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Who’s Who; The 2019 New Orleans Saints

Congratulations, Who Dat Nation. You’ve done it. You survived the monotonous grind known as the preseason. The real games are officially here and your New Orleans Saints are just days away from their season opener. The black and gold will be welcoming the Houston Texans to the Superdome on Monday night, but before they do, it is my job to familiarize you guys with each and every member of the 2019 53-man roster…and then some. With that being said, let’s get started.

Initial 53-Man Roster

#3 Wil Lutz – Entering his fourth season as the Saints kicker, Lutz has developed in to one of the most reliable players that the organization has ever had at the position. It is clear that they feel that way, too, making the 25 year old the highest paid kicker in NFL history back in March.

#5 Teddy Bridgewater – Back for his second season as Drew Brees’ primary backup, Bridgewater is trying to put himself in position to resurrect his career as a starting quarterback in the NFL by waiting in the wings until #9 hangs them up. After first coming to New Orleans via trade from the New York Jets late in the 2018 preseason, he turned down a starting position with the Miami Dolphins this offseason to return to the Saints and, in his own words, “Run it back, Turbo.”

#6 Thomas Morstead – As the other half of the NFL’s best kicking duo, Morstead has shown no signs of slowing down. The Saints don’t punt much (Morstead tied for least amount of punts for full-time punters in 2018), but when they do, he puts the defense in a great position.

#7 Taysom Hill – Although he is listed as the team’s 3rd string quarterback, Hill’s realistic position for the Saints is “football player”. He lined up at nine different positions in 2018, contributing on both offense and special teams. You can expect much of the same this year. The team kept only two tight ends on their initial 53-man roster, so look for him to spend a good amount of time there until if/when a roster change is made. Aside from quarterback, that’s where he took most of his snaps in 2018.

#9 Drew Brees – Future Hall of Famer. Holder of majority of the NFL’s passing records. New Orleans immortal. The list goes on and on. The only unknown about Brees is which of these seasons will actually be his last. He broke Peyton Manning’s all-time passing yardage record, along with his own single-season completion percentage record in 2018 and enters 2019 just 19 touchdowns behind Manning in that category. It could be another historic year for #9, as he also aims to earn the allusive regular season MVP award that’s missing from his resume.

#10 Tre’Quan Smith – Coming off of an inconsistent rookie campaign, Smith is expecting to have a more productive sophomore season. During this year’s training camp, he told the media that he is much more comfortable in the offense than he was last year. He said he can just play more and think less, which will hopefully help him become more of a mainstay in the Saints passing attack.

#11 Deonte Harris – THE CHAMP IS HERE (Shoutout, Ross Jackson)! After coming in to training camp as an undrafted rookie and clear underdog to veteran Marcus Sherels to win the Saints kick and punt return role, Harris took his opportunity and quite literally ran with it. He was impressive through the first two preseason games, but a punt return touchdown against the Jets in Week 3 sealed his spot on the roster. With 14 return touchdowns in his career at Assumption College, Harris owns the NCAA record. As, presumably, the 6th wide receiver on the depth chart, don’t be surprised to see him find his way in to the mix on offense, too.

#13 Michael Thomas – No one in NFL history has caught more passes in their first three season as Thomas. It has been a quick rise to stardom since being selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the black and gold. As a reward, the Saints made him the richest wide receiver in NFL history with a 5 year, $100 million extension in July.

#18 Keith Kirkwood – Despite concerns of having his roster spot stolen by one of the many talented receivers on the preseason roster, it appears as if Sean Payton feels Kirkwood is still reliable, regardless of his injury battles. He struggled to stay on the field throughout training camp, but is looking to move forward and build on his 2018 rookie campaign that yielded three touchdown receptions, one of which kickstarted the Saints’ comeback victory in the Divisional round against the Eagles.

#19 Ted Ginn Jr – Entering his 13th season in the NFL, the 34 year old receiver still has the speed to run past almost anyone in the league. He spent most of 2018 on the shelf with a knee injury, but returned late in the season. Undoubtably one of the top three WRs in Payton’s offense, Ginn looks to reprise his role as the team’s deep threat.

