With a new 3-4 defensive system in place and the return of Sean Payton, this may be the most interested that I have ever been in a preseason as a Saints fan. So many interesting prospects, and so many question marks. This team isn't afraid to take chances on UDFAs or bench high salary guys if it means putting the best team on the field. It's one of the many things that I love about the Sean Payton era. So here are 10 players that have my interest so far.
1) Nick Toon. I actually hoped for and got this pick in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. After that pick was made, I was hopeful that the 2012 season could be one where Toon would replace Meachem as a solid possession WR, who has the ability to go and get the occasional deep ball. Should be interesting to see if Toon plays well enough to compete with Morgan for snaps or if he tries to hold on to a spot by competing with Stills.
2) Terron Armstead. Here is something to keep in mind. Charles Brown, 8 starts in 3 years. Zach Strief, 30 starts in 7 years. Jason Smith, 26 starts in 4 years. None of the three have proven to be consistent starters in this league and none of the three prove they can stay healthy. While Armstead is looked at as being a year away, some would debate that he may actually be the most talented tackle on the roster right now. I think he has a shot to impress and start right away, should be interesting to watch.
3) Chase Thomas. The buzz about the UDFA seems to be just as big as the two 3rd round picks. I missed day 3 of the draft because I was attending this: http://lineup.festivalinternational.com/. (By the way, the music is free. I suggest coming down to Lafayette if you're nearby and hear music from other cultures, check out interesting arts and crafts, and enjoy a pretty solid party atmosphere. I got to see the Wailers for free, that was pretty cool) Anyways, I knew Chase was talented, but didn't expect for him to go undrafted. Very nice pick up, very anxious to see how well he competes for a tough OLB position. Lots of competition there, but I do like his chances.
4) Kevin Reddick. A lot of buzz about this guy too. Another UDFA that was projected in the 4th or 5th rounds. He was a 4 year starter, but I've seen concerns about his range and awareness on some plays. The ILB spot has less competition than the OLB spot, so that will help. But a guy like Chris Chamberlain (when healthy) will push him for a spot based upon his special teams ability. Reddick will have to contribute there if he wants to win a spot.
5) John Jenkins. Will he be a full time NT? Will he split reps with Hicks or will Hicks move to DE for the majority of plays? Will Jenkins play some DE? I'm just hoping he helps the run defense, no matter how much he's on the field. Bunkley has been a forgotten man in many of the recent posts concerning the DL. I actually think Bunkley could be better in Ryan's system. How much will Jenkins prove in preseason?
6) Kenny Stills. I like this kid. If he decides to mature and be an NFL player and not some cross dressing attention whore, he has all the ability to be a Saints WR. I like Toon, but I think that Stills fits in very well with this system. He could end up being a nice find in the 5th round.
7) Keenan Lewis. Most of us (myself included) already crowned him as the #1 CB. Dick Lebeau is not on that sideline. He is no longer a Pittsburgh Steeler. I hope he comes out and proves to be what I believe he can be. A top notch corner. I still love this signing and really hope he isn't a disappointment.
8) Will Smith. Oh where oh where will Big Willie end up? Does he start over a 3-4 veteran in Kenyon Coleman or the loser of the starting NT sweepstakes between Jenkins/Hicks/Bunkley? Does he go to OLB to compete with Wilson, Galette, Vilma, Thomas? Or does he keep the bench warm while getting PAID?
9) Rod Sweeting. Could the Saints keep SIX safeties while keeping 4 CBs? Doesn't seem likely, but it isn't a crazy thought. If the Saints plan to use Vaccaro/Jenkins in some nickel situations, it could pay off to keep Vaccaro, Jenkins, Harper, Abdul Qaddus, Bush, and Leonhard while holding on to Lewis, Greer, PRob, White. The #5 CB spot is wide open, so I like the ability of Sweeting to take that spot if the Saints decide not to carry those 6 safeties. Besides, 4 CBs to start a season would be risky if one of them are hurt.
10) Ryan Griffin. What an opportunity. He comes into a situation where he can sit behind one of the best QBs in football if he beats out a guy who didn't have a team last year and a journeyman who has been awful for most of his career. Griffin will have to take advantage of his limited opportunity. Wallace and McCown may be playing for their careers here because time is running short for the two of them. Griffin will have o make an excellent impression to make the team, but if he does, the Saints secure a cheap backup option with an opportunity to grow and become a decent backup.
Who are you watching this preseason? Who is the guy that you would like to see blow up, or the guy who simply interests you?