Projecting the Saints 53-man roster going into their first preseason game _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- during the Saints morning practice Monday at White Sulphur Springs, WV.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Here’s a look at how I think the roster stands heading into the first preseason game.

Quarterbacks (3): Drew Brees, Luke McCown, Garrett Grayson

Out: Ryan Griffin

It’s going to be a tight race between McCown and Griffin. The vet might have a slight edge heading into the first game. If Brees were to go down, McCown might have the best shot at winning a game or two.

Running backs (4): Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower

Out: Edwin Baker, Marcus Murphy

I didn’t include any return specialists in my last roster projection. I’m doing the same thing here. It just seems the last spot on the roster could be better spent keeping an every-down player with some upside around. The other issue is that I haven’t been blown away by Murphy and Jalen Saunders is out with an injury. It remains possible one of those two change the conversation during the preseason. I should also note that I’ve been impressed with Baker a few times during camp.

Fullbacks (1): Austin Johnson

Out: Erik Lorig, Toben Oporum

This is going to be a big battle. I thought Johnson was on his way to become a solid player for this team before his injury. There’s no reason to think he won’t continue on that track.

Wide receivers (6): Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, Brandon Coleman, Nick Toon, Seantavius Jones, Willie Snead

Out: Lance Lewis, Kyle Prater, Joe Morgan, Josh Morgan, R.J. Harris, Jalen Saunders

Here’s where the last roster spot comes in. I’m not convinced Willie Snead is going to make the team, but he’s had a solid camp and is at least in the discussion. This will hold steady until either Snead falls or someone else at a different position steps up. Further down the depth chart, heading into the first preseason game, I think Harris is a candidate for the practice squad. He’s had some solid moments in camp.

Tight ends (3): Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Orson Charles

Out: Kevin Brock, Alex Smith

I’m torn here. Both Orson Charles and Kevin Brock have had some positive moments during camp. It will be interesting to see which one has the best showing during the preseason. Charles is suspended for one game, so that could work against him.

Offensive line (9): Terron Armstead, Tim Lelito, Max Unger, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief, Andrus Peat, Senio Kelmete, Mike McGlynn, Nick Becton

Out: Sean Hickey, Cyril Lemon, Nick Golic Jr, Cole Manhart, Antonio Johnson, Bryce Harris

I would have liked to keep only nine offensive linemen on the roster. A lot hinges on how Peat performs during the preseason. If he proves he can play guard, then there might not be a need to keep someone like McGlynn around. But he also needs to prove he’s ready to hold down one of the tackle positions in the event of an emergency. His lack of conditioning heading into camp has made it difficult to evaluate where he’s at in his development.

Defensive end (4): Akiem Hicks, Cam Jordan, Bobby Richardson, Anthony Spencer

Out: Tavaris Barnes, Parys Haralson

Someone of value is going to lose a job here. I haven’t seen enough of Spencer to be confident he’ll be the one to win the job, but he’s the guy I’m going to back for now. Richardson possesses the ability to slide inside and provide some pass rush from the tackle position.

Defensive tackle (4): John Jenkins, Kevin Williams, Tyeler Davison, Lawrence Virgil

Out: Kaleb Eulls, Ashaad Mabry

Cutting Mabry was harder than expected. The only reason he’s being left off is because Virgil has caught my eye several times and I’m intrigued by his upside. Right now, I would guess Mabry is ahead of Virgil on the depth chart. But I think Virgil has the potential to rise.

Will (2): Dannell Ellerbe, Ramon Humber

Out: Henry Coley

Coley as another difficult cut. He’s looked good during camp. He could jump up the roster.

Mike (2): Stephone Anthony, David Hawthorne

Out: Jerry Franklin

No explanation needed.

Sam (2): Hau’oli Kikaha, Kasim Edebali

Out: Ronald Powell, Davis Tull, Markus Pierce-Brewster

Tull still isn’t back on the field. We haven’t seen a single snap from him. I have no way to evaluate his performance. There’s no choice but to leave him off this projection. Pierce-Brewster is a strong candidate for the practice squad.

Cornerbacks (5): Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, P.J. Williams

Out: Kyle Wilson, Brian Dixon, Damian Swann, Travis Manning, Terrence Frederick

Perhaps the spot used for Snead should have been saved for Swann. There’s going to be some movement once everyone gets healthy and the picture becomes clearer.

Safeties (5): Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush, Vinnie Sunseri, Kenny Phillips

Out: Jamarca Sanford, Pierre Warren

Some might be surprised Warren was left off the roster. He’s been receiving third-team reps in camp. He has some work to do to get back in the mix.

Special teams (3): P Thomas Morstead, K Dustin Hopkins, LS Justin Drescher

Out: Chris Highland, Zach Hocker

Hopkins has shown a better leg during camp.

Last three out: Ashaad Mabry, Parys Haralson, Henry Coley