The New Orleans Saints return to game action tomorrow night when they play a nationally-televised Saturday Night Pre-Season contest against the Chargers at the Stub Hub Center in suburban Carson, California just outside Los Angeles. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Central time and will be televised locally in New Orleans on WWL Channel 4.
Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters yesterday afternoon that the team’s starters on both sides of the ball are expected to play at least part way into the 2nd quarter (and possibly longer for some players, depending on the snap count).
With that in mind, here are 6 Saints players that need to have some “electrifying” performances in Los Angeles tomorrow night, to be able to keep their job and earn themselves a spot on the team’s Final 53-Man Roster; once the team makes its final player cut-downs after next week’s 4th and final Pre-Season game against the Rams.
KAMRIN MOORE, CORNERBACK
When the Saints used back-to-back picks on defensive backs a few months bacl in the 2018 NFL Draft, picking Wisconsin DB Natrell Jamerson in the 5th Round (#189 overall) before choosing Boston College DB Kamrin Moore in Round 6 (#201 overall), some draft analysts questioned the team’s logic in doing so. But given the Saints’ recent injury history in their defensive secondary — especially back during the 2016 season when they lost BOTH starting #1 and #2 CB’s after the first 2 games of the season and were reduced to literally signing free agent players “off the street”.
When you take that into account, it’s actually pretty easy to understand what their thought-process and motivation behind the selection of both players. If anything: the selection of Moore seemed as if it were more of an “insurance policy” than anything else; which is the reason why it shouldn’t be all that disappointing when he gets cut next week if he fails to have a huge game tomorrow night.
Moore hasn’t ANY impact in either Training Camp, or the first 2 Pre-Season games either. In fact, he’s been so unproductive that you very RARELY have heard Moore’s name at all this Summer. Unless he has an “electrifying” performance and somehow miraculously manages to pass up fellow DB’s Arthur Maulet, Justin Hardee, and Chris Banjo in just a week and a half worth of time, the odds of him keeping his job in NOLA despite being one of the team’s draft picks, are a long-shot — as in: it ain’t happening.
TOMMYLEE LEWIS, WIDE RECEIVER
Now in his 3rd season with the team, Lewis has the nearly impossible 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 Michael Floyd, Austin Carr and Keith Kirkwood (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 Lewis will see plenty of action against the Chargers, at WR and also possibly returning punts and kicks as well. If the Saints ultimately keep 6 WR’s. Lewis might have just have a decent shot still at keeping his job in New Orleans; although you’d have to believe that Lewis hasn’t made a big enough impact on offense to keep him around as the designated kick returner (which clearly Tate is better than Lewis at doing).
At this point, it’s just hard to envision Lewis making the team for a 3rd straight year; and barring an “electrifying” performance for the ages at the Stub Hub Center tomorrow night, Lewis will be seeking employment elsewhere by the end of next week.
JAYRONE ELLIOTT, STRONG SIDE LINEBACKER / DEFENSIVE END
Previously thought to be a “bubble player” to make the team’s Final 53-Man Roster after spending a year out of the sport of Pro Football, Elliott turned in a memorable (at least for Pre-Season) performance in his first game in a Saints uniform, recording 2.5 sacks and forcing a pair of fumbles in the 2018 Saints Pre-Season opener at Jacksonville in the team’s 1st Pre-Season game against the Jaguars. One of those fumbles set up the go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter in the Saints’ eventual come-from-behind 24-20 victory.
But Elliott was non-existent in the team’s loss to Arizona last week; and Saints head coach Sean Payton has already said that Elliott has to prove that he can play well on Special Teams to secure a Final 53-Man Roster spot; but also acknowledged that is aware of what Elliott can do for the Saints pass rush — meaning that the 26-year old and former University of Toledo star still has a decent shot at making the team.
But he’ll need another outing like the one had against the Jaguars 2 weeks ago, if he hopes to have any shot at keeping his job beyond the Final Roster cuts next week; especially with 4th year veteran and fellow strong side linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha having outperformed him against the Cardinals.
DEON YELDER, TIGHT END
Yelder thus far might be one of the biggest disappointments in all of 2018 Saints Pre-Season so far; since expectations were very high for the 23 year old after the Saints organization gave him the biggest signing bonus among of the undrafted players that signed with the team after the conclusion of the recent 2018 NFL Draft. A former walk-on, Yelder did not receive a scholarship or tally any receiving statistics prior to his senior campaign in 2017.
But Yelder exploded onto the scene by leading Western Kentucky University with 52 catches and 688 yards and 7 TD’s last year, thanks in part to the fact that a new coaching staff led by first-time head coach Mike Sanford wanted to run an offense that features the tight end position. Primarily used as a special teams player, the 6-foot-4, 255 pound Yelder set the single-season receiving yardage mark by a Hilltoppers tight end, and his versatility allowed him to finished ranked 4th in receptions and 3rd in receiving yards among all tight ends across the nation. He still went undrafted, but the Saints were obviously intrigued by his ability to catch the football.
Unfortunately, Yelder’s above-average receiving skills haven’t been enough to help him make a favorable impression on the offensive coaching staff; and it’s been a quiet Pre-Season thus far for the young Louisville, Kentucky native. Additionally, 2nd-year receiver-turned-tight end Dan Arnold has CLEARLY outperformed Yelder; who at this point might not even get a Practice Squad invite — much less stand a chance of making the team’s Final 53-Man Roster. If Yelder plans on sticking around, he’ll need a very strong performance starting tomorrow night against the Chargers. But his time is quickly starting to run out.
AL-QUADIN MUHAMMAD, DEFENSIVE END
Easily one of the team’s most popular players as a rookie 6th Round draft pick last season, the former Miami Hurricanes defensive end / edge pass rusher literally was “on fire” at this very same time during last Pre-Season, leading the defense in snaps played and sacks.
But when the regular season came, Muhammad very rarely saw any significant game-action or was ever able to get out on the field all that much. That situation has since gotten more complicated for him in 2018, with the Saints addition of 1st round draft pick Marcus Davenport — whose presence is expected to dramatically cut into Muhammad’s opportunities or likely chances to get back onto the field.
Perhaps even worse for Muhammad: the sudden and very notable RAPID DEVELOPMENT of Muhammad’s fellow defensive end and 3rd Round pick from last year, with rising star Trey Hendrickson. Long story short: despite his flashes of talent every so often throughout Training Camp and the Pre-Season, Muhammad needs to show some real improvements over these last 2 games of the 2018 NFL Pre-Season to keep his job this season.
AUSTIN CARR, WIDE RECEIVER
When the Saints originally claimed Carr last year after he was cut by the Patriots at the end of the 2017 Pre-Season, they were inspired to do so at the time because they had a wide-open battle at receiver behind Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr, and there was hope that Carr could step in as a slot receiving specialist and the eventual replacement at that spot for then-suspended WR Willie Snead (now with Baltimore).
But the Saints have since brought in free agent Cam Meredith and rookie Tre’Quan Smith is having a much bigger impact and carving out a role for himself in the Saints offense; lessening the need for Carr’s presence. When you take into consideration that he’s never managed to repeat any of the notable production that he had during his time with the Patriots and might have had some issues with learning the Saints’ scheme, Carr most certainly has turned out to be a disappointment in his 2nd year.