New Orleans Saints Complete 2012 NFL Preseason and Training Camp Guide

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IJuly 20, 2012

New Orleans Saints Complete 2012 NFL Preseason and Training Camp Guide

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    The New Orleans Saints enter training camp on July 24 trying to put a long, strange, difficult offseason behind them. They will do so without their head coach (Sean Payton) but thankfully with their franchise quarterback (Drew Brees), who re-signed with the team in a monumental deal on July 13.

    The craziness promises to continue as the team will shift from interim coach Joe Vitt throughout training camp and the entirety of the preseason, to Aaron Kromer for six games (he’s actually suspended those six games for his role in "Bountygate") and then back to Vitt in Week 7.

    The team will also miss suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma the entire year for his role in the Bountygate scandal, and it will miss veteran defensive end Will Smith the first four games of the year for the same reason.

    None of that should shake the Saints’ aspirations of becoming the first team to play in and win a Super Bowl as the host team. The journey to do the incredible, as always, begins in training camp, this year at the team’s practice facility in Metairie, Louisiana.

    Here is everything you want or need to know about the team’s activities prior to the start of the regular season on September 9. 

The Biggest Question Marks

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    Where to start, where to start?

    Two major themes have dominated headlines not just in New Orleans, but all NFL circles this offseason. The first was Bountygate, the second was Drew Brees' contract situation. 

    The results of Bountygate are a suspended head coach (Sean Payton) and middle linebacker (Jon Vilma) for a full year, the interim coach (Joe Vitt) suspended the first six games and a defensive end (Will Smith) who will miss the first four games of the year. First and foremost, how will the New Orleans Saints respond to the trials and adversity stemming from this crazy offseason? 

    1. More specifically, though, how will the team react to an interim head coach (Vitt), and an interim-interim head coach (Aaron Kromer) the first six games of the season? Will it be business as normal or will the team struggle to find an identity due to not having one common voice throughout the season? 

    2. How will the team handle the crazy Drew Brees ordeal? Will he step in and regain camaraderie and rhythm with his receivers and offensive teammates immediately? Will his missing mini camp and OTAs hurt his production and rhythm? 

    3. Will the team find a stud pass-rusher among its deep but unproven defensive line unit? 

    4. In the Saints' deep and talented running back group, who is the odd man out for carries? Could one of them be gone? 

    5. Will Curtis Lofton single-handedly elevate the Saints defense to the upper echelon of the NFL? 

    6. Similarly, will Steve Spagnuolo elevate the Saints defense to the upper echelon of the NFL?

    7. Who wins the nickel corner job? Johnny Patrick, Corey White, Elbert Mack or someone else?

    8. Can the team overcome adversity to the point of repeating past performances and making history?

    Coaches and fans hope to begin finding answers to each of these questions as training camp kicks off July 24. 

Players on the Roster Bubble

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    On a team as immensely talented as the New Orleans Saints, there simply are not that many open roster slots. There will be many talented and deserving players left off the final 53-man roster. Here are a few players who could see their names left off the roster on September 2. 

    S Jonathon Amaya

    Amaya was brought to New Orleans last offseason as part of the exchange for Reggie Bush. He did little to impress coaches in 2011, and there are other players on the roster who could easily take his roster spot. 

    LB Nate Bussey

    Bussey was a highly regarded possible sleeper in last year's draft. The youngster never found his way to the defensive lineup, though, and with all the depth on the current roster, he is not a guarantee to take a roster spot simply because of special teams production.

    FB Korey Hall

    Hall was brought in a year ago from Green Bay to compete with Jed Collins for the starting fullback spot. The Saints ended up keeping both players. But with three quarterbacks likely to fill the final roster and a multitude of other positions likely to demand larger-than-normal quantity limits, Hall's roster spot is in jeopardy in 2012.  

    WR Adrian Arrington

    Arrington was the Saints' developmental baby the past few years. Big things were expected out of him in 2011. For the most part he disappointed during the year. The team went ahead and selected Wisconsin receiver Nick Toon as a potential replacement. Additionally, Joseph Morgan could take a roster spot as a receiver/return specialist. 

    QB Sean Canfield

    With the addition of Luke McCown earlier this offseason, Canfield's roster spot is very much in doubt. McCown and Chase Daniel are the odds-on-favorites to earn the right to carry clipboards and learn by osmosis from Drew Brees. 

    K Jon Kasay

    Jon Kasay was almost magical as a 40-year-old replacement in 2011. A year older and a healthy Garrett Hartley could be reasons Kasay doesn't electrify Saints fans in 2012. 

