Next up in our early examination of the Saints 2009 roster is what was arguably the weakest position on the team last year: safety. We'll go through all of the players battling it out for a spot but it's safe to say that no matter what happens during training camp, this years safety corp will look drastically different than last years. To quote Martha Stewart...that's a good thing.
To get started let's make sure we are all on the same page. Here is who the Saints have competing for a safety spot so far this season:
I'm thinking Payton will only keep four safeties on the roster. With six players currently vying for a spot, two will have to go.
You'll notice that I have included Usama Young on this list because last we heard, Payton is planning on moving him to safety. When asked at a recent press conference whether Young will switch to safety, Payton had this to say...
"That's kind of the direction we're headed. The thought process for us now is moving Usama back there. We haven't really announced it. I've had a chance to talk with him about three weeks ago about that possibility and I think that's something we want to do."
Usama just hasn't worked out at cornerback as well as I think the Saints would have hoped. With much more depth at cornerback now (I know, I can't believe I just said that either) making it as a safety may be Young's last chance to stay on the team. His special teams play could be his savior.
Darren Sharper is unequivocally the leader of this unit and probably the only player who is a lock to make the team. If he can stay healthy Sharper should still have plenty left in the tank to really transform the Saints secondary. Whether he's a starter or not, Sharper's experience and leadership will still be incredibly valuable to the younger players on the team.
The only returning starter from the 2008 season is Roman Harper but he is no sure thing in 2009. Harper hasn't made as big an impact as we all would have liked but many blame Gary Gibbs' system. With new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams now in charge, some speculate this could be Roman's breakout season. This one could really go either way.
I haven't seen much on Pierson Prioleau but having followed Gregg Williams around the NFL like some crazy stalker means he comes in with knowledge of the new system which should give him a leg up when training camp starts this summer. Probably not a starter, Prioleau definitely gives the Saints depth, will play in "dime" situations and is also an ace on special teams, having led the Jaguars special teams unit with 22 tackles. He probably makes the team.
Chris Reis has always impressed coaches with his high motor and special teams play in training camp but Reis might now be on the outside looking in. All of the upgrades to the safety position have really put pressure on Reis who now will have an uphill climb to make this team.
The buzz around draft pick Chip Vaughn is very exciting but nothing is a sure thing. Payton has proven that he's not affraid to cut a fourth round draft pick (see: Antonio Pittman) if he gets out played. I'm certainly not expecting him to be a starter but I would hope to see him taking reps with the second team. Anything more would just be a bonus.
This ought to be one of the more interesting competitions during training camp. Safety has been the Achilles heal of the Saints defense for years so all eyes will be on these guys to finally help change that. With a bevy of new players and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams bringing with him a new system, the door is wide open for anyone and everyone. Special teams might be the deciding factor.
Who do you think is gonna make it?