New Orleans Saints: 2014 NFL Roster Projection

Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
All summer, I predicted that a tie-breaker for the backup QB job would go to Griffin because of his long-term potential and the fact that it would allow the Saints to keep only two quarterbacks. But in the end, I don't think it will come down to a tie-breaker. McCown played ahead of Griffin in all four preseason games, and ultimately played better throughout the course of those four games. I still think the Saints will keep Griffin because they like his long-term potential, even though it's not ideal to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

I'm assuming at this point that fullback Erik Lorig will at least begin the season on injured reserve with a leg injury that has kept him completely absent from practice thus far. However, I don't know that for a fact. The Saints could also decide to save a roster spot for Lorig or place him on short-term injured reserve, designated for a return. In the meantime, I'm sticking with Johnson over veteran Greg Jones as his replacement.

RECEIVERS (6)

I think Morgan has vaulted himself ahead of both Toon and Meachem in the pecking order this preseason based on both playing time and performance. That puts Meachem in jeopardy since he and Morgan have similar skill sets (excellent blockers and deep threats). But I'm sticking with six receivers since Stills' quad injury might keep him out in Week 1. ... Rookies Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones seem more like practice-squad candidates.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I still like undrafted rookie Nic Jacobs' potential as a massive blocker, but the practice squad seems a more likely fit for him.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

No change here after the preseason finale. I'm giving Jones the slight edge over Senio Kelemete for that final roster spot because of his versatility as a guard/tackle and because he seemed to play a little better recently. It's very close, though, and it wouldn't be a shock for them both to make the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

No changes here, either. Veteran backup Brandon Deaderick has played well at both tackle and end this summer, so he's absolutely a good bet to crack the roster. But I think the Saints have enough depth with their six returning players.

LINEBACKERS (9)

Edebali is a new addition to this list after the Saints released Victor Butler and Kevin Reddick earlier in the week. The German-born undrafted rookie has made his mark both on special teams and as a pass rusher this summer. The only reason it took me this long to add him to this list was because the Saints were so loaded at linebacker. But that's less of an issue now. I also left off rookie Khairi Fortt, assuming he'll get the "injury redshirt" treatment. And I wouldn't rule out rookie Todd Davis, who has played well on special teams and defense.

CORNERBACKS (5)

No changes here. Trevin Wade and rookie Brian Dixon are possibilities. But now that these five guys are all healthy, there might not be room for anyone else on the roster.

SAFETIES (5)

Undrafted rookie Pierre Warren made one last compelling case with an interception and a nice open-field tackle in Thursday's preseason finale. But I'm still barely leaving him off the list. That could change if Ball's unspecified injury is serious enough to land him on injured reserve.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The kicker battle is still too close to call. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints go with Graham or Derek Dimke or consider other options cut elsewhere. But I'm sticking with Graham because Dimke didn't do enough to clearly outshine him this summer. ... Dimke was the only one who got a chance to play in Thursday's preseason finale (making field goals from 49 and 23 yards and missing one from 54 that was nullified by a penalty). But coach Sean Payton explained that the plan was for Dimke to kick in the first half and Graham to kick in the second half. The Saints just didn't have any opportunities in the second half.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
I was extremely tempted to add veteran Luke McCown back onto the 53-man roster this week. He seems to be ahead of Griffin in the Saints' pecking order since he has now entered all three preseason games ahead of Griffin with the first-string offense. I was surprised by that since the two QBs had more of an even 50-50 split during practices all summer. ... I'm tentatively sticking with Griffin as the backup because I don't think McCown has clearly outshined him in games or practices, but the Saints' coaches could obviously feel differently. Neither scenario would surprise me.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

I'm assuming at this point that fullback Erik Lorig will begin the season on injured reserve with a leg injury that has so far kept him completely absent from practice. However, I don't know that for a fact. The Saints could also decide to save a roster spot for Lorig or place him on short-term injured reserve, designated for a return. In the meantime, I'm going with Johnson as his replacement. I was already leaning toward switching from veteran Greg Jones to Johnson last week. Then Johnson cemented it with his impressive effort on a touchdown catch during the opening drive Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts.

