After Further Review: Updated Saints roster projection

(AP Photo) Saints coach Sean Payton has until Saturday to get his roster down to 53
(AP Photo) Saints coach Sean Payton has until Saturday to get his roster down to 53

The third preseason game is usually the closest a team will get to the regular season in the preseason. With that in mind, the Saints made a few personnel decisions that may have been clues as to where they are leaning in their final 53.

Here is my best guess:

Quarterback (3)

Drew Brees

Luke McCown

Ryan Griffin

It's not what I would do but my biggest change comes at quarterback. I don't think it's necessary to keep three but it's impossible to ignore that McCown has started ahead of Ryan Griffin in every preseason game. Plus, McCown has been the holder for Graham. Neither McCown nor Griffin played well Saturday but I can't see them releasing Griffin after the growth he has shown.

Wide Receiver (6)

Marques Colston

Kenny Stills

Brandin Cooks

Nick Toon

Joe Morgan

Robert Meachem

I'm going back up to six receivers, not for anyone's play but because of Stills' injury. If he indeed reinjured that quad, he could be the first couple weeks of the regular season. For that reason, I put Meachem back on. The bottom end of this group has been pretty disappointing. Meachem hasn't made any real impact and Toon is starting to look like a 'practice' player at this point. Someone who shines in practice, but when the lights come on, he becomes average.

Running Backs (4)

Pierre Thomas

Mark Ingram

Khiry Robinson

Travaris Cadet

No change here. These four players will be on the roster.

Tight End (3)

Jimmy Graham

Ben Watson

Josh Hill

Easy call here. Hill has had an outstanding training camp/preseason.

Fullback (1)

Austin Johnson.

Austin Johnson has gotten all the first team reps at fullback and has been very good.
He solidified his spot, at least until Erik Lorig returns, on the roster. The bigger question is how do the Saints handle the Lorig injury? Do they cut him and go with Johnson? Do they put him on injured reserve? Or do they keep two fullbacks temporarily and cut elsewhere?

Center (2)

Tim Lelito

Jonathan Goodwin

Goodwin got the first team reps during the third preseason game with all the starters. That looks like a pretty good indication that he is winning the competition. Nonetheless, both he and Lelito are on the roster.

Guard (3)

Jahri Evans

Ben Grubbs

Senio Kelemete

I'm still sticking with Kelemete here though Marcel Jones is breathing down his neck for the final guard spot.

Tackle (3)

Terron Armstead

Zach Strief

Bryce Harris

No change here.

Defensive End (4)

Cam Jordan

Akiem Hicks

Glenn Foster

Tyrunn Walker

No change here.

Defensive Tackle (2)

Broderick Bunkley

John Jenkins

Injuries at wide receiver forced me to keep six there, thus I had to subtract Brandon Deaderick in this week's roster.  These types of variables are very real for coaches and players. Deaderick has done enough to earn a spot but it's a numbers game and other positions need bigger numbers due to injuries.

Outside Linebacker (4)

Junior Galette

Parys Haralson

Keyunta Dawson

Ronald Powell

Powell is the newest addition to the roster after his best work to date in a Saints uniform. This list is assuming Fortt's injury forces him to go on injured reserve. If he does not then, it could shake up the linebacker group.

Inside Linebacker (5)

Curtis Lofton

David Hawthorne

Ramon Humber

Kevin Reddick

Kyle Knox

Quick tweak here, the official depth chart has Kyle Knox listed as an inside linebacker. Thus, I now have five inside linebackers and four outside linebackers.

Cornerback (5)

Keenan Lewis

Patrick Robinson

Champ Bailey

Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Corey White

Saturday we finally saw the secondary at full strength, and they look like a group that can be exceptional this year. Lewis, Robinson, Bailey, White and Jean-Baptiste will all make the final roster.

Safety (5)

Kenny Vaccaro

Jairus Byrd

Rafael Bush

Vinnie Sunseri

Marcus Ball

Numbers at other positions are forcing me to drop back down to five safeties. Undrafted rookie Pierre Warren has had a nice camp but on this roster I have three quarterbacks thus another group must lose a player.  This week it will be at safety.

Specialists (3)

Thomas Morstead (P)

Shayne Graham (K)

Justin Drescher (LS)

I still have Graham winning the kicker battle over Derek Dimke. Morstead and Drescher are obvious choices.