When the New Orleans Saints host the Baltimore Ravens in the 4th and final game of their 2017 Pre-Season tonight beginning at 7 p.m. Central time inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it will also be the "moment of truth" for a handful of players whom are trying to make the Saints Final 53-man roster, which is expected to be formally announced this Sunday, September 3rd.
One player that "moment of truth" will arrive for: Saints rookie defensive end / edge pass rusher Al-Quadin Muhammad, the team's 6th Round draft choice in this year's 2017 NFL Draft, out of the University of Miami.
Muhammad was the final player chosen in the 2017 Saints Draft Class, but perhaps he may be the biggest surprise of them all; given the fact that Muhammad was considered a "project" player when the Saints took him after his short but controversial career with the storied Hurricanes football program.
But what probably was unexpected by both the team and fans alike was that Muhammad would emerge so quickly within the parameters of his designated role as a back-up at right defensive end, in the Saints defensive substitution pass rush packages.
For the 3rd straight week against the Texans this past Saturday Night, Muhammad was able to record a sack; while generating consistent pressure off the outside edge as he played for most of the 2nd half.
As we've mentioned since the 1st Pre-Season game a few weeks ago in Cleveland: with Muhammad's strong performance during Training Camp and now in all 3 of the Pre-Season games so far, there is NO WAY the Saints will be able to "sneak" Muhammad onto the Practice Squad.
In the NFL, what teams often do is try to cut / release a late-round rookie Draft pick in their final roster cut-down of the Pre-Season; and then hope that no other NFL team picks him up because they're rookies and haven't done much to warrant taking up one of their own roster spots.
Then, the original team that drafted him will quickly re-sign that rookie player to a new contract, and stick him on the Practice Squad, in the hopes of "stashing" or "sneaking" him back into the organization, so that he can be developed further until he's deemed ready to play on the Final 53-man roster.
However, there's NO WAY IN HELL that the Saints will be able to do that with Muhammad.
Personally would find it SHOCKING Muhammad doesn't make Final 53 --- NO WAY IN HELL @Saints will be able to "sneak" him onto Practice Squad
In the NFL right now, having a premium NFL-caliber edge pass rusher -- especially one with the bright future and potential that Muhammad possesses -- is a hot commodity.
Believe it when we here at the Saints News Network tell you: the ENTIRE NFL knows about Muhammad now, and if the Saints cut him, there's no way some other team wouldn't claim him.
As of now, it would appear that the Saints; final decision after tonight's game will come down between Muhammad and 3rd year veteran Obum Gwacham.
The final right defensive end / edge pass rusher spot would seem to be Muhammad's to lose at the moment --- which puts Gwacham in an obvious "do or die" situation tonight 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 tonight in the Superdome against the Ravens, to even merit consideration after Muhammad's near-spectacular last few weeks.
The 22-year old Muhammad has clearly went out and earned his roster spot, giving the Saints scouting department what appears to be another late round Draft "gem" to their credit.
This kid can play -- and do it well.
He'll only get even better with more time and experience, as noted in this fantastic analysis and film breakdown by my good friend, Walter "Reverend Deuce" Windham, writer / film analyst and NFL Draft expert for Canal Street Chronicles.
Which is exactly why the Saints would be completely foolish to even consider cutting Muhammad at this point.
You can't even not have enough good pass rushers, and for a Saints team that only had 30 total sacks last year, which ranked them 27th overall in the NFL in that department; it would be the most ill-advised and inexplicable decisions that the team has ever made by the current Mickey Loomis - Sean Payton regime, if they cut Muhammad.
Sure, the Saints have certainly "swing and missed" badly on Draft picks throughout the years, and there's plenty of players throughout the team's 51-year history that ended up being total "busts".
And when I say "busts", I mean guys who were hyped up coming out of college that were supposed to be future stars once they got to the NFL.
Saints draft picks from the past that fall into that category are names that fans are quite familiar with, such as Stanley Jean-Baptiste (2014) or Davis Tull (2015); or if you're "old" like me and have been following (and now writing about) the team for an extended period of time, remember names like Mike Fultz (1977), Eric Felton (1978) and Reggie Mathis (1979).
All of those names mentioned above were supposed to be 'stars' once they got to the NFL, and weren't.
However, that label doesn't appear to fit Al-Quadin Muhammad.
It may only be a sample-size of 4 months so far, but one thing that I can personally guarantee you: Muhammad is no Mike Fultz or Reggie Mathis.
Muhammad our late round gem from this draft, hella upside and talent. Let him crack that rotation man
— ... (@dandre_985) August 31, 2017
What he is however --- assuming the team gives him that chance --- is likely another draft "steal" for the New Orleans Saints.
The "moment of truth" has arrived for Muhammad, and if the Saints are as smart as we think they are?
Then this kid WILL be on the team's Final 53-man roster when it is formally announced this coming Sunday......