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New Orleans Saints shuffling the deck, with new starters set to step forward

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The dust has settled, and the revolving door finally has stopped at New Orleans Saints' camp. Enlarge Michael DeMocker, The Times-Picayune MICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Promising to wear it during games this season, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean ...

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Old 08-18-2011, 06:57 AM   #1
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The dust has settled, and the revolving door finally has stopped at New Orleans Saints' camp.



Enlarge Michael DeMocker, The Times-Picayune
MICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Promising to wear it during games this season, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (R) puts on a wristband with the name of cancer patient Gregoire Tyriek (L), 13, of Houma written on it as his grandfather John (L) and mother Amanda look on after practice indoors at the Saints training facility in Metairie on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. The family were guests at practice of linebacker Jonathan Vilma as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Saints practice on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. gallery (7 photos)
The team the Saints take to Green Bay in three weeks will be derived from the group they take to Texas and California this weekend.
New Orleans Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday the player procurement phase is essentially over, and that the comings and goings are over, give or take a name or two. (That's potentially sobering news for Darren Sharper fans.) The next three weeks will be spent transforming the sprawling 89-man roster into a cohesive 53-man team.
Midway through camp, it has become clear this Saints team will look distinctively different than it did a year ago, and the final roster could easily sport 20 new faces -- and more than a third of the 22 starters could be new.
That's a far cry from a year ago when the Saints kept their lineups virtually intact. Twenty of the 22 starters in last year's opener against the Minnesota Vikings were in the lineup for Super Bowl XLIV.
This season team officials have pruned the roster with an eye toward youth and athleticism. Aging veterans like Randall Gay, Jeremy Shockey, Jon Stinchcomb, Jason Kyle, Danny Clark, Heath Evans and Sharper no longer are in sight. The Saints will be younger at right tackle, tight end, running back, fullback and potentially both outside linebacker spots.
Here's a look at the positions with potential new starters:
Center: Olin Kreutz has been penciled in to replace Jon Goodwin. Second-year man, Matt Tennant, is the heir apparent.
Tight end: Jimmy Graham is a budding star. The Saints thought enough of him to cut ties with Shockey in Febraury.
Fullback: Veteran free agent Korey Hall and former undrafted rookie free agent Jed Collins are neck and neck. The deciding factor could be their play on special teams.
Right tackle: Zach Strief and Charles Brown are the main combatants to replace Stinchcomb. Strief has a huge leg up on the inexperienced Brown.
Running back: This is the marquee competition of camp. Rookie Mark Ingram and veteran Pierre Thomas have alternated reps with the first team throughout camp, and both have had their moments. Darren Sproles will man Reggie Bush's old role as the satellite back and steal a few carries to keep defenses honest, but Ingram or Thomas will be the primary ball carrier. The running back spot is similar to wide receiver in Payton's offense. Regardless of who starts, the final number of reps will likely be similar between the two.
On defense, four new starters are possible and three are a virtual certainty. Here's a quick look:
Right defensive end: By all accounts, Will Smith finally will serve the four-game suspension. That means the Saints will open the season with a new right end for the first time in six years. A host of candidates will compete for the spot. Among them: Turk McBride, Jeff Charleston, Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. This one is wide open.
Nose tackle: Mammoth Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin will compete for the defensive tackle spot next to Sedrick Ellis. One of them will replace Remi Ayodele and presumably be an upgrade. The Saints are paying Rogers and Franklin a lot more than they paid Ayodele, so expectations are high. Each will earn about $4 million this season.
Weak-side linebacker: Veteran Scott Shanle and up-and-comer Jonathan Casillas are waged in a heated battle. Casillas led the team in tackles (seven) and tackles for loss (three) against the San Francisco 49ers in an exhibition game Friday night at the Superdome. He'll be tough to keep out of the lineup if he continues to produce those numbers.
Strong-side linebacker: Veteran journeymen Will Herring and Clint Ingram are the front-runners, but rookie Martez Wilson is also in the hunt. Injuries are concern for Ingram. Shanle also is a consideration here if he loses the weak-side competition.

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Old 08-18-2011, 10:57 AM   #2
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Interesting. I wonder if WR will become a concern?
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Old 08-18-2011, 04:49 PM   #3
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Shanle somehow just manages to hold on to his spot. I wonder if he'll be on the final roster? I would think so but with this youth movement you never know.
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