Saints’ 53-man roster projection: The locks, open jobs and heated competitions

Saints' 53-man roster projection: The locks, open jobs and heated competitions
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The New Orleans Saints will open the 57th training camp in franchise history on Wednesday.

During the next month, they’ll have 22 practices and three exhibition games to evaluate players and determine the makeup of their 2023 roster. They must cut the roster to a maximum of 53 players on Aug. 29.

The reality is, most roster spots have already been determined. But because of offseason attrition and a depth chart loaded with 41 newcomers, there are several jobs available, especially at the wide receiver and defensive back positions. Others will open because of circumstances like injury, suspension, etc. So these next five weeks will be critical ones for many players.

Here’s my first stab at the Saints’ final 53 (number of projected final roster spots in parentheses):

Offense

Quarterbacks (3): Starter — Derek Carr. Reserves — Jameis Winston, Jake Haener. Analysis: The pecking order is pretty cut and dried here. You could make a case for Haener on the practice squad, but the Saints would have to expose the fourth-round pick to the waiver wire, and that risk seems unlikely. Having Taysom Hill as the emergency quarterback gives the Saints solid depth on game days.

Running backs (4): Starter — Alvin Kamara. Reserves — Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller, Adam Prentice (FB). Analysis: The Saints targeted this position group in the offseason, adding the veteran Williams and rookie Miller as insurance for Kamara, who faces league discipline for a 2022 offseason arrest. Miller will start camp on the physically unable to perform list but is expected to return to action quickly. Team officials are high on his potential. A suspension for Kamara would open the door for another back like Eno Benjamin or Kirk Merritt to make the initial 53 for the regular-season opener against Tennessee.

Wide receivers (6): Starters — Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed. Reserves — Tre’Quan Smith, Bryan Edwards, James Washington. Analysis: The Saints have kept at least six receivers in five of the last six years, but it’s not a certainty that they will do so this year. The front-line jobs are locked up by the top four of Olave, Thomas, Shaheed and Smith. After that, the competition is wide open, a mad scramble between nine players for what looks like two jobs. The depth chart features players with varied body types, skill sets and experience levels. I give Edwards a edge in the competition because of his size and familiarity with Carr from past playing days, but he’s not a lock. This position and defensive back are the most competitive spots on the roster.

Tight ends (4): Starter — Juwan Johnson. Reserves — Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham. Analysis: These four seem safe. The recent signig of Graham probably will cost veteran Jesse James a roster spot. Sounds like the Saints have sold him on a specialized role as a blocking specialist and short-yardage/red zone target. Lucas Krull remains a strong candidate for the practice squad.

Offensive line (9): Starters — Trevor Penning, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk, Max Garcia. Reserves — James Hurst, Landon Young, Nick Saldiveri. Analysis: The Saints have traditionally kept nine linemen, but they might not have that luxury this season. The release of veteran Billy Price left the roster depth shy along the interior so the Saints added veterans Max Garcia and Trai Turner to the roster on Tuesday. Garcia has started games at both guard and center, so I’ll give him the edge for one of the reserve spots. Young prospects Calvin Throckmorton, Lewis Kidd and Mark Evans are strong candidates for the practice squad.

Defense

Defensive ends (5): Starters — Carl Granderson, Cam Jordan. Reserves — Isaiah Foskey, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Payton Turner. Analysis: The Saints have kept five ends each of the past five years, and it would a major upset if these five are not on the final roster. The Saints are heavily invested with all five.

Tackles (4): Starters — Bryan Bresee, Nathan Shepherd. Reserves — Malcolm Roach, Khalen Saunders. Analysis: Another straightforward position, albeit one with a lot of new faces. Roach is the only holdover from a year ago. Bresee looks like a starter from Day One.

Linebackers (5): Starters — Demario Davis, Pete Werner. Reserves — Zack Baun, Andrew Dowell, D’Marco Jackson. Analysis: It gets interesting once you get past the starters. Special-teams play will likely determine the final roster spots, which could give an edge to Baun and Dowell, who were core special-teamers a year ago. The Saints like undrafted rookie Anfernee Orji, but he could be a victim of the numbers game and ticketed for the practice squad.

Defensive backs (10): Starters — Marshon Lattimore (CB), Alontae Taylor (CB); Marcus Maye (S), Tyrann Mathieu (S), Bradley Roby (CB). Reserves — Paulson Adebo, Jordan Howden, Isaac Yiadom. J.T. Gray, Lonnie Johnson Jr. Analysis: Taylor and Adebo will wage the highest-profile competition of camp. The loser for the starting spot could compete with Roby for the starting nickel back position. Regardless, all four top corners will play regularly. Gray is a lock as a core special teamer, but the other roster spots are wide open. Beyond that, it’s a wide-open competition between unproven young players (Howden, Smoke Monday) and veteran reclamation projects (Lonnie Johnson, Jonathan Abram, Tony Pride). I gave to the nod to Howden and Johnson because of their versatility. One caveat:The Saints might have to keep an extra safety on the initial 53 if Maye is suspended to start the season.

Special teams

Specialists (3): Starters — P Blake Gillikin, LS Zach Wood, PK Wil Lutz. Analysis: Rookie place-kicker Blake Grupe was impressive during offseason workouts and will challenge Lutz, who is coming off a subpar 2022 season. Otherwise, this position group is pretty straightforward.

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About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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