The Saints must cut 22 players by Saturday at 3 p.m., trimming their roster from 75 players to a league-mandated 53. It's not an easy decision for New Orleans' coaching staff.
It's even harder for me and my colleagues in the media. We're not allowed to enter or see the Saints' inner sanctum and we're definitely not privy to Sean Payton's depth chart.
But we have an idea having watched nearly every open practice of preseason and every preseason game.
So, that said, here's WWL-TV.com's thoughts on who will make the 53-man roster.
Who they can choose from: Jonathan Goodwin (C), Nick Leckey (C/G), Matt Tennant (C/G), Brandon Carter (G), Jahri Evans (G), Terrence Metcalf (G),Carl Nicks (G) Na'Shan Goddard (G/T), Charles Brown (T), Jermon Bushrod (T), Jermey Parnell (T), Jon Stinchcomb (T), Zach Strief (T)
Who makes it: Stinchcomb, Evans, Goodwin, Nicks, Bushrod, Strief, Brown, Tennant, Leckey
Thoughts: The first five on that list are your starters. All return from 2009's Super Bowl-winning team. Brown and Tennant are two of the Saints' draft picks from April and both have played extensively with the second team. Brown backs up Bushrod and Tennant moves to right guard. Leckey is the wild card. The coaching staff likes his experience and what he does for special teams, but he and Tennant are basically the same player. I can see a scenario where the team keeps Tennant and Metcalf instead of Leckey with Tennant becoming the second-team center. Still, I think Leckey gets the nod because of what he does on special teams. At least one of the two, if not both, Goddard and Parnell are practice squad likely.
Who they can choose from: Adrian Arrington, Montez Billings, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Courtney Roby
Who makes it: Colston, Henderson, Meachem, Moore, Roby, Arrington
Thoughts: I don't think there's an honest battle here anymore. The coaching staff wanted to see how Arrington would react to being thrown into a situation he wasn't used to by putting back in punt return for the first time since he was in high school. He didn't fumble or make any mistakes and has been a big-play receiver all preseason. Roby is all but irreplaceable on special teams he's a world-class kick returner and a top-notch gunner on punt team. Billings somehow figured out how to make the Saints practice squad.
Who they can choose from: Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham, David Thomas, Tory Humphrey, Tyler Lorenzen
Who makes it: Shockey, Graham, Thomas, Humphrey
Thoughts: Here's where some people differ. The Saints, to me, keep four tight ends because of how brittle Shockey has been in his career. He's a bruiser and banger and because he goes full-throttle from the get-go, his body takes a beating. Graham already has missed more than two weeks with a high right ankle sprain. Humphrey makes the roster because of this. The Saints became thin at tight end last season at the end when Shockey was out and David Thomas was splitting time at tight end and fullback. Lorenzen is a prime practice squad candidate.
Who they can choose from: Ladell Betts, Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, DeShawn Wynn
Who makes it: Bush, Thomas, Ivory, Wynn
Thoughts: Bush and Thomas are obvious and I think Ivory all but assured himself a roster spot with his game against San Diego. Head Coach Sean Payton has gone with four running backs in the past and with the Saints already losing two running backs in the preseason, the staff know it's a high-injury risk position. Wynn is younger and has tons of upside; the Packers liked him a lot until he injured his knee. I'm just not sure Betts is on the right side of his career, being a nine-year veteran at this point.
Who they can choose from: Heath Evans, Zak Keasey, Jason McKie
Who makes it: Evans
Thoughts: The Saints offense was much more prolific with Heath Evans in the backfield than not in the backfield. But I just don't see there being roster spots available for an extra fullback with the team going for four tight ends. Both Keasey and McKie play on special teams, which could give the coaching staff reason to put one on the team, but with David Thomas doing a stand up job a season ago filling in, this is a spot where Payton can get by with only one.
Who they can choose from: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel, Patrick Ramsey
Who makes it: Brees, Daniel
Thoughts: I have been waffling on this one for some time, but I think Daniel has passed Ramsey on the depth chart. Payton has been given every chance this preseason to say experience counts in making this decision, but he talks around it. The coaching staff likes Daniel and he has proven that he can move the first-team offense into scoring position when thrust into the spotlight. He's young but he's a gamer. Ramsey, to me, hasn't shown improvement enough this preseason to say he's better than Daniel. The Saints went with two quarterbacks a season ago and could do it again this year. Most of all, they can likely find Ramsey or a Ramsey-like quarterback if they are forced into finding a quarterback during the season. Plus, I don't think Daniel would make it through waivers to get on the practice squad.
