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Saints Camp: Battles for roster spots come in focus before 49ers tilt

WR Montez Billings at New Orleans Saints Training Camp (Photo: Parker Waters)WR Montez Billings at New Orleans Saints Training Camp (Photo: Parker Waters)

Saints WR Montez Billings (Photo: Parker Waters)

METAIRIE - On the eve of their preseason opener, the New Orleans Saints held what was just another traning camp workout on the road to the regular season.

And that means the battle for playing time and, more crucially for some, roster spots continues.

Wide receiver Adrian Arrington has been stuck on the outskirts of the team for three seasons. The former seventh rounders inability to contribute on special teams combined with the solid play of two young receivers make it less likely Arrington will make the team as the 5th receiver.

Jared Fayson from Illinois is a big receiver who is having a good camp; the undrafted rookie shows good hands and can get separation from defensive backs. Montez Billings is also pushing Arrington. The ex-Auburn star has been consistent so far and, if he shows something playing special teams, will have a chance to make the 53-man roster.

Another receiver is an exciting player to watch is Joseph Morgan from Walsh. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds with sub 4.4 speed, he will get a look as a return man and, unlike Arrington, has the benefit of eligibility for an NFL practice squad.

With Lydell Hamilton being cut and Chris Ivory still injured, running back Joique Bell from Wayne State has a chance to stick around. He is a big back at 220 pounds who runs with power. His name keeps coming up in training camp thanks to some some impressive runs.

"He's elusive, has speed, can run with power, I think we'll see him play quite a bit tomorrow night and he's had a good camp so far," said Saints head coach Sean Payton.

After finding his way onto the roster late last season following a slew of injuries at the position, Bell is proving he is more than just a stop-gap prospect.

With fullback Heath Evans not being resigned, Kory Hall (6-0, 236) from Boise State looks good. But the ex-Green Bay Packer is being pushed by Jed Collins (6-1, 255) from Washington State. Expect Hall to still win the job.

Junior Galette, the second-year defensive end from Stillman, has gained some bulk and looks to be doing a better job against the run. A super quick pass rusher, Gallette has even showed some bull-rush ability in the practices this month. He has a quick first step and comes hard off the edge. I expect he makes this team again and makes an impact.

I had safety DeAndre McDaniel from Clemson rated as the number 2 safety in my draft publication but he went undrafted. He had an off the field issue and a bit of an attitude problem. He has been quiet so far in camp (perhaps both in a good and bad way). I look forward to seeing him play in the pre-season.

One of the more improved players has been cornerback Patrick Robinson. The 2010 first rounder is getting a good jump on the ball and making plays. could he push Tracy Porter for the starting job? Porter better get his injured knee well quickly.

Defensive tackle Shawn Rogers is so huge that he makes offensive lineman Carl Nicks -- all 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds of him -- look like a normal-sized guy. Rogers weighs in at about 350 but is very quick and agile for a big man.

Add in free agent Aubrayo Franklin from the 49ers to the Saints defensive interior with Rogers? That means a bunch of beef, both in size and quality.

PRACTICE PLAYS OF NOTE:

Drew Brees looked to throw to Robert Meachem but he was well-covered by Patrick Robinson. Brees then went to his second read, Lance Moore, for 15 yards. 

Brees later got him man, hitting Meachem behind the secondary for 50 yards.

Chase Daniel had sharp throws to Montez Billings for 12 yards and John Chiles for 30.

Linebacker Dwight Robinson batted down a pass intended for tight end Jimmy Graham.

Running back Joique Bell had another good day, getting to the edge and breaking free down the sidelines. He later had a nice run off-tackle for 15 yards. It's important to note that Bell also was on the kick return team.

"I think he can help in the kicking game, He'll have snaps tomorrow night as well in that area," noted Payton about Bell. "He's been a good surprise to watch."

Third quarterback Sean Canfield hit tight end Tyler Lorenzen for 20 yards over the middle and later for 30 more. The Oregon State product later found wide receiver Andy Tanner for 10 yards.

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas filled the hole and stuffed running back Bell for a loss. 

Edge rusher Junior Galette put an inside move on tackle George Foster to break free for what would have been a sack.

Safety Jonathan Amaya broke up a pass intended for Bell.

INJURY UPDATE:

- Still missing in action were running back Chris Ivory (foot), defensive end Greg Romeus (knee), and corner Tracy Porter (knee)

- Also sitting out practice were linebacker Ezra Butler,  wide receiver Marcus Colston, linebacker Ramon Humber and offensive tackle Alex Barron (knee surgery).

- Limited today but will play against the 49ers were OT Jon Stinchcomb, OG Roger Allen and WR Jarred Fayson

SCHEDULE:

The Saints host the 49ers on Friday at 7 p.m. and then enjoy an off-day Saturday before returning to practice Sunday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. (open to the public).

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