With the deadline for NFL teams to trim their rosters to the regular season strength of 53 players fast approaching, the New Orleans Saints have some tough decisions ahead of them. Unlike the the battle for the starting left tackle spot between Charles Brown, rookie Terron Armstead and Jason Smith, the wide receiver cuts will be much harder to make.
With a the No. 1 and No. 2 spots effectively settled with Marques Colston and Lance Moore respectively, the Saints will be looking to fill their No. 3 and No. 4 spots. Gone from the running this year is second year man Joe Morgan, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in training camp. Morgan had been the favorite to snag that No.3 receiver spot after highlighting some play making ability last season and a strong showing in training camp this year.
Left to battle it out were Nick Toon, rookie Kenny Stills, Preston Parker, Saalim Hakin, Andy Tanner and veterans Steve Breaston and Patrick Crayton. Possibly brought in to encourage and motivate the younger receivers to step up their game, Breaston and Crayton were released before the fourth game of the preseason. Parker had nine receptions for 122 yards, scored two touchdowns and showed some speed and deep threat abilities. Tanner has shown some great hands this preseason and also recorded two touchdowns while Hakim has shown great speed but not so great hands.
This leads me to believe that Toon and Stills will both earn themselves a spot on the 53 man roster and will be rotated in and out to fit the scheme and/or situation. Stills has shown himself to be not only speedy but to have play making and separation as well. He caught a touchdown from Drew Brees against the Oakland Raiders making the effort to keep his feet in bounds as he caught the ball and fell out of bounds. He also showed separation ability in the matchup against the Houston Texans when he made a nice double-move to separate himself from cornerback Jonathan Joseph and caught a touchdown pass from Luke McCown.
Toon has shown potential as well. In week two of preseason against the Raiders, Toon caught a a 56-yard bomb from Brees that set up a touchdown run by Mark Ingram the next play. Similarly built like Brees’ favorite target Colston, Toon could end up being a nice complementary receiver to Colston, Moore and tight end Jimmy Graham. The final preseason game did see Toon leave in the second quarter with an undisclosed chest injury, however.
From a side-by-side comparison this preseason, Toon and Stills both look comparable to each other. Stills has nine receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Toon also caught nine passes this preseason for a total of 164 yards and no touchdowns.
So do not be surprised if Stills and Toon both still have a spot on the team once the rosters are trimmed. Sean Payton is an offensive mastermind and he loves to play around with matchmaking to get opportune looks for his high powered offensive machine. If Toon and Stills offer any kind of advantageous matchups, you can be sure Payton and company will keep them around for full time work in the regular season.