After Further Review: Biggest position battles of Saints training camp

After Further Review: Biggest position battles of Saints training camp
Erik McCoy will battle Cameron Tom and Nick Easton at center during training camp.

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - With every training camp comes new competition at each position. Some battles are obvious, while others develop over the duration of practice.

We’ve pinpointed the six biggest battles as the entire Saints team get set to report this week:

Center

Erik McCoy, Nick Easton and Cameron Tom

Center is the only true first-team position where the starter is completely unknown. With Max Unger retired, a new player will be inserted into the center of the offensive line. In this offense, many consider it the most important position on that unit. Nick Easton, Erik McCoy and Cameron Tom all received first team reps during OTA’s and minicamp. Each have their strong suits: Easton has versatility, Tom has been in the system and steadily improved, McCoy is a second round pick with probably the most talent of the three. But in this battle, the pads will determine the winner.

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Nickel

P.J. Williams, Patrick Robinson & Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

This battle looked intriguing when it was just Wiliams vs. Robinson, but now it should be even more intense with the addition of Gardner-Johnson. Williams looked like a totally different player when he moved to the inside last season. Robinson was playing well there before he suffered a season-ending injury. CGJ adds an interesting dynamic to this battle. He is listed as a safety, but during OTA’s he excelled as a nickel. All three made big-time plays in the offseason. It will be fun to see how this competition shakes out.

3rd/4th Wide Receiver

Cam Meredith, Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Simmie Cobbs, Rishard Matthews, Austin Carr, Lil’ Jordan Humphrey

Michael Thomas is all-world. Ted Ginn Jr. is a savvy veteran that can still stretch a defense. Behind those two, the wide receiver position is wide open for two or perhaps three spots. Smith started strong last season, but hit the proverbial rookie wall midway through. If he grows in year two, he can be a contributor. Meredith’s lingering injury issues are concerning. He will need to get healthy fast, to keep pace in this competition. Cobbs and Matthews both stood out during OTA’s. Matthews is a veteran with speed, while Cobbs is a big guy that can really work the intermediate parts of the field. Carr has experience in this offense. Humphrey is a player many were high on when the Saints signed him as an undrafted free agent.

Third tight end

Alize Mack vs Dan Arnold

Jared Cook looks poised to be a big-time factor in this offense. Josh Hill is steady and productive, but the third tight end will likely come down to Mack or Arnold. The Saints drafted Mack in the seventh round, and the Notre Dame product showed flashes during OTA’s. Arnold converted to tight end last season, had some good moments, but struggled towards the end of the season.

Backup Defensive End

Depth at this position is still a little concerning. Sure, Cam Jordan has been an ironman on one side, and the team is hoping for big things out of Marcus Davenport, but behind those two is unknown. Trey Hendrickson is going into his third year, has experience, but also needs to show consistency to be kept around. Carl Granderson looked to be a factor here, but his legal issues prevented him from being available. Also on the roster the Saints have: Wes Horton, Corbin Kaufasi, Geneo Grissom. Mario Edwards can play end as well.

Third running back

Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray will get most of the carries, but the Saints love a third back that can come in and contribute in spots on offense and on special teams. Devine Ozigbo, Dwayne Washington, Matt Dayes and Javorius Allen are all in the mix at the position. Their knowledge of the offense, ability to pick up the blitz, and contributions on special teams will be their ticket onto the roster.

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