Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Saints Nation: the Top 15 bubble players

Below are the players I consider "bubble players", or players that are right in between being the last to make the squad and last to get cut. Here's 15 guys I believe will stick around till the very end and have their future as New Orleans Saints decided on the final day of cuts:

15. S Chris Reis: This guy is a pretty good special teamer, but hasn't done much as a safety. With Usama Young (position switch), Pierson Prioleau (free agency) and Chip Vaughn (draft) all added this offseason it seems like Reis would be the odd man out. We know he won't outperform these guys at safety, so he's going to have to massively outperform them on special teams to make the roster. It's going to be tough for Chris.

14. P Thomas Morstead: This could just as easily say "Glenn Pakulak", but I'm giving the veteran the edge. Basically it comes down to 1 roster spot and 2 players. Whichever does a better job during the offseason and preseason stays.

13. CB Jason David: He's somehow still around, but he makes an awful lot of money on a cap strapped team for a guy that's consistently underperformed. At this point in his career I don't see the coaching staff putting much trust in his performance based on the other guys they've added. Still, he's shown good ball skills at times and the staff may give him another chance in this brand new Gregg Williams defense.

12. T Jermon Bushrod: He keeps making the team, and keeps being inactive on gameday. I know the Saints love his potential, but for how long are they going to hold out hoping it comes to fruition? They've given him every chance to pass up Zach Strief on the depth chart and he's yet to do so. In addition, the re-signing of Strief this offseason proves they are not sold on Bushrod.

11. C Nick Leckey: At first glance you would think he's a lock, but he's going to get some competition from undrafted rookie Alex Fletcher. The Saints may also opt to have a more versatile player that can also play guard (like Jamar Nesbit) fulfill the spot at backup center behind Goodwin. Being new to the team Leckey needs to show he's got some value to the team.

10. WR Adrian Arrington: Everybody loves Arrington, fans and coaches alike. He's already annointed by some as headed for the starting lineup next year. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let's not forget he was a 7th round draft choice (most of which don't last long in the NFL) and he had a season ending surgery in his rookie season before ever playing in a real game. He still has a lot to prove if he's going to make this team. He needs to prove he can perform and can stay healthy, neither of which he's done AT ALL to this point in his young career.

9. QB Joey Harrington: Joey hopped between the #3 QB and released so many times last year for the Saints it was almost painful to keep track of. It's kind of sad, but Harrington's roster spot depends less on how he performs and more on how injured the team is. If the Saints are very healthy and have a roster spot to sacrifice on Harrington they'll do it because Sean Payton likes him. The problem with short team injuries, though, is the Saints then need to sign short term replacements. Harrington is going to be the odd man out again if that scenario plays out.

8. TE Darnell Dinkins: Historically under the Payton era the Saints have kept 4 tight ends, and that's good news for Dinkins. He's currently battling Buck Ortega for that 4th spot, and you have to like Dinkins' chances there as an 8 year veteran. That said, the Saints could easily decide that they're just going to go with 3 tight ends this year, especially with the need for more defensive ends early as Will Smith and Charles Grant serve suspensions.

7. DT DeMario Pressley: Like Adrian Arrington, Pressley suffered a season ending injury in his rookie season before the regular season even started. With veterans Brian Young and Hollis Thomas now gone, the depth at his position is much thinner (pun intended). Pressley should be a lock, but again he's a guy with a lot to prove as a lower draft choice that hasn't stayed healthy. Remi Ayodele should give him a good battle for a roster spot.

6. LB Troy Evans: Evans is a reliable special teamer and backup for the Saints and he should be back on the team. The season ending injury to rookie linebacker Stanley Arnoux only helps Evans' chances of making the team. The only question for Evans is the emergence of Jo-Lonn Dunbar, both on defense and special teams. Dunbar had the biggest block and the hardest tackle (both on special teams) of the season last year and made several national highlight reels. Dunbar plays the same position as Evans, so the Saints may decide Evans is dispensable if they are ready to increase Dunbar's responsibilities.

5. WR/KR Courtney Roby: Roby showed a lot of explosiveness as a kick returner last season, and sparked a previously weak area for the Saints in terms of production. Roby is the clear front runner to return as the Saints primary kick returner, and that should mean a roster spot for him. He will get some competition from Skyler Green, though, and Roby needs to help his standing by showing the coaching staff during the offseason/preseason that he can make plays when called upon at receiver.

4. ILB Mark Simoneau (pictured above): While Simoneau is a little bit of a pricey backup, he's a good guy to have around as a performing backup and positive locker room influence. Simoneau is also coming off a major injury last year, though, and is getting up there in age. He'll have to show the coaching staff he's still able to be as useful to the team as he's been for the Saints in past years.

3. HB Mike Bell: Bell is my early offseason leading candidate the land reps with the Saints in game situations behind Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. He's probably got stiffer competition with the undrafted rookies (PJ Hill and Herb Donaldson) and Lynell Hamilton than anyone on the roster which make things tough. But based on what he showed in limited duty last year, Bell can still play. Expect him to make the team and be a relied on role player in this year's offense.

2. S Pierson Prioleau: I know it sounds crazy that he wouldn't make the team, but how many safeties do the Saints keep? You figure Darren Sharper, Roman Harper, Usama Young and Chip Vaughn are all virtual locks. So that means Prioleau would make 5 safeties on the roster. Again, considering the suspensions of Grant and Smith the Saints have to be careful about what positions they overload with depth. If Vaughn as a rookie outperforms Prioleau, the veteran could be cut. All this said, with Prioleau's relationship with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his experience as a starter, backup, and gunner on special teams, he should be safe.

1. DE Jeff Charleston: With the suspensions of Grant and Smith, Charleston has gone from a bubble player to a virtual lock. But watch out, because Grant and Smith come back in week 5, and if Bobby McCray and Paul Spicer (who are both ahead of Charleston on the depth chart) are still healthy and playing well, Charleston could be let go. Charleston played very well filling in for many injuries last year and deserves to make the team and get on the field. I'm glad to see he'll get this chance.