    K Garrett Hartley

    Though Hartley has been placed high on an unreachable cloud because of his clutch kicking in the 2009 playoffs, Jon Kasay was more consistent last season than Hartley has ever been. Hartley's spot on the 2012 roster is very much in doubt. 

    LB/DE Donavan Robinson

    Putting Robinson on this list is a compliment in his direction. Robinson had a crazy good college career at Jacksonville State, where he registered 30 sacks in his four-year career. He was originally signed by the New York Jets as a college free agent in May but released in June. The Saints were wise to sign him and give him a shot in camp. 

    LB Will Herring

    On the other hand, Herring's place on this list is no compliment. Instead, it shows the Saints organization's all-out assault on the linebacker free-agent market was done, in part, as a backdoor way of slowly removing the aging pieces in the Saints' linebacking corps. Herring is really going to have to impress in camp to retain a spot on the 2012 roster.

    LB Scott Shanle

    Though Shanle was given first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp, a Shanle release would not be the first time the Saints, or any other NFL team, has had a veteran player taking first-team camp reps then releasing that player. The Saints did that with Alex Brown just one season ago. 

    LB Lawrence Wilson

    Wilson is a very talented player out of Connecticut who surprisingly lasted until the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft. So far he has not lived up to his potential at the NFL level. His recent arrest (and his arrest as a rookie in Carolina) certainly isn't helping his case to stick in New Orleans either.

    If he makes the roster he will miss the first game. The team already has Will Smith facing a four-game suspension, so Wilson would be a long shot to make the team since the team doesn't want to keep two players on its 53-man roster who will not play right away. 

    LB Ezra Butler

    The Saints simply have too many linebackers on their roster at this point. Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Chris Chamberlain and Jonathan Casillas would seem to be the only automatics to make the roster at the position. After them, there are many players who have a chance but need some things to go their way. Butler is definitely one of them. 

    S Jerico Nelson

    Jerico Nelson hails from Destrehan, making him very much a hometown favorite. If he makes the team, he will be the next folk hero safety for this team. But Nelson isn't just a nice story; he's a really good player. After Isa Abdul-Quddas, Nelson is the next best backup safety on the current roster, and he needs to prove that in the team's three-week training camp. 

    CB Marquis Johnson

    Johnson was a free-agent pickup, courtesy of the St. Louis Rams. He played in St. Louis under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the past two years, after learning in college under Nick Saban at Alabama. Johnson only managed seven total tackles in two seasons but had three passes defensed in 2011. In the Saints' zone-heavy scheme, there is little doubt that at 5'11" Johnson could fit well in subpackages. 

    RB Travaris Cadet

    The Saints threw out big money to acquire Appalachian State undrafted free-agent running back Travaris Cadet in the 2012 draft period. The $30,000 signing bonus Cadet signed showed the Saints were serious about giving Cadet a realistic opportunity to make the 53-man roster (teams normally don't go above $20,000 for an undrafted free agent).

    For most teams he'd be a lock, but with four proven backs ahead of him, Cadet is going to have to have a Pierre Thomas-type preseason to win a roster spot in 2012. That the Saints have a player such as Chris Ivory, who could be a good trade piece for someone, could help Cadet earn a spot. 

    DE Braylon Broughton

    Braylon Broughton was another highly touted college free agent the Saints were able to bring in. Though hardly a lock to make the roster, Broughton's speed and natural gifts could earn him a spot in the defensive end rotation and make him an impact player at some point during his first year in black and gold. 

Players to Watch

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    Some of the players on the roster bubble are the same players most worthy of attention from coaches and fans come August 5 when the Saints begin their unusual five-game preseason schedule. 

    Rookie Safety Jerico Nelson

    Not only is Nelson a Destrehan native, but he comes in ready to play at the NFL level having spent his college years at Arkansas in the NFL's farm system, also known as the Southeastern Conference.

    That experience gives Nelson the opportunity to learn quickly and adapt more quickly than the average NFL rookie. He could easily be the next Pierre Thomas, as a guy who comes in ready to play, and despite playing at a cramped position makes the roster because he's just too good to let go. 

    WR/Return Specialist Joseph Morgan

    Morgan doesn't figure to be at risk of losing the roster spot he was assumed to have gained last preseason before blowing out his knee late in the preseason. The main thing to watch from him this preseason is whether he has regained the quickness and explosiveness he showed a calendar year ago. If he does, look for him to lead the world in preseason highlights. 

