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JOESAM2002 08-13-2003 06:47 PM

Mickles article.....
Sheldon Mickles: Speculation on final roster starts

Advocate sportswriter

If you're one of the thousands of frantic fans still trying to get over that exhibition the New Orleans Saints put on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, take heart.
The best thing to come out of the Saints' exhibition opener was just that, it was an exhibition game that doesn't count in the standings and will long be forgotten by the time the regular season begins on Sept. 7.

And it was no different than the Saints' 13-10 loss to the expansion Houston Texans in their first exhibition game last year. It wasn't pretty, which makes one wonder how long fans who are paying premium prices are going to be fleeced for games that don't count in the standings.

The Saints opened the game without six regulars, three on each side of the ball. Held out were wide receiver Joe Horn, running back Deuce McAllister, guard LeCharles Bentley, defensive end Darren Howard, middle linebacker Darrin Smith and cornerback Dale Carter -- which no doubt contributed to the ragged play in the 27-17 setback to the Eagles.

If nothing else, the 53-man regular-season roster began to take shape with the first live work against another team. Of course, some would argue that there aren't 53 players on the roster after more than two weeks of training camp and Monday night's debacle.

But here's a guess -- and it's strictly a guess -- as to what the roster might look like after three more exhibition games and two mandatory cutdowns. The final cuts must be made by Aug. 31:

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Joe Horn, Donté Stallworth, Jerome Pathon, Michael Lewis, Derrick Lewis.

This group is pretty much set unless someone gets hurt. There is also a possibility that the coaching staff could keep a sixth wideout, which would be either Kareem Kelly or Talman Gardner. If they go that route, Kelly may have a slight edge because of Gardner's inconsistency in camp.

TIGHT END (3): Ernie Conwell, David Sloan, Boo Williams.

A big question here is Sloan, who's missed a week and a half of practice after undergoing shoulder surgery. He struggled through last season with knee and toe injuries and his health may become a real concern. If Sloan isn't able to go, 10-year veteran Walter Rasby should be the guy.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Wayne Gandy, Kendyl Jacox, Jerry Fontenot, LeCharles Bentley, Spencer Folau, Victor Riley, Montrae Holland, Jon Stinchcomb, Scott Sanderson, P.J. Alexander.

If the Saints keep an extra wide receiver on the final roster, this might be the area that can afford to go one player light. Alexander may be the odd man out, but would be a practice squad candidate again.

RUNNING BACK (5): Deuce McAllister, Terrelle Smith, Curtis Keaton, James Fenderson, Fred McAfee.

This is where things really get complicated. The backup job to McAllister is wide open because Keaton didn't really distinguish himself in playing nearly the entire game against the Eagles. The real backup may not be here yet.

QUARTERBACK (3): Aaron Brooks, Todd Bouman, Tory Woodbury.

Brooks and Bouman are entrenched as the top two, but Woodbury may get the nod over J.T. O'Sullivan as the third-stringer because he can play wide receiver and special teams.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7): Charles Grant, Johnathan Sullivan, Martin Chase, Darren Howard, Grady Jackson, Willie Whitehead, Kenny Smith.

This is going to be a difficult decision for the coaching staff. They have more than enough depth and experience, especially at tackle, and trying to keep everyone is impossible.

Henry Ford is a candidate to go because he's been out for more than a week with an ankle injury.

LINEBACKER (7): Sedrick Hodge, Darrin Smith, Derrick Rodgers, Orlando Ruff, James Allen, Cie Grant, Roger Knight.

There should be no big surprises here even though the middle linebacker spot has been battered by injuries to Smith and Grant. Rodgers and Allen are waging a battle to see who the starter is on the weak side.

DEFENSIVE BACK (10): Dale Carter, Fred Thomas, Mel Mitchell, Tebucky Jones, Ashley Ambrose, Keyuo Craver, Fakhir Brown, Jay Bellamy, Michael Hawthorne, Steve Gleason.

This area may be one player too many, but you can never have enough defensive backs, especially when you go against the mobile quarterbacks on the Saints' schedule this season.

