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10 toughest cuts from Saints’ projected 53-man roster

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It isn’t easy to whittle the New Orleans Saints’ roster down to just 53 players, especially so far ahead of training camp and this summer’s preseason games. When it’s time for the decision-makers in New Orleans to huddle up and deliver pink slips, some good players are going to be shown to the door.

So who didn’t make the cut for our latest 53-man roster projection, following minicamp practices? While the Saints were able to hold on to many familiar names in that exercise (losing so many mid-level players this offseason opened a vacuum), some fans still may be disappointed. Here were the 10 most difficult roster cuts from that exercise:

RB Tony Jones Jr.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) hands the ball to New Orleans Saints running back Tony Jones Jr. (37) during an NFL football training camp practice at the Superdome in New Orleans, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

Jones ran hard on very limited opportunities late last season, and he could stick around if he finds a way to contribute on special teams. It's just tough for him considering how stacked the Saints running backs room is. Maybe he ends up on the practice squad again.

TE Ethan Wolf

Sep 16, 2017; Gainesville, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers tight end Ethan Wolf (82) catches the ball over cornerback CJ Henderson (5) for a touchdown during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the Saints roster a fourth tight end -- Adam Trautman has a lot on his plate, and his projected co-starter Nick Vannett hasn't played a snap with New Orleans yet. That just doesn't feel likely, though. He's another practice squad candidate.

OL Calvin Throckmorton

Feb 26, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Oregon offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton (OL48) speaks to the media during the 2020 NFL Combine in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon standout was a much-lauded undrafted rookie signing last year but he never dressed for a game, and the Saints have added more depth since then. Instability at right guard gives him an opportunity though you'd think Cesar Ruiz is further along in his transition from center.

OL Ethan Greenidge

New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Ethan Greenidge kneels in the end zone prior to the start of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Greenidge was a liability in his only action last season, which was disappointing given the multiple years the Saints invested in developing him. This backup job for Ryan Ramczyk should be upgraded by rookie sixth rounder Landon Young.

WR Kawaan Baker

Sep 8, 2018; Stillwater, OK, USA; South Alabama Jaguars wide receiver Kawaan Baker (15) dives for a touchdown defended by Oklahoma State Cowboys linebacker Kenneth Edison-McGruder (3) during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

This year's seventh round draft pick has his work cut out for him. He didn't enjoy much stability at quarterback or continuity in his assignments at South Alabama, which doesn't give him a stable platform to leap onto New Orleans' roster. What can he do better than his competition?

WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey

Jul 28, 2019; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey (84) during training camp practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Humphrey has made some big plays when his number was called. So did Keith Kirkwood. And unlike other bigger-bodied receivers on the team, Humphrey might not have the size to successfully cross-train at tight end to add versatility.

WR Jalen McCleskey

Sep 19, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tulane Green Wave wide receiver Jalen McCleskey (1) celebrates after a touchdown against the Houston Cougars during the fourth quarter at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Tulane product has impressive wheels, but he needs to show he can contribute in multiple roles to stand out in a crowded position group. Finding a job on special teams like Marquez Callaway did to make the team last year might be his path to the NFL.

DT Ryan Glasgow

New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow (95) jogs off the field after an NFL game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov.. 29, 2020, in Denver. The Saints defeated the Broncos 31-3. (AP Photo/Justin Edmonds)

The Saints should have a lot of competition at defensive tackle after losing Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown, and maybe Glasgow's veteran experience wins him a job. In this scenario we went with younger options.

LB Andrew Dowell

Oct 27, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Andrew Dowell (5) stands on the field during the second half of a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Dowell is entering his third year with the Saints after spending the first two seasons on the practice squad, so he's very much in a now-or-never situation. Maybe he can replace Craig Robertson as their top special teams linebacker.

CB Keith Washington Jr.

New Orleans Saints cornerback Keith Washington Jr. (38) stretches during an NFL football training camp practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center inside facility in Metairie, La., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

Year 2 for Washington should give him more opportunities than what he saw as a rookie, with a wide-open competition to start in Janoris Jenkins' old spot. But rookie draft pick Paulson Adebo feels like a stronger candidate, to say nothing of veteran backups like Patrick Robinson, P.J. Williams, and Ken Crawley. He needs to make a quick impression in training camp.