We are now entering the final week of the preseason with roster cuts looming. The past two years have been fun to watch because of how deep the talent has been on the roster. This year has been more of the same with several players making names for themselves in training camp. However, some of them do not translate their practice mentality when the lights come on which changes the perspective of the roster chess match. The Saints finish the preseason on Thursday against the Dolphins and will have a plethora of choices to make.
Here is how I feel the roster will shape out come August 31st:
Drew Brees | Teddy Bridgewater | Taysom Hill
Analysis: Easy selections. Brees is the leader, Bridgewater is the backup and Hill is the utility athlete on the team.
Special Teams (3)
Wil Lutz (K) | Thomas Morstead (P) | Zach Wood (LS)
Analysis: Another set of easy selections. Lutz has been phenomenal which earned him a new contract. Morstead has been outstanding since 2009. Wood has been consistent and continues to shine.
Running Backs (4)
Alvin Kamara | Latavius Murray | Dwayne Washington | Zach Line (FB)
Analysis: Kamara and Murray are the main factors guaranteed. Line is one of the few fullbacks in the league who makes an impact on his team while also contributing on special teams. I gave Washington the 3rd back spot because of his veteran experience as well as contribution to special teams. Although, Devine Ozigbo could steal the spot with an impressive final game, but also should warrant a practice squad signing.
Demario Davis | Alex Anzalone | A.J. Klein | Craig Robertson | Kaden Elliss | Vince Biegel
Analysis: The trio of Davis, Anzalone and Klein seem to get better every game. Biegel has shown capability to be a backup as well as a main contributor on special teams. Elliss has been impressive as a rookie and has great character and showed why the Saints drafted him. Robertson is a special teams captain and valuable reserve. However, his spot is in limbo with an undisclosed injury which would open the spot for Colton Jumper, Josh Martin and newly signed Will Compton. At the least, Jumper has earned a spot on the practice squad.
Offensive Line (8)
Terron Armstead (T) | Andrus Peat (G) | Erik McCoy (C) | Larry Warford (G) | Ryan Ramczyk (T) | Nick Easton (C/G) | Will Clapp (C/G) | Marshall Newhouse (T/G)
Analysis: The only change to the starting five is McCoy who has taken the reigns after Max Unger retired at the beginning of the off-season. Easton should fill the role of the swing lineman, similar to how Senio Kelemete was used during his tenure. Newhouse is a veteran who gives the team more comfort if any injuries may occur. Clapp gets the edge over Cameron Tom given that he does have experience at tackle from his college days at LSU. Between the two of them, it is a toss up and would have to hope they clear waivers to stash them on the practice squad.
Defensive Line (8)
Cam Jordan (DE) | Sheldon Rankins (DT)* | David Onyemata (DT) | Malcom Brown (DT) | Marcus Davenport (DE) | Trey Hendrickson (DE) | Taylor Stallworth (DT) | Mario Edwards, Jr. (DE/DT)
Analysis: Given that we do not have much information on Rankins’ progression, he has not been designated for the PUP list. If he does get placed, I could see a guy like Shy Tuttle earning a spot on the roster, let alone the practice squad. Edwards has not played much but we hope his injury is not serious. If he may miss some time, Wes Horton is also a candidate given his experience. Porter Gustin should warrant a practice squad spot also with his motor and potential.
Tight Ends (4)
Jared Cook | Josh Hill | Dan Arnold | A.J. Derby
Analysis: Cook is the missing piece to the Saints offense and should open up a lot of opportunities for everyone else. Hill has been a solid role player his entire tenure which earned him an extension. The 3rd spot was the most difficult after the games that Arnold and Derby had respectively. Given the depth at the tackle position, keeping both serves a purpose for the regular season and can interchange game by game. Alize Mack should be signed to the practice squad to develop his game after missing time. Garrett Griffin suffered an injury that also hurt his odds but the Saints could place him on injured reserve.
Marshon Lattimore (CB) | Eli Apple (CB) | Marcus Williams (S) | Vonn Bell (S) | Patrick Robinson (CB) | C.J. Gardner-Johnson (S) | P.J. Williams (CB) | Justin Hardee (CB) | Chris Banjo (S) | Saquan Hampton (S)
Analysis: The biggest factor with this unit is versatility. Outside of the four starters, everyone can play multiple positions at their respective spots as well as contribute on special teams. Hampton impressed early in camp but has not seen the game field since Week 1 due to injury. If he is placed on injured reserved, it will open an opportunity for Ken Crawley or J.T. Gray. Both of them had great games against the Jets and made strong cases for a spot.
Wide Receivers (7)
Michael Thomas | Ted Ginn, Jr. | Tre’Quan Smith | Keith Kirkwood | Austin Carr | Emmanuel Butler | Deonte Harris
Analysis: Thomas got paid and keeps showing us why he earned it. Smith has been much improved with a lot of extra work in camp. Carr has earned the trust from Brees as well as had good flashes this off-season. Butler was the talk of camp with comparisons to Marques Colston, therefore you can not take the chance of having him slip away. Harris stamped his spot with a punt return touchdown against the Jets and always seems to be a threat. With Marcus Sherels injured, he took advantage of the extra reps and made him expendable.
The only question mark with Kirkwood is injury concerns. Last year, he was injured during camp even though he was making some noise. This year, it is the same story and could potentially lead to a guy like Cyril Grayson or Simmie Cobbs earning a spot instead. Barring he stays healthy, the latter choices have done enough to get a shot at the practice squad.