I’ve done countless roster projections since I began covering the NFL. This might be the hardest one I’ve ever put together.
It’s not because there are too many close battles or not enough talent at certain positions. It’s because there are so many injuries and unknown timetables.
Do the Saints carry Keenan Lewis until he’s healthy?
How about Dannell Ellerbe?
Will running backs Khiry Robinson and C.J. Spiller be back sooner than later?
And what’s up with Jairus Byrd?
All of those guys end up on this roster. The Saints began placing players on injured reserve earlier in the week. It seems like they would have cleared all of those guys out if they were putting others on injured lists.
Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if a couple more names hit injured reserve. If they do, that changes everything and this roster projection will be decimated.
Anyways, going off of what we know, here’s my best guess at how the 53-man roster will end up. The team has to trim from 75 to 53 on Saturday:
Quarterback (3): Drew Brees, Luke McCown, Garrett Grayson
Out: Ryan Griffin
Analysis: It’s hard to shake the feeling that Luke McCown didn’t already have this one wrapped up before the fourth preseason game. If he didn’t, he probably finished the job by going 5-for-5 with a touchdown on the first series of the game.
Running backs (5): Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Khiry Robinson, Marcus Murphy, Austin Johnson
Out: Edwin Baker, Toben Oporum, Tim Hightower
Analysis: Both Spiller and Robinson are fighting injuries, which makes it somewhat difficult to project this position. If both players are unavailable for Week 1, then it’s likely Tim Hightower makes the initial roster. Johnson has the fullback position locked up.
Wide receiver (6): Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Brandon Coleman, Willie Snead, Josh Morgan, Seantavius Jones
Out: Joe Morgan
Analysis: It’s hard not to think that Joe Morgan seriously damaged his chances against the Packers. He dropped a pass that led to an interception and fumbled. Perhaps it’s an overreaction to one performance. He had some solid moments in camp. But this certainly wasn’t the way Morgan wanted to end his preseason. Seantavius Jones makes it for special teams.
Tight end (3): Josh Hill, Benjamin Watson, Alex Smith
Out: Chris Manhertz, Orson Charles
Analysis: This is only temporary. Charles will be on the team once his one-game suspension ends.
Offensive line (8): Zach Strief, Terron Armstead, Max Unger, Tim Lelito, Jahri Evans, Andrus Peat, Senio Kelemete, Mike McGlynn
Out: Sean Hickey, Cyril Lemon, Nick Becton, Mike Golic Jr., Bryce Harris
Analysis: It wouldn’t be a surprise if someone like Becton manages to make the team. He’s been the best of the rest. Hickey could also jump in ahead of McGlynn. It’s close. I prefer the veteran.
Defensive line (7): Cam Jordan, Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Jenkins, Kevin Williams, Tavaris Barnes, Bobby Richardson, Tyeler Davison
Out: Kaleb Eulls, Ashaad Mabry, Parys Haralson
Analysis: The battle is tight at defensive tackle. Kaleb Eulls and Ashaad Mabry have both had positive moments during the preseason. Whoever loses here will have a good shot of landing on the practice squad. I previously thought Richardson was headed in the wrong direction. He bounced back against the Packers. Haralson is on the bubble. His usage in the preseason makes it seem like he’s on the right side of the equation, but it’s hard to find his fit since some of the guys at linebacker can play defensive end.
Linebacker (7): Stephone Anthony, Dannell Ellerbe, David Hawthorne, Hau’oli Kikaha, Ramon Humber, Davis Tull, Kasim Edebali
Out: Justin Anderson, Henry Coley, Jerry Franklin
Analysis: Ellerbe’s status is up in the air. He’s been out since the first game of the preseason with a toe injury. If he isn’t ready or is placed on an injured list, then Coley makes the team. However, if Ellerbe’s injury isn’t something that is going to linger the Saints need to keep him around. He’s the best cover linebacker on the team. Edebali can also help at defensive end.
Cornerback (6): Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux, Damian Swann, Kyle Wilson, Keenan Lewis, Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Safety (5): Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush, Kenny Phillips, Pierre Warren
Out: Brian Dixon, Sammy Seamster, Jamarca Sanford
Analysis: This feels like a lot of cornerbacks. There’s an extra one to absorb the injury of Keenan Lewis. Brian Dixon could make it on for his ability on special teams. If Lewis were healthy, things might be shaky for Jean-Baptiste. It’s crazy to think how deep this position looked a month ago. Now it’s thin with injuries to Lewis and P.J. Williams, who was placed on injured reserve. Warren gets in over Sanford. Warren has some play-making ability and contributes on special teams. However, his bad angle to a ball that allowed a 77-yard reception against the Packers could lead to his demise.
Special teams (3): K Zach Hocker, P Thomas Morstead, LS Justin Drescher
Out: Dustin Hopkins
Analysis: I had Hopkins right up until the end. I thought he was better in practices. But he’s missed kicks from 48 and 55 yards. Hocker has hit two over 50 yards and missed one from that distance.