The New Orleans Saints wrap up the first of their organized team activities (OTA's) today, the first of three workouts the team will have until the beginning of training camp. The Saints will meet again on May 29-31, then June 4-7 for two more rounds of OTA's before mandatory mini-camp from June 12-14. Today, we have a look at four players who surprised some with their preseason performance a year ago to make the roster, but must step up their progression to be a factor on the 2018 New Orleans Saints.
Arthur Maulet, CB
Maulet, a native of Kenner, LA., beat the odds and made his hometown team as an undrafted rookie from Memphis last season. He stood out in the preseason with strong coverage performances and excellent special teams play. Maulet saw action in 6 games during the regular season, mostly on special teams, and expects to be in the mix for more snaps at defensive back this season. He is an aggressive and athletic corner with the man-to-man skills to match up against almost any wideout. He is considered undersized for an outside corner (5'10, 190-lbs.), but makes up for that with explosive leaping ability. Maulet has to work his way through a crowded and talented crew to make this Saints roster again. Reigning defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, and the free agent return of Patrick Robinson likely have the top three corner spots, leaving 2-3 spots up for grabs among a talented group of competitors. Rookie 5th round pick Natrell Jamerson brings special teams explosiveness and the skill to play both safety and slot corner. Sixth round pick Kamrin Moore has an aggressive mentality in coverage, as well as being a standout special teams defender. Linden Stephens surprised many by going undrafted, but brings terrific athleticism and tight coverage skills to the table. Returning veterans P.J. Williams, Justin Hardee, and even De'Vante Harris have all had varying degrees of success during their time with New Orleans. This cornerback battle shapes up as perhaps the most hotly contested position of the entire summer.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE
Muhammad was drafted by the Saints in the 6th round last year out of the University of Miami. He was one of the stars of the 2017 preseason, leading the team with 4 sacks and providing very good pressure off the edge. Muhammad saw limited action in just 4 regular season games, spending the majority of the year inactive. He is a tenacious pass rusher with good strength and an explosive first step on the edge, but must refine his all-around game. His inexperience was particularly evident against the run, often getting caught out of position. Muhammad faces added competition for a roster spot at defensive end this season. The Saints traded up to draft Marcus Davenport with the 14th selection of the 1st round, and last year's starter Alex Okafor is expected to make a full recovery from an Achilles injury that ended his season. George Johnson was re-signed after playing effectively down the stretch of 2017, and the Saints still have hopes that 2015 2nd round pick Hau'oli Kikaha will be able to stay healthy and capitalize on his potential.
Trey Edmunds, RB
Edmunds rushed for 48 yards on 9 carries and played solid special teams, playing in all 16 games as an undrafted rookie for New Orleans last year. With Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games of the regular season, Edmunds will have an opportunity to grab additional carries behind last year's offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara until Ingram's return. He will be among a group of young, but unproven backs like Jonathan Williams, Daniel Lasco, and Boston Scott. Edmunds is a rugged and physical runner between the tackles with decent burst in the open field, and could potentially be effective in short yardage and goal line situations. The Saints have not signed a veteran back in the wake of Ingram's suspension, despite the inexperience. The performance of Edmunds and the other backs currently rostered through OTA's and mini-camp will likely dictate whether the team rolls into the preseason with the backs they have, or if they choose to explore a free agent option.
Travin Dural, WR
Dural made the Saints squad last year as an undrafted rookie from L.S.U. based solely on his athletic potential. He had 4 receptions for 56-yds. during the 2017 preseason, but has good height and terrific deep speed. New Orleans managed to keep him on the practice squad a year ago, in hopes of capitalizing on his potential as a deep threat. He has an uphill battle to win a job at wide receiver. New Orleans already has one of the best in the game in superstar Michael Thomas, along with a productive veteran in Ted Ginn Jr. The Saints then added former Chicago star Cameron Meredith in free agency, and used a 3rd round draft pick to grab a potential star in Tre'quan Smith from Central Florida. They re-signed Brandon Coleman, a big target that quarterback Drew Brees trusts, particularly near the goal line. Rookie free agent Keith Kirkwood caught the eye of coaches in rookie camp, and returning reserves Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr and Josh Huff figure to provide heavy competition as well on a position that may only have one active roster spot up for grabs. With established veterans the likes of Brees, Ingram, and Cam Jordan, it is easy to forget how much youth that the Saints have throughout their roster. Competition for snaps, playing time, and even roster spots will be fierce all summer long, as the Saints look to build depth on a championship caliber roster.
Which Saints player is most likely to hold on to their roster spot from a year ago?
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