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Six Saints veterans who must stand out against the Chargers

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It may not be make-or-break yet for some players fighting for a job, but it's getting close.

Aug 15: NFL Training Camp Rams Saints Photo by Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints take the field this evening against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second preseason contest for both teams. The two engaged in joint practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, in a clash of two of the NFL's top Super Bowl favorites. Just three practice days remain before the Saints officially break training camp, and there are only 14 days before the league mandated cut-down day to 53 rostered players. Game three of the preseason is typically used as a dress rehearsal for most teams' starting units, meaning there is little time left for some players to make an impression on coaches. For veterans in particular, this 2nd preseason game may represent one of the final chances they have to cement a roster spot. Here are a few established Saints veterans to keep a close eye on in this game against Los Angeles, that have either had up and down training camps or are in a fierce battle for their position.

Dan Arnold, tight end

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Arnold has already been under intense scrutiny from New Orleans faithful because of a key drop of a touchdown pass in last season's NFC Championship game. His high effort stretch for a touchdown reception last week against Minnesota was overshadowed by a botch of an easy reception that led to a pick-six interception return by the Vikings. Those two plays highlighted the young tight end's maddening inconsistency, as he continues to at times look lost in the open field. Not a good sign for a player who adds little as a blocker, but stuck on the roster last season due to his athleticism as a receiver. Now, with Jared Cook locked in at starter and Josh Hill's blocking skills securing the number two job, Arnold's job appears in serious jeopardy. The team used a seventh round draft choice on athletic project Alize Mack, although he has missed time with injury. They also signed veteran journeyman A.J. Derby, who is a versatile blocker with some good receiving ability.

Michael Ola, offensive tackle

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Ola was part of an unimpressive performance by the backup tackles last week that included Marshall Newhouse and Ulrick John. The player that performed best out of the three, John, was injured during the game, causing the team to waive him from injured reserve during the week with a settlement. That prompted the Saints to sign veteran Chris Clark, who has started 66 games in his nine seasons, including 13 last year with the Carolina Panthers. The 31-yr. old Ola appeared in seven games last year with New Orleans, including 1 start, but is now in a a tight battle for his job at a key spot for the Saints. Starting left tackle Terron Armstead has never played a full season in his six year career, and has missed 21 of the last 48 games with injury. The contingency plan for New Orleans is to usually move left guard Andrus Peat outside to tackle should something happen to either Armstead or right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, but the Saints need proven depth at tackle nonetheless.

Will Clapp, guard/center

NFL: AUG 03 Saints Training Camp Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clapp has actually had a good preseason so far, and has generally performed well since being drafted in the seventh round in 2018. Unfortunately for him though, he is fighting for a spot at a deep and talented position. Guards Peat and Larry Warford are set, and rookie 2nd round pick Erik McCoy has all but clinched the starting center spot. Free agent signee Nick Easton has had a good camp, and can play any of the interior positions. The final inside lineman spot may come down to either Clapp or Cameron Tom, and could possibly force the coaches to move on from a talented player.

Ken Crawley, cornerback

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

What a far drop from grace for Crawley, who started 13 games in 2017 and looked like a solid compliment to Marshon Lattimore. It surprised many when the team re-signed the restricted free agent this offseason, after a putrid performance last year that led to a benching before midseason. Crawley has had some solid practices in training camp, but continues to be highly inconsistent in coverage, at times getting beat badly. Offseason free agent addition Kayvon Webster has been impressive at times, and had a solid coverage outing against the Vikings last week. Special teams leader Justin Hardee is also making his case for a role as a backup corner. The 26-yr. old Crawley would seem to need an impressive game against the Chargers and here on out to keep his job for a fourth season with the Saints.

P.J. Williams, cornerback

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Williams, along with Crawley, is among a handful of players involved in what is still a pretty open competition to fill out the cornerback spot behind starters Lattimore and Eli Apple. Williams played much better after a lousy start to the season a year ago when he took on primarily a slot coverage role. He does continue to struggle though when he moves into outside coverage, something on display last week against the Vikings. Williams shares slot coverage responsibilities with veteran Patrick Robinson, who also tends to struggle outside. Williams has had a better camp so far than Robinson, but both may be falling behind rookie safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who has looked outstanding when moving up into slot coverage. It seems unfathomable that the Saints would move on from both Williams and Robinson because of their experience. It does seem increasingly possible though that at least one could miss out on a roster spot if they continue their inconsistent play, with the other competition at the position.

Chris Banjo, safety

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

One safety has already been mentioned, with Gardner-Johnson as possibly having a major role in the Saints defense. Another rookie, sixth round pick Saquan Hampton, has also had an outstanding training camp and looks like he is carving out a role in this secondary. Banjo has had a quiet preseason so far, although he is one of the team's top special teamers and has provided secondary depth for two seasons. He could be beat out for the final safety spot by second year player J.T. Gray, who surprised many by sticking on the roster a year ago. Gray is a solid prospect who also plays well on special teams, and played extensively against Minnesota last week.

Aug 15: NFL Training Camp Rams Saints Photo by Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A deep New Orleans Saints roster still has several spots up for grabs. Many that will be fought for through the fourth preseason game and up to the league's August 31st roster deadline. The job stability of some players may not hinge solely on a good performance against the Chargers tonight, but a poor game could put some players squarely on the roster bubble, or help secure a spot with a good outing. For some players who have even been contributors to a Saints team that has gone 26-10 over the last two seasons, their best chance towards continuing a career in New Orleans may very well be this evening.

Poll

Which of these players need to have a big game against the Chargers?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Dan Arnold
    (133 votes)
  • 5%
    Michael Ola
    (26 votes)
  • 5%
    Will Clapp
    (23 votes)
  • 31%
    Ken Crawley
    (137 votes)
  • 12%
    P.J. Williams
    (57 votes)
  • 12%
    Patrick Robinson
    (55 votes)
  • 2%
    Chris Banjo
    (10 votes)
441 votes total Vote Now