We’re days away from one of the busiest — and most difficult — days on the NFL calendar, with the New Orleans Saints and every other team cutting their rosters down from 90 contracts to just 53 on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
A lot of Saints players have already earned their roster spots at training camp practices and through two preseason games. But some others are still on the roster bubble and a strong performance against the Houston Texans on Sunday night could seal the deal. At the same time, an underwhelming outing could be the push the coaching staff needs to go with a different player.
These eight players can’t afford to let a good opportunity pass them by:
WR Shaquan Davis
Davis has come on strong as of late — making some tough contested catches in practice and shining against the Los Angeles Chargers in their last preseason game. But some things are stacked against him. Four, maybe five receivers are locks to make the roster: Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, Keith Kirkwood, and A.T. Perry. It could come down to Davis or a veteran like Tre’Quan Smith or Lynn Bowden Jr. for that sixth spot if the Saints carry that many receivers at all. He needs to catch everything thrown his way and settle that debate on Sunday night.
TE Lucas Krull
Krull returned from an injury to post a mixed performance against the Chargers last week, and he’s facing an uphill battle to make the team with Jimmy Graham back in town. He can’t afford to drop any more would-be touchdown passes from Jake Haener. He isn’t much of a blocker at this stage in his career, so proving he has reliable hands in the passing game is his best path to a roster spot.
LT Lewis Kidd
Kidd was penalized twice last week, once for holding and later for a false start — that can’t happen for someone in his position. He’s moved back to his college position at left tackle and he has a great opportunity to stay on the 53-man roster for a second year with Landon Young, his chief competitor to back up Trevor Penning, sidelined by an injury. But another evening with too many penalty flags could doom him.
RT Storm Norton
Norton was fouled for holding last week, as were most of the Saints’ backup linemen. But the former Chargers starter played well against his old team if you look beyond that, and he’s in a good position to back up Ryan Ramczyk on the right side. He just needs to keep his hands clean on Sunday night and hold up against a surprisingly talented group of Texans edge rushers.
DE Niko Lalos
Lalos gave fans what they’ve been looking for out of any of their early-round defensive ends in recent years, sacking Chargers quarterback Easton Stick three times in last week’s preseason game. It’s good to see him thriving after honing his craft in the XFL. But Lalos needs to play through an injury that slowed him down in practice and keep that momentum going. It’ll be tough to fit him into the depth chart with so many locks in place, but another big game could convince the Saints he’s worth the hassle.
No Saints player has logged more snaps on special teams through two preseason games than Orji, but he’ll need to show he can compete at the catch point and tackle cleanly on defense to win a roster spot. Guys in his position can’t do just one or the other. With Jaylon Smith leapfrogging Zack Baun at the strongside linebacker spot and preseason standout Ryan Connelly out with an injury, there’s a big opportunity here for Orji to prove he belongs.
It isn’t looking good for Monday. The fan-favorite backup hasn’t really distinguished himself through the first two preseason games, and rookie draft pick Jordan Howden is well ahead of him on the depth chart. So are veteran safeties Ugo Amadi and Lonnie Johnson Jr. It’s going to come down between Monday and Johnathan Abram for a spot on the practice squad unless Monday can make some clutch plays on Sunday night.
CB Troy Pride Jr.
It might come down to Pride and undrafted rookie Anthony Johnson (Virginia) for that last spot on the practice squad. They lead the team in defensive snaps through two exhibition games, with Pride making more plays in run defense but also drawing multiple penalty flags and allowing a touchdown pass into his coverage. He’s good to have as veteran depth but the rookie might have a higher ceiling if opponents keep picking on Pride in coverage.