The New Orleans Saints have had one of the league's elite offenses for most of Sean Payton's thirteen year tenure as head coach. Much of the reason for this is of course due to quarterback Drew Brees, imaginative game planning, and an accomplished offensive line. New Orleans has often been deep at the skill positions as well, allowing Brees the freedom to spread the ball all over the field. The Saints have star power with Michael Thomas at receiver, Alvin Kamara at running back, and now Jared Cook at tight end. There are a handful of young players who will be competing hard for spots on the 2019 roster though, and here are a few who could be surprise cuts
Dwayne Washington, running back
Washington was signed early last season after being waived by Detroit to provide depth behind Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram at running back. He rushed for 154 yards on the year, 108 of which came during the season finale against Carolina. Washington is a tough between the tackles runner at 6'1 223-lbs., and will once again be vying for a backup spot to provide insurance. The Saints have one of the better duos at running back in the league with Kamara and Latavius Murray, who was signed to a free agent deal after the departure of Ingram. Washington could be pushed though, especially by Devine Ozigbo, a versatile and sharp cutting back from Nebraska who went undrafted. Ozigbo has a similar running style to Ingram, and New Orleans has had success with undrafted talent at the running back spot before under Sean Payton.
Josh Hill, tight end
Hill will be entering his seventh season with New Orleans after joining them as an undrafted rookie from Idaho State. He has 83 career receptions for 799 yards and 11 scores, but his biggest value to the offense is his outstanding blocking ability. Hill had a career best 185 receiving yards last year, and matched his career high with 16 catches, but he provides little threat as a downfield receiving option. New Orleans lost veteran tight end Benjamin Watson to a (brief) retirement after the season, but upgraded the receiving skills at this spot with the free agent signing of Jared Cook. The Saints also added athletic tight end Alize Mack from Notre Dame with a 7th round draft pick. While 7th round picks are far from sure bets, Mack brings a versatile skillset and natural athleticism that could pencil him in as a future starter. Hill's blocking ability and short yardage receiving skills should make him tough to displace from the roster. If Mack and Cook both represent themselves well as blockers though, then the coaches could see Hill as expendable, while they instead continue to develop a younger Dan Arnold for his receiving ability as a third tight end.
Cameron Meredith, wide receiver
Meredith was signed as a free agent last offseason away from Chicago, where he missed all of 2017 with a devastating knee injury. Unfortunately for the Saints, Meredith was clearly not fully recovered from the injury, and caught just 9 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown before being placed on injured reserve after just six games. Before the injury, the now 26-yr. old Meredith was developing into one of the better young receivers in the league. He had 66 receptions for 888 yards and 4 scores in 2016 with the Bears despite poor quarterback play. Meredith has good size at 6'3 207-lbs., and plays physically while running sharp and precise intermediate routes. New Orleans renegotiated Meredith's contract prior to free agency, but he could still find himself on the roster bubble if not fully healthy, given the number of other physical intermediate targets at the disposal of quarterback Drew Brees.
Ted Ginn Jr., wide receiver
A release of the veteran Ginn would be a shock, but stranger things have happened to the Saints receiving corps during the preseason. Ginn missed all but five games in 2018 with a knee injury, and finished with 17 receptions for 209 yards and two scores. A 34 year old vet entering his 13th season, Ginn appeared to still have his gamebreaking speed upon his return to the lineup. Although his route running has been more precise than expected during his two seasons with the Saints, Ginn is most feared for his blazing speed and deep ball abilities. If he were to have lost a step due to age or injury, it's entirely possible that Ginn could be surpassed by one of the younger receivers in camp, potentially putting his roster spot in jeopardy. Second year wideout Tre'Quan Smith is probably the next fastest receiver on the roster currently, and Smith showed flashes of deep threat ability in 2017.
Keith Kirkwood, wide receiver
Kirkwood latched on to a roster spot as an undrafted rookie from Temple a year ago. He was promoted to the active roster around midseason, and had 13 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns over the final 8 games. He's a big (6'3, 210-lb) wideout with good route running ability and underrated athleticism. Kirkwood seemed to be a more consistent and trusted target for Brees down the stretch of the year than fellow rookie receiver Tre'quan Smith, who was taken with a 3rd round pick. Given Smith's higher draft pedigree, it's likely that he would be given a greater chance to prove himself, but either he or Kirkwood could be in jeopardy if they don't show improvement from their rookie years that showed flashes, but not consistent production.
Coach Sean Payton and staff felt comfortable enough with their existing wideouts that they chose not to use a draft pick on one despite a seemingly deep crop of pass catchers. The Saints did sign undrafted Lil Jordan Humphrey from Texas though, who was projected to be selected in the middle rounds before a poor showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Humphrey has great size at 6'4 225-lbs., is a sharp route runner with excellent hands and good open field running skills. His skillset could be perfect for the Saints offensive scheme, and could push Meredith, Kirkwood, or even Smith who possess similar traits out of a roster spot.
Which Saints offensive player could be in roster jeopardy this summer?
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Ted Ginn Jr.