The game against Houston taught us one really important lesson: the battle between Preston Parker and Andy Tanner is much more compelling than Kenny Stills and Nick Toon. Which is not to say that Toon vs. Stills wasn’t exciting or important. They have just proven that they both belong, while the other two are playing a much different game here. There is more at stake than the fifth, sixth, or seventh receiver spot. This is possibly the future of the receiver AND the special teams positions.
Through the third preseason game, it’s clear that Stills has won the third receiver spot on the Saints roster. Nick Toon has done well enough to earn the fourth spot. With Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Stills, Toon, and Courtney Roby rounding out the top 5 spots, the Saints have a few difficult decisions to make. First of all, they have to decide how many receivers to keep. It is not that long ago that the Saints kept seven receivers on the roster. But, injuries to running backs and defensive backs have forced the Saints to use more spots on those positions, leaving less for the receivers. Also, with the emergence of Jimmy Graham and the pickup of Benjamin Watson, it is doubtful the Saints will keep that many receivers.
Next, do these two receivers beat Roby out for a roster spot. I wouldn’t rule that one out as impossible. He is on a one-year deal and it would be easy to cut him without too much of a cap hit. The hangup is that Roby knows special teams. He is our special teams captain. Cutting him now isn’t that great of an idea, especially since he is one of the best special teamers on a Saints special teams that has seemed to make many mistakes this preseason. Tanner and Parker just can’t offer the same special teams value that Roby brings. At least not yet.
So, the next decision is one the Saints don’t want to make. If the Saints have to keep only six receivers, will the last one be Parker or Tanner? Both have proven themselves as receivers and both have great potential value on special teams. Parker would have seemed to have the edge on special teams until Tanner showed similar value against the Texans. Parker is a better returner, Tanner showed coverage and tackling ability. Tanner had better receiving stats tonight (3 for 33, 11.0 yard average, 2 touchdowns) but Parker had similar stats against the Chiefs (4 for 43, 10.8 average, 2 touchdowns).
Both are very comparable. They are even the same height at 6’0’’. In the end, it will come down to the last preseason game before the coaches make their decision. If both make it, it would prove the doom to Roby. At any rate, this is the kind of problem you love to have if you are the Saints.
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