POSITION: Tight end
YEARS IN THE NFL: 3
ACQUIRED: Signed to practice squad, September 2014
HIGHLIGHTS: Charles, a fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, spent two active seasons with the Bengals — including six starts as a rookie — and made nine catches for 109 yards. Cut by the Bengals after training camp last year, Charles eventually latched on with New Orleans and spent all of last season on the practice squad.
Strengths: Charles, at 254 pounds, is a big, strong blocker who does his best work in the running game. He has a strong base and a powerful upper body, engaging well with outside linebackers and holding his ground. In the receiving game, Charles does not have much speed, but he’s got adequate hands and enough of a big body to shield defenders, as he did on a 20-yard throw over the top by Rya Griffin during Thursday’s practice. Working in the red zone, Charles was covered by safety Vinnie Sunseri, but he walled off Sunseri and caught a ball dropping in over his head.
MUST CONTINUE TO: Prove he has receiving skills. Ben Watson is already a dependable Y tight end — the in-line option in the Saints’ offense — and New Orleans has used Josh Hill in a blocking role before. During the offseason, the Saints kicked the tires on several tight ends with reputations as good receivers, and if Charles can show he’s improved his ability to stretch the field, it would go a long way toward earning a roster spot.
PROJECTION: The fate of Charles might rest on the health of Kevin Brock. A veteran imported right before camp to add another competitor at the tight end position, Brock showed surprising downfield skills before suffering a minor injury. If Brock gets healthy, he and Charles should battle right down to the finish for the final spot, particularly after undrafted free agent Jack Tabb was carted off during Thursday’s session. Charles still faces a one-game suspension for an April 2014 road rage incident, but if he’s clearly the better option, it shouldn’t keep Charles off the roster.
NEXT THREE UP
Friday: Black & Gold scrimmage, 7:50 a.m.-10:40 a.m. CT.
Saturday: Saints take day off to evaluate.
Sunday: Practice, 3 p.m.-4:50 p.m. CT; Picnic with the Saints, 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. CT.
OUT: S Jairus Byrd, CB Keenan Lewis, WR Brandon Coleman, WR Jalen Saunders, TE Josh Hill, CB Damian Swann, CB P.J. Williams, DT Glenn Foster, LS Justin Drescher, LB Davis Tull.
LIMITED: WR Marques Colston, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Anthony Spencer, TE Kevin Brock.