt Tennant can play the guard position as well.
Bold Prediction: Both Evans and Nicks Will Start in the Pro Bowl
Last year, both players made the Pro Bowl. Evans started while Nicks played backup behind Chris Snee. This year, I believe that since both have more recognition, they will both start and represent the Saints on the line. They will also improve the play of Olin Kreutz who might get a nod.
Position Rating: 4.0/5.0
This is also a strong position for the Saints as Kreutz is a reliable, veteran starter who has been one of the best in the league for some time. He may be getting older now, but his play has not deteriorated that much. The Saints also have a great back up behind him that has gotten a good word from the coaching staff.
Starter: Olin Kreutz
Kreutz is a hard-nosed veteran who has been in the league for quite some time now. He is an experienced veteran who has faced it all. He brings a lot of power to this team who let Jonathan Goodwin walk. In between Evans and Nicks, this will be one of the most impenetrable walls in the league.
Sure To Make The Roster: Matt Tennant
The BC product has shown great stuff to the coaching staff. The Saints have had great starters at the Center position for years now and it looks like Matt Tennant will be the next one to add onto the legacy. He is still taking one more year to develop, but is a great back up for both the Center and Guard positions.
On The Bubble: Cecil Newton
Most people remember this guy as Cam Newton's brother. He went undrafted out of college and had a stint with the Jaguars' practice squad before he was drafted 11th overall in the UFL draft. Now the Saints are taking a chance on him. He has a nice pedigree as his father also played in the league. However, it will be tough for him to keep a job on this team. If Tennant moves to play the backup guard role, then Newton will be kept around to play the backup center role. There is no other real competition for the 3rd spot, but it will be tough for the Saints to keep around 3 centers on such a crowded roster.
Bold Prediction: If Zack Strief Struggles Throughout the Season, the Saints Will Move Tennant to the Guard Position and Put Nicks at Right Tackle.
This sounds like a crazy one, but it is not completely out of the picture. Nicks used to played tackle and Tennant has shown flashes of potential. If Tennant shows that he can hold up in the middle, don't count this one out because Strief is a big question mark. It probably won't happen, but I just wanted to put it down to say I said it if it actually happens.
Position Rating: 4.2/5.0
This is a strong group with lot of talent and potential. Other than Will Smith, who is only 30 years old, this is a very young squad as well. Both Smith and Cameron Jordan are first round picks with big play abilities. Behind them is a deep group of backups, something they haven't had in awhile.
Starters: Will Smith
Will Smith is currently the only starter because his spot is on lock. He has been a starter for the Saints for years now and has been one of the top ends. He is a great pass rusher and can generate a good amount of sacks. He requires a good supporting cast around him, however. Last year his numbers dropped due to a week front 7 around him. This year, the entire front 7 looks revamped and ready to ignite. Smith will profit the most and regain his momentum to put up a lot of sacks.
Sure To Make The Roster: Cameron Jordan, Alex Brown, Turk McBride
The Saints are bringing Jordan along slowly, very slowly. He has tremendous talent and is a great run stopper. Nobody expected Jordan to make it all the way to pick 24, which is why fans were ecstatic when the Saints snagged him. The biggest question mark was whether or not he could play in the Saints' 4-3 and be the pass rusher that they need. The answer to this is yes. Most people have not watched how he played in college and quickly made the assumption that he would not fit in the Saints' scheme. However, he fits the personel more than people think. Jordan can play both inside in a 4-3 and as a rusher end for a 3-4. Gregg Williams has already expressed his desire to play both systems, even for a defense that is primarily identified as a 4-3. This year, the Saints have a lot more talent to play the 3-4 and Jordan fits the standards perfectly. He will be a situational player as the Saints also have talents in Alex Brown and Turk McBride. Brown is coming back off a slow year. He was pretty reliable as a starter when he rotated with Jimmy Wilkerson. Both could not flourish, however. This year, the rotation will be a lot more dynamic and every single end on the team will profit off of this.
On The Bubble: Junior Galette, Jeff Charleston
Gregg Williams, as well as most Saints fans, wish that the team could keep both of these players, which they probably will. Galette is another fan favorite who triple G and Sean Payton have liked throughout the past two years in camp. He is a pass rush specialist who is very fast for an end. However, he is very undersized and spent a lot of time bouncing on and off the active roster last year. This year, he needs to prove himself so that he can jump in the rotation. He would be perfect for a 3-4 personel as an OLB/DE. Charleston's speciality would be blocking the short run. He is a big player who can really plug the whole. He has never gotten the nod as a starter, but is a good rotational player. Charleston is key on goal line stands and the Saints have expressed their appreciation of his play by resigning him. The only reason these two are listed as "on the bubble" is because the roster is very crowded and it will be tough to keep too many ends. If they do not make the final cut, they will bounce on and off of the roster.