    Rookie Running Back Travaris Cadet

    Though I already used the Pierre Thomas analogy for Nelson, I will risk the humiliation by claiming there is another player who could fill that archetype as well. The 6'1", 210-pound rookie from Appalachian State has the opportunity to surprise some folks and at the least earn his way onto the practice squad, while possibly forcing a veteran out in a trade. 

    Rookie Wide Receiver Nick Toon

    Toon was the last of the draft picks to sign a contract with the New Orleans Saints. But he has, and as a result will be in camp come July 24. Toon has great size and an ability to make plays across the middle of the field. He could be a Marques Colston/Robert Meachem hybrid. If so, the Saints will love him. 

    Rookie Wide Receiver Derek Moye

    Never mind the program Moye is coming from. Moye was a record-setting receiver at Penn State who went relatively unnoticed in the draft process despite great playmaking ability and excellent hands. He is light, but has great hands and was very productive for four years in Happy Valley. 

    Rookie Defensive Tackle Akiem Hicks

    There's a good chance you know the story of Akiem Hicks and his journey to the NFL. More relevant than the particular journey, though, is the impact Hicks could have on this particular Saints team. If the rookie can develop quicker than anyone truly expects, the Saints defense could become as good as any in the NFC South. 

    Rookie Defensive Back Corey White

    Corey White was quite a surprising selection by the Saints in the fifth round. White lacks experience in some of the coverage schemes Steve Spagnuolo will run. Watching his development in learning coverages and identifying route concepts will give coaches and fans a good idea of whether White is capable of contributing in 2012 or not. 

    Rookie Defensive End/Linebacker Donavan Robinson

    Robinson was an undrafted free agent the New York Jets signed immediately following the 2012 draft. However, they quickly released him. The Saints were smart to take a chance on a guy who proved himself to be an explosive pass-rusher in his four-year college career at Jacksonville State.

    The Saints need as many pass-rushers as they can get a hold of. For that reason, Robinson is a key player to watch in this camp. 

    Outside Linebacker/Defensive End Martez Wilson

    Wilson is a much more heralded hybrid pass-rusher than Robinson. That doesn't mean he's a guaranteed thing, though. Wilson should be a fun player to watch in the preseason as he attempts to make the transition to defensive end. His transition figures to be one of the keys to the success of the 2012 Saints defense. 

    Defensive End Braylon Broughton

    Broughton is similar to Robinson and Wilson in that he is a speed-rusher with limited size. He is a typical TCU defender who learned how to play the game and position as he went through the program over his four years in Fort Worth. If his development continues at the pro level, the Saints may have a steal. That's what we're hoping to see starting July 26 (first day the team actually practices).  

    Cornerback Marquis Johnson

    Johnson came over with Steve Spagnuolo from St. Louis. Though he had limited playing time with the Rams, he knows Spagnuolo's defense and possesses a nice skill level which SEC fans saw at Alabama for years. Johnson figures to contend for a roster spot because of his experience in this defense. He still has to prove himself in camp, though. 

    Running Back Mark Ingram

    Coming off injury, it will be more than interesting to observe the health of the Saints' most ballyhooed running back since Deuce McAllister (Reggie was a slash player, not a true running back). 

    Safety Roman Harper

    How will the veteran strong safety respond to a new defense that really isn't tailored to his skill set? In the Saints' new defense run by Steve Spagnuolo, there is no designation between strong and free safety. Rather there are two safeties, essentially asked to perform the same roles. Can Harper cover well enough to legitimize the Saints' pass defense? 

    Defensive Tackle Brodrick Bunkley

    Bunkley played in the Philadelphia defense at the same time Steve Spagnuolo was the linebacker coach. Needless to say, Spags knows Bunkley and will likely look to keep his role simple, especially in training camp. Saints coaches hope the simplicity causes Bunkley to fly around and just find the football. 

    Last preseason the Saints struggled mightily against the run. Bunkley figures to cover up those remedies immediately, as discussed here

    Cornerback Johnny Patrick

    Patrick is the presumed nickel corner going into training camp. And truth be told, it is his spot to lose. But Patrick needs to show well in training camp to guarantee himself that spot. If he produces as expected in the preseason, the Saints could possess one of the finest defensive secondaries in the league. 

Best Depth Chart Battles

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    Four-Way Battle for No. 1 Running Back Spot

    Pierre Thomas? Darren Sproles? Mark Ingram? Chris Ivory? Certainly there is a question mark next to each player's name on the Saints' official depth chart. 

    All are capable of earning the No. 1 spot. All have their roles on the team. But which one gets the official No. 1 nod? That is the question. 

    In reality, it is of little consequence, as each will get their carries, catches and end-zone dance opportunities. It should be a fun and entertaining battle nonetheless. 

