We’re now halfway through the preseason and battles for the bottom roster spots are well underway. Now that the league has moved to only one big cut at the end of the season we’re not going through the paces we were used to with weekly cuts as we whittled down the roster. While this gives the coaches more time to look at each group and every player it also makes the process more difficult to project for those who don’t wear black and gold to work every day.
This is the second version of this roster projection series, and each week we’ll include not only roster projections but hot takes at various positions from our contributors here at Canal Street Chronicles. You can read version one here.
Starter: Drew Brees
Backup: Tom Savage
Backup who runs fast on special teams: Taysom Hill
Even with his poor performance against the Cardinals Taysom still has the final roster spot for quarterbacks due to his play on special teams. While J.T. Barrett had a much better performance at the end of the 4th Quarter in New Orleans against Arizona than he did against Jacksonville he still hasn’t done enough to show he deserves to be protected by the 53 man roster while he develops. Currently he is a practice squad candidate.
Staff Hot Take: Ellias J Williams “The Saints will cut Tom Savage and run with J.T. Barrett and Taysom Hill on the roster.”
Starter(s): Alvin Kamara & Mark Ingram *
Backups: Jonathan Williams, Boston Scott
Fullback: Zach Line, Trey Edmunds
Sean Payton likes the runningback by committee approach, and he get’s to have plenty due to Ingram’s suspension. Right now Jonathan Williams seems to be leading the race for Mark’s snaps in the first four games of the season. The real question is who gets released once Ingram returns. Edmunds has been spending a lot of time in the “Hooman” role as a quasi-fullback/h-back/utility piece. This keeps him safe on the roster for now.
Asterisk - Ingram’s suspension means he doesn’t count against the 53 man roster for the first four games of the season.
Staff Hot Take: Don Kellum “Jonathan Williams performs so well he cuts into Ingram’s touches when he comes back.”
Wide Receivers (5)
Starters: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr, Cameron Meredith
Backups: Tre’Quan Smith, Brandon Tate
Tate through most of his career has been a receiver in name only. He is on the team for special teams; specifically he is currently the team’s top option as punt return and one of the two kick returners. That said we’ve seen the Saints offense bring players into the spotlight that had never previously entered it. Could Tate be that next guy? The four guys ahead of him are a lock for the roster. Be on the lookout for a Brandon Coleman reunion.
Staff Hot Take: Chris Dunnells “WR/RB - Tommylee Lewis is gone. Boston Scott is the new Tommylee Lewis, taking over a return-only special teamer and emergency offensive option.”
Tight End (3)
Starter: Benjamin Watson
Backups: Josh Hill, Dan Arnold
Hooman has stayed injured. Deon Yelder has had flashes, but like many UDFAs he hasn’t been consistent in his first year and seems more practice squad candidate than roster material right now. Griffin, while having some splash plays on special teams, seems to be in the same category as Yelder. Roster spots on this team are precious and a defensive lineman or defensive back could end up simply being more valuable.
Staff Hot Take: John Sigler “Arnold > Yelder. Nuff said.”
Offensive Line (8)
Starters: Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, Ryan Ramczyk
Backups: Jermon Bushrod, Will Clapp, Rick Leonard
Like the defensive line, the offensive line has quite a few athletic prospects seen to have upside, but they aren’t necessarily seen as players who could be starters this season.
Leonard drew the ire of a lot of Saints’ fans on draft night but Pro Football Focus has him listed as the best rookie tackle in terms of pass protection and the second best when blocking for the run. He’s quietly had a good camp and given that several teams apparently were considering drafting him around the same spot the Saints took him New Orleans could look to protect him by keeping him on the roster.
Staff Hot Take: Chris Dunnells “Rick Leonard, Saints fan’s whipping boy on draft day, starts more NFL games in 2018 than Jermon Bushrod.”
Defensive Line (9)
Starters: Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison, Alex Okafor
Backups: Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson, David Onyemata, Devaroe Lawrence, Taylor Stallworth
There are several ways the Saints could go when it comes to their defensive line and there would still be fans split between happiness and sadness. Stallworth provides depth as a run stuffing nose who has shown the short area quickness and agility to provide some pass rush when needed. Most of the players on this list are locks for the roster with arguably only spots eight and nine on this projection even up for debate. Devaroe has continued to prove New Orleans right for keeping him around after his injury issues. Assuming he stays healthy he is in the black and gold in 2018.
Staff Hot Take: Garen “Davenport plays only 35% of total snaps this season due to the ascendance of Trey Hendrickson and Okafor’s solid play”
Starters: Demario Davis, Manti T’eo, A.J. Klein
Backups: Alex Anzalone, Hau’oli Kikaha, Craig Robertson
Guess who’s back (back back), back again? Kikaha’s back, tell a friend. Against Arizone Kikaha played snaps on special teams while also providing depth snaps at defensive end and linebacker. The versatility he’s showing makes him to take off of the roster. The one week fire that was Jayrone Elliot hype has smoldered after the Cardinals game. With two weeks left until cut day the bottom of the linebacker roster is up for grabs.
Staff Hot Take: Ellias J Williams “Kikaha is traded to Greenbay”
Starters: Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, Patrick Robinson
Backups: P.J. Williams, Arthur Maulet, Justin Hardee, Natrell Jamerson
Seven cornerbacks? Four safeties? With the change in kickoff rules coming here in 2018 we
could start seeing rosters devote more space to defensive backs and other skill positions to accommodate the new rules. There are still many questions on how the rules will affect the game, and special teams coordinators are certainly going through their own learning curve, but right now players like Jamerson, Hardee and Maulet all have looked pretty strong.
Staff Hot Take: Bob Rose “Neither PJ or Kikaha make the team. Looks like the 53 man roster might end up with The Clapp.”
Starters: Marcus Williams, Kurt Coleman
Backups: Vonn Bell, Chris Banjo
Safety is one of the few positions on this team where the term depth can’t be liberally applied. Rookie Kamrin Moore has struggled with injures and Rickey Jefferson tore his ACL against the Cardinals. Bell, Coleman and Williams will all likely see significant playing time while Banjo continues to be the special teams contributor he was originally brought in to be.
Staff Hot Take: Chris Conner “Vonn Bell will get cut. He changed his number, and the curse of Corey White still lives on in New Orleans”
Note: Chris wins the Hot Take of the week award. There wasn’t one before, but that was straight fire, as the kids say.
Special Teams (3)
Punter: Thomas Morstead
Kicker: Wil Lutz
Long Snapper: Zach Wood