Saints Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1August 11, 2021
Saints Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1
The New Orleans Saints are dealing with a litany of issues ahead of their first preseason game.
Sean Payton has yet to name a starting quarterback, but that is the least of the team's worries with plenty of other disturbances at other positions.
Wide receivers Michael Thomas and Tre'Quan Smith are sidelined with injuries, which leaves a few inexperienced options as the top healthy options at the position.
On defense, the Saints lost some cornerback depth when Patrick Robinson retired from the NFL on Tuesday. Robinson's departure leaves New Orleans' already thin defensive back depth in a rough position.
If there is any good news for the Saints, it is that they get three chances to see who can slide into those positions on the depth chart, starting with Saturday's clash with the Baltimore Ravens.
Before the injuries to Thomas and Smith happened, Marquez Callaway was expected to be a supporting piece in the passing offense.
With the top two wideouts down for now, Callaway has been thrust into the No. 1 role, and he should see a decent amount of snaps on Saturday.
If Callaway goes into the regular season on top of the depth chart, he needs as many reps as possible to work on his chemistry with whoever starts at quarterback. Jameis Winston is the presumed starter over Taysom Hill, but the two are still in official competition for the place.
Callaway displayed some promising signs during his rookie season, as he caught 21 of the 27 targets sent in his direction.
If he shows a similar level of efficiency during the rest of training camp and in preseason, the Saints should go into Week 1 with a bit more confidence about the position.
Ty Montgomery and Deonte Harris are among the other wideouts to watch, but they could end up in diminished roles if Smith comes back for the season opener.
All Defensive Backs
The only certainty regarding the Saints secondary after Robinson's retirement is Marshon Lattimore should start at one of the cornerback spots.
After that, it seems like an open competition over the next few weeks to provide support for Lattimore and safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams.
Rookie Paulson Adebo could get a share of first-team snaps on Saturday. He was expected to contend for a reserve role out of training camp.
At one point in his collegiate career, Adebo was a projected first-round pick, but injuries and a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic hurt his draft stock.
Veteran defensive backs Prince Amukamara and Ken Crawley should also receive shots to impress, as well as P.J. Williams.
The Saints need to come away from Saturday with some clarity about the position. Even if it is bad news about a player not performing up to expectations, that will help figure out the path forward without Robinson.
The Saints were not expecting to audition a kicker in preseason, but then Wil Lutz's injury happened.
Lutz confirmed on Monday that he will have surgery for a core muscle injury that will keep him out for an extended period of time.
On top of naming a starting quarterback, working on depth at wide receiver and replacing a veteran corner, the Saints now have to find a reliable kicker for likely the first half of the season.
Brett Maher was signed to replace Lutz. He will get his first crack at the position on Saturday. Maher told the team's official website that he is ready to prove his worth on the roster.
"I felt like it was pretty clean on my end," Maher said. "You come here and expect to make kicks, and that's what I did. I'm glad to have the opportunity now to prove myself with this organization and help win some games."
Maher was 49-for-66 on field goals in his two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He hopped around on a few different practice squads in 2020.
Lutz has a 97.3 make percentage on extra points and had an 86.6 percentage on field goals during his first five seasons with the Saints.
Maher needs to be consistent on any kick opportunities he gets against the Ravens to instill more confidence within the Saints coaching staff that he is the man to replace Lutz.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.