Bold Prediction: These Ends will Restore the Pass Rush of the Defense and Revive the Big Play Potential
Everybody wants to see the Saints return to their 2009 form as an opportunistic defense that makes big plays. It all starts with the pass rush generating pressure on the quarterback and run game to make plays that will fall into the hands of the defensive coordinator himself. This year, the ends will help produce a lot of turnovers.
Position Rating: 4.7/5.0
This is one of the biggest story of the offseason for the Saints. They have created one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the league with the addition of Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers. Add these two to a Sedrick Ellis rotation and suddenly, one of the weakest spots for the Saints last year becomes one of their best.
Starters: Sedrick Ellis, Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin
When Saints fans think about this group, they get chills. Every defense is better with a strong defensive line. These three will make one of the best defensive front 7s in the league and improve the play of everybody around them. Ellis has gotten a lot better over the years and is on his way to becoming elite. Rogers has been ranked the number 1 pass rushing DT in the NFL over the past couple years. Aubrayo Franklin was the number 2 ranked run stuffer in the league last year. This will create an excellent rotation and disrupt the rhythm of opposing offenses. People question this group because Rogers declined in Cleavland and Franklin doesn't seem to fit the scheme. However, Rogers' best years came when he was in Detroit who ran a 4-3 and Franklin will only benefit as a nose tackle in the 4-3 with all the talent around him.
Sure To Make The Roster: Greg Romeus, Tom Johnson
Once upon a time, Greg Romeus was a potential first round draft pick. Then he injured his back and he somehow dropped all the way to the 7th round where the Saints snagged him. Romeus is still currently dealing with the injury and will have to sit on the PUP list for awhile. However, the Saints will have to keep him around due to his potential. He has the makings to be a great DT next year. Tom Johnson has made a name for himself this offseason. He has played tremendously in camp and played well in preseason. He will be kept around for insurance.
On The Bubble: Mitch King, Dexter Larimore, Swanson Miller
Mitch King is leader out of this group due to his play in the first game against the 49ers. He made some big plays that game and showed a potential as a back up. There is no verdict reached on Larimore or Miller yet. It will be tough for any of them to make the roster with all the talent ahead of them.
Bold Prediction: Rogers and Franklin Won't Make The Pro Bowl, but Sedrick Ellis Will
Rogers and Franklin are both over 30, but not too old. They will rotate more than Ellis will. Ellis has been on the borderline of being a pro bowler for some time now and with the incredible supporting cast around him, he will finally get the nod.
Position Rating: 3.6/5.0
This is a very young and athletic group. The team is looking to take a new turn and this has caused the most competitive position battle on the team. Both sides are looking at new potential starters as the OLB positions were weak spots for the Saints last year.
Starters: Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring
As of right now, it seems as though Casillas and Herring are the front runners to win the starting jobs based on their camp and game production. Casillas was named a starter last year but was placed on the IR before he could even get a chance to shine in the regular season. The coaches love him as he is very smart and versatile. On the other side, Herring was brought in from Seattle and expected to play a limited role as a rotational development, but he has opened more eyes than expected. Herring has outplayed his expectations and looks to be winning the battle against Clint Ingram. This unit will definitely be an upgrade over the starters last year of Shanle and Clark.
Sure To Make The Roster: Martez Wilson, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Nate Bussey
Wilson is struggling to learn the playbook in camp, but he is slowly making his way. Wilson is arguably the most athletic linebacker on the team. He is very fast and is a big play waiting to happen. However, he has a lot of upside and with a little bit more time to develop and learn the system, he could be great and work his way up to a possible starting position. The other day, I was worried about Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt constantly yelling at him, telling him to get his act together until a smarter fan told me that it was probably better that they are all over him than leaving him alone. They definitely know he has potential and are trying their best to get it out of him. Dunbar was a reliable back up last year. He is not great, but at the same time he is very decent. He can play backup for both the OLBs and Vilma at MLB. Bussey is another guy that has to stick around because of his special teams play. He is an ace on ST and the coordinators of the team love that. Bussey is also getting a lot of love from the team because of his constant attempts to make himself better by being at the coaches' side at every possible moment, asking for advice and figuring out how he can better his play.
