Report Card Grades for Every New Orleans Saints Rookie Through Preseason Week 2

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IAugust 20, 2012

Report Card Grades for Every New Orleans Saints Rookie Through Preseason Week 2

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    The New Orleans Saints have played three preseason games in the first two weeks of the preseason. They won the first against the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game, then lost the last two by slim margins to the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. 

    More important than even wins and losses in preseason is how the team plays, especially its newcomers, rookies and other young players. 

    As a whole group, the 2012 class of Saints rookies has been fairly impressive. A number of players are challenging for roster spots and perhaps even playing time. 

    And they're doing that on a team that promises to win 10-plus games and make its fourth consecutive playoff appearance. 

    For as much crap as much of the media (myself included) gave the team for its draft, the rookie class of the Saints so far has looked better than advertised. 

    There have been a few disappointments (Andrew Tiller being placed on IR due to a torn triceps injury stands high above that list), but for the most part, the youngsters have already shown they are only going to improve an already great football team. 

    Enough hearsay though, let's look at each individual rookie thus far and give them a grade. 

DT Akiem Hicks

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    It's almost impossible to take the play of a defensive tackle in preseason and project what that player will do once the regular season commences. 

    Teams game-plan differently, scheme differently and the competition level rises about 10 notches. 

    In Akiem Hicks' case though, it is fair to be excited about the effort the DT has shown through the first three games of the preseason. 

    Hicks has shown a nice motor and a great ability to get after the quarterback. He's doing some nice things in the run game as well. 

    Again it's a limited sample size, and the competition isn't what it will be in the regular season. But Hicks is looking like he has a chance to become a better player than many anticipated when he was drafted 91st overall in the 2012 draft. 

    Grade: B+

WR Nick Toon

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    As a fourth-round pick you are not expected to come in and start;  but you are certainly expected to make the team. 

    At this point, Nick Toon is in potential danger of not making the New Orleans Saints' roster. If he doesn't, it won't be because he isn't talented enough or didn't show great potential; it would simply be a result of not being able to stay healthy. 

    Let's not go too far though. Toon most likely will make the roster because of his great talent level. 

    Grade: Incomplete

CB Corey White

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    No Saints selection drew more ire from draft experts and team observers than Corey White in the fifth round. 

    Yet few players, rookie or otherwise, are having as good of a camp and preseason as White. 

    He still remains near the bottom of the playing depth chart, meaning he is a lock to make the roster but not to play on defense as a rookie. 

    He is well ahead of all other rookie defensive backs on the team though. 

    White looks as if he actually has a clue what he's doing out there, something few predicted. And the confidence he displayed in calling out Drew Brees when he was drafted has stuck. In fact, it may be the primary reason he is playing at a high level. 

    White has a chance to move ahead of Marquis Johnson and Elbert Mack into the dime position with a couple strong preseason outings in the team's final two games. Either way, he has already impressed more than anyone could have expected. 

    Grade: A-

OT Marcel Jones

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    With Charles Brown taking the left tackle reps on the second-team offensive line, Marcel Jones has had the opportunity to grow as a right tackle prospect for the Saints. 

    In fact, he is looking to be the future at the position for this team. 

    Just like with defensive lineman, offensive lineman can be difficult to grade in the preseason because of the overall lack of complexity in the schemes and game planning. But Jones has shown an ability to do the simple things well. 

    That's really all anyone could ask, right? Because of that Jones is a mortal lock for the roster, and probably the future at the right tackle spot for the New Orleans Saints. 

    Grade: B+

RB Travaris Cadet

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    Given the way Travaris Cadet has played so far in the New Orleans Saints' first three preseason games, it's almost unfathomable he was not drafted. 

    In fact, it's hard to understand why he wasn't a day two selection. 

    As with every other position, some enthusiasm needs to be bridled simply because there is a lack of game planning in the preseason; Cadet's brilliance has come at the hands of defenses who are not really focused on stopping him. 

    But Cadet has shown he could handle Darren Sproles' flex back role, should Sproles ever miss any time over the next couple years. 

    And given Pierre Thomas' amazing abilities in tight spaces, Chris Ivory is expendable as the team's "power back." 

