Roster projection: Predicting who will make the Saints’ first 53-man roster

The Saints are going to have to get creative to fit everyone on the roster since the team will be carrying a few injured players on the initial 53-man roster.

Making the numbers work is complicated, and there will be some hard decisions to make before final cuts get made on Tuesday.

Like last year, the new practice squad rules, which allow teams to elevate players each week, which makes things a little more unpredictable than usual. But given that, here is a best guess at who makes New Orleans’ 53-man roster.

Note: Marshon Lattimore and Deonte Harris are included here since the league hasn’t announced any punishment for those two players.

QUARTERBACKS (3): Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Ian Book

New Orleans could probably cut Trevor Siemian and get him on the practice squad without another team stealing him, which would allow the Saints to keep a veteran option around if they feel Book still needs some work. After putting some players on injured reserve, Siemian could rejoin the active roster if needed.

Not having the final preseason game to get a better look at these two players leaves some questions up in the air. Book might be more ready than some assume. He completed 78.3% of his passes during camp and had a good feel for when to leave the pocket and run. Siemian was also solid during camp, connecting on 64.7% of his passes.

RUNNING BACKS (5): Alvin Kamara, Tony Jones Jr., Alex Armah, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington

Injuries at other positions have led to some tough decisions. If the Saints think they can get by without carrying a fourth tight end, there could be room for another running back on the roster.

The numbers would be much easier to manage if the Saints carry one less running back. But Latavius Murray still looks like a useable player, and Tony Jones Jr. has potentially eclipsed him as the No. 2 running back. That reality could potentially make Murray expendable. However, if the Saints plan to run more this season, keeping everyone could make sense. And with the practice-squad rules, letting someone go could make more sense than cutting Murray for a roster spot, since he would get picked up by another team.

A few weeks ago letting Murray go felt unlikely. Now, it wouldn’t be a total shock.

TIGHT ENDS (3): Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson

New Orleans typically only keeps three players here, but a fourth will likely be needed with Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett recovering from minor injuries. But this could be a position where New Orleans elevates a player from the practice squad to fill the temporary gaps.

If the team decides it needs a fourth tight end, the decision between Garrett Griffin and Ethan Wolf could be a hard one. Griffin is a better blocker, while Wolf can provide a little more in the receiving game. Both have been around and know the system.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery

The Saints will likely carry Michael Thomas on the initial roster and then put him on injured reserve so he can be activated after at least three weeks. If he starts on the physically unable to perform list, he’d have to miss the first six games of the season. New Orleans could then add Chris Hogan to the 53-man roster once clearing a roster spot. Hogan is a steady target and knows how to get open. He could help the team this year, especially if Tre’Quan Smith’s injury lingers into the season.

Seeing who ends up on the outside of the mix once Thomas and Smith are healthy will be interesting. After the top four, this could go any number of directions. Both Easop Winston and Kawaan Baker look like candidates for the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9): Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk, James Hurst, Will Clapp, Calvin Throckmorton, Derrick Kelly

New Orleans could go several different directions with the reserve offensive linemen. James Hurst is the only one who seems like a lock to make the team. Kelly gets a lot of early snaps, though he could be someone who might not make the first roster but sticks around to come back after other moves get made.

J.R. Sweezy, Landon Young, Caleb Benenoch and Jordan Mills could also be in the mix and make it ahead of Calvin Throckmorton. But those players, especially early in the season, could probably make it through to the practice squad and get elevated for game days if needed.

Mills came in with the second-team offense last week against the Jaguars, though it is unclear if the team views him as being that high up the depth chart or were trying to get a closer look at him during his first game with the team.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9): Cam Jordan, Malcolm Roach, Christian Ringo, Marcus Davenport, Payton Turner, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Carl Granderson, Shy Tuttle, Albert Huggins

R.J. McIntosh was one of the last cuts made on the entire roster. The team claimed him off waivers and he played well against Jacksonville. Ultimately, the injuries at some other positions squeezed the numbers here a little bit.

New Orleans has some things to figure out on the interior defensive line. The injury to Jalen Dalton and David Onyemata’s suspension has seriously robbed this group of depth. The Saints might look to see who gets released and look for outside help at this position. Malcolm Roach is the only player at this spot who looks ready to start, and he is currently dealing with an injury.

LINEBACKERS (6): Kwon Alexander, Demario Davis, Zack Baun, Pete Werner, Chase Hansen, Kaden Elliss

Cutting Andrew Dowell was one of the hardest decisions to make. He has made impact plays all summer, both at linebacker and special teams, but there are too many players here and not enough spots. The decision ultimately came down to Chase Hansen or Dowell, and I sided with Hansen since he is better in the passing game and a contributor on special teams. This decision could easily go the other way.

Kaden Elliss had a very good summer, which allows for a bit of a blind eye toward some of the mistakes he made against Jacksonville. He should be safe despite extremely tight competition for jobs.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (9): Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, Paulson Adebo, Grant Haley, Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, P.J. Williams, J.T. Gray

New Orleans will likely need to find another cornerback. Figuring out who to keep was the difficult part here. One more player would instill a little more confidence in this spot. The team needs to continue shopping for options, especially if Ken Crawley’s injury lingers into Week 1.

The versatility of P.J. Williams could allow New Orleans to carry just four cornerbacks, especially since C.J. Gardner-Johnson handles slot duties.

SPECIALISTS (3): Wil Lutz, Blake Gillikin, Zach Wood

New Orleans will need to add another kicker after placing Wil Lutz on injured reserve, whether that person is Aldrick Rosas or someone currently on another roster.

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