RECEIVERS (6)

I've been saying all along that I only expect the Saints to wind up keeping five of these guys. But Stills' quad injury might open the door for New Orleans to keep all six. If the Saints decide that they can't afford to keep all six receivers, it's starting to look like Meachem or Toon could be in the most jeopardy based on their lack of production in preseason games. But all of them bring value. ... Rookies Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones seem more like practice-squad candidates.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I still like undrafted rookie Nic Jacobs' potential as a massive blocker., but the practice squad seems a more likely fit for him.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

No change here from last week (other than listing Goodwin ahead of Lelito in the pecking order). I'm giving Jones the slight edge over Senio Kelemete for that final roster spot because of his versatility as a guard/tackle and because he seemed to play a little better recently. It's very close, though, and it wouldn't be a shock for them both to make the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

No changes here, either. Veteran backup Brandon Deaderick has played well at both tackle and end this summer, so he's absolutely a good bet to crack the roster. But I think the Saints have enough depth with their six returning players.

LINEBACKERS (10)

I've added Butler back onto the roster and removed rookie Khairi Fortt, based on their injuries. Butler has finally started to work with trainers off to the side during practices, which makes it look like he may be ready to come back from his undisclosed injury in the near future. Fortt might also be able to come back in the near future, but he seems like more of a candidate for an "injury redshirt" type of season since he didn't figure to play a lot as a rookie this season. I could certainly be wrong in both cases, though, since I don't have many specific details about their injuries. I was also very tempted to add undrafted rookie Kasim Edebali to the roster this week after he played a key role on special teams against the Colts. He's shown impressive ability in training camp. But I just couldn't find room for him with so many linebackers already playing key roles.

CORNERBACKS (5)

No changes here. Trevin Wade is a possibility. But now that these five guys are getting healthier, there might not be room for Wade on the roster.

SAFETIES (5)

Ball has missed the past few days with an injury, so his status is a little more in doubt. And that could open the door for impressive undrafted rookie Pierre Warren. But if Ball can come back soon, I'm sticking with him.

SPECIALISTS (3)

I've been sticking with Graham all along, so there was no reason to change after he and Derek Dimke both made all their kicks in Saturday's game at Indianapolis. Graham has had a couple hiccups this preseason/training camp though, so he hasn't locked down the job by any means.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
I'm sticking with my pick of Griffin for the backup job, since I think he's been doing enough to prove he's poised and mature enough to handle the role. And if Griffin wins the backup job, that allows the Saints to just keep two quarterbacks. But I'm absolutely not counting out veteran Luke McCown, who played great the other night against the Tennessee Titans.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

I made the switch at fullback from Erik Lorig to Jones since we haven't seen Lorig on the practice field for two weeks. But until we know more details about the severity of Lorig's leg injury, it's impossible to predict whether he'll wind up on the active roster or injured reserve. If Lorig's injury is serious, either the veteran Jones or younger backup Austin Johnson could wind up replacing him. ... As I said last week, the four tailbacks are practically etched in stone.

RECEIVERS (6)

I felt bad about cutting Morgan from my 53-man roster last week. And I feel even worse after watching him have his best week of practice, followed by an outstanding performance in Friday's preseason game. Morgan sure looks healthy, which was the biggest question mark with him after he missed nearly a year with a major knee injury. ... I still think it will be hard for the Saints to keep so many veteran receivers, since they typically only keep four active on game days. But I'm not ready to prematurely cut any of them just yet after learning my lesson last week. ... If the Saints decide to keep a young receiver in a "redshirt" role, Seantavius Jones might be that guy. But the practice squad seems a more likely destination for Jones or Brandon Coleman.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Last week, I added undrafted rookie Nic Jacobs when I cut Morgan. So this week I'm flip-flopping them again. I still like Jacobs' potential as a massive blocker and possible special teams asset. But there aren't a ton of open roster spots right now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Another reverse flip-flop, with Jones replacing Senio Kelemete as my eighth lineman. Both guys have a great shot at the roster -- and both have gotten some great experience over the past two weeks while starters Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have been sidelined with injuries. I went with Jones this time because I thought he played a little better Friday night and because he has more guard-tackle versatility. But it's close.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

No changes here, with all six of these guys practically written in ink. Versatile backups Rufus Johnson Jr. and Brandon Deaderick are also strong possibilities.

