As New Orleans Saints training camp rolls on, the team’s roster is still in flux. With the first Saints preseason game looming against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, August 13, head coach Dennis Allen and his staff have some tough decisions to make. Several players on the bubble could get cut if they don’t perform well in the next few weeks. Here are four Saints players on the roster bubble who must shine in the preseason, including quarterback Jameis Winston.
QB Jameis Winston
The quarterback battle in Saints training camp doesn’t involve Derek Carr. He is the team’s starting signal-caller. What is interesting is the backup spot, though.
New Orleans has veteran Jameis Winston, fourth-round rookie Jake Haener from Carr’s alma mater, Fresno State, and of course, there is always Taysom Hill as the gimmick/emergency QB.
Winston has spent a lot of time telling the world that he is still a starting-caliber quarterback in this league, yet he’s struggling in camp, and the rookie is outperforming him.
“Most of the days the offense is doing pretty well, you’ll see Derek Carr come in and have a pretty good drive. It drops off a little when Jameis comes in,” Rod Walker reported on the Saints Insider podcast. “And then we see Jake Haener come in, and the offense starts clicking again.”
The Saints don’t save any money by cutting Winston, but if the veteran QB doesn’t perform well in the Saints' preseason games, it doesn’t make sense to have him on the roster. The team should put its best foot forward this coming season, and if that means Haener behind Carr, then that’s what should happen.
WR Bryan Edwards
The Saints added some former Las Vegas Raiders pass-catchers to help Carr get comfortable this season, including wide receiver Bryan Edwards and tight end Foster Moreau.
Edwards has struggled at times in Saints training camp, and now without some big preseason games, it may be hard for him to make the final team.
The Saints roster is deep at the WR position, with Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, and rookie AT Perry all locks to make the squad. Tre'Quan Smith is currently dealing with an injury, but he is a favorite to end up on New Orleans for the 2023 campaign as well.
That leaves Edwards, James Washington, Keke Coutee, Lynn Bowden, Keith Kirkwood, and Kawaan Baker fighting for the final one or two spots.
Preseason games will likely be the final tryout for these players, and without showing that they can compete for a starting job, vets like Edwards — who have less special teams value than some of the youngsters — will struggle to make the team.
S Johnathan Abram
Speaking of former Raiders, safety Johnathan Abram is another player who used to wear the silver and black and is looking to hold onto a Saints roster spot during the preseason.
Veteran stars Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye are the team’s starters, and the competition for the additional two or three spots comes down to Abram, Jordan Howden, JT Gray, Ugo Amadi, and Smoke Monday.
Gray is an All-Pro special teams player, and Howden is a 2023 fifth-round pick out of Minnesota, so they should both make the roster. After that, if the team does keep five safeties, Abram will have to beat out Amadi, who the team signed in the offseason, and Monday, a young player the team likes coming off an ACL injury during last year’s camp.
Maybe Abram is the best player right now for the fifth safety spot, but if the Saints are keeping an eye on the future, Amadi or Monday are the better choices.
K Blake Grupe
Longtime Saints kicker Wil Lutz took a pay cut in the offseason in order to stay with the Saints for another season. He is coming off the worst field goal season of his career, connecting on just 74.2% in 2022. That said, he also made 100% (33-of-33) of his extra points in the last campaign.
That’s why New Orleans brought in an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, Blake Grupe, to compete with Lutz in Saints training camp.
To make the final roster, Grupe will not only have to kick incredibly well in the preseason, but he will also have to hope that Lutz stumbles a bit. While both are good kickers, this competition isn’t all about what happens this summer.
In the end, the Saints have legitimate playoff aspirations this year, and even if Grupe is neck-and-neck with Lutz, it will be difficult to go into the season with a rookie kicker. Lutz has proven he’s an NFL kicker already, and his one-time Pro Bowl resume may be enough to keep the job.