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Sideline Steve: My 3 surprise Saints who need to shine in the preseason

Steve Geller
August 09, 2019 - 1:56 pm

A good problem that Saints head coach Sean Payton and staff have this year is depth throughout the roster. We aren’t asking who is going to make the 2019 team; instead the question is, who isn’t? Fans may not like the preseason, but coaches do since they can better evaluate a player in a game situation instead of just practice.  I feel these three players could be difficult cuts, if they don’t flash or have a moment in one of the exhibition games before the season starts on September 9th.

Center/Guard Nick Easton

After Max Unger retired, the Saints had a massive void at the center position.  Before they were able to land Erik McCoy in the 2nd round of the NFL draft, Nick Easton was signed to a 4 year, $24.5 million dollar deal that included $4 million guaranteed.  McCoy has been the one working with the first team offense the last 7 practices, which signals to me the team is sold on his ability and are trying to get him as comfortable as possible with Drew Brees in the limited time they have before the regular season starts. That leaves Easton in a reserve role battling Cameron Tom and Will Clapp, who have had better camps than Easton thus far.  Not playing last season due to a neck injury could be a reason why he is not yet up to speed. 

Wide receiver Austin Carr

While the team likes Carr, there just doesn’t appear to be anything special about his game.  He’s also one of the smaller targets on the team, standing 6ft1, 195 pounds, and totaled just 9 receptions for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns a year ago.  Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, and Tre’Quan Smith are making the team; which likely leaves 3 more WR spots up for grabs.  Undrafted rookie Emmanuel Butler was the buzz at the beginning of camp before an injury kept him out of practice.  He’s returned though and I know the Saints think highly of him.  Keith Kirkwood is an undrafted guy that made the team a year ago and really stepped up big time during Michael Thomas’ holdout.  He has also missed time after getting hurt and unlike Butler, is not back yet. Add in veteran Rishard Matthews, Simmie Cobbs, Cyril Grayson Jr., Deonte Harris and Lil’Jordan Humphrey to the competition and Carr seems to get lost in the mix.   

Return specialist / cornerback Marcus Sherels

You might think I’m crazy mentioning Sherels, but what else does he bring to the team besides being a punt returner?  He has seen limited action as a cornerback in his 9 previous seasons and the Saints find themselves younger and with more talent available throughout the secondary.  I know getting more yardage on punt returns was a focus, but who’s the odd man out amongst the CBs? Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple are your starters. Patrick Robinson and PJ Williams are both healthy and thrive in the nickel role.  Rookies CJ Gardner- Johnson & Saquan Hampton fit in right away and are only getting more comfortable.  Justin Hardee is a special teams ace, but has really upped his game in terms of coverage ability.  Rounding out the group is J.T. Gray, T.J. Green, Terrell Williams Jr. and Kayvon Webster.  The Saints have some tough choices to make in the secondary and I would not be surprised if Sherels ended up not making the cut.  

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