LINEBACKERS (10)

No changes here either. I made the tough decision last week to cut veteran Victor Butler, and he still hasn't returned to practice. Like Lorig, it's impossible to make an accurate prediction until we know more about the severity of Butler's injury. But with so many quality linebackers on this roster, Butler will have to come back quickly to cement his place.

CORNERBACKS (5)
Trevin Wade is another strong possibility -- especially with the Saints dealing with so many injuries at cornerback right now. As long as all five of these guys are healthy by Week 1, though, I'm leaving Wade in a "next man up" role on the bubble.

SAFETIES (5)

Undrafted rookie Pierre Warren has had a great camp and has a great shot at the roster. But he also just missed the cut because of the Saints' depth at this position. Both Sunseri and Ball have looked even better over the last week or two.

SPECIALISTS (3)

I'm sticking with Shayne Graham at kicker. He's had a couple hiccups this preseason/training camp, but he's been mostly solid and still seems more reliable than less-experienced backup Derek Dimke. It's far from over.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
I've had Griffin as the No. 2 quarterback all along, and I certainly see no reason to change that after Griffin's excellent performance in the preseason opener. Veteran Luke McCown is a reliable backup and has done nothing wrong to "lose" his job. But he needs to clearly outshine Griffin, and that hasn't been the case so far.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The four running backs are practically etched in stone. But fullback is a big question mark since Lorig has been out for a few days with an undisclosed leg injury, which led the Saints to sign proven veteran Greg Jones. So it's possible that Jones or Austin Johnson or an extra tight end could wind up being needed.

RECEIVERS (5)

I hate the idea of cutting receiver Joe Morgan, and I still think he absolutely has a chance to crack the Saints' roster after recovering from a major knee injury. But I couldn't justify keeping six veteran receivers anymore since I wanted to make room for rookie tight end Nic Jacobs. All along I've felt like Meachem, Toon and Morgan were fighting for a total of two roster spots; I just couldn't decide which one to cut. So I still believe that three-way battle is wide open. None of them did anything in the preseason opener to help or hurt their case much. ... Meanwhile, undrafted rookie Brandon Coleman probably hurt his chances with two dropped passes. There's still a chance that Coleman or fellow rookie Seantavius Jones could crack the roster in a "redshirt" role, but they haven't forced their way onto it yet.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

I've been toying with the idea for three weeks now of adding Jacobs, a super-sized blocker with surprising athleticism. So I finally used Lorig's injury as an excuse (the fullback/tight end positions are sometimes interchangeable in the Saints' offense -- though Hill would be the most likely crossover candidate). Jacobs also got a starting nod on the Saints' kickoff return team, a sign that he's being considered for a spot on the roster.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

I've swapped out the eighth spot on this list every week, which is a good indication of how wide-open things still are. This time I bumped guard/tackle Marcel Jones in favor of guard/center Kelemete. Both of them have a strong chance of making the roster, though, after taking advantage of a lot of first-string snaps while Grubbs and Evans have been sidelined.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

Second-year pro Rufus Johnson Jr. has had a couple nice moments over the past week, so he's firmly on the bubble. But I've been more impressed by the young backups at safety and linebacker so far. Veteran Brandon Deaderick is a more experienced possibility who has shown his versatility by lining up as the second-string nose tackle while Jenkins is out with an injury.

