Yesterday, we began the 50-day countdown to the first regular season game for the New Orleans Saints, who play in Atlanta on Sunday, September 7th. With free agency, the draft, and Graham's contract situation over, there isn't much to discuss until the preseason begins. So let's get to know a little bit about those players who have signed on to bring home another Lombardi trophy.
One hundred days may have been a bit too long of a countdown for our readers, but neither do we want to forget about those players on the top half of the jersey spectrum. So we'll also be covering player numbers 99 to 51 as we cover the countdown from 49 to 1. Not all of them will make the final 53-man roster, but the whoever is on the roster (and maybe some who aren't) when their numbers come due will at least get a blurb, to help our community become a bit more familiar with the players who have been suiting up in black and gold.
So, with no more ado:
49 DAYS UNTIL ATLANTA!!!
#49: Ty Zimmerman (Safety, Rookie)
Zimmerman, picked up by the Saints in May as an undrafted free agent, joins 2014 sixth-round draft pick Tavon Rooks from the Kansas State Wildcats. After lettering for four years as a quarterback and defensive back in high school -- where he also lettered two years in basketball and baseball -- Zimmerman contributed in a number of ways throughout his four years at Kansas State, where he moved into the starting lineup as a freshman in 2010.
In addition to being a safety skilled at reading offenses, he served on K-State's special teams as both a punt returner and as a very effective punt and kickoff coverage player until suffering a fractured fibula (calf) during his junior year. Despite his injury limiting him to 11 games, he was named third-team All-American by AP and first-team All-Big 12 by AP and the coaches. His senior year, the captain was again named third-team All-American by AP and first-team All-Big 12 by AP and coaches after again playing 11 games... in which he recorded 74 tackles (51 solo), three tackles for a loss, three interceptions, 27 passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Unfortunately, he was limited to eleven games in his senior year due to another late-season leg injury. Those two injuries -- results of on-field action, and not simple stress injuries -- and a shoulder surgery this past January, kept him out of the college postseason, and prevented him from being invited to the combine. Midway through his senior season, he had been pegged as a potential third- or fourth-round pick; so if he can keep from getting injured, he may wind up another great notch on the PayLoo UDFA Champions belt.
#99: Cheta Ozougwu (LB, First-Year Saint)
Drafted by the Houston Texans out of Rice University with the last pick in the last round of the 2011 NFL Draft, defensive end Cheta Ozougwu signed with the Bears one year later, on April 11, 2012. After picking up a half dozen defensive ends this offseason, the Chicago Bears waived Ozougwu in April. A month later, on May 18, 2014, he was picked up by the Saints.
Although he looked good during the 2012 preseason, and made the final 53 man roster in Chicago, Cheta only appeared in nine games over the past two seasons, including the final seven games of 2013. In those final seven games, he registered three solo tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. During his two games the previous season, he had recorded three solo tackles.
If anyone can help this former Mr. Irrelevant make the most of his defensive skills, Rob Ryan can. Cheta was competing against a loaded roster in Chicago, after all. However, given how powerful the Saints defense is already looking, Cheta Ozougwu will have to work hard to make the final roster in New Orleans, as well. That said, he was one of only four players who earned a trip to training camp this week after attending the Saints rookie minicamp on a tryout basis in May.
Former #99: Kenyon Coleman (DE, Retired)
In April 2013, Coleman followed Rob Ryan from the Dallas Cowboys and signed a one-year deal with the Saints. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle from a "freak accident" in training camp, and was placed on the injured reserve list in August. He was replaced by Akiem Hicks, and never had a chance to prove himself in New Orleans.
Coleman retired from football in February.