It's still early in camp, but it's an off day, so I suppose it's as good a time as any to project the Saints' 53-man roster. Here goes....
Drew Brees (6-0, 209 pounds, 14 years experience)
Ryan Griffin (6-5, 206, 2 years)
The battle to be Brees' backup is far from over. Griffin and Luke McCown have been sharing reps with the 2s, and will likely do so until one demonstrates more consistency. I think we'll learn a lot from the scrimmage on Saturday. For me, though, Griffin looks to be improving each day while McCown has digressed, often late with his release or missing open men altogether. If the Saints are to part ways McCown, Griffin will have to prove to coaches he could step in and lead the team should Brees ever go down.
RUNNING BACKS (5):
Mark Ingram (5-9, 215, 4 years)
Khiry Robinson (6-0, 220, 2 years)
Pierre Thomas (5-11, 215, 8 years)
Travarus Cadet (6-1, 210, 3 years)
Erik Lorig (fullback) (6-4, 250, 5 years)
Saints head coach Sean Payton called Ingram one of the team's starters a few days ago and Ingram, who really impressed late last season, has shown he's ready for that job. Still, it's always been running back by committee in New Orleans and that won't change with Robinson and Thomas breathing down Ingram's neck. Robinson has been impressive, and Thomas is the veteran leader of the bunch. With the Saints determined to run the ball more effectively this season, this group looks up to the task.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Marques Colston (6-4, 225, 9 years)
Brandin Cooks (5-10, 189, rookie)
Nick Toon (6-4, 218, 3 years)
Kenny Stills (6-0, 194, 2 years)
Robert Meachem (6-2, 215, 8 years)
Seantavus Jones (6-3, 200, rookie)
I'm torn between undrafted free agents Brandon Coleman and Jones. I think both have a shot to make the team, but after watching Jones for the past few days, I think he's in the lead barely. Yes, I know it's a reach, but at times, he's looked sharp.With Jones in, that means, with numbers as tight as they are, Joseph Morgan would be out. Morgan has been taking reps as a punt returner, which could be his way on to roster. There is still time for guys like Andy Tanner and Charles Hawkins, both of whom also have worked as return men, to impress, possibly sneaking on at the last moment.As of now, Toon seems to be a lock. He's been as good as any receiver and is fast becoming one of Brees' favorite targets.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Jimmy Graham (6-7, 265, 5 years)
Benjamin Watson (6-3, 255, 11 years)
Josh Hill (6-5, 229, 2 years)
Admittedly, I haven't seen enough of big Nic Jacobs (6-foot-5, 269 pounds) or Je'Ron Hamm to add them to the roster, so for the moment, Hill remains.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Jahri Evans (6-4, 318, 9 years)
Zach Strief (6-7, 320, 9 years)
Ben Grubbs (6-3, 310, 8 years)
Terron Armstead (6-5, 304, 2 years)
Jonathan Goodwin (6-3, 318, 13 years)
Tim Lelito (6-4, 315, 2 years)
Bryce Harris (6-6, 300, 3 years)
Tavon Rooks (6-5, 300, rookie)
Rooks, a sixth-round selection, came off the non-football injury list on Tuesday and practiced for the first time. As of now, he makes the cut based on potential and the Saints' need to develop more depth at tackle. Harris should also be safe because of the Saints' depth issues at tackle. After spending last year on the Saints practice squad, Senio Kelemete has filled in nicely for Grubbs, who's been in shorts for the past few days. Kelemete's chances of making the roster grow the longer Grubbs sits.
DEFENSIVE LINE (7)
Cameron Jordan (6-4, 287, 4 years)
Akiem Hicks (6-5, 324, 3 years)
Brodrick Bunkley (6-2, 306, 9 years)
John Jenkins (6-3, 359, 2 years)
Tyrunn Walker (6-3, 294, 3 years)
Rufus Johnson Jr. (6-5, 272, 1 year)
Glenn Foster (6-4, 285, 2 years)
Johnson's athleticism is easy to see, as is his continued improvement. He's shown flashes at times and could be an asset in pass rushing situations. With the Jenkins still on the PUP list, I wanted to add Brandon Deaderick, but I just haven't seen enough out of him yet to warrant giving him what could be one of the last spots on the team. He is still learning the defense, though, and the longer Jenkins is out, the better his chances are.
Junior Galette (6-2, 258, 5 years)
Curtis Lofton (6-0, 241, 7 years)
David Hawthorne (6-0, 246, 7 years)
Victor Butler (6-2, 245, 6 years)
Parys Haralson (6-0, 255, 9 years)
Ramon Humber (5-11, 232, 6 years)
Keyunta Dawson (6-3, 258, 7 years)
Ronald Powell (6-3, 237, rookie)
Khairi Fortt (6-2, 240, rookie)
This position was the hardest to narrow down. I initially had Kevin Reddick on the roster, but he proved to be the 54th man. He was a good special teams contributor last season, but the arrivals of Powell and Fortt, combined with Dawson and Humber's quality play, make Reddick the odd man out.
Keenan Lewis (6-1, 208, 6 years)
Champ Bailey (6-0, 192, 16 years)
Patrick Robinson (5-11, 191, 5 years)
Corey White (6-1, 205, 3 years)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-3, 218, rookie)
This was probably the easiest position to project.Lewis, Bailey, Robinson and White are all locks to make the team. They all have had their moments in camp, too.Jean-Baptiste needs more time (which he'll get) to develop and learn the playbook so he can play more instinctively. Sweeting stuck around last year, but is now buried in a group that includes Tevin Wade and Terrence Frederick.
Jairus Byrd (5-10, 203, 6 years)
Kenny Vaccaro (6-0, 214, 2 years)
Rafael Bush (5-11, 200, 4 years)
Vinnie Sunseri (6-0, 210, rookie)
Pierre Warren (6-2, 200, rookie)
I just couldn't leave Warren off the roster. Sure, it's only been five days, but he's made too many plays.Moreover, with Vacarro, Byrd and Sunseri all returning from injuries last season, it leaves just one safety who wasn't injured.In today's pass-happy NFL, depth in the secondary is an advantage I just can't see the Saints cutting.
Shayne Graham (6-0, 210, 15 years)
Thomas Morstead (6-4, 235, 6 years)
Justin Drescher (6-1, 235, 5 years)
I've been watching the Derek Dimke closely, and frankly, I just don't see him beating out Graham. Both have been accurate in practice, but the ball flies off Graham's foot with much more velocity and better height. In fact, on several occasions the coaches have yelled at Dimke to get the ball up.When he does, the ball seems to float, which could pose problems in both Pittsburgh (Week 13) and Chicago (Week 15) not to mention anywhere along the Pacific Coast come playoff time.