LINEBACKERS (10)

Much like Joe Morgan above, this is another example where I hate projecting the 53-man roster so early. I dropped Victor Butler off my list, which might prove to be a ridiculous idea if he comes back quickly from an undisclosed injury that sidelined him all of last week. But I feel like at least one veteran is going to get cut (maybe Parys Haralson or Keyunta Dawson instead?) because the Saints have so many upcoming young players and core special teamers at this position. And I wanted to make room for Knox on the roster (he's looked good all summer, and he was one of only three players to start on every special teams unit Friday). ... As for Butler, I don't have any information on the severity of his injury, so it's possible that he'll be back soon. And I do still like his potential as a pass rusher. In fact, I thought Butler would be the guy racking up 12 sacks last year before he tore his ACL.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Trevin Wade is anther guy that I would like to find room for on this roster -- a strong possibility, especially if Bailey's undisclosed injury lingers. Wade was a starting gunner on the Saints' punt team Friday and has spent a lot of time at corner with the second-string defense during Bailey's absence. He has clearly passed up Rod Sweeting as the No. 6 man on this list.

SAFETIES (5)

Undrafted rookie Pierre Warren is another young player who's had a great camp and could easily make the roster. But it seems like Sunseri and Canadian Football League transfer Ball are ahead of him in the pecking order right now as backup safeties/special teamers. Ball has had a great week and reminds me a lot of the way Rafael Bush first came onto the scene with the Saints.

SPECIALISTS (3)

For the first time all offseason, I'm a little hesitant on Graham after the way coach Sean Payton was so turned off by his missed extra point (from the new experimental distance of 33 yards) in Friday's game. However, unless Graham totally goes into the tank, he's still the most reliable option here. Even the best kickers miss 20 percent of their field goals. It's a matter of how they handle the highs and lows. Graham will need to prove he's unfazed going forward.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
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.

RECEIVERS (6)

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.

LINEBACKERS (10)

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.

CORNERBACKS (5)

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.

SAFETIES (5)

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.

SPECIALISTS (3)

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.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
As I said during my first roster projection, it’s not easy to cut veteran Luke McCown, who has been a great fit in the Saints locker room. And it's still a neck-and-neck battle for the backup job so far. But McCown will have to clearly outshine Griffin in the preseason, since Griffin is younger, has more long-term potential and would allow the Saints the luxury of only keeping two quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

No changes here. It's gonna be very difficult for undrafted rookies Timothy Flanders and Derrick Strozier to crack the roster since the Saints are so deep. I'll never say never, though, when it comes to the Saints and undrafted rookie running backs. ... Backup fullback Austin Johnson is also a dark horse possibility.

RECEIVERS (6)

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 doubt for now. Morgan has been competing as a punt and kickoff returner (along with fellow receivers Cooks, Andy Tanner and Charles Hawkins). That's another possible path to the roster. ... Undrafted rookie Brandon Coleman is a possibility to crack the roster in a "redshirt" capacity. He's off to a nice start in camp after struggling in organized team activities and minicamp.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I was very tempted to add undrafted rookie Nic Jacobs to my latest 53-man roster projection since I think the Saints could have room for a fourth tight end (they've kept four often in the past). And Jacobs has turned my head by showing some athleticism to go with his massive 6-5, 269-pound frame. But I haven't seen or heard enough yet to know how the coaches feel about him -- or if he's ahead of fellow undrafted rookie Je'Ron Hamm at this point.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Rooks, a sixth-round draft pick, hasn't practiced yet because of a minor back issue. Obviously he'll have to get back on the field soon to keep from getting passed over. But his potential gives him the edge over several other candidates for those last one or two backup jobs for now. I'll also be keeping an eye on young guys like third-year guard Marcel Jones and undrafted rookie center Matt Armstrong, among others. ... I think the top seven on this list are pretty safe.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7)

Johnson is the biggest question mark on this list, but the second-year pro has shown some versatility to go with his athletic potential after being moved to defensive end this year. 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.

