this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Saints wide receiver cuts will be difficult August 15, 2006 By Chris Talbott The Associated Press JACKSON, Miss. -- For most of the wide receivers in Saints training camp, every catch is precious and every opportunity is cherished. A handful ...
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Saints Wide Receiver Cuts Will Be Difficult
Saints wide receiver cuts will be difficult
August 15, 2006
By Chris Talbott
The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. -- For most of the wide receivers in Saints training camp, every catch is precious and every opportunity is cherished.
A handful of dropped passes, a couple of missed blocks or the inability to contribute on special teams might make the difference between playing in the NFL or watching from the couch on Sundays.
Things are that close for most of the 11 Saints receivers fighting for what will likely be five or six roster spots. The talented group has been one of the highlights for New Orleans and the first round of cuts on Aug. 29 are going to be painful.
"We're not just auditioning or putting ourselves out there for this team," free-agent wide receiver Jamal Jones said. "For the preseason games we're playing for all the teams in the NFL. If we can't find a good fit here, the main thing is to try your hardest and put good film out there."
No roster spot save four-time Pro Bowler Joe Horn's is safe under coach Sean Payton. The first-year coach said he will only reward results.
Even Donte Stallworth, considered one of the league's more promising young receivers, has yet to secure a place with the Saints.
Stallworth is entering the final year of his first contract. He set career highs with 70 catches for 945 yards last season. But that is no guarantee he'll be with the team for the Sept. 10 opener against Cleveland. He has yet to spend significant time working out for Payton after an offseason shoulder injury and a training camp groin pull pushed him off the field.
He returned to practice late last week, sat out the preseason opener against Tennessee and will get his first close scrutiny this week.
"At some point, I have to see it," Payton said. "I'm not going to go by someone's word."
Stallworth, who has had two consecutive injury-free seasons, said he's unconcerned about his future with the team.
"I've made some plays here and there, so I'm not really worried about that," he said.
Monday's practice was another typical day for the receivers -- streaking past cornerbacks on fly routes, catching deep, short and difficult balls, and running back and forth between offensive and special teams assignments.
Behind Horn and Stallworth on the team's most recent depth chart are a couple of sentimental favorites, some talented prospects from smaller schools and two experienced part-time NFL starters looking for bigger roles with their new team.
Jones has caught the attention of coaches and spectators with his high energy, positive attitude and sticky fingers. Along with playing at receiver, he's working with both kickoff and punt teams, trying to find a role that can't easily be cut.
The North Carolina A&T graduate got a look from St. Louis in the Rams' 2004 training camp, but was cut and spent the spring playing in NFL Europe. He was on the Packers' active roster for three games last season before being waived.
Finally, he thinks he's found a home with the Saints. He was listed as the top slot receiver on the team's most recent depth chart.
One team's late-season cut is another's free-agent steal.
"I think right here I've got a good fit, but we'll see what happens down the road," Jones said.
Another player expected to return but being challenged is Devery Henderson, an LSU star who became the team's most reliable third receiver last year.
Henderson fought through a rash of drops to start camp and was the only Saints receiver to leave a ball on the ground in the Saints 19-16 victory over Tennessee. With competition all around, Henderson is trying to put the drops behind him and continue his push for an opening-day roster spot.
"You've got to have amnesia and forget about it," Henderson said.
After those four, seven players are fighting for the one or two remaining roster spots:
Three are players who have mainly been special teams stalwarts.
Michael Lewis, the fan favorite known as the "beer man," has yet to practice with the receivers after offseason surgery. He ran a few routes without pads Monday before returning to the exercise bike.
Lewis is being pressured by Bethel Johnson, a special teams player acquired in a trade with New England. The Saints also signed Chris Horn, who never earned a regular receiving job with the Chiefs but has been mentioned several times during camp.
Three others -- rookies Mike Hass and Marques Colston, and NFL Europe player Lance Moore -- have been pushing the veterans. They have the best chance to be cut by the Sept. 2 deadline to pare rosters to 53 players.
But whether they're signed to the Saints practice squad or left to find other work, no one watching the receivers in training camp thinks they'll be out of a job for long. Stallworth and Henderson believe any player cut will be signed by another team. And Payton has made sure they know they are always being watched.
"These players understand that they're not just looking at their own (team's) position depth," he said. "If they start looking at their own depth chart, that's a mistake. They're competing with the depth at that position throughout the league."
My Guardian Angel wears a hard hat.