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2018 Saints Rookies

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO: Can Saints Rookie Quarterback JT Barrett’s Pre-Season Performance Earn Him a Final Roster Spot?

With the Saints now only 1 week away from the start of their 2018 Training Camp and the start of preparations for one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons in many years following last season's magical but disappointing Playoff run; one player that continues to generate a lot of buzz among fans is rookie QB JT Barrett.

Barrett has quickly become a popular player in a short amount of time among a rather large portion of 'Who Dats'; specifically many fans of the team on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter who believe the undrafted former Ohio State star would give the team a more viable and promising prospect for the team's future, rather than free agent signee and 5th year veteran Tom Savage (who came over this off-season from the Houston Texans).

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

At the moment, the general consensus is that fellow back-up QB Taysom Hill has the "inside track" for the team's #2 QB spot behind starter Drew Brees; which will essentially then leave the real QB competition this Summer at the 3rd string QB spot behind Brees and Hill, to come down to a one-on-one battle between Barrett and Savage.

And there is a belief among more than just a few observers out there including some even in the National Media recently (click HERE to read) who feel that the Saints might eventually regret bringing in Savage; who had notably struggled in the past during his time as a former starter for the Texans before that franchise made him expendable when they drafted young star QB Deshaun Watson.

But here's the question that must be answered, which is: 

Is Barrett GOOD ENOUGH to beat Savage out during open competition in Training Camp and the Pre-Season games, beginning with the first game in 2 weeks from tonight at Jacksonville against the Jaguars?

A handful of analysts that cover the team feel that Barrett would probably benefit more from spending his rookie season on the Practice Squad, where he could further sharpen and develop his QB skills, which still need a lot of work and refinement for him to successfully compete at the professional level.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

However for those Saints fans who are "holding out for a hero" in Barrett, there is still hope that the former Buckeye can find his way onto the team's Final Roster, in spite of his previously noted shortcomings.

The 23-year old Barrett — a native of Wichita Falls, Texas near the Texas-Oklahoma state border — wasn't highly sought after by most NFL teams despite his remarkable accomplishments with the storied Buckeyes program; and drew some rather sharp and biting criticism from several national media analysts who exclusively cover the NFL Draft every year. 

Barrett went undrafted largely due to the fact that he struggled at times with accuracy, and has had some past difficulties with his reads and progressions as well as "ball placement" and "throwing receivers open" (click HERE to watch the detailed analysis by well-respected NFL scouting service Inside The Pylon).

Yet nevertheless, he possesses many traits and intangibles such as a "high field IQ" and take-charge leadership skills that make him a head coach's dream. 

And of course one other thing that works in his favor: Saints head coach Sean Payton LIKES him.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

But are those intangibles still good enough, to win a competition for the #3 spot (assuming Taysom Hill actually does take the #2 spot) between himself and Savage?

You have to at least like Barrett's chances at this point, considering who he'll be facing.

The big knock on Savage has been inconsistency.

The Texans selected the former University of Pittsburgh standout in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and then after he missed the entire 2015 season in his 2nd NFL season due to a shoulder injury, finally made the very first two starts of his professional career in 2016.

Savage produced a solid 80.9 passer rating that year and was named Houston's starting quarterback ahead of the the beginning of the 2017 season last September.

However, he lasted just two quarters as the starter before being yanked from the line-up be Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and replaced by Watson. Unfortunately for the Texans, Watson suffered a torn ACL during one of the team's practices in early November and was lost for the remainder of the season and Savage was re-inserted BACK into the starting lineup.

Savage ended up with 7 starts, but it was a godawful stretch of games for both him and for the Houston franchise.

Photo courtesy of The Houston Chronicle

He ended up with just 5 touchdown passes and 13 total turnovers. Houston won just only just one game after Watson went down and finished the 2017 season with a (4-12) record.

So it goes without saying: the Saints' signing of Savage in Free Agency this Spring wasn't exactly welcomed with "open arms" by many of the team's loyally devoted and passionate fan-base.

On the flip side, Barrett has looked impressive thus far in the limited action that we've gotten to see from him during the team's OTA's and two recent Mini-Camps, and earned praise from Payton.

Payton told reporters that Barrett was “worthy” of being drafted this year, and as a former quarterback himself, noted what qualities in an NFL QB that he PERSONALLY looks for.

“How accurate is he?” Payton said. “Does he complete passes on time? Does he get through his progressions? How quickly does he learn? Can he get to the huddle and call the play? Can he handle the cadence? His ability to ingest, process, and go ahead and take it to the field.”

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

And there was even more praise for JT Barrett from his fellow teammates, and more than one of whom are confident that Barrett has the necessary qualities to develop into a successful QB at the NFL level.

“I watched him on TV,” fellow undrafted rookie (and possible future starting tight end) Deon Yelder said, via New Orleans Advocate beat writer Joel A. Erickson. “I saw his highlights in the East/West game, and now I’m here with him. He’s putting the ball on the money.”

Rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, the Saints’ 3rd round draft pick, agreed with Yelder's assessment; and he Erickson that, “He has a great arm. Puts the ball right there on you.”

One thing to remember: JT Barrett completed over 61 percent of his passes in each of his four seasons at Columbus,  and boasted a very impressive 104 to 30 touchdown to interception ratio.

And perhaps more importantly: he WINS football games.

Barrett single-handedly re-wrote both the Ohio State school and Big Ten conference record books; tallied the most wins ever for a quarterback (38), passing yards (9,434), rushing yards by a quarterback (3,263); and of course: led his team to the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake about it: this young man KNOWS what it takes to be successful in both the sport of football and life in general; and hopefully that's something which will help him out immensely, as he tries to make the transition over to the NFL level.

The bottom line is that JT Barrett is expected to be given every opportunity to earn the #3 spot, and who knows — maybe he could even "blow away" everyone and somehow win the #2 spot instead of Hill or Savage.

But for that to happen, he'll need to have a strong performance during both Training Camp and especially in most of the 4 upcoming Pre-Season games that will be played next month.

Those Pre-Season games are at Jacksonville against the Jaguars (next Thursday Night), home against the Arizona Cardinals at the Superdome (Friday, August 17th), at Los Angeles vs. the Chargers (Saturday, August 25th) and then the game that ultimately could determine JT Barrett's fate and whether or not he will make the Final Roster this year as a rookie: vs. the Los Angeles Rams at the Superdome on Thursday, August 30th).

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

How JT Barrett looks and plays in those 4 games, will ultimately determine if he'll spend the 2018 season on the Practice Squad, or get to dress out for the regular season games and get to "hold the clipboard" on the sidelines while soaking up EVERY BIT OF KNOWLEDGE that he can from Brees.

Can Barrett play well enough to earn his way onto the team's Final 53-man Roster, and make the veteran Savage expendable for the 2nd time in the past year?

For those Saints fans who are "holding out for a hero" and looking for a future young star to root for in JT Barrett, you're about to find out..........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally 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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