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Halo 07-01-2002 01:00 PM

An Early Look at Saints Roster- By Sheldon Mickels of the Ad
Advocate sportswriter

A quick check of the calendar shows that today is July 1, which means NFL training camps can't be far behind.

The expansion Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers will be the first teams to report to work, both on July 20 -- just 21/2 weeks from now.

The first exhibition game will be played on Aug. 3, a fairly intriguing matchup (a phrase that's rarely used with preseason football) that will find the 49ers facing Steve Spurrier and his Washington Redskins in the American Bowl in Osaka, Japan.

Closer to home, much closer to home, the New Orleans Saints, who are eager to get back on the field after their 7-9 finish last season, will gather in Thibodaux for the third consecutive summer on July 26.

The first practice will be held the next day at 9 a.m., the official start to what promises to be an extremely interesting -- and important -- training camp for the Saints.

Three months of off-season preparations ended for the Saints last week, so it's not too early to take a look at how the roster will take shape once the pads go on and the hitting begins.

During the minicamp that ended last weekend, Saints coach Jim Haslett said he already has a potential roster filled out.

His only problem: there were 56 names on the list and three more would have to be trimmed to make up the 53-man roster that will be submitted to the league office on Sept. 1.

Of course, Haslett's preliminary roster is subject to change -- especially when you consider that the Saints will likely bring in a veteran running back to serve as a backup to second-year pro Deuce McAllister.

As it is, the Saints will have to scratch 40 names off their current roster -- and the hit list will grow even more if they decide to bring in a few players either before or during training camp.

With that said, as the countdown to camp begins, here's an early guess -- and it's strictly a guess -- at which 53 players will eventually make it to the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Joe Horn, Jerome Pathon, Donté Stallworth, Jake Reed, Jimmy Robinson, Michael Lewis.

After the top three, it's really a guessing game. Reed is a solid leader in the locker room, while Robinson and Lewis will have the opportunity to open some eyes in camp.

TIGHT END (3): David Sloan, Boo Williams, Lamont Hall.

This position shouldn't be too difficult to trim down. Sloan and Williams are the receiving threats. Hall sticks around for his blocking.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Kyle Turley, Wally Williams, Jerry Fontenot, LeCharles Bentley, Victor Riley, Kendyl Jacox, Bubba Miller, Spencer Folau, Tutan Reyes.

Versatility is the key for the offensive line and the Saints have plenty of it with this group. Williams, Bentley, Jacox, Miller, Folau and Reyes can all play two positions.

RUNNING BACK (6): Deuce McAllister, Terrelle Smith, Moran Norris, Fred McAfee, James Fenderson.

That's only five names, the sixth spot goes to whomever General Manager Mickey Loomis signs in late July or early August.

QUARTERBACK (3): Aaron Brooks, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Lewis.

If Lewis doesn't look that good in training camp, sixth-round draft pick J.T. O'Sullivan could be one of the wildcards on Haslett's list.

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

The Saints appear set here, but don't be too surprised if seventh-round draft pick Derrius Monroe, a defensive end, makes some noise in camp.

LINEBACKER (6): Sedrick Hodge, Charlie Clemons, Darrin Smith, Bryan Cox, James Allen, Curtis Holden.

This is another position where a question mark comes into play, but Holden gets a shaky nod over Roger Knight to provide extra depth on special teams.

DEFENSIVE BACK (10): Dale Carter, Fred Thomas, Sammy Knight, Jay Bellamy, Michael Hawthorne, Ken Irvin, Keyuo Craver, Mel Mitchell, Richard Newsome, Fakhir Brown.

Even though they won't be playing the pass-happy St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers twice a year any more, the Saints feel like you can never have enough defensive backs. And this area definitely needed more quantity and quality.

SPECIALISTS (3): John Carney, Toby Gowin, Kevin Houser (deep snapper).

Gowin may be on the bubble if the Saints like what they see in Dirk Johnson, a free agent who was impressive during the NFL Europe season.

DomeFoam 07-02-2002 03:31 PM

An Early Look at Saints Roster- By Sheldon Mickels of the Ad
I agree, Linebacker is the shakiest position on the team. Our D-line looks strong and I don\'t see how that is our weakness. Mueller stacked a great team for us. Too bad we\'re going to flop in free agency next year without him. :casstet:

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