    Three-Way Battle for Nickel Corner Job (Johnny Patrick, Corey White, Elbert Mack)

    Patrick is the presumptive leader in the clubhouse as the team enters training camp. White could be the future answer at the position whenever Jabari Greer moves on in his career. Mack appears to be a patchwork answer at this point for either the nickel or dime spot. 

    Patrick has all the talent in the world but still has to fend off these two to win the job. Look for Mack to make the most serious run since he has valuable NFL experience and is used to playing in a defense which plays mostly zone coverage. 

    Right Tackle Spot Between Zach Strief and Charles Brown

    Strief is the likely winner for this job. But last preseason the two battled it out to see who would start. Brown is by far the more talented player, and the one Saints coaches would like to win the job. 

    If the former second-round pick from Southern Cal were to win the job, the Saints offense could become even more multiple than it already is. Brown would allow the team to execute more stretch plays and roll out throws. Then the team could also bring Strief in as a sixth lineman or extra tight end as it did two years ago. 

    That package helps the run game and improves the offense as a whole. But Brown must win the matchup to make that all happen. 

    Fullback Job Between Jed Collins and Korey Hall

    As with the other two of the middle three, this one has a presumptive winner. Ding, ding, ding, it's Collins! That said, Hall has been a capable fullback throughout his career. If he can prove he is the better pass-catcher, he could take the job away from Collins. 

    This battle takes on more meaning than it did a year ago, as the loser is unlikely to make the 53-man roster due to needs for flexibility at other positions. 

    Three-Way Battle for Fourth Receiver Spot (Nick Toon, Adrian Arrington and Joseph Morgan)

    Between the veteran Arrington, the second-year guy Morgan and the rookie Toon, the Saints figure to have three great options. It's possible all three could make the final roster.

    Morgan figures to make the roster no matter what, since he is the best option as a kick returner. He also happens to be the most likely to replace Robert Meachem's deep threat production. 

    Seeing how he dominates as a returner should be fun. It's more interesting to see if he can replicate his production from the receiver spot. 

    If he cannot, it is imperative that Toon or Arrington has a good preseason and steps in from the first week ready to take 20 snaps and catch two to three balls per game. 

    Arrington could be in trouble if he doesn't win the fourth receiver job. He has been around long enough now that production is expected from him. If he doesn't make it happen in 2012, it likely never will happen for him in the Crescent City. 

New Orleans Saints Training Camp and Preseason Schedule

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    The New Orleans Saints are scheduled to report to the team facility on Airline Drive on Tuesday, July 24. Players will take their conditioning tests the next day on July 25 and then begin shell practices on Thursday, July 26. Per CBA rules, the team must practice exclusively in shells for the first two practices. 

    Saturday, July 28 will be the first instance in which the team practices in full pads. They will practice once Saturday and Sunday in pads before taking Monday off.

    The team will then resume on Tuesday, July 31 and continue in full pads until Friday August 3. Saturday they will travel to Canton, Ohio, and on Sunday, August 5, play their first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game on NFL Network at 7 p.m. CT.

    The team will then travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to hold a three-day joint practice with the New England Patriots from Monday, August 6 to Wednesday, August 8. The two teams will then take to the field to play another preseason game on August 9 at 6:30 p.m. CT at Gillette Stadium.  

    After that busy week, the Saints will take a three-day weekend away from football before returning to the practice field on Monday, August 13 in Metairie. They will hold three more practices (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) before hosting Jacksonville in the Mercedes Benz Superdome on Friday, August 17 at 7 p.m. CT. 

    That will officially conclude training camp 2012 for the New Orleans Saints. The team will continue to hold regular practices after the Jacksonville game on August 17, but those will begin to take on more of a regular-season feel and approach. 

    All regular training camp practices (except for the three stated practices in New England) will be held at the team's practice facility on Airline Drive in Metairie, Louisiana. All practices are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. CT and conclude at 6:45 p.m.. 

    The Saints will play two more preseason games after the August 17 contest. It hosts the Houston Texans at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday, August 25 and finishes the preseason in Tennessee on Thursday, August 30 at 6 p.m. CT. 

    All information provided here is taken from  

New Orleans Saints Training Camp Info

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    Until 2003, the New Orleans Saints had always held their training camps at a college campus or in two different terms at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. 

    Starting in 2003, though, the team began using its Airline Drive facility to shelter the players from the heat and keep costs and support staff burnout to a minimum. 

    That lasted until 2005, when the team of course had to leave late in the preseason due to Hurricane Katrina and never returned in the 2005 season. 

