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We got our first look at the New Orleans Saints’ 53-man roster and practice squad for 2021, and it didn’t take them long to start making adjustments. And more are on the way. You can see the full list of players currently under contract here, just keep in mind that things are changing almost by the hour as the Saints continue to fill out the practice squad and shuffle players around to various reserve lists. But for now, here are six quick takeaways on the state of the Saints:
Running awful thin at cornerback
New Orleans Saints cornerback Prince Amukamara (21) and cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) run a drill during NFL football training camp in Metairie, La., Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
The Saints rostered three and a half corners between projected starters Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley, rookie backup Paulson Adebo, and dime back P.J. Williams who has continued to split time working at free safety. They did bring at least two corners onto the practice squad in rookie Bryan Mills and KeiVarae Russell, each confirmed by the team, and a third appears to be on the way with reports linking Ka'dar Hollman to New Orleans after the Texans waived him. But that puts as many true corners on the practice squad as on the roster, with very little starting experience within the group as a whole. A lot is riding on Lattimore.
Michael Thomas progressing as expected
CARSON, CA - AUGUST 18: Wide receiver Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints follows the pre season football game from the sideline against Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park on August 18, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Reports earlier this offseason suggested Thomas was expected to miss maybe five games while recuperating from summer ankle surgery, and his placement on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list confirms that. He'll sit out six weeks before getting the green light to return to practice -- totaling five games and the Saints' Week 6 bye, setting him up for a prime-time debut against the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football" in Week 7. Their patchwork cornerbacks group could be a good matchup for him, but the Saints may want to give him an extra week to get up to speed before throwing him into a game.
A welcome surprise at wide receiver
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris (11) runs a drill during NFL football training camp in Metairie, Friday, July 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Deonte Harris was expected to miss the first two games with an NFL suspension after his offseason DUI arrest, but it wasn't announced with other suspensions around the league (like David Onyemata's six-game absence after violating the league banned substances policy). That two-week suspension could still be working its way down the pipeline, but for now the Saints should plan on featuring Harris often against Green Bay. He's had a terrific summer and has taken on a larger role in the offense; look for Jameis Winston to uncork some big throws downfield towards the speedster, who should also make an impact on special teams.
Time to start the kicking carousel?
New Orleans Saints kicker Aldrick Rosas (6) walks on the field before the NFL football team's practice Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
The ink was just beginning to dry on the 53-man roster when the Saints shook it up again, releasing Aldrick Rosas on Wednesday. That left injured starter Wil Lutz alone on the depth chart. Now, the plan is for Lutz to go on ice for a few weeks on the injured reserve list, with Rosas returning to kick in Week 1. But that's a plan. Reality might prove different. There are a number of eligible kickers out there for the Saints to audition -- and with so many vacancies remaining on their practice squad, they could very well bring someone in to compete with Rosas up to the Packers game. It's hardly an ideal situation with Lutz on the mend.
Next domino to fall at linebacker
New Orleans Saints linebacker Kaden Elliss (55) and linebacker Chase Hansen (42) work on a drill during NFL football training camp in Metairie, La., Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Someone has to be the odd man out. The Saints typically field just two linebackers at a time (Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander are the projected starters), with a third (Zack Baun or Kaden Elliss) getting a couple of snaps per game on the strong side. That leaves a top backup who dresses on game days for special teams (Elliss or Pete Werner) and another as a healthy scratch -- either Chase Hansen or Andrew Dowell. The Saints are running so thin at other position groups that you have to think either Hansen or Dowell gets bumped down to the practice squad soon, joining Wynton McManis. Unless they get poached by another team in the attempt.
More changes are obviously on the way
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 7: Special Teams Coach Mike Westhoff of the New Orleans Saints (obscured) discusses a play against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Just look at the depth chart: the Saints only have three true cornerbacks, they started with two kickers and no fullbacks, and they had four tight ends and running backs. They also had just three defensive tackles but seven linebackers, and five safeties (not counting part-time corner P.J. Williams). At least five practice squad spots remain unconfirmed. New Orleans faces the added challenge of working on the road, but many, many more roster moves are clearly in the works. The starting lineup probably won't change much, but the roster as a whole should look very different once Week 1 arrives.