On The Bubble: Clint Ingram, Scott Shanle, Ezra Butler, Dwight Robertson
Ingram remains to be injury prone as he recently left practice with an injury. Fans were excited about his signing last year until he was slated to spend the entire season on the injured list and was released. Shanle has been consistent for the team for years now, but has never been more than decent. He will have to fight hard to make the roster as the Saints have already shown they are willing to part ways with washed up veterans (see Danny Clark.) Butler continues to miss practice with an injury and there is no word out yet on Robertson but it will be tough for either of them to make the cut.
Bold Prediction: Jonathan Casillas Will Lead the Team in Tackles
Casillas is a very talented a athletic linebacker. As shown in his performances in both this year and last years' preseason games, he is always in on the tackle. He will be a very key player to this defense. Get excited about this guy again, Saints fans.
Position Rating: 4.1/5.0
Jonathan Vilma is one of the smartest defenders in the league. He is the Drew Brees of the defense. He is a great leader and controls the entire defense. He has some decent depth behind him, that will sometimes play alongside him in certain packages, but Vilma will always be the primary man.
Starter: Jonathan Vilma
Other than Drew Brees, Vilma may be the best acquisition the Saints have made in recent years under Sean Payton. He really knows how to control the tempo of the defense and make big plays when needed. He has never really had a great cast around him, but he continues to be one of the best middle linebackers in the league, earning consecutive pro bowl appearances. As long as Vilma is the middle linebacker of this defense, they will only continue to improve.
Sure To Make The Roster: Ramon Humber
Humber is currently the only other MLB listed behind Vilma. The team let Marvin Mitchell walk. Humber now is the leading man to play behind Vilma and will probably have a pretty decent role on the team. Humber will definitely see some playing time alongside Vilma but has no chance of dethroning him.
On The Bubble: N/A
Bold Prediction: Vilma Will Contend for the Defense Player of the Year Honor
Vilma himself expressed his excitement towards the addition of Franklin and Rogers. He knows that they will improve his play. He will have more gaps and holes to attack and will be able to shine this year even more. Less pressure will be on him with a better supporting cast.
Position Rating: 4.5/5.0
Corner has been a weakness for this team for a long time. Now, they have one of the best secondaries in the league. They have deep with talent across the board. Their starters in Greer and Porter are a very good tandem. Behind them they young talents that continue to get better. They have a lot of depth for a position that is often plagued with injuries. This group ranked 4th against the pass last year and will continue to improve this year.
Starters: Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter
Greer and Porter are one of the best tandems in the league when healthy. However, they never seem to be able to stay healthy. They've missed a lot of time throughout the past couple years. However, this is the duo that started in the Saints' superbowl run. Greer was pulled out on an injury for one play of that superbowl and the Colts immediately attacked his replacement for their first touchdown. Porter sealed the game with the most memorable play in franchise history. They have to ability to lock down and control the tempo. They are very undersized, but have a lot of skill. If they can stay healthy, they will continue to dominate.
Sure To Make The Roster: Patrick Robinson, Johnny Patrick, Fabian Washington
Robinson is a former first round pick who was one of the top prospects at his position. He did have a lot of room to impress last season, but this year he has gotten a lot more time to develop and will only get better. He is a ball hawk and has good man to man coverage skills. Like Malcom Jenkins, I see him doing a lot better in his second year now that he doesn't need to be thrusted into a starting role due to injury. Johnny Patrick has been outplaying Patrick Robinson in camp so far and looks to have the makings of being a complete corner. He will be asked to play the nickel/dime positions. However, Greer and Porter are constantly injured so he may be asked to start some as well. He and Patrick Robinson are currently battling for the 3rd position, but both are looking really good so far. Fabian was brought as insurance. He used to start for the Ravens and is a decent corner. With his limited role, he will be a great backup for the secondary.
On The Bubble: Leigh Torrence, Terrail Lambert, Trumaine McBride, Quincy Butler, Mark Parson
All of these guys have shown decent potential, but their only downplay is the crowded roster. If anybody gets injured, the Saints will pick on of these guys up immediately.
Bold Prediction: The Saints Passing Defense Will Rank in the Top 3 in Both Yards & Turnovers
This is the same opportunistic defense from 2009 that will rack up the interceptions once again this year. With all the depth and strength at the position, I see a group that can maintain strong against the pass and fit themselves in the top 3.
Position Rating: 4.7/5.0
This is also a very strong group as Jenkins & Harper create one of the best tandems in the league. They found a lot of depth this offseason without having to rely on Darren Sharper. The safeties will help the Saints create one of the best, complete secondaries in the league.