Who they can choose from: Remi Ayodele, Kendrick Clancy, Sedrick Ellis, Anthony Hargrove, DeMario Pressley, Al Woods, Jay Ross
Who makes it: Ayodele, Ellis, Hargrove, Clancy
Thoughts: Ayodele, Ellis and Hargrove are absolutes. As for the others, I haven't really seen anything out of Woods this preseason and he appears to be a real threat for the practice squad. Pressley is a draft pick from three years ago who hasn't really panned out. Ross, too, could be a practice squad MVP. And Clancy, the Saints wouldn't have brought him in if they weren't concerned with plugging the middle against the run. That's what Clancy does and he could play 10-15 plays per game if needed.
Who they can choose from: Will Smith, Alex Brown, Bobby McCray, Jeff Charleston, Junior Galette, Jimmy Wilkerson
Who makes it: Smith, Brown, Wilkerson, McCray
Thoughts: The one who throws me off the most is Charleston. He's exactly the kind of guy this coaching staff loves he plays hard, doesn't complain and does his job. But I'm not sure he does enough. Wilkerson is a swing player who can go both inside and outside. Galette has shown enough, in my mind, to make the team if there weren't a numbers crunch, but if he clears waivers, he'll be on the practice squad and could move up to the varsity if the situation is right during the season. McCray hasn't done a heck of a lot this preseason, but he's just too enticing when it comes to the pass rush.
Who they can choose from: Jonathan Vilma, Jonathan Casillas, Scott Shanle, Stanley Arnoux, K.C. Asiodu, Harry Coleman, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Marvin Mitchell, Anthony Waters
Who makes it: Vilma, Casillas, Shanle, Mitchell, Dunbar, Arnoux
Thoughts: Arnoux is the only one who makes it that I'm waffling on. The problem with him is that he has been injured the past two seasons. He has missed the past 19 days now with a high ankle sprain after missing the entirety of 2009 with a blown out Achilles. But he was making progress when he was injured against New England and I think the coaches keep him around.
Who they can choose from: Randall Gay, Jabari Greer, Reggie Jones, Patrick Robinson, Leigh Torrence, Tracy Porter
Who makes it: Gay, Greer, Porter, Robinson
Thoughts: Reggie Jones has done a heck of a lot this preseason to warrant a spot and Torrence has found a way to stick around in the pas, but there's not room on the roster because of the contributions on special teams by some of the safeties. I see this being a position where the Saints keep the depth short and that's despite troubles in the past with being able to keep guys healthy.
Who they can choose from: Roman Harper, Pierson Prioleau, Chris Reis, Chip Vaughn, Malcolm Jenkins, Usama Young
Who makes it: Harper, Jenkins, Prioleau, Reis, Vaughn, Young
Thoughts: Harper and Jenkins are your starters. Quality depth here is a problem, though. Vaughn makes the team by virtue of his special teams as well as his swing ability. He played strong safety against the Chargers and played well. Reis and Prioleau are both stalwarts on special teams. Young on the other hand just hasn't shown enough improvement but as the primary backup at free safety, he gets a pass to open the season.
Who they can choose from: Garrett Hartley, Thomas Morstead, Jason Kyle
Who will make it: Hartley, Morstead, Kyle
Thoughts: I'm pretty sure I don't need to put my thoughts down on this one.
Darren Sharper and Clint Ingram
Thoughts: There's no reason to rush Ingram back at this point. You don't know what you're going to get with him and you might as well keep him around and rehab him fully. If not, he can be cut outright at any time.
As for Sharper, he's a guy who can help down the line. But if you're the Saints and you want to have the best Sharper out there possible, keep him off the field for six weeks and let him get to 100 percent. The issue arises if he gets to 100 percent sometime in the six weeks on the PUP list. You're gambling a little bit that this happens, but to me, it's in the Saints' best interest to make sure he's as healthy as he can get before putting him back on the field. Jenkins has proven that he can at least keep the position warm in his absence.