#20 Ken Crawley – It may be a surprise to many that Crawley is still hanging around, but with not much boundary cornerback depth behind Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple, it was nearly impossible to keep him off of the roster. Whether or not he sticks for long is another question, with an outside signing remaining a possibility. After being benched early in 2018, his poor play was a big part of the decision to trade for Apple from the Giants.

#21 Patrick Robinson – Returning to New Orleans for his second stint after being the team’s first draft pick following their Super Bowl victory in 2010, Robinson’s return did not go as planned. A broken ankle in Week 3 of 2018 sent him to the IR to miss the rest of the season. Back for the second year of his four year contract, he’ll likely share time at the nickel corner position with P.J. Williams.

#22 CJ Gardner-Johnson – When the Saints gave up their 4th (#116 overall) and 5th (#168 overall) round picks of the 2019 draft to move up to #105 and celect Gradner-Johnson, it was clear they saw great value in the defensive back out of Florida. That feeling was echoed throughout NFL media, as the pick was praised and CJGJ became seen as one of the best values in the draft. When the team sent their entire starting defense on to the field for the preseason Week 3 dress rehearsal, #22 was out there with them. Look for Gardner-Johnson to spend time lining up on the inside of the Saints secondary, while also playing a significant role on special teams.

#23 Marshon Lattimore – After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, his sophomore campaign got off to a slow start. Lattimore later admitted, himself, that he entered the season a bit complacent, assuming he would have the same sort of success as he did in his rookie season when he produced five interceptions. Thankfully, he was able to make adjustments and get back on track to be one of the best young corner backs in the NFL.

#24 Vonn Bell – Another of the players from the Saints impressive 2016 NFL Draft class, Bell is my selection for most improved players over his first three seasons. He has played the old Roman Harper role since day 1 in black and gold and looks better and better each year. He has always been productive when close to the line of scrimmage and against the run, but where his game has improved greatly is dropping back against the pass. His range and ability to provide safety support for his cornerbacks has grown exponentially and is already off to a good start with a few pass breakups in the 2019 preseason.

#25 Eli Apple – New Orleans’ struggles at the second cornerback position early in 2018 led to the decision to give up 4th and 7th round draft picks to acquire Apple from the Giants in late October of 2018. The change of scenery became beneficial, solidifying his starting spot opposite of Lattimore and bolstering Dennis Allen’s much improved pass defense.

#26 P.J. Williams – Williams fell flat when he got his opportunity to show what he could do as the Saints #2 cornerback after Crawley was benched in 2018, but found his niche at the inside nickel spot once Robinson was lost for the season. An interception return for a touchdown in the team’s Week 8 game against the Vikings jumpstarted what was a very good second half of the season for Williams, putting him in position to see plenty of time back at the nickel spot in 2019.

#27 Dwayne Washington – Much like Keith Kirkwood, Washington barely edged out a younger guy at his position, despite battling an injury. After sustaining a concussion in the third preseason game against the Jets and missing the rest of training camp, the door seemed wide open for Devine Ozigbo to steal the RB3 spot. Ozigbo did all he could, but Washington’s ability to contribute on special teams was likely the tie-breaker. Like Ken Crawley, his spot on the roster is still very fluid, considering the Saints reportedly worked out a few outside running backs this week.

#28 Latavius Murray – When the Saints and Mark Ingram were unable to strike a deal to keep the fan favorite in New Orleans, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis quickly made the move to sign Murray to a four year deal. He has spent his entire five year career playing second-fiddle, so his role as RB2 behind Alvin Kamara will be a familiar one. As a pretty big running back at 6’3, 230 pounds, power running is not the only thing he can do. Murray is quietly a solid receiver out of the backfield, which is always a necessity for Saints running backs. Ingram will always be loved by the New Orleans faithful, but I fully expect Murray to provide the same sort of production.

