What to watch for in Saints preseason finale versus Ravens
Can we just move on to the regular season?
That thought will cross the minds of fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as early as the first quarter of tonight’s preseason finale for the New Orleans Saints against the Baltimore Ravens. You can certainly call the game a necessary evil, though some important evaluations will take place in the course of the meaningless scrimmage.
With the new rules and expanded rosters throughout the preseason, the likelihood of seeing starters is slim. There are a few who need work, most notably Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Lattimore and Max Unger.
Otherwise, the prime time guys will remain sublime, watching and perhaps laughing at times on the sideline. Such is the nature of the dreaded final preseason game of the NFL annually.
In watching the game tonight, there are several things to watch for. Here is my hit list:
1) Will the Saints keep three quarterbacks? At this time, the possibility is strong that they will not, having not seen enough from either Garrett Grayson or Ryan Nassib. Grayson was an investment, a third-round pick in 2015 but he has never shown enough to remotely suggest that he is an heir apparent to Drew Brees or a potential NFL starter. If he shows well tonight, it is possible that he could stick around. After a solid preseason debut, Nassib has seen his progress slow and he is a long shot to stick.
2) Will Travaris Cadet make the final roster? Cadet caught 40 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns and was a primary kick return man a year ago but he has lost both jobs this year. Rookie Alvin Kamara is certain to be the primary pass receiver out of the backfield and Ted Ginn, Jr., along with Kamara and possibly Tommylee Lewis are poised to handle kick and punt returns. If the Saints would keep five running backs (unlikely), Cadet could stick. Otherwise, Daniel Lasco holds the edge to be the fourth and final back on the roster.
3) Speaking of Lewis, does he make the squad as a fourth or fifth receiver? It appears that Brandon Coleman will get the fourth spot, though that is not guaranteed. Lewis has enjoyed a good preseason and would seem to have nudged ahead of Corey Fuller for the fifth and final spot with Jake Lampman a long shot, considered for his special teams prowess.
4) Do the Saints have a reserve tackle on the current roster? Both Khalif Barnes and Bryce Harris have struggled to show that they can handle a situation if called upon. On the rother hand, the Saints have to feel a bit shaky with Ramczyk having no experience and having been injured for a solid part of training camp and the preseason. It does appear that Terron Armstead may be ahead of schedule and could return at some point in the season but that is down the road. This may be a spot where the Saints add someone from the waiver wire after other NFL cuts are made.
5) Who sticks as the final edge rusher? With the addition of Alex Okafor and the apparent return to health (and form) of Hau’oli Kikaha, Obam Gwachum could be the odd man out, despite having a solid camp. Darryl Tapp could be in a bit of jeopardy but should make it while rookie Al-Quadin Muhammad poised to make the team.
6) Who will be the other linebackers on the roster outside of A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o, Alex Anzalone and Craig Robertson? Nate Stupar would be solid but he limped off the field in the win over Houston last week. Michael Mauti is battling hard and would make it only as a special teams player. Adam Bighill has a big hill to climb but you always like what you see from him. Then, there is the plight of Stephone Anthony. Will the Saints swallow hard and admit a mistake on a first-round pick? Anthony cannot find a spot, struggles with schemes and has missed too much time. We are about to find out just how much Mike Nolan and Dennis Allen like Anthony.
7) Who are the final defensive backs on the roster? You can pencil in Delvin Breaux (despite his injury), P.J. Williams, Lattimore, Kenny Vaccaro, Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams. Rafael Bush has been solid. Ken Crawley is in. That leaves Sterling Moore, De’Vante Harris, Chris Banjo, Erik Harris, Damian Swann and long shot Arthur Maulet. Banjo has been the best special teams player on the field for the Saints in the preseason. Moore gained valuable experience a year ago. De’Vante Harris has had some good moments. Erik Harris and Swann are in trouble.
What I have stated all along is most likely to happen, that all six draft picks in the 2017 draft will make the final roster and contribute, including Lattimore, Ramczyk, Williams, Kamara, Anzalone, Hendrickson and Muhammad. While it is obviously too early to say, it appears that the Saints may have had a good, if not very good draft this year. Of course, your biggest investments must pay off so all eyes will be on Lattimore, Ramczyk, Williams and Kamara, whom the team traded up to obtain.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…