    When Sean Payton took over as head coach, the team decided to go back to tradition and hold camp at another college facility, this time at Milsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. Payton figured the outside practices in the brutal heat would toughen the team up and best prepare it for the rigors of an intense 16-game NFL schedule. 

    That marriage lasted three years until 2008. In 2009 the team resumed holding camp at home in Metairie, again for the exact same reasons Jim Haslett's staff chose to move the team's camp back home. 

    Last year, though, Sean Payton decided to move a week of camp out to my neck of the woods (literally 10 minutes away from where I live) to beautiful Oxnard, California. The Oxnard facility is the same place Bill Parcells took his Cowboys teams for summer camp when Sean Payton was the offensive coordinator in Dallas. 

    This year it appears Joe Vitt and the staff are content to hold all the team's practices at the Airline Drive facility, save for the half week they will spend immediately following the Hall of Fame Game in Foxborough, Massachusetts working alongside Bill Belichick and the crafty New England Patriots organization. 

    As of now, training camp practices are assumed to be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Undoubtedly due to the crazy New Orleans weather, some practices will be moved indoors, thus eliminating access to the common fan. 

    As noted previously, all practices held at the team's practice facility are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. CT and end around 6:45 p.m. The address for the team's facility is 5800 Airline Drive, Metairie, LA. 

New Orleans Saints Camp Roster

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    The following is the position-by-position training camp roster, in alphabetical order. Taken from the Saints official website.


    Drew Brees, Sean Canfield, Chase Daniel, Luke McCown

    Running Back

    Joe Banyard, Travaris Cadet, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas


    Jed Collins, Korey Hall

    Wide Receivers

    Adrian Arrington, Marques Colston, Chris Givens, Kevin Hardy, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Joseph Morgan, Derek Moye, Courtney Roby, Andy Tanner, Nick Toon

    Tight End

    Jake Byrne, Jimmy Graham, Michael Higgins, David Thomas

    Offensive Line

    Charles Brown, Jermon Bushrod, Brian De La Puente, Hutch Eckerson, Jahri Evans, Brian Folkerts, Ben Grubbs, Marcel Jones, Eric Olsen, DeOn'tae Pannell, Aderious Simmons, Zach Strief, Matt Tennant, Andrew Tiller, Fenuki Tupou, Scott Winnewisser

    Defensive Line

    Remi Ayodele, Brodrick Bunkley, Sedrick Ellis, Junior Galette, Akiem Hicks, Tom Johnson, Cameron Jordan, Turk McBride, Swanson Miller, Will Smith, Tyrunn Walker


    Kadarron Anderson, Nate Bussey, Ezra Butler, Jonathan Casillas, Chris Chamberlain, David Hawthorne, Will Herring, Curtis Lofton, Donavan Robinson, Scott Shanle, Aaron Tevis, Jonathan Vilma, Lawrence Wilson, Martez Wilson (also DE)


    A.J. Davis, Jabari Greer, Marquis Johnson, Elbert Mack, Kamaal McIlwain, Cord Parks, Johnny Patrick, Patrick Robinson, Laron Scott, Corey White


    Isa Abdul-Quddas, Jonathon Amaya, Jose Gumbs, Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins, Jerico Nelson, Johnny Thomas


    Justin Drescher (LS), Garrett Hartley (K), John Kasay (K), Thomas Morstead (P)

New Orleans Saints 2012 Rookie Class

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    Akiem Hicks, DT (Regina/LSU)

    As mentioned previously, it is quite likely you know Akiem Hicks' story already. In case you don't, here it is in extreme brevity. He started at LSU, but due to some odd NCAA rules, he was not allowed to continue there. He transferred to a junior college in Sacramento then transitioned to Canadian college football at Regina. 

    He is a bit raw as a player, but the talent resides within him. He has the potential to play outside on run downs and move inside on passing downs. However, he is much more likely to stay inside at all times, unless the team runs a three-man front within their nickel package. 

    Nick Toon, WR (Wisconsin)

    Nick is the son of Jets great Al Toon. He followed in his father's footsteps by playing receiver at Wisconsin. Like his father, he had a very successful career in Madison. 

    He was a surprise to last until the fourth round of the draft. The presumptive cause was an injury that precluded him from full participation in draft workouts. 

    But with his size (6'2", 215 pounds) and deceptive speed and quickness, Toon has a chance to develop into a good possession receiver and playmaker for the Saints offense. 

    Corey White, CB (Samford)

    I pride myself on being a bit of a draft expert, and I admit I was beyond shocked when the Saints took White in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. 