#33 Saquan Hampton – Seeing Hampton on the 53-man roster was a nice surprise after he missed majority of training camp with an injury and seemed like a possibility for the IR. The Saints drafted the safety in the 6th round of the 2019 draft and was another player that many considered to have been a great value pick. He put up three interceptions in his senior year at Rutgers last year, with his ball skills being one of his main draws that the Saints became attracted to. With little depth at free safety behind Marcus Williams, Hampton could eventually see meaningful snaps thanks to not being buried by a slew of other players at the position.

#34 Justin Hardee – Probably the most important coverage player for the Saints special teams, Hardee returns with a clear carved out role. He seems to always be right on the ball on kick and punt coverage. Although we hope it never has to come to this, Hardee actually looked solid when playing outside cornerback through the preseason, as well.

#41 Alvin Kamara – Entering his third season in the NFL, this will be Kamara’s first as the clear RB1 with Mark Ingram now in Baltimore. With that being said, don’t expect his workload to jump drastically. When Ingram was suspended for the first four games of 2018, Kamara averaged 22.8 touches per game, compared to his average of 16.7 per game the rest of the season with Ingram active. While being very productive and carrying a lot of the offense through that four game stretch, he looked visibly worn out heading in to the team’s Week 6 bye. He has proven that he’s capable to shoulder the load when called upon, but it would come as a surprise to see that be the case on a week to week basis in 2019. Regardless, his ability to be electric each and every time he touches the ball will be paramount as the Saints gear up for another run at the Super Bowl.

#42 Zach Line – Majority of the NFL has gone away from the use of a fullback, but Line gives the Saints every reason to do the opposite. He routinely flattens defenders as a lead blocker on running plays and is surprisingly capable as a receiver out of the backfield.

#43 Marcus Williams – After a standout rookie season, Williams seemingly took a step back in 2018. He wasn’t bad, per se, but he wasn’t as active as he was in 2017. Nonetheless, he has shown that he has the tools to make plays and a year three jump could be on the horizon. You’ll often see him play single high free safety when guys like Vonn Bell and C.J. Gardner-Johnson move close to the line of scrimmage.

#47 Alex Anzalone – In his first full season since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, Anzalone became a stand out, do-it-all linebacker for the Saints last season. He showed the same promise from the moment that he donned the black and gold in his 2017 rookie year, but a shoulder injury ended his season after only four games. Last year, he flashed his ability to play sideline to sideline and provide reliable pass coverage from the linebacker position. With the Saints being as deep at the position as they have in a long time, Anzalone will likely be part of a rotation that keeps all of them fresh.

#48 J.T. Gray – Much like Justin Hardee, Gray is on the roster exclusively for special team. Also like Hardee, he showed improvements at his listed position of safety during the preseason, but all the Saints need him to do is continue providing great coverage on kicks and punts.

#49 Zach Wood – Entering his third season as the Saints long snapper, Wood completes the trio of Lutz, Morstead, and himself, that has become one of the most consistent special teams units in the NFL.

#50 Wes Horton – After spending the first six years of career with the Panthers, Horton was part of the exodus of players after a disappointing season for the Carolina defense in 2018. Largely seen as a veteran camp body when signed by New Orleans, his solid preseason helped land his spot on the 53-man roster. He will be one to keep an eye on following Week 1, as a roster spot will need to open to allow David Onyemata’s return from his one game suspension. As long as he is on the roster, he will mostly be there for depth at the defensive end position in case of injuries, rather than seeing many snaps. His stats are underwhelming, as he has averaged just 15.5 tackles and 2.5 sacks so far in his career.

#52 Craig Robertson – Robertson is without a doubt one of the biggest vocal leaders for the entire team. While capable of providing quality snaps at his linebacker position, he has developed in to another of the Saints special teams standouts. He has the respect of his teammates, being voted as the captain of the special teams in 2018. The Saints rewarded him with his second contract with the team, giving him a two year deal this past March.

#53 A.J. Klein – Coming in to his third season with the Saints, Klein will be part of the deep linebacker rotation in 2019. He will likely contribute the most on early downs, providing solid run support as one of the most consistent tacklers on the team.

