The New Orleans Saints possess one of the most talented rosters in the National Football League. We knew that coming into preseason.
Through two “ugly” football games—as head coach Sean Payton described them in Friday’s night postgame press conference—the Saints have proven, at the very least, that their talent level is commensurate with the expectations.
Guessing the final 53-man roster is a difficult assignment. But it’s a fun one, especially now that we’ve been given at least a clue how the parts fit into the greater sum.
There’s a good chance that a name or two will vary from the eventual roster that Payton, Mickey Loomis and the rest of the Saints’ trusted staff come up with in two weeks.
But here’s an educated guess of what the roster will look like that will prepare to take on the Atlanta Falcons on September 7.
No. Quarterback (3)
9 Brees, Drew
4 Griffin, Ryan
7 McCown, Luke
Though Drew Brees is yet to step on the field on the preseason, it’s reasonable to guess that had these past two games been regular season contests, he would have been dressed and starting for New Orleans.
In his preseason absence, Josh McCown—last year’s backup—and second-year signal caller Ryan Griffin have taken advantage. Both have been solid, if not better, in their opportunities to direct the Saints’ high-powered offense.
Griffin was hyped earlier this offseason as having a legitimate chance to earn the backup spot, and through two games he’s done nothing to dissuade anyone of the opinion that he’s earned it. The only roadblock potentially in his way is McCown, who has laid stake to the spot and made it a fair and legitimate competition.
McCown could again be given the backup job, while Griffin is given the No. 3 job for another season (which may mean he’s not one of the 45 on game days, but allowed to dress per the NFL’s relatively new exemption for a third quarterback to dress).
No. Running Back (5)
23 Thomas, Pierre
22 Ingram, Mark
29 Robinson, Khiry
39 Cadet, Travaris
45 Johnson, Austin
There aren’t many surprises here. Thomas, Ingram and Robinson were three players all but guaranteed to make the squad when preseason began. None of them have done anything to lose their spot.
The most notable event that’s taken place among those three is that Ingram may have won the “starting” spot, though that position is understood to be relative, given the Saints’ propensity to use a plethora of different backs based on personnel groupings and play selection.
A little more notable is the steady spot Travaris Cadet has claimed. He seems in no danger of losing a roster spot, and very well may earn a larger chunk of snaps than he had in his first two seasons for the Saints.
With the still undisclosed injury that presumed starter Erik Lorig suffered, the fullback spot is a bit more in question. One would think the veteran Greg Jones would be a good bet there, but former practice squader Austin Johnson looked great on Friday night and has the advantage over Jones in terms of familiarity with the Saints’ schemes.
No. Wide Receiver (6)
12 Colston, Marques
84 Stills, Kenny
10 Cooks, Brandin
88 Toon, Nick
13 Morgan, Joseph
15 Jones, Seantavious (ST)
One through four (Numbers 12, 84, 10 and 88) were pretty much guaranteed spots headed into the preseason. The veteran Colston would have had to suffer a career-ending injury, and the same could probably be said of Stills and Cooks as well, to not make the roster.
What’s exciting is to see the ascension of Toon to a guy who appears ready to contribute for a full NFL season. He’s been healthy this offseason and has produced in a manner worthy of his fourth round draft status.
Joe Morgan was a bit of a question mark, but now healthy, looks like a relative lock as the speed demon who breaks the defense down vertically.
The question mark came in how many receivers the Saints would carry. Seantavious Jones has earned a sixth wide receiver spot. With his play, both as a receiver and potential special teams stalwart, he deserves the sixth slot, even if that means he doesn’t dress on Sundays from the onset.
No. Tight End (3)
80 Graham, Jimmy
82 Watson, Benjamin
89 Hill, Josh
There isn’t much to be said here. Wash, rinse and repeat the same statement about the first four wide receivers above for Graham and Watson. Josh Hill was potentially a little less assured of a roster spot.
But Payton has his favorites, and Hill quickly became that to him a year ago. At this point, he’d have to lose a leg, literally, to not make the final roster.
No. Offensive Tackle (4)
72 Armstead, Terron
64 Strief, Zach
68 Harris, Bryce
74 Rooks, Tavon
Offensive tackle was a huge question mark headed into last season, and really remained that way until Week 15 when Terron Armstead was given a start and ran away with the job. He now looks like a future Pro Bowler at left tackle.
With Payton loving his jumbo tackle personnel grouping, Bryce Harris is all but assured of a job.
And though Tavon Rooks has done little to earn a spot, he is unlikely to lose a roster spot because of his future potential. He won’t dress on game days, and could lose his spot likely before anyone else on the offensive side of the ball. But for now, he’s got a job.
No. Offensive Guard (4)
66 Grubbs, Ben
73 Evans, Jahri
61 Lelito, Tim
67 Jones, Marcel
Again there are few surprises here. Assuming they are fully healthy, Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans will start at left and right guard respectively Week 1. Tim Lelito has no worries about his roster spot, and doubles as a guy who can start at guard or center—whichever is needed.
Marcel Jones actually grabs the final spot on the entire roster, thanks in part to the health concerns of the two starting guards, and the fact he can play four of the five spots on the line in a pinch, which is obviously tremendously valuable.
No. Center (1)
51 Goodwin, Jonathan
Jonathan Goodwin was, of course, a relatively late signing for the Saints this offseason. He is more than capable of handling the duties as starting center who ultimately benefits from the questionable health of Grubbs and Evans.
That allows him to carry a roster spot, and likely the starting center spot, in order to ensure that Lelito is free to play guard, if needed.