By Andrew Schuster @ShootsMcGavin on July 18, 2014
With training camp just around the corner, the New Orleans Saints may be looking at the best roster the team has ever seen. A strong draft and splash into the free-agent market has improved the club on both sides of the ball, but there is still much to be learned. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what to expect when camp kicks off.
The team is due to report on July 24 at The Greenbrier, a luxury resort in West Virginia. There, camp will extend from July 25 to Aug. 13 before the team makes its way back to New Orleans for its second preseason game and to finish off camp (Aug. 17-26) at the team facility in Metairie, L.A. and a couple of practices at Mandeville High School in Mandeville, L.A.
Drew Brees is obviously locked in as the starter, but the backup role is up for grabs. Veteran Luke McCown is the favorite, but after a solid outing at OTAs and minicamp, Ryan Griffin could give him a run for his money. Rookie UDFA Logan Kilgore will be in the mix as well, but the former Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider should not be a factor.
While Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram are set to be the two feature backs, sophomore Khiry Robinson will be contending for extended playing time. He may be the best athlete in the backfield. With Darren Sproles out of the picture, Robinson and Travaris Cadet should see a hefty chunk of action. UDFAs Tim Flanders and Derrick Strozier will be fighting for a roster spot.
Erik Lorig easily has the upper-hand over Austin Johnson at fullback.
Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks will be the top three wideouts. Robert Meachem, Joe Morgan and Nick Toon should be locked in on the roster, while Andy Tanner, Brandon Coleman, Steve Hull, Charles Hawkins and Seantavius Jones will all be battling to make the cut.
Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson are the obvious No. 1 and No. 2 at TE. Josh Hill, Nic Jacobs and Je’Ron Hamm will be contending for a spot on the final roster.
The OL looks to be set with Tim Lelito taking over center duties after starting at guard two games last year. Jonathan Goodwin returns to New Orleans to fight for the center position, but he is likely there for insurance purposes. Sophomore Saint Terron Armstead’s left-tackle job is safe for now after strong outings in the playoffs. Jahri Evans (RG), Ben Grubbs (LG) and Zach Strief (RT) are locks. After that, backup spots are up for grabs.
A battle to watch will be Brodrick Bunley and John Jenkins for the starting nose tackle job. Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks are the obvious starters on the edge. Glenn Foster could be an emerging force at defensive end and should be a lock as a backup along with Tyrunn Walker. Several other guys will be looking to make their case as well.
Three starters are set with Junior Galette, Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. However, Victor Butler will be battling with Parys Haralson to earn his job back into the starting rotation after missing all of 2013. Things could get heated between the two. ILB Kevin Reddick is a special kid and could give Hawthorne some trouble. Draft picks Khairi Fortt and Ronald Powell will be in the mix along with several others who are looking for a job.
Keenan Lewis and Champ Bailey will be the corners while Jarius Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro patrol the safety spots. That secondary has the potential to be one of the best in the league and probably will be. Corey White, Patrick Robinson, rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste and some others add depth at corner. Rafael Bush, Marcus Ball and Vinnie Sunseri are looking at backup roles at safety with some UDFAs fighting for a job as a Saints DB.
Shayne Graham is the favorite for field goal duties, but Derek Dimke has looked solid and could end up winning the job. Thomas Morstead’s leg has earned the role as punter and place kicker for years to come. Travaris Cadet is the favorite to take over punt and kick return duties with Darren Sprole and Lance Moore gone, but first-round pick Brandin Cooks and Joe Morgan will likely get some reps as well.
The biggest camp battle to watch is going to be Victor Butler and Parys Haralson, who will be fighting for the starting job opposite Junior Galette. Butler was set to start last season, but missed all of 2013 with an ACL tear. Haralson did a solid job after the Saints signed him during the season. Butler will need to shine in order to reclaim his role in Rob Ryan’s unit. This exciting battle could go either way.
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