Saints roster solid in many ways but receiver, cornerback still lack enough answers
It’s still early but it’s clear after the first pre-season game the Saints still have some obvious strengths and some weakness.
The good news is they are strong where you need to be, in the trenches on the offensive and defensive lines.
The top five offensive linemen – Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Eric McCoy, Cesar Ruiz and Ryan Ramczyk – look solid as expected. Backups like James Hurst, Ethan Greenridge and rookie sixth round draft pick Landon Young also look like players.
For a team that will need to run the ball more this season, the running back spot fortunately looks good as well with star Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington and Tony Jones. It is Jones, a second-year undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, who had a big game Saturday. It may spell trouble for recently added veteran Devonta Freeman or perhaps even someone else behind Kamara.
The defensive line looks like a strong position even with the dilemma caused by tackle David Onyemata’s six-game suspension.
Defensive end has quantity and quality. Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Carl Granderson, first round pick Payton Turner and free agent pick-up Tanoh Kpassagnon can all rush the passer. The two new big guys – Turner and Kpassagnon – may also slid inside at defensive tackle to help the rotation that includes Shy Tuttle and Malcolm Roach. Perhaps another tackle will be added before the regular season although some other prospects in camp at the position are showing well.
Linebacker clearly improved with Kwon Alexzander’s return from injury. Three young prospects – Zack Baun, Pete Werner and Kaden Ellis – will fight for playing time next to the team’s top defender Demario Davis.
The safety position also looks good with Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins, CJ Gardner-Johnson and undrafted prospect Eric Burrell, a rookie free agent who played at Wisconsin and had a big game against the Ravens.
The positions that still look suspect are wide receiver and a position group which now may be as weak – cornerback. Veteran help seems to be almost certain additions to come.
It is hard to judge the quarterback play when they lack weapons in the passing game. With Michael Thomas out, it looks like the two best options are Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris.
Harris is the most explosive and most talented but his small build and durability questions limit his ceiling.
Tre’Quan Smith is a third receiver on most teams but he was slated to start heading into camp only to be derailed yet again by injury.
Fourth receivers at best on most teams are Lil’Jordan Humphries, Ty Montgomery and Chris Hogan; the trio are likely to make the roster barring additions from elsewhere. Seventh round pick Kaawan Baker may end up on the practice squad.
Still a work in progress is the tight end spot, where Adam Trautman is having a good camp and converted wide receiver Juwan Johnson is showing ability. The Saints may be satisfied with the talent here, adding Nick Vannett’s blocking into the equation
Then there is cornerback.
Third round selection Paulson Adebo is big, fast and able to cover outside buthe is still a rookie who gets fooled at times by double moves. Adebo showed some cover ability and ball skills against the Ravens but he will have to do it against top NFL quarterbacks and receivers before anone knows if he’s ready as a rookie.
Marshon Lattimore is solid as a number one guy but another corner pick-up is a must. Ken Crawley adds some depth but he is clearly not the answer. After him, there are no outside corners on the roster who can handle a starting assignment of heavy snap counts.
Quarterback, of course, is still up in the air. Fans and media are use to watching Drew Brees so it is hard to match with the current options. Still, receiver and corner look like the most pressing needs in New Orleans.
- < PREV Update: LSU 2022 recruiting class targets
- NEXT > Pelicans quietly put together a winning offseason
CCS NFL Draft Expert
Dupuy is the owner of Draft Day Report, The Pro Prospects Draft Scrapbook, a must for any draftnik following the NFL. Al was born in Plaquemine, La., and moved to New Orleans when he was 6 years old. He grew up on Tulane Ave. two blocks from Pelican Stadium and became interested in sports at an early age. He went…