METAIRIE, La. --With the first round of cuts looming, this is a big week for several New Orleans Saints. Tuesday's the day when teams must trim their rosters to 75. The remaining players will have a few more days and one last preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday to make a final impression before the team cuts to 53 on Saturday.
Drew Brees (6-0, 209 pounds, 14 years experience)
Ryan Griffin (6-5, 206, 2 years)
I'm not going to allow one bad game for Griffin 8 of 13 for 46 yards and an interception to change the way I feel about the battle for the No. 2 quarterback. He's clearly been better than Luke McCown every step of the way. Moreover, McCown, 3 of 10 for 45 yards, was no better against the Colts. I can't see the Saints carrying three quarterbacks this year; the numbers are just too tight. Griffin's upside far exceeds McCown's. Plus, the St. Louis Rams already made a run at Griffin when Sam Bradford went down with an ACL injury last season. Now that Bradford has the same injury again, there's nothing to keep the Rams from making a similar play should the Saints waive Griffin with the hopes of signing him to the practice squad. The Saints thought enough of Griffin to activate him last year and he's certainly done nothing to make them think any less of him now. This one is easy for me, but there's no question Sean Payton could see it differently.
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)
*Austin Johnson (fullback)(6-2, 240, 1 year)
I added Johnson to the 53-man roster last week and his touchdown catch against the Colts, for me, only cemented his spot. He's been very good throughout camp, and more importantly, so has the run game. It seems likely that Erik Lorig (leg) will begin the season on injured reserve. I liked the addition of fullback Greg Jones, but with Johnson's emergence and his familiarity with the offense, Jones hasn't, and likely won't have an adequate opportunity to outshine Johnson.
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)
*Joe Morgan (6-1, 184, 4 years)
Morgan has really come on as of late and looks to finally believe in his surgically repaired knee. Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones are both candidates for the practice squad, however. Since struggling with dropped passes early in camp, Coleman has rebounded and definitely has emerged as someone, who, with a strong finish, could end up on the roster. In the end, I think the Saints may only keep five receivers, but I'm not ready to say which five just yet.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Jimmy Graham (6-7, 265, 5 years)
Benjamin Watson (6-3, 255, 11 years)
Josh Hill (6-5, 229, 2 years)
No change here. These three, in my mind, have clearly earned their spots. I wouldn't be surprised to see big 6-foot-5, 269-pound Nic Jacobs on the practice squad, though. He has serious potential as a run blocker.
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)
Marcel Jones (6-7, 320, 2 years)
* Bryce Harris (6-6, 300, 3 years)
With both Grubbs and Evans missing time during camp, I was very tempted to add a ninth offensive lineman. In the end, though, I didn't. What I did do is add Bryce Harris, but it wasn't without serious reservations. I don't think he's earned a spot. At best, he's been suspect this year. However, the Saints are thin at tackle and Harris is the most experienced one they've got on the bench. Jones, who can play guard and tackle, has the edge over Kelemete because of his versatility. Kelemete has played well enough to warrant a spot, but could headed to the practice squad, a causality of tight numbers.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
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)
Glenn Foster (6-4, 285, 2 years)
Rufus Johnson, Jr. was a tough cut because he's played well, but I think the Saints can get by without him. Payton singled out Brandon Deaderick before the Colts game as someone who was on the cusp. I think he's still there and could very well end up on the roster. The six listed are solid, though.
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)
*Kyle Knox (6-1, 220, 1 year)
This position continues to be the hardest to narrow down, especially with Fortt missing time with an unspecified injury. Not knowing what ails him makes it tough. But if he does go to the IR, Kevin Reddick would be my choice to fill that spot. Actually, Reddick may make the team either way. He continues to show he's a good special teams player, and we all know how Payton loves hi special teams contributors. Knox, meanwhile, has been too good to leave off. In fact, I believe his strong play dictated Fortt's move to outside linebacker. A bit of good news for the Saints at this position: Butler looks to be close to a return. He's been working with trainers off to the side and resumed light running and agility drills last week.
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)
The Saints finally got a peek at their revamped secondary against Indy and they had to like what they saw. When healthy, Lewis and Robinson look to be a formidable duo. However, if either goes down, the Saints could be in trouble. I don't think anyone on the roster is capable of playing to the same level on the outside. In fact, White has admitted he's not comfortable there. And Bailey, well, I just haven't seen enough from him to say he's still capable of defending an opponent's No. 2 receiver. While a promising talent, Jean-Baptiste isn't ready to play any kind of meaningful role.
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)
*Marcus Ball (6-2, 200, rookie)
The Saints are oozing talented safeties, so I think they could easily wind up keeping six, with Pierre Warren being that final man. Ball was absent last week and Payton offered no explanation. My gut says he isn't going anywhere (except possibly to IR).
Shayne Graham (6-0, 210, 15 years)
Thomas Morstead (6-4, 235, 6 years)
Justin Drescher (6-1, 235, 5 years)
Derek Dimke has turned this into a legitimate battle, but I still think that Payton goes with the veteran over someone who's never kicked in a regular season game. These two will compete until the end, though, as both have been solid as of late.
* ROSTER CHANGE