    Thus, it is completely realistic to think Cadet could make the roster over Ivory. 

    He's certainly done enough so far to make the conversation exhilarating. 

    Grade: A+

DE Donavan Robinson

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    When Donovan Robinson was signed by the New Orleans Saints after being released by the New York Jets, it seemed like a perfect fit for both parties. 

    Early in the preseason, Robinson's presence was hard to notice. But with each successive game, Robinson has ramped up his game. 

    He was within inches of a sack Friday night against Jacksonville in the closing drive, which eventually led to the winning touchdown for Jordan Palmer. 

    Nonetheless, it is becoming apparent that Robinson could be a key member of the New Orleans Saints' four-man pass rush once the regular season begins. 

    Of course, just like many of the statements made here, there is no guarantee he will become a key member of the team. But if he continues along his current path, he maximizes his chances. 

    Grade: B

S Jose Gumbs

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    Of the Saints' three undrafted rookie safeties, Jose Gumbs has stood out more than any so far in the preseason. 

    That is a bit of a relative statement since again, it's preseason. But Gumbs' has been around the football quite often and made plays. 

    He has also shown an ability to maintain the integrity of the different coverages and play his role of making sure no one gets by him. 

    Is Gumbs going to start, or even play, should he make the team? Well, maybe on special teams. 

    Grade: B+

S Jerico Nelson

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    Expectations were high coming into camp for Destrehan native, Jerico Nelson. Thus far, he has not really lived up to those expectations. 

    He hasn't been awful, even showing glimpses of ability to do his thing Friday night against Jacksonville. 

    But at the end of the day, Nelson is not ready to make the 53-man roster. He must show great improvement over the next two weeks in order to do so. 

    Of course, the Saints could very well decide to sign him to their practice squad on September 2. That option seems most likely at this moment in time. 

    Grade: C-

The Rest

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    RB Joe Banyard

    Has looked really good at times. Shows great feel for the running game. Lacks the explosion and versatility of fellow rookie Travaris Cadet. For that reason alone, he will not make the team. 

    Grade: B-

    LB Kadarron Anderson

    Has played a few snaps. Hasn't been spectacular and there's little reason to think he makes the team. 

    Grade: C-

    DE Braylon Broughton

    Broughton is another guy who came in with high expectations. He has been unnoticeable on the field and does not figure to make the squad. 

    Grade: D

    TE Jake Byrne

    Byrne has hardly played and hasn't done anything to gain more reps. His time with the team is about up unless he pulls a miracle out of his hat. 

    Grade: D

    WR Marques Clark

    A number of receivers have shined this preseason. Clark hasn't been one of them. 

    Grade: D

    OL Hutch Eckerson

    The only time I recall seeing Eckerson on the field was when he was getting burnt. That's not a good sign. 

    Grade: D

    C Brian Folkerts

    Folkerts was in error on a botched snap in the Hall of Fame Game. Hasn't done anything to make up for that since. 

    Grade: D

    DB Nick Hixson

    Doesn't really look the part of a defensive back, especially not a corner. He's unlikely to make the final roster, but he hasn't been in camp long enough to give a fair grade.

    Grade: Incomplete

    WR Derek Moye

    Some, like myself, thought Moye could come in and shine at receiver. He really hasn't, unfortunately. 

    Grade: D

    OL DeOn'tae Pannell

    I kind of hope he doesn't make the roster only because it's a pain to type his name. Seriously though, he has been on the field and done a good job. Probably won't make the roster though. 

    Grade: C+

    OL Aderious Simmons

    Another guy it seems unfair to grade because of lack of exposure. But he hasn't been hurt which means it's due to a lack of quality play in practice.

    Grade: D

    LB Aaron Tevis

    Has been hurt; just came back this week. Will have to show a lot in the next two weeks to earn spot.

    Grade: Incomplete

    S Johnny Thomas

    Has done little to impress in limited playing time. 

    Grade: C-

    DL Tyrunn Walker

    Has seen the field often. He's played adequately but hasn't blown anyone's socks off. 

    Grade: C+