NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Let’s start with a disclaimer. Realistically, it could be a few weeks until we see any actual football on the field like we’re used to. After reporting, testing, conditioning it could be well into August before true practices even start.
Plus, there’s a chance the roster is trimmed by ten players before reporting.
But nonetheless, here are my five takes on key position battles for Saints training camp 2020.
Take One: Center/Guard
The only semi-unknown for a prominent starting position on the team.
In a perfect world, first-round pick Ceasar Ruiz is ready to step in day one and be a starter at either center or guard with Erik McCoy manning the other spot. Deciphering where Ruiz and McCoy play will be interesting to watch. On the surface, it appears Ruiz is more suited for center with McCoy at guard.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Ruiz will be 100% ready when the season starts like McCoy was a year ago. Should that scenario play out, then where do the Saints turn?
With Larry Warford gone, the team has Nick Easton, Patrick Omameh, Cameron Tom and Will Clapp. Easton stepped in last season and played well when called upon. The team also added undrafted rookie Jordan Steckler.
Take Two: Backup/Future Quarterback
This battle is sure to grab the biggest headlines.
Taysom Hill vs Jameis Winston. Hopefully both players get plenty of reps with the first team in practice. It would have been great to see them also getting reps in preseason games, but that is no longer possible.
Could what we see this training camp be a precursor of what’s to come when Drew Brees retires? It’s possible. But overall, I’m very curious to see how this offense looks and operates with both players running it.
There’s a strong chance both Hill and Winston will have moments in practice where they look like the best player on the field.
Hill will play a lot on offense in 2020. Thus the official title of No. 2 or No. 3 is pretty meaningless. The question becomes, what do the Saints do if Brees misses time like he did in 2019. Perhaps what we see in camp with both players, will provide the answer.
Take Three: Backup outside cornerback
From a depth standpoint, this may be the biggest vulnerability on the team. Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins are starters on the outside. At the nickel, P.J. Williams is the frontrunner with Patrick Robinson behind him. CJ Gardner-Johnson can also help out here.
But on the outside who is the next man up? There’s the XFL’s Deatrick Nichols, undrafted rookie Keith Washington Jr., and veteran Johnson Bademosi. There’s a strong chance the Saints could sign a veteran to this group.
Take Four: Backup Tackle
Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead make up one of the most dynamic duos at tackle in the NFL. However, given Armstead’s injury history, the team must have reliable depth at the position.
The team kept Ethan Greenidge on the roster last season as an undrafted free agent. They brought in James Hurst late in free agency, but he’s facing a four-game suspension to open the season. They also have Derrick Kelly, and undrafted rookies Darrin Paulo and Calvin Throckmorten.
Take Five: Other position battles
- Though, it didn’t grab many headlines, with Zach Line retiring there’s an opening at fullback, a position Payton still very much values. Currently on the roster, the Saints have Michael Burton and Ricky Ortiz.
- We know Emmanuel Sanders will be the Saints true No. 2 receiver, but who will emerge behind him? How many receivers will the Saints keep? Tre’Quan Smith heads into Year 3, and likely needs a big year to secure his future with the club. Last year, Emmanuel Butler shined in camp last year, but struggled in the preseason, and spent the season on the practice squad. Lil’Jordan Humphrey was active at times last season, but made little impact. Austin Carr is a Payton favorite. They also signed undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway.
- Linebacker will be an interesting position to watch in camp. DeMario Davis is the alpha in the room, while Alex Anzalone, Kiko Alonso and Kaden Elliss all return from season-ending injuries. They also have veteran and special teams ace Craig Roberston. The team drafted Zach Baun in the third round, but must find a spot where he fits in this scheme. One undrafted rookie to watch in this competition will be Joe Bachie out of Michigan State. The team also has Andrew Dowell and Chase Hansen on their roster.