- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:
No change here. It's a tight battle for the backup job since veteran Luke McCown has more experience and has remained solid in camp. But Griffin has looked very good, too -- especially during Saturday's scrimmage. And the second-year pro would probably have the edge in a tie-breaker since he has more long-term potential.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
No changes here either. It's gonna be difficult for undrafted rookies Timothy Flanders and Derrick Strozier to crack the roster since the Saints are so deep. And the top four guys have all looked great in camp. ... Backup fullback Austin Johnson is also a dark-horse possibility if the Saints decide to keep an extra fullback/special teamer.
Toon has looked great all summer and really seems like the front-runner for the No. 4 receiver job. However, he looked great last summer, too, and still got bumped out of the rotation when the Saints re-signed Meachem. So Meachem won't go away quietly. I still think it will be tough for all six of these guys to make the roster since the Saints typically keep only four receivers active on game days. But they have all shown enough in the past to earn the benefit of the doubt for now. Morgan has been coming back slowly but surely from a knee injury and still has a chance to work his way onto the roster this preseason. ... Undrafted rookie Brandon Coleman is looking like a stronger possibility every week to crack the roster in a "redshirt" capacity. He's off to a great start in camp after struggling in organized team activities and minicamp.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
As I said last week, I've been very tempted to add undrafted rookie Nic Jacobs to my latest roster projection since I think the Saints could have use for a powerful blocking tight end. And I feel even more strongly about that after hearing Zach Strief talk about the 6-foot-5, 269-pounder's blocking prowess. But I haven't quite seen or heard enough yet to put him on (or to bump a veteran off elsewhere).
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
I made a change from last week, replacing rookie offensive tackle Tavon Rooks with third-year guard Marcel Jones. Rooks, a sixth-round draft pick, hasn't practiced yet because of a back injury. He'll still have plenty of time to catch up if he returns to the field soon. But for now, I've seen more from Jones, a former draft pick himself who is versatile enough to play guard or center.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
I bumped second-year pro Rufus Johnson Jr. off the list because I've seen more from the young safeties than I've seen from Johnson so far. But Johnson absolutely has the chance to make this team because of his athletic potential (and his versatility as an end/linebacker). Veteran Brandon Deaderick is a more experienced possibility who has shown his own versatility by lining up as the second-string nose tackle while Jenkins is out with an injury.
It might be very difficult for 10 linebackers to make the roster. But I've seen no reason to cut any of these veterans or young players yet. In fact, I also like linebacker Kyle Knox as a dark horse but just don't have room for him. I haven't seen many highlights from rookies Fortt or Powell yet as they're still absorbing the playbook and probably not playing at full speed. But their athletic potential makes them likely to make the roster.
Other guys such as Rod Sweeting or Trevin Wade could easily make the roster (both were on it last year). But we've seen a little more from the safety group so far. This defense is going to be hard to crack, and it will definitely come down to special teams.
Ball is a new addition to this list. We've actually seen and talked a lot more about undrafted rookie Pierre Warren in camp, while Ball started slowly this summer. But Ball finally flashed the kind of playmaking ability in Saturday's scrimmage that he showed as a Canadian Football League standout. And I think if he starts showing more comfort and confidence, he has a high ceiling -- especially on special teams. Obviously the competition is very stiff here.
I still like Graham over younger kicker Derek Dimke -- even though Graham has missed two field goals and Dimke has been perfect so far. Graham will have to prove he's steady in the preseason games, though.