After each preseason game has been completed and I have had a chance to review the game a few more times I’ll be posting a ‘stock watch’ report where I catalog which players (in my own opinion) have moved up, moved down, or stayed right where we thought they were. These will be based on my own opinions and my own understanding of the game and biases so this is not a definitive guide to football, but the primary purpose of this article will be to look how different players performances should impact their chances of making the final 53 man roster. This isn’t an attempt to predict the final 53, I’m looking at each player individually (minus the guys who are ‘locks’) and grading their performance against my expectations for them.
Let’s start on a positive note.
Stock going up:
- Hau’oli Kikaha: Kikaha is coming off of his 3rd ACL surgery on the same knee and we are seeing him play at 260+ for the first time in the NFL. My expectations for him were minimal at best because of his circumstance, but he looked faster, stronger, and most importantly quicker than I think I’ve ever seen him. It is only a single game sample size and against a back up tackle (which matters), but just going out there and looking effective considering where he is coming from is deserving of praise. Only time will tell if he can show this to be a trend instead of a mirage, but Kikaha has officially exited my zero expectations bucket (more on that at the end).
- Al’Quadin Muhhamad: A 6th round pick who hasn’t played in 2 out of the last 3 years in college, you can imagine how ‘high’ my expectations were for him. Especially because there were virtually no reports of him standing out in camp before this, and even Mike Triplet of ESPN reported sentiments along those lines. Simply put practically no one who knows what they were talking about would have predicted that Muhammad would have been one of the biggest highlights of the Saints first preseason game, but that’s exactly what he was. He flashed agility, power, a pretty nasty bull rush, and during one play displayed an absolutely beautiful inside spin move that gave him a clean shot at the quarterback. For a team positively desperate for edge rushers Muhammad chose a great way to put himself in the conversation.
- PJ Williams: Williams was coming off one of the most devastating blows to the head I have ever seen, I was legitimately worries Williams would have the yips for the rest of his career, and I wouldn’t have blamed him a bit. Williams led the team in tackles, he was physical, showed great range, consistently strong coverage skills, and was a sure tackler. In other words he looked like the guy who I expect to be one of the Saints starters in week 1 (health allowing).
- Alex Anzalone: He’s fast. More specifically he’s much faster than I thought he’d be and just as instinctive as advertised. I crack jokes about his last name, but the flashes he shows can’t help but make you wonder if there might be some hope for the Saints at the position. The two biggest questions for him will remain health, and consistency (a question for virtually any rookie), but after a single game he’s more than I initially expected.
- Khalif Barnes and Bryce Harris: I expected them to look bad and they did. Seriously we need Ramczyk to come back and be ready, we really do.
- Brandon Coleman: He looked physical, effective, but unspectactular. This looked to be both a result of the quarterback play, but also an intrinsic trait. Coleman has lit camp on fire, but its been in bursts, that is exactly how I expect him to be over the year.
- Alvin Kamara: I expected him to look agile, explosive, and to display both balance and surprising power…he did all of the above. He was a great pick and I wasn’t remotely surprised.
- Marcus Williams: Williams showed the explosiveness and range that got him drafted. He didn’t get a chance to flash his ball skills but he showed why the Saints were so high on him without raising his expectations from where I originally had them.
Stock going down:
- Damian Swann: Swann was bad. He got consistently beat and was roasted late to help the Browns pull off the comeback win. His days could be numbered in New Orleans, you can’t be getting toasted by 4th string scrubs and expect to make a highly contested position group.
- Garret Grayson: The Saints can go ahead and replace his picture on the team site with a pair of scissors. His stats don’t accurately reflect his performance. One’s ability to perform on the professional level is often defined by your ability to perform under adverse circumstances, not your ability to excel in perfect conditions. Grayson is the perfect proof of this concept. He is awful under pressure, going into his 3rd year this kind of performance repeating itself could be a nail in the coffin.
- Special teams coverage: The tackling in the coverage unit was awful. I know its preseason, but that was sad, lets hope they clean it up.
The Zero expectations bucket:
To clarify these aren’t the players I expect nothing from, they are players who I’m close to positive I know what to expect from and it would take significant measures to change my mind on them…so I have no expectations for preseason from them.
- Tommy Lee Lewis: Lewis is a quick, explosive, hard working player who impresses in the preseason. He’s also 5’7″, lacks a truly elite trait to compensate, and no longer provides special teams value (unless he can become a gunner). He may make the team as the 5th receiver, but I expect little more. I would love it if he proves me wrong and has real impact on the Saints.
- Manti Teo: He’s smart, instinctive, and can’t cover to save his life. Teo is a leader and a 2 down linebacker. We know who and what he is.