LINEBACKERS (10)

This is the one change I made from the previous projection -- adding in veteran outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson (and cutting cornerback Rod Sweeting). It will be very difficult for 10 linebackers to make the roster. But Dawson, who impressed the Saints as a backup last year, hasn't done anything to deserve the axe. He has continued to make plays with the second-string defense during camp. ... I also like pass-rusher Kyle Knox as a dark horse. But this is such a crowded group with the return of Butler from injury and the arrival of enticing rookies Fortt and Powell.

CORNERBACKS (5)

I hate to cut Sweeting, who showed potential last year as an undrafted rookie and stuck with the team all year. But he's been buried on the depth chart so far in camp, and the Saints have a lot of depth now with the additions of Bailey and Jean-Baptiste and Robinson coming back strong from a knee injury. Another possibility is Trevin Wade, who joined the Saints last year and has actually lined up ahead of Sweeting so far in the practice rotation.

SAFETIES (4)

This is another spot where I was very tempted to add undrafted rookie Pierre Warren, who has made some big plays already during training camp (including a forced fumble and a handful of pass break-ups). Warren has lined up with the second-string unit all summer (next to Sunseri) while Byrd has been out with injury. So obviously the Saints have seen something they like from the Jacksonville State product. ... A ton of people have asked me about former CFL standout Marcus Ball. He remains a possibility, too, and made a nice play on Sunday. But he's been behind Sunseri and Warren in the pecking order so far this summer.

SPECIALISTS (3)

I still like Graham over younger kicker Derek Dimke -- especially after coach Sean Payton spoke highly of Graham on Sunday. Neither one has done anything to win or lose the job yet, though.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
It’s not easy to cut veteran Luke McCown from this roster. He has been a great fit in the Saints locker room. But if the Saints can trust the younger Griffin in that backup role, they don’t need to keep three quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

I’m going out on a limb and predicting that this is the year an undrafted rookie running back doesn't make the roster (though Timothy Flanders will probably shine in the preseason). All five names on this list are virtual locks, with backup fullback Austin Johnson also a dark horse.

RECEIVERS (6)

I actually think it will be tough for all six of these guys to make the roster. But they have all shown enough in the past to earn the benefit of doubt for now. Morgan is the big wild card. His uncertain health and the addition of fellow speedster Cooks places him firmly on the bubble. But if Morgan shines in camp, he could pass up Meachem or Toon. ... The Saints have some talented undrafted rookie receivers, but the practice squad seems more likely for them.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

This is a spot where I could definitely see an undrafted rookie such as Je'Ron Hamm or Nic Jacobs cracking the roster. But the Saints went with only three tight ends last season, so I'll stick with that for now.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

The top seven seem pretty safe. After that, it's wide-open for one or two more backup spots. I'll go with the rookie Rooks for now because the Saints invested a sixth-round pick in him and like his growth potential. But former draft pick Marcel Jones and undrafted rookie Matthew Armstrong are among several other possibilities.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7)

The top six are about as safe as it gets. Johnson’s future is uncertain, but the second-year pro has great athleticism and potential. And now he’s being cross-trained as a defensive lineman, which adds versatility for the pass-rusher. Veteran Brandon Deaderick is a more experienced possibility for depth.

LINEBACKERS (9)

My most difficult cut on the defense was veteran outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson, whom the Saints really liked last season and re-signed this offseason. I also like pass-rusher Kyle Knox as a dark horse. But this is suddenly such a crowded group with the arrival of enticing rookies Fortt and Powell.

CORNERBACKS (6)

This position is even deeper. Six cornerbacks is a lot, but it’s hard to cut any one of these guys at this point. And I still had to leave off some talented candidates such as Trevin Wade, Terrence Frederick and Derrius Brooks.

SAFETIES (4)

These four seem like a pretty safe bet. But this is another spot where an undrafted rookie such as Pierre Warren or Ty Zimmerman could earn his way into the mix, especially if he shines on special teams.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The only competition is at kicker, where Graham will have to fend off young contender Derek Dimke.

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