#54 Kiko Alonso – The newest face on the 53-man roster is Alonso, who was acquired from the Dolphins just this past Sunday in a linebacker for linebacker deal that sent Vince Beigel to Miami. Drafted by the Bills in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL draft, he lit it up in his rookie season with a staggering 159 tackles. A torn ACL caused him to miss all of 2014. In March of 2015, he was sent to Philadelphia in the deal that got LeSean McCoy to Buffalo. His one season with the Eagles was hampered by his surgically repaired knee, as he suffered a partial tear and missed multiple games. He was, once again, traded in March of 2016 to Miami, which is where he has spent the last three years. During those three years, he saw his career get back to the potential that he exuded in his rookie season. With the Dolphins, he averaged 118 tackles per season. He arrives in New Orleans coming off of a stellar season that included 125 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions in 2018. He brings a veteran presence, while solidifying the linebacker depth that I have been talking about.

#55 Kaden Elliss – It’s not often that a 7th round draft pick brings as much promise as Elliss does. In fact, there hasn’t been this much excitement over a Saints player drafted that late since Marques Colston back in 2006. He quickly translated that promise from hopefulness to visible reason to be hyped as soon as he stepped on the field to start training camp. That promise translated from the practice field to game time, producing 20 tackles in limited snaps over the course of the preseason. He’ll likely get his first chance to shine in meaningful games on special teams, but don’t be surprised to see the rookie sneak in the linebacker rotation as he gets more and more comfortable in Dennis Allen’s defense.

#56 Demario Davis – Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A young veteran at the middle linebacker position came to New Orleans from the New York Jets and made a gigantic impact from day 1. Sound familiar? That’s because Davis is the best middle linebacker to wear the black and gold since Jonathan Vilma. He quickly became one of the most important players not named Cam Jordan for the Saints defense in his first year with the team in 2018. His 110 tackles led the team, while also providing a surprisingly affective pass rush with 5 sacks. If there’s such a thing as two heart and souls of the defense, he’s without a doubt the other half of it with Jordan.

#60 Patrick Omameh – As a late addition to the preseason roster, Omameh was signed following the team’s release of Cameron Meredith in July. He provides depth at the guard position behind starters Andrus Peat and Larry Warford. Ideally, this is one of those guys that you hope the Saints never have to use, as it would be in the event of multiple injuries.

#62 Nick Easton – Following Max Unger’s sudden retirement in mid-March, the Saints quickly moved to sign Easton to a four year contract to presumably be their new starting center. We will discuss it more in a bit, but the selection of Erik McCoy in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft has changed Easton’s role. He will likely play the sixth offensive lineman position that Payton loves to use in goal line and short distance formations, while also providing quality depth at both center and guard.

#64 Will Clapp – No players ever root for someone else’s injury, but they can certainly step up and take advantage of the opportunity. That’s what Clapp will look to do following Cameron Tom’s injury that sent him to the IR when the roster was being finalized. He very well could have made the roster even if Tom wasn’t injured, but the open spot for depth on the offensive line certainly helped. Guard and center are more of Clapp’s natural positions, but he does have a bit of experience at tackle from his time at LSU. That, of course, is another situation we hope to never see, but the second year pro is versatile enough to provide depth all around.

#67 Larry Warford – After spending his first four season with the Lions, Warford came to the Saints on a four year deal in 2017. He has become one of the most underrated guards in the NFL and is a pivotal part of what’s one of the best offensive lines in the league. He earned back to back Pro-Bowl honors in his first two season with New Orleans, providing incredible return on investment, so far.

#71 Ryan Ramczyk – Ramczyk is a member of the Saints phenomenal 2017 draft class, being taken #32 overall. That pick was acquired from the Patriots when Brandin Cooks was shipped out following complaints of not seeing the ball enough. It was one of those picks that was considered “boring” by fans, but has turned in to one of the most important in recent Saints history. He was quickly inserted in to the starting right tackle position when Zach Strief was lost for the year in Week 1 of the 2017 season and he has not looked back. Already considered one of the best tackles in the NFL, Ramczyk is another key cog for the Saints dominant offensive line.

