The New Orleans Saints open the home part of their 2018 NFL Pre-Season schedule tomorrow night, when they host the NFC West Division opponent Arizona Cardinals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kick-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Central and will be televised locally in New Orleans on FOX Channel 8.
With that in mind, here are 3 undrafted Saints players that have had stood out with outstanding performances in Training Camp and the Pre-Season so far; who can almost guarantee themselves a spot on the team's Final 53-Man Roster with a solid performance against Arizona.
MITCHELL LOEWEN, DEFENSIVE END
Loewen (pronounced LAY-VIN) almost didn't even get the chance to play in the NFL at all, after the former defensive tackle and tight end at the University of Arkansas suffered a Lisfranc injury during the annual "Battle For the Golden Boot" game between his Razorbacks and Arkansas' bitter SEC rival LSU in a game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge during the tail end of the 2015 college football season in what was his senior year.
In the end, it was determined that the Lisfranc injury would require surgery. He still decided to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, but no NFL team was willing to draft a injured player who hadn't had any major playing achievements in his time at Fayetteville. Nevertheless, in early May of last year the Saints decided to give Loewen a shot at making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent at defensive end.
Loewen then surprised a lot of people by making the Saints Final 53-Man Roster last year when he overcame the "long shot" odds that he had been assumed to have of making the Saints squad, by putting together a solid Training Camp and subsequently showed flashes of great potential to become a special player for the team's interior pass rush. Unfortunately, he played just two games before a high-ankle sprain landed him on injured reserve.
Some of the plays of the day from day 6 of Saints training camp. Defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen getting the strip sack on Tom Savage with Arthur Maulet (@arthurmaulet_ ) scooping up the ball. @wdsu #SaintsCamp pic.twitter.com/N8JXl5UVZq
— Sharief Ishaq (@ShariefWDSU) August 1, 2018
Now for the 2nd year in a row, Loewen is having a great Camp and Pre-Season thus far and last week in the Pre-Season opener against Jacksonville, he had a team-high 6 tackles, including two for loss. But even more impressive was the fact that he constantly pressured and harassed Jaguars back-up QB Cody Kessler in the 2nd quarter; and also recorded a "stuff" in the backfield on a running play.
Still, the 25-year old isn't promised a spot on the Final Roster this year, even though he's been playing defensive end after competing more at defensive tackle in 2017, in the hopes that his notable versatility can help his case to make the team again this year. If he plays well once again vs. Arizona, you can go ahead and pencil him in on the team's Final Roster for the upcoming 2018 season.
*KEITH KIRKWOOD, WIDE RECEIVER
There's an asterisk (*) in front of Kirkwood's name for one simple reason, which is that he isn't guaranteed ANYTHING if the Saints decide to only keep 5 wide receivers on this year's Final Roster as they normally do. But there's a very good chance especially with the uncertainty still surrounding veteran WR Cam Meredith's recovery from knee surgery, that this year the Saints might keep 6 wide receivers instead of only just 5. If that happens, you had best believe that Kirkwood will make the team.
Kirkwood has been one of the most pleasantly-surprising stories of the entire Saints off-season and 2018 Training Camp thus far; after taking an incredible journey to even just to get to this point. He didn't begin playing football until his senior year of high school in New Jersey; and grew up playing basketball and had dreams of playing in the NBA, But after his high school's football coach saw him on the basketball court, the coach suggested he try football.
Kirkwood then spent his first year in college at the University of Hawaii in 2013, before moving back closer to home to play for Temple University (located in Philadelphia) in 2014. After a redshirt season in 2015, Kirkwood put himself on the radar of NFL scouts after he caught 87 receptions for 1,319 yards and 11 TD's in his junior and senior seasons combined. But yet, he still went undrafted.
Keith Kirkwood with a TD catch on a great pass from Brees. pic.twitter.com/9LtWvfBkRk
— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) August 6, 2018
Now he's currently tearing up Training Camp with his enthusiasm and solid play, but still has the daunting task of impressing the Saints coaching staff enough to convince them that he deserves a possible 6th WR spot over fellow back-up WR's TommyLee Lewis, Michael Floyd, Austin Carr and Josh Huff (as of right now if the Saints decide to only keep 5 receivers, they most likely will be Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Jr., Cam Meredith, Tre'Quan Smith, and Brandon Tate, who will get the 5th spot because he is the best kick returner).
It's expected that Kirkwood will see plenty of action against the Cardinals, at WR and also possibly returning punts and kicks as well. If the Saints ultimately keep 6 WR's, Kirkwood has the odds in his favor. But if they only decide to keep 5, then he appears destined for a Practice Squad invite — assuming that no other NFL team tries to claim him when (and if) the Saints decide to cut him.
ARTHUR MAULET, CORNERBACK
Maulet, who starred in college at the University of Memphis, is a 2nd year undrafted player that of course most Saints fans are well aware is a Kenner, Louisiana native (suburban New Orleans); and was an all-around athletic high school superstar at Alfred J. Bonnabel High School, which is right off the I-10 interstate approximately 13 miles away from downtown.
Maulet was an all-state soccer player, an all-district punter, and a all-district cornerback at Bonnabel, and he made a name for himself already when he first earned a spot last season on the Saints Practice Squad. He later got put on the Final Roster and spent six regular-season games and two playoff games on the 53-man roster, playing primarily as an "ace" on special teams.
More opportunities for Arthur Maulet to ball with Harris gone form the corner competition already pic.twitter.com/swdToB8oyz
— Steve Geller (@SteveGellerWWL) August 11, 2018
The Saints have worked Maulet at both outside cornerback and nickel back so far throughout training camp, although head coach Sean Payton said the vision is for him to play at nickel this season. But Maulet has had a stand-out performance throughout the first 3 and a half weeks of Camp; and as of now, if there's any one undrafted player that's considered a player "on the bubble" but who has the most LEGITIMATE shot to make the Final 53-man roster, it's easily Maulet, hands down.
With the recent release of fellow undrafted CB De'Vante Harris (who wad claimed off waivers by the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Maulet can lock down his chances of remaining on the Final Roster again this season even further, starting with a solid performance vs. the Cardinals at the Superdome tomorrow night.....