Saints Roster Outlook: Quarterbacks and Running backs

johnsigler
Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower (34) runs against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) and cornerback Robert Alford (23) in the fourth quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower (34) runs against Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) and cornerback Robert Alford (23) in the fourth quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Giants strong safety Brandon Meriweather (22) attempts to stop a run by New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller (28) during the second quarter of the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New York Giants strong safety Brandon Meriweather (22) attempts to stop a run by New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller (28) during the second quarter of the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Saints roster can only carry 53 players into the regular season this September, plus ten practice squad members who can’t suit up on game days and must have limited NFL experience to qualify.  Deciding who survives Saints roster paring-down to that final 53 mark is always difficult.

The big problem facing the 2016 Saints roster cuts is what to do with past investments that haven’t panned out.  This could be due to bad scheme fits (nose tackle John Jenkins), proneness to injury (linebacker Dannell Ellerbe), unusual depth (cornerback Kyle Wilson), or inconsistent performance (offensive guard Tim Lelito).

It’s a grueling path for the many undrafted rookies, too.  They have the unique challenge of showing they belong at the next level with only a small sample size to back up whatever reputation they bring to training camp.  And unlike the veterans mentioned above, these undrafted players (the Saints have 19 on the current 90-man roster by my last count) will not be able to lean on big salary cap hits to hold onto a job if they struggle.

We can’t accurately say who will be on that opening day roster in September just yet.  Training camp will make many things clear and the preseason games have a lot of value so far as team-building decisions, especially for guys on the fringe of the roster who need that time to stand out and above their competition.

Players who looked good in minicamps will take steps back once pads come on, and other guys who were held back by limited contact will thrive.  Team-building is a fluid process in the NFL and teams are constantly churning the bottom of their rosters to try and find the next big thing.  This Saints team will look different in December closing out the year against the Atlanta Falcons than it will look opening the regular season in September against the Oakland Raiders.

So all of that in mind, I’ll open myself up to public criticism with my first official roster projection (plus practice squad!).  This is my first comprehensive stab at what the Saints may look like come kickoff against the Raiders, so I’ll be handling it in five parts:

  1. Quarterbacks and Runningbacks
  2. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
  3. Offensive and Defensive Lines
  4. Linebackers and Defensive Backs
  5. Special Teams and Practice Squad

Let’s get started:

Next: Can Garrett Grayson be the backup?

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