#72 Terron Armstead – Speaking of key cogs, Armstead is the single most important player on the Saints offensive line. That’s saying a lot, especially considering the amount of praise I have already given Warford and Ramczyk. But, when you’re protecting the blindside of Drew Brees, you’re pretty dang important. It’s not just because he plays left tackle, though. Many around the league consider him the best tackle in the NFL. It is unfortunate that he has had to deal with a few nagging injuries throughout his short, but distinguished career. The fact remains, though, that when he is out there, he is quite possibly the best in the business.

#73 Ethan Greenidge – As an undrafted free agent of the 2019 class, Greenidge lands on the roster as depth at the offensive tackle position. He was a mainstay at LT during his career at Villanova. His position on the 53-man roster is another of those that could be fluid if the Saints have someone else in mind following Week 1 when salaries become non-guaranteed.

#75 Andrus Peat – Despite being drafted as a tackle with the #13 overall pick by the Saints in 2015, Peat struggled to find consistency at the position and has since transformed in to a very good guard. Like Armstead, he, too, has battled injuries throughout his short NFL career. If he’s healthy and Armstead is banged up, he has the ability to kick out to left tackle, but his true value is at left guard. 2019 is his fifth and final year of his rookie contract with the Saints, so this will be an important year for the future of his career.

#78 Erik McCoy – Despite signing Nick Easton to fill in for Max Unger’s departure, McCoy was another of the Saints highly valued draft picks in 2019. They valued him so much that they gave up their 2nd round pick in the 2020 draft to move up from #62 overall to #48 overall to get him. Many draft scouts had him graded as a 1st round talent, becoming a big surprise to slip down to where he did in the draft. He will be the team’s starting center when they take the field agains the Texans on Monday night and hopefully become the anchor on the offensive line for years to come.

#80 Austin Carr – Much to the dismay of many fans, Carr is back on the 53-man roster for the third straight season. He only caught 9 passes in 2018, but two of them went for touchdowns. His skillset will not wow anyone, but Drew Brees openly told the media just a few weeks ago how much of a trust that he is developing with Carr. He’ll be in the mix to be the WR4, along with Kirkwood and Harris.

#87 Jared Cook – It has been quite a few years since Drew Brees has had a weapon like Cook at the tight end position. Not since Jimmy Graham has there been a guy in black and gold with the combination of size, strength, and pass catching abilities as Cook. He is coming off of career-best numbers across the board in 2018, hauling in 68 receptions for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Raiders. He was a highly coveted free agent this past off season, eventually signing a two year, $10.6 million deal in New Orleans. Look for big #87 to live in the middle of the field for the Saints, making it tougher for defenses to solely focus on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.

#89 Josh Hill – Spending his first six years in New Orleans, the Saints were intent on keeping Hill for even longer. So much so, that they gave him a three year extension in December of 2018, inbetween the regular season and start of the playoffs. He doesn’t light up the stat sheet, averaging just 13.8 receptions, 133.2 yards, and 1.8 touchdowns per year, but his ability to do whatever the Saints need him to do is where his value lies. He is an excellent blocker, helping the rushing attack and also being able to stay in for extra protection on passing plays, while also delivering when infrequently targeted through the air. As the only actual tight end on the roster behind Cook, Hill will continue to have plenty of ways to contribute.

#90 Malcom Brown – After spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Patriots, Brown was signed to a three year, $15 million deal to come to the Saints this past offseason. While it’s clear that the front office sees long-term value, committing to three years, his immediate availability is crucial. Defensive tackle will be a bit undermanned for the first few weeks of the season, which I will get to in a bit. Brown doesn’t necessarily do anything special, but he provides rotational depth at a position that causes a lot of wear and tear and sees guys slow down late in games.

#91 Trey Hendrickson – Wrapping up the uber-talented 2017 draft class, Hendrickson looks to continue to improve as a rotational player at defensive end. After a promising rookie campaign, he spent a good bit of 2018 struggling to make the active game roster behind guys like Alex Okafor and rookie Marcus Davenport. He still has plenty of room to improve against the run before he can be considered an every down option, but his time on the field this preseason appeared to show even more improvements as a pass rusher. With Cam Jordan locking down one defensive end position, Hendrickson is a great piece for depth and rotation with Davenport on the other side.

