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Saints’ nickel corner spot up for grabs at camp

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Not everyone hates Nickelback.

NFL: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints The Advertiser-USA TODAY NETWORK

There are a lot of interesting roster position battles for the New Orleans Saints this year. Long snapper, #2 wide receiver, #3 wide receiver, center, back-up offensive linemen, and kick returner are all wide open for the taking this year. So too is the nickel corner spot on defense.

Bleacher Report, in determining the “biggest spot up for grabs” on each NFL team’s roster, decided the nickel corner was the “biggest” spot available:

The New Orleans Saints have their starting cornerbacks in Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple. However, there should be an open job at nickelback this season and a few potential candidates to fill it.

Patrick Robinson started eight games for the Saints in 2017 but suffered a broken ankle after just three appearances last season. P.J. Williams took over and started seven games, but he could face discipline for an offseason DWI arrest.

According to Olivia Prentzel of NOLA.com, Williams pleaded not guilty in February, but players don’t need to admit guilt or be prosecuted to be in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

Also in the mix at cornerback for the Saints is rookie fourth-round pick Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Though he’s more of a safety than a cornerback, teams frequently deploy three safeties in sub-packages, and Gardner-Johnson could carve out a significant role.

Between Patrick Robinson, PJ Williams, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, the Saints will surely find one of the three to fill out the role in the slot. If I had to guess, Patrick Robinson starts the year as the primary slot corner with PJ Williams suspended or serving as the first backup in the event of injury, and as the season goes on, CGJ slowly takes more and more snaps away from PRob.

That being said, I think I disagree with Bleacher Report’s assessment that this spot on defensive in the “biggest” spot up for grabs on the 2019 Saints. Considering the DWI of Williams, the money invested in Robinson, and the fact that CGJ is a rookie, I’m not sure there is honestly much of a competition there to start camp.

I would label the Saints #2/#3 wide receiver as the biggest spot up for grabs. With Michael Thomas firmly entrenched as the Saints #1 wide receiver, many expect Ted Ginn Jr. to be the de facto #2 in 2019. However, Ginn is 34 years old and on the downside of his career - not to mention the fact that Ginn was forced to miss significant time due to injury in 2018. Speaking of injury, you also have the enigmatic Cameron Meredith vying for the spot, plus a bevy of largely underwhelming names like Keith Kirkwood, Tre’Quan Smith, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Rishard Matthews, and Emmanuel Butler all trying to snap a spot in the receiving corps.