NEW ORLEANS -- "The Right 53.''
That's the stated goal of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton - to get the best 53-man roster going into the regular season opener on Sept. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.
So does the "Right 53'' include the Saints' present-day "Rudy,'' popular wide receiver Andy Tanner, whose physical qualities might not measure up to NFL standards but all he does is catch the football when given an opportunity?
He is a "poor man's Lance Moore.'' And, that is meant as a supreme compliment.
BAW's 'Right 53' (Version 2.0)
With the final cut looming, here is my best hunch:
QBs (2) -- Drew Brees, Luke McCown.
RBs (4) -- Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Travaris Cadet.
FB (1) -- Jed Collins.
TEs (2) -- Jimmy Graham, Ben Watson.
WRs (5) -- Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Kenny Stills, Nick Toon, Preston Parker.
OL (8) -- T Charles Brown, T Zach Strief, T/G Marcel Jones, T Terron Armstead, G Jahri Evans, G Ben Grubbs, C Brian de la Puente, G/C Eric Olsen.
DL (7) -- DE Akiem Hicks, DT John Jenkins, DT Brodrick Bunkley, DE Cam Jordan, DE Tyrunn Walker, DE Glenn Foster, DE Tom Johnson.
OLB (5) -- Junior Galette*, Martez Wilson*, Parys Haralson, Rufus Johnson, Jay Richardson.
ILB (5) -- Curtis Lofton, Jonathan Vilma*, David Hawthorne, Roman Humber, Will Herring*.
CB (5) -- Keenan Lewis, Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, Corey White, Chris Carr.
S (5) -- Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush, Jim Leonhard.
SPECIAL TEAMS (4)
K (1) -- Garrett Hartley
P (1) -- Thomas Morstead
LS (1) -- Justin Drescher
ST (1) -- Courtney Roby.
* Currently Injured
Exhibit A: On Sunday, Tanner caught three receptions for 33 yards in the Saints' 31-23 win at Houston, including two for touchdowns in the second half.
He can catch it in the preseason (six for 92 yards and two TDs through three exhibition games). He probably can catch it the regular season, too, if given a chance. But his value to the Saints would not be as a pass catcher when the games count. Payton has five wide receivers who can go get it - Marques Colston, the aforementioned Lance Moore, Kenny Stills, Nick Toon and Preston Parker.
Tanner's real value to the team would come on special teams, much like sixth wide receiver Courtney Roby who has been special teams' captain the past few years for coordinator Greg McMahon and seldom made it into a game as a pass catcher.
The bottom line is I don't see Parker, Tanner and Roby all making the team; two out of three but not all three.
So, who is the odd man out?
Unfortunately, my call is Tanner, who told Fox Football Daily that he has been released, signed, re-signed or waived 35 times. I suspect that number will increase before the week is out.
My guess is Tanner will get caught up in the annual numbers game where coaches rob one position to bolster another (see "Right 53''). The game typically involves those players who are vying for the last 12 to 15 roster spots, such as the ninth O-lineman, the third tight end, the second fullback, the fifth running back and the last one or two D-linemen, linebackers and defensive backs under consideration.
As of Monday, Aug. 26, in addition to Roby and Tanner, my bullpen would include T Bryce Harris, G Tim Lelito, FB Austin Johnson, RB Khiry Robinson, DE Tom Johnson, OLB Eric Martin, OLB Baraka Atkins, CB Rod Sweeting, S Isa Abdul-Quddus, S Jim Leonhard, CB Chris Carr and S Rafael Bush.
My feeling is if players are considered equal between an offensive and defensive player, Payton will keep the defensive player because the need is greater on that side of the ball. Also, look for team officials to work aggressively to upgrade the roster heading into next week, especially on defense if the injury to OLB Will Smith turns out to be serious.
It happened sooner rather than later. On Monday, team officials acquired veteran OLB Parys Haralson from the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, according to multiple media reports. The 49ers reportedly were shopping the 29-year-old Haralson with plans to release him later this week. Haralson (6-0, 255) missed the 2012 season with a torn triceps tendon.
When the Saints take the field Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium against the Miami Dolphins, site of their Super Bowl XLIV win against Indianapolis in February 2010, the Black and Gold already will be down to 75 players or less.
Teams must cut to 53 by 5 p.m. local time Saturday.
Most of the starters will be sideline observers Thursday night as Payton and his staff turn the exhibition finale over to the bottom 50 players on the roster, many of whom will be fighting for jobs.
Remember, anything can happen between now and Saturday and the key is to identify "The Right 53.''
I hope Handy Andy Tanner is among them. I'm a sucker for an underdog.
Until we meet again.
NOTE: I added Parys Haralson in place of Will Smith at OLB later Monday after the former was added via trade with the 49ers and the latter is now out of the picture with a season-ending injury.
|< Prev||Next >|