    He is a player many thought would go undrafted because he had no true position (some called him a safety, others a zone corner at best). The Saints are hoping White develops into a good zone cornerback. He must begin to show some of the potential the Saints believe he has, when training camp starts. 

    Andrew Tiller, OG (Syracuse)

    The best attribute one can label on Tiller is that he played for Doug Marrone at Syracuse. Because of that he will be comfortable with the Saints' offensive system and verbiage. And he'll know exactly what the Saints expect out of an offensive lineman. 

    At best, Tiller figures to challenge for a roster spot—worst case scenario is him being released and signing on another team's practice squad. The middle scenario is most likely, and for long-term success, might be best case for him. That would be the option where he joins the Saints' practice squad. 

    Marcel Jones, OT (Nebraska)

    Jones' seventh-round selection was another head scratcher in the Saints' 2012 draft. But Jones is talented, and he has played in an offense which likes to spread the football around and run from the gun, as the Saints sometimes do. 

    If he can use those advantages in camp, he could be a steal and not a head scratcher. Saints fans have to hope the former takes place in this situation. 

New Orleans Saints 2012 Undrafted Free Agents

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    Braylon Broughton, DE (TCU)

    Great athlete who is still learning the game. Production needs to match talent for him to make roster and see playing time. Opportunity exists though, as team desperate for pass-rushers. 

    Travaris Cadet, RB (Appalachian State)

    Team spent $30,000 to sign him as college free agent, which is highly unusual. Has great chance to make roster with good camp. 

    Kadarron Anderson, LB (Furman)

    Must shine brightly in crowded linebacker room. Has a better opportunity to win job with another team through his performance in Saints camp. 

    Joe Banyard, RB (UTEP)

    Banyard has to overcome four great backs already cemented into Saints' vision, but a free-agent running back team proved they believed in him by giving him a high signing bonus. Banyard likely competing for spot elsewhere. 

    Jake Byrne, TE (Wisconsin)

    Coming from Wisconsin, we all know Byrne is physical and a smart football player. He is looking to join fellow rookie Badger Nick Toon on the 53-man roster. 

    A.J. Davis, DB (Jacksonville State)

    Davis is one of two Jacksonville State rookies in the Saints camp. He has a tough job ahead of him in a crowded defensive backfield. 

    Hutch Eckerson, OT (South Carolina)

    Eckerson comes to the Saints from the SEC. He knows fast and physical football. NFL still a step up. Not being drafted out of that league not a good sign for Eckerson's roster hopes. 

    Brian Folkerts, C (Washburn)

    Folkerts is a long shot to win a spot on the 53-man roster. The Saints would have to determine he's a better fit than 2010 fourth-round pick Matt Tennant in the middle should Brian de la Puente need to be replaced for any reason. 

    Chris Givens, WR (Miami of Ohio)

    Out of Miami of Ohio, Chris Givens comes from a pro-style offense. But with the depth at receiver, that likely won't help Givens' bid to capture a final roster spot. 

    Jose Gumbs, S (Monmouth)

    Though Gumbs has a lot of potential at safety, the Saints are pretty comfortable with the guys they had in their locker room and really like fellow rookie Jerico Nelson. 

    Kevin Hardy, WR (Citadel)

    If Hardy could figure a way to be even as successful as the linebacker Kevin Hardy who suited up for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals over a nine-year career, he'd be quite happy. 

    Kamaal McIlwain, DB (Newberry)

    Similar to A.J. Davis, McIlwain is looking at slim odds to gain a roster spot. Coming from Newberry to earn a trip to camp is quite the accomplishment, though. 

    Derek Moye, WR (Penn State)

    Feel like this needs to be said: Moye had nothing to do with anything at Penn State off-the-field related. You know what I mean. Other than that, the kid can play football. Should find a spot in the league with someone. 

    Jerico Nelson, S (Arkansas)

    Already a fan favorite; he almost has to make the roster. Could challenge for subpackage playing time this year. 

    DeOn'tae Pannell, OG (Penn State)

    Be honest, you're as aghast at the name as I am. Hundred bucks to the first person who can pronounce it correctly. 

    Donavan Robinson, DE/OLB (Jacksonville State)

    If I haven't gushed about him enough yet, here's one more hooray. Donavan Robinson for Defensive Rookie of the Year (well, maybe on this Saints team). 

    Laron Scott, DB (Georgia Southern)

    Scott is another player just hoping against all hope he can somehow find his way onto this squad.

    Aderrious Simmons, OT (Arizona State)

    Simmons was a notable player at Arizona State. Surprised he wasn't drafted. Could be a nice future option for Saints. 

