Time is dwindling for the Saints to get themselves prepared for the regular season, particularly with some of the veteran players who have been missing practice. That’s why yesterday had some terrific news if you’ve been paying attention to the team’s extensive injury list. Drew Brees, Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs all returned to practice in full for the 11 on 11 drills, a surefire sign that they are healthy and planning to play in Indianapolis this coming Saturday. Traditionally the Saints bench a large number of their key players for week 4 of the preseason, so this is the last chance for these guys to get important reps in a live game situation.
The Saints also had Kenny Stills and Marques Colston (who was absent from the Titans game) back in full at practice on Sunday. Sean Payton also suggested that Jairus Byrd may be given the green light to practice in full starting today. Clearly the key players that are banged up are on the mend. The main injuries of concern at this point are fullback Erik Lorig who remains out and not at practice, and Victor Butler who is still nursing a significant foot/ankle problem. Patrick Robinson is another recent hold out that is a concern.
So that’s the injury report and that leaves me with some roster thoughts. Who are the bubble players at this point?
To me Joe Morgan made this roster with his game in the Superdome. That’s a big threat to Nick Toon and Robert Meachem, especially the latter. If the Saints keep 6 receivers, they are all in. If they only keep five, then Meachem is the odd man out. I’m assuming Stills will make the squad despite his long absence from camp with a quad issue. It’s possible Stills could start the year on IR and return later, though.
On the interior line, the Lelito vs. Goodwin battle is much closer than I expected it to be. I still think Goodwin ends up the starter, but injury and performance between now and week 1 will be the ultimate decider. If Goodwin is not the starter, his roster spot all of a sudden becomes in question. I think Senio Kelemete was a much bigger threat prior to his poor game against Tennessee. Now, Kelemete is on the bubble.
Another guy that hasn’t been talked about much is nose tackle Brandon Deaderick. Now that John Jenkins is back healthy he’s likely the odd man out, and also on the bubble, but he’s played well enough to merit being in the discussion. He’ll be a tough cut.
At linebacker, I think Kyle Knox has earned a roster spot with special teams play. That means Kevin Reddick and Ronald Powell are a couple of guys that are on the bubble and could be the last ones on (or off) the 53 man roster.
At safety, the Marcus Ball, Pierre Warren and Vinnie Sunseri battle is a good one. I believe the Saints will only keep 2, and Warren is the bubble guy because he’s the most likely to be kept on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent rookie. Finally, we know that Keenan Lewis is banged up (but fine) and Champ Bailey, Rod Sweeting and P-R0b have all missed practice recently. That means I believe the Saints will keep more corners on opening day to make sure they have bodies. That’s good news for Trevin Wade and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, as I believe the Saints will keep 6 corners and maybe even 7. Derrius Brooks, Brian Dixon and Terrence Frederick all three still have an outside chance at a roster spot until those main players I listed heal up.