SPECIALIST (3): John Carney, Mitch Berger, Kevin Houser (deep snapper).

There's no questions here although undrafted free agent Mark Mariscal has shown a strong leg while competing with Berger for the punting job.

Saintsfan4ever 08-13-2003 09:23 PM

Mickles article.....
I`d have to agree with nearly all of that potential line-up. The exception being O`Sullivan. Judging from his performance monday night and his knowledge and ability to run the offense and the comments of praise given by Hasslet at the press conference following the game, I think J.T. has an edge......maybe, maybe not.

rodjmaw 08-14-2003 03:08 AM

Mickles article.....
I agree with everything, however if the saints don\'t pick up a veteran free agent to back up #26 Walt Williams I believe will replace Curtis Keaton.

coastalkid 08-14-2003 07:10 AM

Mickles article.....
Walt Williams??? I haven\'t heard that name before. Who is he, where did you get this from and when???
I agree with the projected final roster list but feel that Haz likes J.T. O\'sullivan alot. I also hope we have a better back up at RB position. I do want to know about this Walt Williams guy if anyone can send something about him.

tweeky 08-14-2003 07:31 AM

Mickles article.....

Walt Williams??? I haven\'t heard that name before. Who is he, where did you get this from and when???
I agree with the projected final roster list but feel that Haz likes J.T. O\'sullivan alot. I also hope we have a better back up at RB position. I do want to know about this Walt Williams guy if anyone can send something about him.
He ran pretty well against Philly\'s 8th string. But he runs too upright. I\'ll have to see him against better starters before I get excited about him.

I\'d really like to see what Keaton could do if he wasn\'t nailed during the handoff.
He had absolutely no room to run at all. Deuce would have looked bad behind that O-line.

Look for Keaton to improve drastically if we can field a decent O-line this Saturday.
Don\'t give up on this kid yet.

roughneck 08-14-2003 12:05 PM

Mickles article.....
Iv\'e seen Williams at camp a few times now ( including today). He looks good but does run upright. I don\'t think Keaton has a chance in hell of making the squad. He always seems to run right at the defenders! I would be VERY suprised if we don\'t see a veteran free agent RB in camp by next week. Just wish there was more available at that position.

My Dad, Son and I also met Michael Lewis at camp today. Great guy. Had time to talk and signed every thing put at him despite the heat. I would say that he signed for over 200 people today (multiple items if they had them) and still had time to talk to my son.
He seemed to be having a great time. Strikes me as a guy who appreciates what he has and where he came from.

coastalkid 08-14-2003 12:19 PM

Mickles article.....
I\'m embarrassed by not having heard of Walt Williams and now find out he is on the team...shame on me. Thanks guys for helping me out. Now I\'ll have to get off my a#@ and find out more about the guy.
Michael Lewis is a class act. I have also met him as everything you said I also got the same impression. He still knows where he came from. He\'s all class and that is rare amongst today\'s \"superstars\"

Saintsfan4ever 08-14-2003 12:40 PM

Mickles article.....
Lewis is a good dude. I got an autograph from him and other Saint players when they came thru Hattiesburg back in June. I also became a big Joe Horn fan that day too. Joe gave everyone special attention who came thru the line to get an autograph from him. You could tell he was really enjoying his Saints fans. Fred Mcaffee and Fred Thomas were also very cool and seemed appreciative.
McAllister, on the other hand, was a bit more distant at the meet and greet. Flashing his big diamonds and jewelry, I didn`t see him speak to anyone except whoever was on the other end of his flip phone the whole time.. He just sat and signed autographs and never looked up. That kinda turned me off......

roughneck 08-14-2003 06:46 PM

Mickles article.....
I got a totally different impression of Deuce this year at camp. On the first day my son and I saw him he signed my boy\'s football and posed for a photo with him. We went home and printed the pic on photo glossy paper and printed it out in case we saw him again. He was signing a few days later and we gave him our photo. He was impressed and signed it and spoke with my boy for a little bit. We were very impressed. He stayed and signed for everyone.
That photo is getting framed and as soon as we get back to Colorado it will go on my son\'s wall.

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