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Five defensive players that will be fighting for a roster spot this summer

With a heavy defensive restock in several positions, multiple Saints players will have to prove their skills before opening week.

NFL: New Orleans Saints Training Camp Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft have been pretty darn good to the New Orleans Saints, especially on defense.

Several new faces have been added to the secondary including Jonathan Abrams and Lonnie Johnson Jr. On the secondary, multiple players should be returning from substantial injuries in 2022 such as Pete Werner and D’Marco Jackson. The front line might have the most significant change from 2022 as rookies Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey join newcomers Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd.

Unfortunately, with all of the new signings, plenty of position battles will result in a handful of players losing a roster spot.

Here are five interesting fringe roster players that will have to perform well this summer to earn a spot on the team’s active roster.

D’Marco Jackson - MLB

Jackson has a great opportunity to not only be on the roster but also be a significant contributor for the Saints in 2023. Last season, Jackson sustained an injury that sidelined him for the entire season. The former fifth rounder from Appalachian State has turned some heads in OTAs thus far but will need to prove that he is healthy and skilled enough to play come week one. Definitely watch out for Jackson during the preseason.

Smoke Monday - FS

Like Jackson, Monday is another player that needs to prove he’s healthy before anything. He will be vying for a roster spot in a crowded safety room; however, it’s a position that needs younger depth. If his ACL is fully recovered, he certainly has a chance to make an impact on defense and special teams in 2023.

Prince Emili - DT

When Shy Tuttle and Marcus Davenport were lost to free agency, many thought Emili would have a significant role on the defensive line in 2023. After adding several free agents and drafting Bryan Bresee, Emili now has to fight for a spot on the team. Like Jackson and Monday, Emili is a second-year player that has the potential to offer deeper support on Dennis Allen’s defense.

J.T. Gray - SS

27-year-old Gray is the oldest player on this list and finds himself in a similar situation to Monday’s - earning a spot in a crowded safety room. It seems unlikely that Gray, Monday, Jonathan Abram, and rookie Jordan Howard will all have a spot on the roster. Gray will have to prove himself as a versatile veteran talent to play in his sixth NFL season.

Anthony Johnson - CB

Johnson is the only rookie on this list but a very interesting prospect to watch. Johnson, a UDFA out of Virginia, might be the lowest man on the totem pole for cornerbacks this season. However, this is an injury-prone position for New Orleans and Johnson could be a great depth option. He had a fantastic career at Virginia, and with his 6 ‘2, 205-pound frame has an immediate size advantage that is hard to come by in the NFL.

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