For the New Orleans Saints starters on offense and defense, this Thursday Night's 4th and final Pre-Season game against the Baltimore Ravens will be considered a "night off"; as the team's 2nd and 3rd string players battle it out to determine which of them will earn spots as back-ups on the Saints Final 53-man roster --- which is set to be officially announced this coming Sunday, September 3rd.
That means that jobs will be on the line for a handful of undrafted rookies trying to win their first ever spot on an NFL roster; as well as some veteran players who have already experienced the rigors of playing in several NFL seasons, and are trying to win the opportunity to participate in another one.
And it's with that in mind this morning, that we're highlighting 5 of those players whose future with the team, will be determined by what they do (or don't do) against the Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And we start, with this young man.......
#5. COREY FULLER, WIDE RECEIVER
With undrafted rookie Travin Dural likely to end up on the Practice Squad, the battle for what will likely be the team's 5th and final WR spot has become a 2-man race between last year's #5 WR Tommylee Lewis, and 4th year veteran WR Corey Fuller, whom the Saints signed in late December of last year off the Detroit Lions Practice Squad.
Fuller was "on fire" during the first week of Training Camp, but has since fizzled out and has quickly been surpassed by Lewis, who is intent on holding on to his roster spot and has really "flipped on the switch" in the past few weeks to take a healthy lead on the final WR battle.
Fuller will need a phenomenal performance against the Ravens at this point to make the Final Roster, but barring some sort of a record-breaking / earth-shattering and unforgettable night, Fuller will likely be destined for the Practice Squad --- although there's no guarantees that it will be with the one in New Orleans.
#4. OBUM GWACHAM, DEFENSIVE END
With surging rookie Al-Quadin Muhammad unexpectedly making a name for himself in Camp and the Pre-Season, the team's final 9-technique defensive end / edge pass rusher spot would seem to be his to lose at the moment --- which puts 3rd year veteran Obum Gwacham in an obvious "do or die" situation against the Ravens.
Gwacham missed all but one game in 2016 due to an injury, after breaking onto the scene himself in 2015 when he notched 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in just 9 games as a back-up and spot-starter.
Gwacham's actually had a solid Camp and a couple of stand-out moments in the Pre-Season; but it would seem at least for now that he'll need an "off-the-charts" performance Thursday Night in the Superdome against the Ravens, to even merit consideration after Muhammad's near-spectacular last few weeks.
#3. GARRETT GRAYSON, QUARTERBACK
Throughout the entire off-season and Training Camp and now during the Pre-Season, the onus has been on Grayson's shoulders to prove to everyone that he's capable (at the worst) of being an NFL-caliber QB who's worthy of being on a roster somewhere in the League. However, that somewhere might not be in New Orleans after Thursday Night, should Grayson not be able to deliver the most impressive performance thus far of his brief NFL career.
Grayson's overall stats this Pre-Season actually haven't been completely terrible by any means (13 of 23 for 161 yards and 0 TD's), but yet he still has not demonstrated enough understanding and command of the Saints offensive scheme or the basic principles and fundamentals of the QB position, that's needed to merit consideration.
However since the Saints are only expected to keep 2 QB's on the final roster (Drew Brees and Chase Daniel), the most interesting aspect of Grayson's performance this Thursday Night might be the fact that even if he doesn't have the greatest performance, would it still be good enough for the team to consider giving him one last chance and re-sign him back to the Practice Squad, in the hope of salvaging what was once a very promising future.
#2. DAMIAN SWANN, CORNERBACK
It's been an up and down Pre-Season and an up and down NFL career so far for 3rd year cornerback Damian Swann, who appears to be engaged in a heated 3-way battle with 2nd year UDFA De'Vante Harris and rookie UDFA Arthur Maulet for what likely will be the 6th and final CB spot on the 53-man roster.
In the first Pre-Season game at Cleveland, Swann was beaten badly on deep ball by Browns WR Jordan Payton; but then bounced back in the win over the Texans the other night with a nice interception that essentially sealed the win for the Saints at that point of the game.
That 6th and final CB spot appears to still be "up for grabs" as of this very moment; and if Swann is intent on sticking around after this coming Sunday's Final 53-man roster announcement, then he needs to impress the coaching staff enough in this game to make them defer to Swann over Harris and Maulet.
#1. STEPHONE ANTHONY, LINEBACKER *
We've put an asterisk (*) by Anthony's name for the simple fact that we don't even know what's really going on behind closed doors in regard to him at the Saints Practice Facility; and whether or nor he has some sort of major injury that the team still hasn't disclosed publicly; or if he's simply been removed from the team's practices and Pre-Season games for the past 2 weeks because the team intends on either trading or releasing him.
I guarantee you the Saints have tried/are trying to deal him.
— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) August 22, 2017
As it's been well-documented, Anthony has had past issues with being able to read and recognize NFL offensive schemes during his first two seasons, that led to his demotion and eventual placement onto injured reserve last year. However in June Mini-Camp and even in the first few weeks of the just-recently-completed Training Camp, it seemed that he was starting to "turn the corner", and had a couple of impressive plays in the Pre-Season opener to that effect.
Which is exactly why his absence from practices the past 2 weeks and not having played in the past 2 Pre-Season games against the Chargers and Texans, make Anthony's current status all the more suspect. The Saints are pretty much set at the linebacker spot, with A.J. Klein, Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson, Manti Te’o, and even Nate Stupar having nailed down spots, presumably leaving two more spots open to Anthony, Adam Bighill, and veteran Michael Mauti to fight for.
But unless he actually plays this Thursday Night, we still don't even know if Anthony will have that opportunity to fight for a spot. If he suddenly shows up on the field against the Ravens, Anthony presumably will have to play well enough to show that he's worth keeping around, or else his time as a Saint could come to an inglorious end --- via a trade to another team, or an outright release......