We're two weeks away from the Saints rookies reporting for training camp, while the veterans will be in the following week. New Orleans should drop their practice schedule soon, and we continue to focus on what to expect as we get closer. The team will have a good bit of position battles at training camp, but what are the hottest ones?
It's going to be a huge focal point as the team's offense looks to rebound after a very disappointing season. Naturally, a big part of the problem was the talent at wide receiver. Not having Michael Thomas certainly hurt a lot, to say the least, and the Saints didn't get a ton of production from others that were being counted on.
In the offseason, New Orleans upgraded in a big way by using one of their first-round picks to get Chris Olave, and then later signed Jarvis Landry on a very team friendly one-year deal. That's not the only good news, as Michael Thomas is expected to be back. He set things on fire the other day with an Instagram post of him running routes.
However, the competition centers around the other three spots on the depth chart. Of course, that's assuming the team does carry six wide receivers. Tre'Quan Smith, Deonte Harty, and Marquez Callaway are certainly the frontrunners for those roster spots, while players like Kevin White, Kirk Merritt, Easop Winston Jr., and Kawaan Baker have their work cut out for them.
Rookies Dai'Jean Dixon and Rashid Shaheed certainly have promise, especially as practice squad players, but we've yet to see Shaheed due to him coming off an ACL injury. That should change going into training camp.
Perhaps the best news for all of these receivers is the fact there won't be a quarterback battle this season, and the Jameis Winston show will be able to take shape.
New Orleans was in a bit of a pickle losing their two starters this offseason in Marcus Williams (Ravens) and Malcolm Jenkins (retirement). However, they'd get some strong reinforcements to ensure they keep on going. Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye will certainly go in as the favorites to start, and the battle behind them is what's most intriguing.
Maye is potentially going to face league discipline due to an offseason DUI arrest from February 2021, so that's at least three games someone may start in his place. Behind the two veterans, the Saints have veterans of their own like P.J. Williams and Daniel Sorensen. Sorensen is more in the Jeff Heath role from a season ago and has been a primary presence on special teams.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson goes in as the team's unquestioned slot guy, while Justin Evans looks to revitalize his career after coming back to football. Not to be forgotten, J.T. Gray makes his marks as an All-Pro on special teams, while Bryce Thompson has been one of the more impressive Saints from OTAs and minicamp. Rookie Smoke Monday is someone to keep an eye on, as he's been soaking it all in from a very deep secondary.
Final cuts are going to be very interesting at this spot.
The only things we can say for certain is that Ryan Ramczyk will be at right tackle and Erik McCoy will be at center. Left tackle is up for grabs, with James Hurst being the favorite going in, although he'll face some strong competition from rookie Trevor Penning. It's not that the tandem of Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz at guard won't be what the team rolls with to start the year, but they're going to have to stay solid and fend off some others.
Calvin Throckmorton started 14 games at left guard for the team due to injuries last year, and he's been getting a good bit of work at right guard in the early stages of OTAs and minicamp. He's someone that could push the other two players at either position. At worst case, he'll be an important backup to Peat.
Forrest Lamp, Josh Andrews, Lewis Kidd, and Ethan Greenidge are some of the players to keep an eye on for the interior, while Landon Young, Sage Doxtater, and Lewis Kidd are ones to watch at tackle. Kidd and Greenidge have worked at both tackle and guard. Others who are looking to make their mark include Jerald Hawkins, Derek Schweiger, and Khalique Washington.
Stock Watch on Other Positions
- Defensive Tackle - David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle go in as the starters, and the Saints have veterans Jaleel Johnson and Kentavius Street looking to push their way into at least the primary backups. Albert Huggins and Malcolm Roach return, while rookies Jordan Jackson and Josh Black look to ascend up the depth chart.
- Defensive End - The top two spots should go to Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport, and Tanoh Kpassagnon was someone the team used on three-man rush packages last year. New Orleans should get back Payton Turner for camp, who announced that he was medically cleared last week. Carl Granderson and Taco Charlton will also be competing, and it's particularly interesting that Dennis Allen singled out Granderson as someone who had a really strong showing early on. Charlton is probably the odd man out right now, but just the battle in the rotation will be what to watch. We'll also have to see if Davenport does indeed come back to start camp.
- Tight End - We're not sure if Taysom Hill will be ready to go to start training camp, but he's expected to be heavily involved with the group this season. Hill was at the facility doing rehab, so we'll have to wait and see if and when he hits the field. Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, and Juwan Johnson are the top candidates at the position along with Hill, and undrafted rookie Lucas Krull was one particular player that had a nice start to OTAs and minicamp. J.P. Holtz and Brandon Dillon are the other two competing, and seemingly have an uphill battle.
- Running Back - Alvin Kamara is the starter until he's not from possibly league discipline, while Mark Ingram goes in as the primary backup. Behind them is where things get fun. The third spot is up for grabs, with Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington, Devine Ozigbo, and rookie Abram Smith all in the mix. Each of them will have to provide some upside on special teams, and don't rule out the Saints trying to add a veteran at some point before or during camp.
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