With the season now in the rearview mirror – though some would say not far enough behind with wounds still open – we believe at WWLTV.com it’s time to hit on our yearly “roster check,” our assessment of who should be or should not be with the club come training camp in July.
We don’t think this will help close the wound that the playoff game opened. It might, in fact, open it more and for that we apologize.
For the next few work week days, we’ll go position group by position group (secondary, linebackers, defensive line, offensive line, receivers and specialists, running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks) and give our opinions on the players and situations.
Running backs, Tight ends and Quarterbacks
Running backs: Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Jed Collins
Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham, David Thomas, John Gilmore, Tory Humphrey, Michael Higgins
Quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
Sproles: When the Saints signed Darren Sproles, the thinking was that he’d replace Reggie Bush. He did that, and more, setting an NFL record for all-purpose yards. He signed a four-year contract, meaning he has three years left. In other words, Sproles isn’t going anywhere.
Thomas: How important is Pierre Thomas? When he went out of the playoff loss to San Francisco, things got a lot tougher for the offense. The league’s best screen pass catcher and one of the best guys for yards after contact, Thomas is an underrated back on the national scene. But locals and the Saints know what he means. Thomas will be back.
Ingram: While Mark Ingram didn’t reach the heights that were forecast for him after a strong preseason, he was solid in his role as short-yardage back. He finished with 474 yards on 122 carries and scored five times. But his season ended prematurely when turf toe never got better. But he’s a first-round pick from 2011. So, yeah, Ingram will be back.
Ivory: The biggest question in the running back group is Chris Ivory. Can the Saints afford to keep all four backs? Simply put, yes. And coach Sean Payton saw just why that’s a good idea this past season when by midseason, at least one running back was injured. When the Saints went down to two running backs in the playoff loss, Payton briefly changed special teams, taking Sproles away from kick return. That failed and turned into a turnover. So Ivory, who finished with 374 yards and a touchdown on 79 carries, is needed. Ivory returns for another season.
Collins: Looking for efficiency? Jed Collins had 15 touches this season and scored four touchdowns. He scored nearly once every four touches. Collins is young, inexpensive and a tough player. He has respect in the locker room and he completes a role that is oft-overlooked and little-used in today’s NFL. Collins returns.
Graham: Really not much to say about this guy. He’s a budding star in the NFL and one of the team’s biggest threats. He led the team in receiving with 99 catches for 1,3010 yards – as a tight end. He scored a team-high 11 touchdowns. He’s sticking around the Crescent City for a long time.
Thomas: The question isn’t about whether the Saints want Thomas back. The question is can Thomas ever play football again. The underrated tight end had two concussions in 2011 and he’s at the point where, with a family to think about, he has to think long-term and not short-term. We think Thomas, ultimately, will try to push through. He returns, but may not finish if he finds his head still isn’t right.
Gilmore: This early-season find missed the final three games of the season with turf toe. He wasn’t involved in the passing game very much, but that’s not his role and he knows it. His blocking was missed on the edge at the end of the season and we expect that the Saints will bring Gilmore back for 2012.
Humphrey: Humphrey was a late-season addition when Gilmore couldn’t recover from the turf toe. He wasn’t active once and, unless one of the top three tight ends go elsewhere or retire, Humphrey won’t be back.
Higgins: The Saints bumped Higgins up to the active roster when Thomas went on IR midway through the season. He played in three of final five regular season games and saw action in the playoffs. He may be a tight end of the future but he’s not quite there yet. It’s likely practice squad once again for Higgins, though if Thomas can’t return, Higgins would likely get that spot.
Brees: Well, here we go. Coach Sean Payton said he’d be shocked if Drew Brees wasn’t with the Saints next year. General manager Mickey Loomis said he’d be out of a job. And Brees himself said he’d be more than shocked to not be in black and gold. So the question then is this – What in the world is taking so long? Our guess is that the Saints have Brees signed before free agency starts on March 13. But, yeah, Brees remains a Saint.
Daniel: An interesting case. He’s a restricted free agent and we can see someone willing to spend some money on him. But he’s not Matt Flynn and ultimately, the Saints like him as a backup. We think the Saints tender him and he sticks around for another season.