Now that we got through the dress rehearsal game and saw that the starters are picking up right where they left off last season, we can look forward to the last game of the preseason. Many backup spots are still available as a few players are battling it out as final roster cuts loom. Here’s a few that we’re paying close attention to.
Dwayne Washington vs. Devine Ozigbo
The competition for third string running back may not be the most glamorous of position battles, but it is one of the tightest competitions. The incumbent Washington has proven his ability to contribute on special teams, but doesn’t offer much upside as a runner or receiver out of the backfield. Against the Jets he had two dropped passes, and last week against the Los Angeles Chargers had a pass bounce off his hands go for an interception.
Ozigbo, an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska, has shown a willingness to fight for extra yards and good decision making as a runner.
He’s also shown the ability to create explosive plays and make defenders miss when given the ball in space.
Since the first preseason game Ozigbo has seen his snap count steadily increase each week (9, 22, 28 respectively) not only on offense, but more importantly on special teams (9 in Week 1 compared to 15 in Week 3).
This bodes well for his chances to make the 53-man roster, as Washington has been a key member of both special team units, but may be out of a job soon if Ozigbo continues to show his versatility.
Dan Arnold vs. A.J. Derby
Another third string position battle, this one just heated up with Garrett Griffin getting his ankle rolled on and being carted off the sideline. While Arnold is a flex tight end and Derby is more of a traditional inline end the team may not be able to keep both based on the amount of depth at other positions, especially wide receiver.
Arnold is entering his third season in the NFL where he came in as a UDFA and shortly after converted from wide receiver to tight end. There’s been plenty of growing pains for the 6’6” tight end, most notably a number of dropped passes, both last season and this preseason.
Despite this, Arnold led all tight ends in snaps against the Jets with 29 and made the most of his extended playing time. On six targets he was able to make five receptions for 83 yards after a failing to make a single catch against the Chargers.
Derby meanwhile has been in the league for five years and has bounced around between four different teams. Unlike Arnold, Derby converted from quarterback to tight end while in college at Arkansas and has more experience lining up inline and being used in the run game.
While the stat sheet may only show one reception against the Jets, he had another nice grab erased by a penalty as well as a tackle on special teams.
Rookie Alize Mack may still have a shot at making the team, but with missing so much time this preseason he looks to be a good candidate for the practice squad.
Its possible the Saints keep four tight ends, but with the depth at wide receiver they may be forced to keep only three. If so, Arnold and Derby have one more game to convince the coaches they can help the team.