Tuesday by 4:00 PM ET, teams around the NFL will have cut their rosters from 80 players to 53. After a wise decision to cancel the final preseason game in preparation for Hurricane Ida, the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals will have to do so with only two preseason games under their belt. While that hurricane is squarely on our minds, here is a projection ahead of the 53-man roster cut-down in the hopes of bringing you something else to think about for a moment.
Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Ian Book
This one’s obvious, of course. I chose Ian Book here over Trevor Siemian because Book has the higher ceiling of the two if ever called upon because of his mobility. Also, he’s the only quarterback on the Saints roster signed beyond the 2021 season at the moment..
Running Back (5)
Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington, Alex Armah (FB)
I’m not sold on the struggles of Latavius Murray after the Saints’ two preseason games. I am, however, sold on Tony Jones Jr.’s progress. I don’t usually buy in on over-performing Saints running backs in the preseason thanks to the history of players such as Devine Ozigbo and Boston Scott. But what Jones showed not only as a rusher bus as a pass-blocker and pass-catcher combined his practice squad experience makes him the exception. The Saints have taken hits all over their special teams unit, hanging on to Dwayne Washington seems smart. Alex Armah is the only fullback left on the roster after Sutton Smith was moved on from recently.
Wide Receiver (6)
Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Ty Montgomery, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Easop Winston Jr. (Michael Thomas injured)
Callaway is without question the number one guy in town following his performance which led him to be the highest graded player across the NFL this preseason. Averaging over 20 yards per catch certainly doesn’t hurt either. Tre’Quan Smith has been hurt but is expected to be back for the first week fo the season. He’ll immediately slot in as a contributor. Deonte Harris is an interesting one. Many of us expect a suspension following his summer DUI arrest, but there’s not telling when that will happen. For instance, in 2019, P.J. Williams was arrested for a DWI in January, but not suspended until October.
The rest of this position fills out with players who can contribute in multiple ways. Ty Montgomery has a quietly good preseason focusing at receiver, but can contribute in a variety of ways if needed. Both Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Easop Winston Jr. can contribute to special teams while adding depth at reception.
Tight End (3)
Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, Nick Vannett
The expectation is that Nick Vannett will miss some time to open the season. However, it doesn’t seem like he’ll miss enough to warrant going on injured reserve. However, if that does become the case for any reason, Garrett Griffin or Ethan Wolf could potentially start the season on the roster. Still some question marks around Adam Trautman’s availability to start the season as well. While the initial reports share that he avoided major injury, that doesn’t mean he won’t miss time. Could be another candidate to potentially start on injured reserve after making the roster as well, which carries only a three-game minimum again in 2021.
Offensive Line (9)
Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk, James Hurst, Calvin Throckmorton, Landon Young, Will Clapp
The Saints’ starting offensive line is one of the best in the league, particularly when it comes to pass blocking. In fact, even some of the depth pieces can add to that claim. The unit provided PFF’s highest pass blocking grade across the NFL over the preseason.
The starting five of this unit are simple. As for the depth, it’s all about versatility. James Hurst has been the sixth-man the Saints love on the offensive line since last season and can also play back tackle spots. Calvin Throckmorton can play just about every where, 2021 rookie out of Kentucky Landon Young had a very successful two games in the preseason, and veteran Will Clapp provides depth at center.
Defensive Line (9)
Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Roach, Christian Ringo, Marcus Davenport, Payton Turner, Carl Granderson, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Shy Tuttle, Albert Huggins (David Onyemata Suspended)
This might have been the most impressive unit for the Saints this offseason due to the lack of expectation around it. There were some major concerns after losing key pieces on the interior over the offseason in addition to David Onyemata’s suspension. Add on the loss of Trey Hendrickson who had 13.5 sacks last season and there were several angles to consider concern here. However, Marcus Davenport looks to have turned a corner this offseason, Cam Jordan looks healthy, and young players like Christian Ringo and Malcolm Roach have stepped up.
Losing Jalen Dalton recently was another big blow, but the development skills of defensive line and assistant head coach Ryan Nielsen have been remarkable. Each time the team loses a piece, another player steps right up. This unit looks like it will start off stronger than expected, and only get better once David Onyemata returns from his six-game suspension.
Demario Davis, Kwon Alexander, Zack Baun, Peter Werner, Kaden Elliss, Chase Hansen
No real surprises here. The choice between Chase Hansen and Andrew Dowell is a tough one. I went with Hansen to give the Saints another MIKE, but they could choose to go with Dowell if the want to load up with options at WILL. Baun will likely start the season at SAM with Kwon Alexander on the weakside. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baun rotate a bit with Alexander in some run situations. Werner’s injury set him back a couple weeks in the offseason, he’ll be able to continue to develop without being rushed into action.
Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Williams, Paulson Adebo, Grant Haley, J.T. Gray, P.J. Williams
There is growing optimism that Marshon Lattimore will not be suspended before the season begins, Which would be a huge benefit to the New Orleans Saints who would then go from trying to replace him and the player across from him, so just focusing on that second cornerback spot. As of now, it looks like that spot will below to Ken Crawley. Crawley was recently injured, but is expected to be to available week one. If that is the case, Crawley should assume that second cornerback role. Meanwhile, the slot is in great hands with C.J. Gardner-Johnson who looks ready to propel himself further into elite conversation this season.
Rookie Paulson Adebo has been excellent so for to start his career and should see some names in certain packages on defense. But no need to rush him out there against a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers week one. Depth behind Adebo is a little startling after losing both Patrick Robinson and Brian Poole this offseason.
As for safety, this team is very talented. Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins are two of the best in the game and played very well together last year despite no offseason. The depth is set with J.T. Gray who is also the team’s best special teamer, and P.J. Williams who can play both safety and either cornerback spots (slot or outside) in a pinch.
The intrigue here is twofold: do the Saints still consider this position a “must” and will they address it? And will Marshon Lattimore get the extension he’s reportedly wanting before the season. One the Saints should be willing to grant if they can make the figures work.
Special Teams (3)
Aldrick Rosas (K), Blake Gillikin (K), Zach Wood (LS)
I wouldn’t be surprised to see another kicker enter the conversation here depending upon who else becomes available around the NFL during roster cuts. With the recent release of UDFA rookie Nolan Cooney, the punter assignment is sewn up for Gillikin as Thomas Morstead’s heir. Zach Wood continues his long snapper duties.
Remember, cuts are due by 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, though it’s reasonable to expect some to begin sooner. Keep safe out there.
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