    Aaron Tevis, LB (Boise State)

    Tevis was underrated coming from the most underrated conference in America (probably a discussion for another time and place). Could be a good fit with Saints down the road. 

    Johnny Thomas, S (Oklahoma State)

    Aside from Nelson, seems to be the best fit of the rookie safeties on the roster. Possible nice get for Mickey Loomis and staff. 

    Tyrunn Walker, DL (Tulsa)

    Saints haven't designated D-line position for him. Will that work for him or against him? 

    Scott Winnewisser, OT (Cal Poly)

    Winnewisser comes from a school which in recent years has excelled by playing wishbone, triple-option football. Could be a tough transition to the football antithesis known as Drew Brees' offense. 

New Orleans Saints 2012 Free Agency and Trade Additions

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    Curtis Lofton, MLB

    I have gawked at Curtis Lofton all offseason. He is truly the best free-agent pickup on this team and perhaps in the entire league. For a more in-depth scouting report, click here

    David Hawthorne, LB

    David Hawthorne is a player I still want to review on film and give a solid analysis on before the initial preseason game August 5 against the Arizona Cardinals. He is quick and rangy. He will excel in the run game and help make the team's pass defense better. 

    Ben Grubbs, LG

    Expect a more in-depth film review up next week on Grubbs. In the meantime, take my word for it that Grubbs is no worse than a horizontal move at left guard for the New Orleans Saints. The team did not get worse by essentially trading him for Carl Nicks. In fact, it got better because the difference in salary allowed the team to chase other options as well. 

    Chris Chamberlain, LB 

    Chamberlain is a Steve Spagnuolo favorite and a player who embodies all those qualities on and off the field. For that reason, Chamberlain is exactly what the Saints need. He will play hard on the field and make the team proud in the community. Whether he starts or not is irrelevant. He will be a difference maker. 

    Elbert Mack, CB

    Mack is a veteran who came from Tampa Bay. The greatest thing he offers this Saints team is his zone-coverage ability. For that reason he figures to make the roster and earn playing time. He is a good option as a third or fourth corner. 

    Luke McCown, QB

    McCown is somewhat familiar to Saints fans, as he once brought Tampa Bay into the Louisiana Superdome (as it was known at the time) and led the Bucs to a dramatic road victory back in 2007. He is a west coast quarterback and a home boy from the great state of Louisiana. 

    Lawrence Wilson, LB

    As mentioned before, he has some off-field issues which could alone preclude him from making the final roster. On the field he hasn't shown the potential to even be a decent NFL linebacker. He figures to be a camp body unless things change quickly. 

    Marquis Johnson, CB

    Much has already been said about Johnson. Most important to note is that he came from St. Louis where he played for Steve Spagnuolo. He will be comfortable in this defense and that might allow him to make the squad. 

    Remi Ayodele, DT

    Saints fans know Ayodele well from his time in New Orleans before leaving to spend a year in the Great Lakes state with the Minnesota Vikings. He, of course, was a key part of the attacking defensive line that created numerous turnovers in the team's memorable 2009 Super Bowl run. 

    Though he may have lost a step since that season, he will be a key rotation player for Steve Spagnuolo and a good mentor for young interior linemen Akiem Hicks and Tom Johnson. 

Game-by-Game Preseason Analysis and Predictions

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    August 5 at Canton, Ohio vs. Arizona Cardinals (Hall of Fame Game), 7 p.m. CT on NFL Network

    This is the first game of the year, for anybody. The Saints will have had eight practices at this point. Don't expect Drew Brees to suit up—or, if he does, to play one series. 

    It will be a great opportunity to get some rookies' feet wet and let some of the early camp stars shine on a national stage. This won't be an exhibition, though, for proven veterans by any stretch of the imagination. A winner is completely irrelevant, so let's say the game ends in a tie just 'cuz. 

    August 9 at New England Patriots, 6:30 p.m. CT 

    After spending three days practicing alongside Bill Belichick and the Patriots, look for this game to be spirited and intense. Tempers could flare up either in the joint practices or when the teams hit the field at Gillette Stadium. 

    Look for Drew Brees to get his first significant action of the preseason and for the defensive starters and key subpackage guys to go about a half of football. Though neither team will game plan for one another, this will have the feel of a regular-season game since the two will have spent so much time together throughout the week. 

    Expect a close-fought battle won in the end by New England because, frankly, they have the better third-string quarterback at this point. 

    August 17 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 7 p.m. CT at Mercedes Benz Superdome

    After the Saints take some coveted time off from the grind of camp, they get just a few days to train before hosting their first preseason game on the schedule. 

