Coach Sean Payton said after Friday's win over Oakland that the most important thing in the preseason is not wins and losses but finding the right 53 for his club.
While he and the Saints won't totally know who that is until the end of the preseason, in certain spots they should have a clearer picture of who truly belongs in that number.
Take wide receiver, the position that's produced the best competition of training camp.
Nick Toon, Kenny Stills, Preston Parker, Andy Tanner, Steve Breaston, Patrick Crayton and Saalim Haakim have all been battling for three or possibly four roster spots behind Marques Colston.
That debate has now likely been subtracted by two. Stills and Toon look to be in.
Stills has gotten back-to-back games with the first team and followed up his so-so opener with a much more consistent effort. He finished with four catches for 64 yards, a touchdown and no drops.
I thought it spoke volumes that the very first pass Drew Brees threw Friday was to Stills. Stills dropped a beautifully thrown Brees' deep ball last week. The Saints went right back to him immediately Friday. It showed the confidence the Saints have in the youngster. Clearly, they see big things from him and Brees wanted Stills to know that he still trusts him even after he makes a mistake.
The same can be said for Toon, who got plenty of first team reps on Friday. He only had one catch but it was a big one. Plus, the fact that he got that big of a role with the starters is key. Through two preseason games Toon now has five catches for over one hundred yards.
Backup quarterback had also been competitive. Through camp and the first preseason game, it appeared Luke McCown held a slight edge over Seneca Wallace.
After Friday, that edge may not be so slight anymore. In fact, McCown didn't take a single snap, but may have won the job.
Getting his biggest opportunity to date, Wallace looked lost. He was inaccurate, indecisive and didn't have the grasp of the offense that many thought he might. He also didn't flash his athleticism; the one thing I thought would allow him to stand out. Ironically, the one time he did, he should not have when he retreated out of the pocket and ran right into a sack that led to a fumble that was eventually recovered by the Raiders for a touchdown.
Wallace really faces an uphill battle now, not just for his poor play but for his snap count. Brees will play into the third quarter next week, which means the last chance Wallace will have to get meaningful snaps will be in the finale against Miami, if he makes it that far.
Barring some complete collapse, I'd say McCown has just about wrapped up the right to back up Drew Brees.
Don't get confused, there's still a long way to go and the competition is far from over. There's still plenty of competition at some positions. The Saints have injuries at all linebacker spots. They also have a logjam at cornerback behind starters Keenan Lewis and Jabari Greer.
If the team goes with four running backs as they have in the past, Travarris Cadet looked to be in the lead, until Friday. Cadet fumbled twice and put himself on the bubble. Now it's neck and neck between him and Khiry Robinson.
Plus, new injuries can always throw rosters for a loop and force teams to re-evaluate.
But as the Saints sit at the midway point of the preseason, they certainly have a better picture of who's started to separate themselves from the pack.
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Wednesday, April 16 2014 2:06 PM EDT2014-04-16 18:06:48 GMT
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