New Orleans Saints training camp is back and in full swing. Well, technically we’re in the early stages without pads, but with things kicking off on Thursday, it means we’re that much closer to black and gold football returning.
It goes without saying that there’s a lot at stake for the vast majority of the 90-man roster right now. A good bit of last year’s players will be pushed with New Orleans getting better depth as a team. Here’s a few players to keep a close watch on as we roll through the next month and some change, as they are some underdogs to root for.
Loewen was turning heads in last year’s training camp, and was an early favorite of The Advocate’s Nick Underhill. Loewen was making plays in practice and was standing out some in the preseason, which in turn helped him make the 53-man roster. Unfortunately, a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 2’s lost against the Patriots shelved Loewen for 2017.
Reports from mid-June had Loewen back to full health, and it showed during minicamp. Loewen might get lost in the shuffle when looking over the team’s defensive line depth, but will likely be one of those who put his strong work ethic out on full display during practice. While he’s most notably become a hero in the city of New Orleans from saving a man that was trapped in a car that plunged from a CBD garage, he’s an easy one to root for.
Without Senio Kelemete, the Saints have a glaring need for their sixth offensive lineman. Could John Fullington become that guy? While Andrus Peat will undoubtedly be the team’s starting left guard, it’s worth noting that Fullington has been in with the first team. Now, before you’re ready to crown Fullington, understand that the Saints also could use Cameron Tom or rookies Will Clapp and Rick Leonard in that spot.
However, Fullington has been around the organization since September 2016, and even got promoted to the team’s active roster at the end of the season last year. The former undrafted Washington State product could get his chance to shine and at worst-case become an important reserve/depth piece for the Saints.
While we know the Saints will be without Mark Ingram for the first four games of the season, it leaves a lot of speculation as to who will help shoulder the running back load alongside Alvin Kamara. Jonathan Williams, rookie Boston Scott, and even veterans Shane Vereen and Terrance West are getting the main attention for playing time, but don’t forget about Trey Edmunds.
Edmunds had plenty of moments during last year’s training camp and preseason, but it was ultimately the special teams play which got him onto the final roster. If he can continue shining there, then there’s little to no reason that he doesn’t make the team again and warrant conversation for being the team’s second or third option behind Kamara. That little run against the vaunted Buffalo Bills run defense was pretty nice last season.
With the Saints signing Cameron Meredith in the offseason and then drafting UCF’s Tre-Quan Smith in the third round, presumably there’s only one spot up for grabs in the receiving corps. Michael Thomas is the unquestioned No. 1 option for the Saints, while Ted Ginn Jr. looks to continue proving that age is only a number. Assuming Smith is the real deal, catches on, and makes the plays (Spoiler alert: He is already), then that could make it interesting if New Orleans rolls with just five wide receivers.
Along with Austin Carr, Brandon Coleman (who starts training camp on the PUP list) and Tommylee Lewis lead the next tier of receivers vying for a roster spot. Of course, there are other guys on the roster looking to make their mark, and history has shown that the undrafted rookies have a spot on the Saints. Carr was originally claimed off waivers from the Patriots in early September of last season, and would remain on the team’s active roster throughout 2017, only being active in one regular season game. He also got the call for the playoff game we all would love to forget against the Vikings.
Head Coach Sean Payton was quick to point out his route running, hands, ability to catch in traffic, and the fact the team tracked him from his Northwestern days when he was originally claimed. Perhaps we get to see more of what Payton preached about during training camp.
Maulet appeared in six games for the Saints in 2018 after being one of the players fans increasingly started rooting for during training camp. His New Orleans roots made it easy for people to get into his corner, and now he’s fighting for a spot on the team. Perhaps a blessing from Secondary Coach Aaron Glenn is a good sign for Maulet,
Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, and the reuniting with Patrick Robinson should be what the Saints roll with as their top cornerback depth, which in turn leaves Maulet to fight it out with P.J. Williams, Justin Hardee, De’Vante Harris, and rookies Natrell Jamerson, Kamrin Moore, and Linden Stephens. It would appear Maulet has really good odds.