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QBREES9 07-25-2010 08:50 PM

Camp 2Dat: Previewing the Bubble for the New Orleans Saints
 
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NEW ORLEANS – Although New Orleans Saints officials have done an excellent job of maintaining the integrity of their Super Bowl XLIV championship team, the eventual 53-man roster continues to be a work in progress on the eve of training camp.

Their most notable offseason changes have come on defense with the addition of three free agents (defensive ends Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson and linebacker Clint Ingram) and two draft picks (No. 1 cornerback Patrick Robinson and No. 4 defensive tackle Al Woods) and the departures of linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive end Charles Grant.

I suspect there will be more personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball when all is said and done.

My inaugural “bubble’’ for NewOrleans.Com reflects that sentiment. I target three prominent members of Gregg Williams’ ball-hawking defense and a special teams ace - free safeties Darren Sharper and Usama Young, defensive end Bobby McCray and safety Pierson Prioleau.

I can make a strong case that each of those players might not be with the Black and Gold when they open the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 9 at the Superdome on NBC-TV.

Do I think both Sharper and Young will lose their jobs in New Orleans? No. Then again, I don’t believe either is guaranteed one of the 53 roster spots (in part, because of the arrival of Robinson and the projected domino effect that he will have on the depth chart in the secondary), and I’ll explain why in the next few minutes.

Veteran cornerback Randall Gay is another potential "bubble'' player and is expected to be in a battle for the No. 3 cornerback job with Robinson, the team's No. 1 pick from Florida State who has yet to sign a contract.

And while roster spots in the secondary will be at a premium this season because of the team's overall depth, I think Gay is still good enough to play in the NFL Knowing Gay, he is not ready to surrender his spot among the team's five best cornerbacks without a fight.

FS DARREN SHARPER - Many observers - fans and media alike - probably assume that the 14-year veteran already has been penciled into the starting lineup based on his All-Pro/Pro Bowl season in 2009 when he returned three of his nine interceptions for touchdowns. They’d be wrong. He will have to win the job in training camp.

Sharper's age and health are working against him. He turns 35 on Nov. 3 and is coming off a form of micro-fracture surgery of his left knee. He is expected to be limited the first week of training camp and on a “pitch count’’ thereafter or until the team’s medical staff clears him to fully practice. Every missed snap will hurt his chances. He won’t make this team standing on the sideline, or as the adage goes - "he won't make the club in the tub'' - particularly if Malcolm Jenkins continues to make a smooth transition from cornerback to free safety and fourth-year pro Usama Young assumes a bigger role. In addition, both Jenkins and Young have an edge on Sharper because they can play cornerback and special teams and that versatility will go a long way when the time comes to get down to fighting weight.

FS USAMA YOUNG - The third-round draft pick in 2007 appears to have reached the crossroads of his career in New Orleans. In other words, can he stay healthy? Can he contribute on special teams? And can he factor on the defense? He is entering his fourth NFL season and the time has come for him to stand up and be counted. He is in his second full season at free safety after making the switch from cornerback in 2009.

And while Young is expected to share snaps with Jenkins at FS while Sharper mends, it’s my opinion that Jenkins ultimately will assume the starting job either this season or next. I don’t believe Coach Sean Payton will have the luxury of keeping three “true’’ free safeties on his 53-man roster unless one transitions to strong safety, so it is my contention that both Sharper and Young will not make the opening-game 53.

DE BOBBY MCCRAY - Officials appeared to give an indication of McCray’s value by abruptly releasing him a few days after the conclusion of their offseason program in what can only be perceived as a cost-saving measure. He was due to be paid a million-dollar roster bonus around July 1. Several days ago, they re-signed McCray to a reduced contract, suggesting he now might have a better chance of making the roster at a smaller number. That is one way of looking at it.

The other way is now team officials are not hampered by money if they want to cut him. Like Sharper, "93 Octane'' needs to stay healthy. Two other observations: I’d say McCray is waging an uphill battle to make the roster despite his ability to rush the passer and his late signing suggests free-agent acquisition Jimmy Wilkerson is not fully ready for training camp while he continues to recover from reconstructive knee surgery.

McCray, too, better become more punctual for meetings. In fact, he'd be wise to come early and stay late. If not, he might end up being dubbed "The Late Bobby McCray.''

S PIERSON PRIOLEAU - Being on the bubble is nothing new for Prioleau, a former 10th round-draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers now in his 12th NFL season. He played primarily on special teams last season after being reunited with Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, whom he also has played for in Buffalo, Washington and Jacksonville. With the addition of Robinson, Jenkins’ switch to free safety and the return to health of first-year safety Chip Vaughn, Prioleau, who turns 33 Aug. 6, could become expendable despite his long association with Williams.

OTHERS ON THE BUBBLE - WR Adrian Arrington, C Nick Leckey, S Chris Reis. CB Leigh Torrence, WR Rod Harper, LB Anthony Waters.

NOTE: Since the 53-man roster is evolving daily, I will periodically update the progress of the "bubble'' players throughout training camp.

the-commish 07-25-2010 09:35 PM

Re: Camp 2Dat: Previewing the Bubble for the New Orleans Saints
 
Can't find anything that stands out as being "wrong" in that article.

We will know more as TC progresses. Just four days until it starts (3 actually). Can't wait to see the battles on D.

st thomas 07-25-2010 10:44 PM

Re: Camp 2Dat: Previewing the Bubble for the New Orleans Saints
 
wow, did'nt leave nothing out. earn it or else.


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