Starters: Malcom Jenkins, Roman Harper
Jenkins is a former 1st round cornerback who converted to free safety. He was the top prospect at his position the year the Saints chose him. In his rookie year, he was thrust into a starting position at times due to Porter/Greer's injuries. He showed signs of potential as a playmaker and the next year he was moved to the free safety position to replace Darren Sharper. He did a great job of doing so as he has established himself as one of the top free safeties in the league flying under the radar. Harper receives a lot of criticism for his pass defense, especially in the game against the Seahawks. People often think he is the weakspot of the Saints defense, but the truth is that he is a key to the team. Gregg Williams himself agrees. Harper constantly places himself amongst the top in terms of tackles on the team. He is a hard hitter who is constantly found in the backfield making a game changing play. He is actually decent at pass protection, but a little stiff. The reason he was so exposed during the Seahawks game was because he was asked to play a role he was not comfortable with. Jenkins missed that game so Harper had to do more way more than he was normally asked to. The criticism on Harper can stop now because he is a great player who deserved those pro bowls that he went to.
Sure To Make The Roster: DeAndre McDaniel, Jonathan Amaya, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Paul Oliver
These are three new faces to the roster. They are poised to take over the back up positions at the safety spots due to their great play in camp and what they can bring to the team. It all starts with McDaniel who was the gem of the undrafted free agency period. He was a potential 3rd/4th round safety that somehow fell all the way past the last pick of the 7th round. He is like a clone of Roman Harper and has potential to be a great player. Amaya is somebody the Saints acquired in the Bush trade for his ST play. Abdul-Quddus is getting almost as many headlines from the staff as McDaniel. Oliver is the only backup FS on the team right now so that's the only reason he gets a nod. He had some nice measurables coming in, but he will need to improve his play a lot to stay on the roster. He played horribly against the Texans and needs to step up his game, but for right now he's all the Saints have.
On The Bubble: Pierson Prioleau, Chris Reis
Yes, I think the special teams captain and superbowl hero are on the bubble. The front office has done a nice job of finding younger and better replacements for both of them. I think they finally go this year.
Bold Prediction: Malcom Jenkins Will Turn Out to be an All Pro FS
Jenkins will finally get more recognition this year and shutdown his side of the field. He will be an exact clone of the 2009 Darren Sharper and continue to make big plays for this upgraded defense.
Position Rating: 4.0/5.0
This is a pretty good group with Hartley and Morstead. Hartley needs to handle pressure better, but otherwise is a very good kicker and the future. Morstead is already a star. Nobody questions the Saints picking him in the draft anymore.
Starters: Hartley, Morstead, Drescher
Hartley, the NFC Championship hero will have less struggles this season. He is usually a surefire kicker, but most people remember him by his mistakes. Morstead is a great punter with a very strong leg and will be around for a long time. The Saints finally got rid of Jason Kyle and brought in Drescher.
Sure To Make The Team: N/A
On The Bubble: N/A
Bold Prediction: Hartley Will Kick Game Winning Field Goal Against the Falcons and Morstead Will Make the Pro Bowl
Hartley will redeem his 27 yard miss from last year that gave the Falcons fans the right to brag for an entire year. This year he will win a game for us against them and make everybody forget his mistake. Morstead will finally get a nod for a pro bowl as the punter.
QB - Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
HB: Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory (PUP), Joique Bell
FB: Korey Hall
WR: Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Joseph Morgan, Jarred Fayson
TE: Jimmy Graham, David Thomas,
LT: Jermon Bushrod, Jordan Black
RT: Zack Strief, Charles Brown
G: Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans,
C: Olin Kreutz, Matt Tennant (C/G)
LE: Cameron Jordan, Alex Brown
RE: Will Smith, Turk McBride, Junior Galette
DT: Sedrick Ellis, Tom Johnson
NT: Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin
SLB: Jonathan Casillas, Martez Wilson
MLB: Jonathan Vilma, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Ramon Humber
WLB: Will Herring, Clint Ingram, Nate Bussey
LCB: Jabari Greer, Johnny Patrick, Fabian Washington (L/R)
RCB: Tracy Porter, Patrick Robinson
FS: Malcom Jenkins, Paul Oliver, Isa Abdul-Quddus
SS: Roman Harper, DeAndre McDaniel, Jonathan Amaya
K: Garrett Hartley
P: Thomas Morstead
LS: Justin Drescher