The NFL mandatory cutdown to 53-man rosters is today at 4 PM ET. The New Orleans Saints and other 31 teams must trim their rosters from 80 players to 53, with a myriad of moves throughout the league already taking place on Monday.
New Orleans, like all teams, have several difficult decisions to make. The Saints have to base their decisions without the benefit of a third preseason game.
Their preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals was canceled on Saturday because of the pending arrival of Hurricane Ida.
Ida was a Category 4 hurricane that hammered the Gulf Coast region and forced the Saints to move team operations to Dallas, TX, for at least this week.
Despite the difficult circumstances brought on by Ida, the business of the NFL will carry on. New Orleans coach Sean Payton and his franchise will base some hard roster decisions off training camp practices and two preseason contests.
While the Saints will undoubtedly make several other roster moves prior to hosting the Green Bay Packers in their season opener on September 12. Here is how I think the New Orleans 53-man roster will look like after mandatory cuts later today.
(* = Rookie)
- Jameis Winston
- Taysom Hill
- Ian Book*
As expected, Winston won the quarterback battle with Taysom Hill to be the successor to retired QB Drew Brees, at least to start the year. The Number 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston became just the eighth player in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards when he accomplished the feat in 2019.
Winston's passing talents are undeniable, but he’s also been prone to turnovers. He's the first quarterback other than Brees to start a season opener since Aaron Brooks in 2005. Winston will be under pressure to show he can efficiently run Payton's prolific offense while avoiding crippling turnovers.
The 31-year-old Hill gained popularity among the team's fan base because of his effort and spectacular versatility. His special teams role will be drastically reduced, but he’ll still be involved in several offensive packages as a runner, receiver, and gadget quarterback.
Book, a fourth-round draft choice from Notre Dame, had some impressive moments in training camp. A smart and athletic quarterback, Book is currently the only player under contract at the position beyond this season.
Don't be surprised if Payton keeps a fourth quarterback on the roster to start the year. Journeyman Trevor Siemian knows the system and would provide veteran stability to allow Hill to play more roles in the offense.
RUNNING BACK (5)
- Alvin Kamara
- Tony Jones Jr.
- Latavius Murray
- Dwayne Washington
- Alex Armah (FB)
Kamara is one of the NFL's most dynamic offensive weapons. The entire offense is centered around his outstanding versatility. Murray's power has been a terrific complement to Kamara over the last two years.
A horrendous preseason has put Murray on the roster bubble in some eyes, but his experience and production in the system should keep his spot safe. At the very least, Murray could be pushed down the depth chart because of the performance of Tony Jones Jr.
Jones, an undrafted second-year back from Notre Dame, has had an outstanding training camp and shined in both preseason games. He’s been running with great vision and decisiveness and has shown improved receiving ability out of the backfield.
Armah is the only fullback currently on the roster after the release of rookie UDFA Sutton Smith. He must show that he can be an effective lead blocker and capable short-yardage receiver to hold on to a job into the season.
Washington has never been much of an offensive threat, but his special teams contributions have been invaluable over the last three seasons. If Payton keeps a fourth quarterback, Washington might be the odd man out because of the versatility of Taysom Hill and WR/RB Ty Montgomery out of the backfield.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
- Marquez Callaway
- Deonte Harris
- Ty Montgomery
- Tre'Quan Smith
- Lil'Jordan Humphrey
- Easop Winston*
- (Injured List = Michael Thomas)
Without a doubt, the position full of the most question marks heading into the regular season. Thomas, arguably the best wideout in the league, could miss half the season after ankle surgery.
Callaway, an undrafted second-year pro, looked spectacular in preseason and seems ready to assume the Number One wideout duties.
Harris is the league's most feared kick returner. He’ll be a bigger part of the offense and has game breaking abilities with underrated route running skills. However, at 5’6” and 170-Lbs., he’ll have limited offensive snaps. He may also face a league suspension for an offseason DUI arrest.
Montgomery had a solid training camp at wide receiver. He has starting experience as a wideout and running back and could push for a starting job until Thomas returns.
The inconsistent Smith has been injured most of training camp. He’ll have spot going into the season, but has had disappointing production throughout his three-year career.
Humphrey, an undrafted rookie in 2019, has started both preseason contests. He’s been a bit inconsistent in camp, but has turned in a solid performance.
Humphrey is a big wideout that won't threaten defenses down the field, but fights well through the short and intermediate routes.
Outside of Callaway, the New Orleans receiving corps looks like a team weakness entering the year. Veterans Chris Hogan and Kevin White were added for experience, but neither has stood out enough to secure a role.
Undrafted Easop Winston has outplayed fellow rookie Kawaan Baker, a seventh-round choice, and been more consistent than either Hogan or White. Winston is an explosive player who has made some dazzling catches in camp and provided a kick return threat in preseason.
Expect the Saints to have plenty of movement at this position early in the season. The team will likely look at several receivers released by other teams in the coming days.
TIGHT END (3)
An easy choice here at a thin position. Trautman is expected to be a productive starter as he enters his second season. However, he’s had a quiet training camp and was injured in the second preseason game against Jacksonville.
Johnson made the team as an undrafted rookie at wide receiver last year. After moving to tight end in mini-camp, he's been the offensive star of the offseason along with Jones and Callaway.
Vannett was a veteran free-agent addition this offseason. Like Trautman, he's had a quiet camp. He was also injured against the Jaguars, a knee injury expected to keep him out 2-4 weeks.
Trautman and Vannett are not expected to miss significant time. With them sidelined, the team might bring in another veteran off waivers or keep either Ethan Wolf or Garrett Griffin into the regular season.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Terron Armstead (T)
- Andrus Peat (G)
- Erik McCoy (C)
- Cesar Ruiz (G)
- Ryan Ramczyk (T)
- James Hurst (T/G)
- Landon Young (T)*
- Calvin Throckmorton (G/T)
- Will Clapp (C/G)
The New Orleans starting five up front is arguably the best in the league. Ramczyk and Armstead are the NFL's best tandem of tackles. Peat has been named to three Pro Bowls, and McCoy has developed into a Pro Bowl-level center.
Ruiz, entering his second year, has had a terrific training camp. A first-round pick from Michigan last year, Ruiz joins former first-round selections Ramczyk, Peat, and second-round choice McCoy up front.
Versatility is the key to the New Orleans depth along the offensive line. Veteran James Hurst has starting experience at both tackle and both guard spots. He’s also used as an extra lineman in short yardage and goal-line packages.
Rookie sixth-round pick Landon Young displayed impressive footwork during practices and held up well in both preseason games. Throckmorton has an impressive combination of size and strength. He played every position along the line in college at Oregon.
Clapp, capable of playing either center or guard, played well with the second-team line at center in preseason. He outplayed J.R. Sweezy, a veteran camp addition, to likely hold on to the final roster spot along the offensive line.
- Aldrick Rosas (K)
- Blake Gillikin (P)
- Zach Wood (LS)
- (Injured List = Wil Lutz, K)
Gillikin quickly took control of the battle against rookie Nolan Cooney to replace fan-favorite Thomas Morstead at punter. Wood has been the model of consistency as a long-snapper.
Lutz, one of the league's most consistent kickers, will miss several games after groin surgery. Rosas, a Pro Bowler with the Giants in 2018, can hopefully hold down the spot until his return. He has a strong leg, but has converted just 71% of his field goals over the last two seasons.
New Orleans must trim their roster to 53 players by 3 PM CT this afternoon.
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