Breaking down the Saints' 53-man roster

The New Orleans Saints made their final roster cuts on Saturday night. Now they enter next Sunday's opener against Tampa Bay with their final 53. How did the Saints assemble this roster? Who were the surprise cuts? How will this roster translate into regular-season success? Saintsinsider.com analyzes it all right here.

THE BREAKDOWN: On offense, the Saints kept G/C Matt Lehr as a swing player and valuable depth. Rookie Carl Nicks also made the roster as a backup guard-tackle. He's probably the player that pushed Andy Alleman to the curb. The Saints also, in a bit of a surprise, kept four pure tackles, including Jermon Bushrod. That gives the Saints nine offensive linemen. It would appear, though, that Nicks and Lehr are the only ones that can play two positions.

The Saints apparently heeded my advice in my game review and cut Tyler Palko. The Saints feel comfortable with Drew Brees and Mark Brunell at QB, but there are some options for a new No. 3 (Chris Simms, anyone?). If the Saints do sign a third, Bushrod could be out of a job.

The Saints kept the four backs I expected, but I was a little surprised they kept only one fullback. Mike Karney is one of the best in the game, but the fact that the Saints like to use Reggie Bush in one-back sets probably eliminated the need for a backup at fullback.

Lance Moore's performance against Miami and Adrian Arrington's injury made the Saints' decisions at wide receiver much simpler. You can expect Robert Meachem and Moore to get plenty of playing time early this season, depending on their success. The tight ends shook out as expected.

On defense, with Hollis Thomas out for at least another month, the Saints kept four tackles, but still couldn't find room for Orien Harris. Rookie Sedrick Ellis will likely be a starter against Tampa Bay and Brian Young's recovery from injury may slow him early. The Saints kept just three ends. They'll have to hope for increased production out of all three, including free-agent pickup Bobby McCray.

Troy Evans claimed the final linebacker spot, the one I thought rookie Jo-Lonn Dunbar might have claimed thanks to a great preseason. Marvin Mitchell is the only linebacker with less than 5 years experience and it could turn out to be one of the team's better units this season.

Showing the Saints' continued search for a cornerback, they kept seven, including everyone's whipping boy, Jason David. He probably made the roster after Greg Fassitt was moved to injured reserve. They also kept Usama Young, a player I felt underperformed during the preseason. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of cornerbacks to keep on an opening-day roster. The Saints kept four safeties.

Martin Gramatica won the placekicking chores with a perfect preseason. It really wasn't much of a contest after Taylor Mehlhaff missed his only field goal against Miami.

BIGGEST CUT: I thought Harris had played his way into a roster spot and would be a necessary addition with the injury to Thomas. I would have liked to have seen the Saints keep Harris and cut a cornerback. There's no reason to keep seven corners on a NFL roster — unless the Saints aren't confident in any of them.

BIGGEST KEEPER: Young made the final roster, though I felt he didn't do enough to earn it. Keeping four tackles was a bit of surprise, too.

REALITY CHECK: It's hard to imagine the Saints will keep seven cornerbacks all season. That just seems extreme to me. The likelihood is that the Saints will keep a sharp eye on their corners the first 2-3 weeks of the season and then cut one or two to sign depth at other positions. Right now, the Saints are thin at fullback and defensive end and could use a signing at each position.

WHAT'S OUT THERE?: The Saints seem pretty set on offense, except at quarterback and fullback. The Saints could go after Simms, cut by the Bucs on Saturday.

Defensively, former Falcons T Rod Coleman is now available again. If the Saints want to add help at end, veteran Roosevelt Colvin is now a free agent. Bryce Fisher and Jerome McDougle are also on the waiver wire. That would seem the most likely position to shore up at this point.

PREDICTIONS SCORECARD: I correctly predicted Gramatica, Mehlhaff, Jason Craft, Lance Schulters and Lance Moore. I missed Harris, Skyler Green, Dunbar, Evans and David.

ON THE SEASON: I think the Saints are still unsure about their cornerback situation, which is why they have so many. The first few weeks will be an adventure back there on the back line. But I think they've improved their front seven enough to better their horrible defensive ranking of a year ago. The Saints haven't changed much on offense, and there was no reason to. The offense, I think, will carry this team for a while, with the defense asserting itself at midseason. I think this roster is constructed well enough to win the division for the second time in three years.


Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of saintsinsider.com.


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