New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Dennis Allen will have some decisions to make before the 3:00 p.m. CT deadline on Tuesday, August 29th to get down to 53 players ahead of the regular season opener. These are the players I believe will suit up for the Black and Gold in week one:
Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
Carr signed very early in the offseason with New Orleans and has been preparing to be their starter for this season and the following years to come. Winston began the 2022 season as the starter for the Saints before he suffered multiple injuries and fractures to his back that held him off the field and will now serve as the backup for Carr. Haener was selected in the fourth round of the most recent NFL Draft and has shown flashes of potential.
RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS: 4
Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller, Ellis Merriweather, Adam Prentice
With the Alvin Kamara suspension that was handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he will not be counted toward the roster limit for the first three games. Williams signed with New Orleans and will get a heavy workload in that early part of the season while Kamara is away from the team. Miller is a rookie who has shown flashes during the preseason and will also take meaningful carries that will help adjust him to the speed of the NFL. Merriweather has caught the media’s eyes these last few weeks and should make the roster at a thin position on this team. Prentice will also stay as he’ll be the team’s fullback.
WIDE RECEIVERS: 6
Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, Keith Kirkwood, A.T. Perry, Lynn Bowden Jr
Olave is poised for a breakout season in his second year in the league and will have an upgrade at quarterback to get him there. Thomas has been battling injuries the last few years but took a pay cut to remain on the team and prove that he can still be impactful for the Saints. Shaheed is another second-year player who popped out of nowhere in the middle of the season and gave the offense juice at times and will continue to show off his elite speed as a returner and pass catcher. Kirkwood is back with the team and has notably run with the first-team offense, including against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first preseason game. In that same game, Perry stood out and gave the coaching staff enough reason to not risk putting him on the practice squad. Bowden Jr. has made a case for himself with ability in the receiving game and punt return game.
TIGHT ENDS: 4
Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, Taysom Hill, Jimmy Graham
Johnson has developed into a good tight end and reliable pass catcher after previously being a wide receiver when he came into the league. Moreau was another signing that came from the Raiders as has the ability to be effective in the run game. Hill will play all over the field once again as the Saints’ Swiss Army Knife, including being a rusher in short-yardage situations to extend drives and get into the endzone. Graham will serve as another option for the team when they get into the red zone and three tight end sets in short-yardage situations.
OFFENSIVE LINE: 9
Ryan Ramczyk, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, James Hurst, Trevor Penning, Andrus Peat, Calvin Throckmorton, Lewis Kidd, Nick Salvideri
Plenty of returning starters like Ramczyk, Ruiz, McCoy, Peat, Hurst, and Penning, who will continue to develop after missing almost all of his rookie season, due to injury. The others will be the backups like Saldiveri who hasn’t been impressive thus far, but the Saints traded up to get him in this last draft and won’t let go of him just yet. Kidd has versatility as he’s lined up at guard in the past and was the left tackle in the preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Throckmorton is the only real question mark and could find himself on the practice squad if he doesn’t show out versus the Houston Texans in this next game.
DEFENSIVE LINE: 9
Cam Jordan, Payton Turner, Carl Granderson, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Khalen Saunders, Nathan Shepherd, Bryan Bresee, Malcolm Roach, Isaiah Foskey
Jordan heads into his 13th season with the Black and Gold after getting a contract extension earlier in the offseason. Turner will look to prove himself and be in rotation with others like Granderson and Kpassagnon, who have been quality rotational pieces on the edge. Saunders and Shepherd were signed early in the offseason to help improve the run defense and that was further enforced when the Saints drafted Bresee in the first round of the 2023 draft out of Clemson. Roach will come in on third downs to stop the run and rush the passer while second-round pick Foskey will try to learn from the veterans and see occasional playtime.
Demario Davis, Pete Werner, Zach Baun, Jaylon Smith, Nephi Sewell
Davis and Werner will be your starters as the Saints run a nickel formation most of the time. Sewell will come in on certain situations and if Davis has an injury like he did in the first preseason game versus the Chiefs. Baun will rotate in the coach Allen calls for a 4-3 defense and Smith was a last-minute addition to the squad but has made plays on the field that should award him the final linebacker spot.
Marshon Lattimore, Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye, Alontae Taylor, Paulson Adebo, Bradley Roby, Ugo Amadi, Jordan Howden, Lonnie Johnson Jr, J.T. Gray
Lattimore will still stand as your lockdown boundary corner while Mathieu and Maye will show up as your starting safeties and continue to build chemistry with one another. Adebo and Taylor have battled for the starting corner spot on the opposite side of Lattimore. Taylor can play multiple positions though and can play in the nickel, but Roby can also fill in there if there’s an injury. Johnson is another guy who was signed in the first few waves of free agency and is able to play multiple roles on this defense just like Howden, who at certain points during training camp was running with the first team defense and was lining up all over the field. Amadi has shown the ability to make plays on defense and on special teams while Gray remains as the team’s special teams ace.
SPECIAL TEAMS: 3
Wil Lutz, Blake Gillikin, Zach Wood
Coach Allen brought in specialists this offseason to battle with the veterans but Lutz has shown the coaching staff he can have a positive impact on this team. Gillikin has been in a more heated battle with Lou Hedley but he should still edge him out while Wood’s job as a long snapper is safe and secure.