    The Jaguars come into the Mercedes Benz Superdome with a brand new head coach, Mike Mularkey, trying to invigorate an offense among the most boring and downtrodden in the entire league. The team will also be trying to figure out whether to stick with 2011 No. 10 pick Blaine Gabbert, or go with veteran Chad Henne at quarterback. 

    Gabbert is a better athlete, but the two are essentially the same player. The Saints are likely to use this game to instill a sense of confidence and aggression in their defense. 

    The unit has always played better on the home turf, and with Steve Spagnuolo, it is necessary the unit begins their ascension to the top of the league in the third preseason game when starters and subpackage guys are likely to play past halftime. 

    August 25 vs. Houston Texans, 7 p.m. CT at Mercedes Benz Superdome

    Last season the Houston Texans whooped up on the Saints at their place. Though it was a preseason game, don't think holdover defensive players have forgotten the offensive massacre they received. Of course, they also got murdered in the team's regular-season matchup back home in the dome, though the Saints still managed to win that game. 

    With Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson likely to play past halftime in their third preseason game, this game promises to be a great test for the Saints defense. It is unlikely the team will pass the test, but the film review should be invaluable to the growth of the unit in Steve Spagnuolo's first campaign in New Orleans. 

    On the other side of the ball, Wade Phillips has built what Spags is hoping to in New Orleans. In his second year running his aggressive 3-4 in Houston, the Texans could slow down the Saints, who generally have at least one game in the preseason where they struggle offensively. Most likely this will be that game. 

    August 30 at Tennessee Titans, 6 p.m. CT

    The Saints will be happy to get beyond August 30. Five games in 25 days is a lot. Don't expect Drew Brees to even suit up for this game. It will be interesting to see who Joe Vitt, Aaron Kromer and Pete Carmichael decide to place in the No. 1 role for this game. 

    Whoever that guy is—Chase Daniel or Luke McCown—would figure to have the leg up on the Saints' backup job. 

    Defensively, the Saints will likely stay as basic as possible. Doing so will also allow the team to evaluate its young pass-rushers. Offensively or defensively, a player will not make the team or get cut as a result of this game. But a strong performance will certainly be factored into the coaches' final call. 

    Look for the coaches to give the young players every opportunity to shine in this one. For that reason, it will likely be an ugly game—but the Saints have the more talented players, so winning this one is certainly not incomprehensible. 

Projecting the Final 53-Man Roster

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    Going out on a limb here to say that Drew Brees will be on the final 53-man roster for the New Orleans Saints. And there are many other veterans you can rest assured will make the roster.

    Here are the players most likely to make the roster as of now, with notable cuts (and in some cases explanations) included. 

    QB (3)

    Drew Brees

    Chase Daniel

    Luke McCown

    Notable Cuts: Sean Canfield

    RB (4)

    Travares Cadet

    Mark Ingram

    Darren Sproles

    Pierre Thomas

    Notable Cuts: Chris Ivory (likely traded away)

    FB (1)

    Jed Collins

    Notable Cuts: Korey Hall

    WR (5)

    Marques Colston

    Devery Henderson

    Lance Moore

    Joseph Morgan

    Nick Toon

    Notable Cuts: Adrian Arrington, Derek Moye, Courtney Roby

    OL (8)

    Jermon Bushrod

    Brian de la Puente

    Jahri Evans

    Ben Grubbs

    Eric Olsen

    Aderrious Simmons

    Zach Strief

    Andrew Tiller

    Notable Cuts: Charles Brown (traded or released outright), Matt Tennant (traded or released outright), Marcel Jones

    DT (5)

    Remi Ayodele

    Brodrick Bunkley

    Sedrick Ellis

    Akiem Hicks

    Tom Johnson

    Notable Cuts: None

    DE (6)

    Braylon Broughton

    Junior Galette

    Cameron Jordan

    Donavan Robinson

    Will Smith

    Martez Wilson

    Notable Cuts: Turk McBride

    LB (5)

    Chris Chamberlain

    Jonathan Casillas

    David Hawthorne

    Curtis Lofton

    Aaron Tevis

    Notable Cuts: Scott Shanle, Will Herring, Nate Bussey

    CB (5)

    Jabari Greer

    Marquis Johnson

    Elbert Mack

    Johnny Patrick

    Patrick Robinson

    Notable Cuts: Corey White 

    S (4)

    Isa Abdul-Quddas

    Roman Harper

    Malcolm Jenkins

    Jerico Nelson

    Notable Cuts: Jonathon Amaya, Johnny Thomas

    Specialists (3)

    Justin Drescher

    Garrett Hartley

    Thomas Morstead