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Barry Hirstius

Which Saints Players Are Most “At-Risk” of Losing Their Roster Spot?

The New Orleans Saints will have a dilemma on their hands later on at the end of next month, which is the same dilemma that they and every other one of the 32 NFL teams face every year at this time: which is taking a total of 90 good players, and reducing them all the way down to the Final 53 players that will that open the regular season.

What that means for New Orleans is that it will put a handful of players who are currently on the team, in danger of losing their spot on the roster once the final roster cut-downs are made at the end of August.

Now earlier in the week, we published an article here at the Saints News Network titled "5 Saints Players Most Likely to Be Cut Before the 2017 Season" (click HERE to read), which listed 5 of the players whom we felt were in danger of being cut at the end of August.

This morning's article is basically a continuation of that article; and it basically picks up where the previous one left off as we look at which of the Saints veteran players (in their 2nd year or longer) whom currently at this moment, are seriously "at-risk" of losing their spot on the team's Final 53-man roster.

And we'll begin first with this young man........

 

DE'VANTE HARRIS, CORNERBACK

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

After a phenomenal performance last year in Training Camp and the Pre-Season, undrafted free agent and former Texas A&M star CB De'Vante Harris essentially got "thrown to the wolves" when he suddenly (but unexpectedly) found himself as a starter at one point; after a slew of injuries at the cornerback position forced him into immediate action.

But Harris clearly struggled at times and more often than not found himself on the receiving end of several big plays by an opponent's top WR, particularly during a Week #2 loss at New York to the Giants --- who exploited his inexperience.

In all during his 2016 rookie season, Harris played in a grand total of 10 games (with 1 start) and notched 12 tackles, 1 PBU (pass break-up), and 1 fumble recovery.  

Coming into this year however, with all of the injured CB's now returning from injuries, the Saints now find themselves with an over abundance of CB's on the roster.

And with the team only expected to keep a total of 5 CB's on the Final Roster, it's very hard to envision Harris beating out Delvin Breaux, Marshon Lattimore, P.J. Williams. Sterling Moore, and this year's red-hot UDFA sensation Arthur Maulet for one of those spots --- making Harris "at-risk" to get left out of the Saints' CB shuffle.

 

MANTAI TE'O, LINEBACKER

Photo courtesy of FOX 8 New Orleans

The Saints signed Te'o, a former 2nd Round draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, as a Free Agent this off-season from the San Diego Chargers; for what most considered to be a bargain price at two years for $5 million.

Te’o played under new Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan in 2015 in San Diego, and several observers and analysts have noted the great influence that Nolan had with T'eo; who at that time was struggling after his first few years in the League, but had an above average season under Nolan's tutelage before injuries derailed him last season.

However, Te'o has never played more than 13 games in a single season, and he's coming off of a 2016 season from a year ago that ended after just 3 games. And thus far, it's those same injuries --most notably a torn achilles tendon that he suffered last September (which can take up to a year to heal) -- that puts him "at-risk" of even making the roster at this point. 

At Mini-Camp a few weeks ago in the first practice back from his injury, Te'o noticeably looked a bit slow and seemed to struggle in pass coverage, a clear sign that the achilles may not have had enough time to fully heal.

And with the Saints having a total of 9 linebackers currently on their 90-man roster who will be battling in Training Camp for what likely will be six or seven final roster spots, Te'o is in legitimate danger of not making the Final 53 if he doesn't show any improvement. 

 

MARCUS MURPHY, RUNNING BACK / KICK RETURNER

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Last year at this very same time, 3rd year veteran Saints running back Marcus Murphy appeared to be in danger of being cut from the final 53-man roster, only to still eventually make it anyway. This year however, with a "logjam" of players now at the RB position, this could finally be the year that Murphy's good fortune comes to an end.

One of the reasons why Murphy has managed to survive all of this time is because of his ability to serve as a solid contributor on special teams, which of course included his capability as a noted big-rime play maker as a kick and punt returner on special teams.

Murphy appeared in only 3 games, and had 6 punt returns for 57 total yards; along with a total of 7 kickoff returns for 105 yards total with a long of 26 yards. On offense as a RB, he had 1 carry for zero yards and caught 1 pass for 3 yards.

But now with the selection of dynamic University of Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara in the 3rd Round of the recent 2017 NFL Draft to be the team's brand new designated "scat back"; coupled with free agent veteran WR Ted Ginn, Jr.'s taking over the duties as both kick and punt returner, Murphy is more than likely to find himself "in the fight of his life" when the final roster cuts are announced in August -- making him a huge "at-risk"of not making the team in 2017.

 

DAMIAN SWANN, CORNERBACK

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Swann, a 5th-round pick for the Saints in the 2015 NFL Draft, had his rookie year cut short by a series of concussions (3 of them in all) that had doctors concerned for his future.

Then last season in 2016, Swann suffered a groin injury that ended his 2nd year 'comeback' bid before it could even have a chance to get started. The Saints eventually placed him on injury reserve.

Swann now returns this season to find a whole handful of players vying for what likely will be a total of 5 CB spots on the Saints Final 53 man roster; and as we noted with De'Vante Harris above, it won't be an easy task for Swann to claim one of those spots.

Swann will most likely need a stand-out performance in Training Camp and the Pre-Season and be able to show the team's coaching staff that his injury issues are behind him; otherwise, he could find himself looking for a new job come the 1st week of September.

 

TOMMYLEE LEWIS, WIDE RECEIVER

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Last season. Lewis made the Saints Final 53-man roster out of training camp as an undrafted free agent from Northern Illinois. Listed at only 5-foot-7, Lewis won the 5th and final WR spot, but lined up all over the field for the Saints; where head coach Sean Payton would use him as a "decoy" in many instances .

But where Lewis truly excelled was as a kick and punt returner, averaging over 11 yards per punt return and 19 yards per kickoff return while taking away that role from the previously-mentioned Marcus Murphy from above.

However, the upcoming Training Camp and Pre-Season will have Lewis facing an uphill battle for playing time due to a crowded wide receiver depth chart; and he'll likely have to fend off veteran WR Corey Fuller and rookie UDFA WR Travin Dural for that position.

And now with new #4 WR Ted Ginn, Jr. likely to take over as the team's designated kick returner, it makes Lewis one of the most "at-risk" veterans of not making it into the team's 53-man roster in the upcoming months ahead...........

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......

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