#92 Marcus Davenport – Speaking of Davenport, the athletic freak looks to take a step forward in his sophomore campaign. The Saints sacrificed this year’s 1st round draft pick to move up from #27 overall to #14 overall in 2018 and select the defensive end out of the University of Texas-San Antonio. Although being considered a bit raw, he got off to an impressive start with 4.0 sacks through his first six games. Unfortunately, a toe injury knocked him out for a few games mid season, then never allowed him to get back to 100% until the offseason. Now, fully healthy and with a full season under his belt, Davenport will likely get the first crack at solidifying his position at defensive end opposite Jordan.

#93 David Onyemata – Coming in to his fourth season out of Manitoba, Canada, Onyemata looks to continue his trend of significant improvement from season to season. The former 4th round pick of the 2016 draft became a mainstay at defensive tackle next to Sheldon Rankins in 2018, providing consistent pass rush while netting 4.5 sacks. While he technically isn’t on the 53-man roster as he has to serve a one game suspension to start 2019, he will return in Week 2 as the Saints top DT until Rankins returns.

#94 Cameron Jordan – If there is an equivalent to Drew Brees on the defensive side of the ball for the Saints organization, Jordan is it. Like Brees, there is not much that I have to tell you about what he does on the field. He was always one of the few bright spots through the dark days of the black and gold’s defensive struggles. Forever remaining committed to being a Saint for his entire career, Jordan was rewarded with a three year extension that has him locked down in New Orleans through 2023.

#95 Taylor Stallworth – Entering his second season in the NFL, Stallworth returns to provide depth at the defensive tackle position for the Saints. He only saw the field in six games in 2018 (two of which were the playoffs), but his familiarity with the defense and solid training camp this year earned him his spot on the roster.

#97 Mario Edwards Jr – Once Alex Okafor left in free agency, Edwards Jr was brought in on a two year, $5 million deal to provide depth at defensive end. As a former standout at Florida State and the #35 overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Raiders, he is still looking to transition his talent and promise to the NFL. On such a cheap deal, Dennis Allen gets to see if he can find the switch and cash in on the bargain signing once he returns from his undisclosed injury that kept him out of a good bit of training camp.

#98 Sheldon Rankins – In what was possibly the best news of the Saints 2019 preseason, Rankins was activated from the PUP list coming off of his torn achilles tendon in the Divisional round playoff game against the Eagles in January. A torn achilles is one of the toughest injuries to rehab from, but for a 300 pound man, one would think it would be even tougher. The assumption following the injury was generally that Rankins would miss at least half of 2019, if not more. With the move to take him off of the PUP, though, the Saints are saying that he will be ready sometime within the first six weeks of the season. He is being carried on the 53-man roster, which is another indication that he is close. For the few that may be unaware as to why all of this is so important, it’s because Rankins has quickly developed in to one of the best young defensive tackles in the league. The former #12 overall pick in the 2016 draft is the more dominant half of what has turned in to a punishing duo at DT with Onyemata. Rankins had a career best 8 sacks in 2018, providing legitimate and consistent pass rush from the interior defensive line. Although it’s naive to assume that he will get back to 100% at any point this season, having him on the field will be paramount. The fantastic news of his progress is enough to make you want to copy his post-sack shimmy celebration.

#99 Shy Tuttle – Wrapping up the 53-man roster is another undrafted free agent who put together an impressive training camp to put himself in this position. Tuttle wrapped up his preseason action with a few tackles and a batted pass at the line of scrimmage in the final game against the Dolphins. The defensive tackle could provide depth, along with giving the regulars a breath by stepping on to the field for a play here and there. With that being said, he could also be a prime candidate to be the roster casualty when Onyemata requires a spot to return in Week 2, but I would fully expect Tuttle to be stashed on the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.

Practice Squad

The practice squad is always important to know, as well, as those young guys could be activated to the 53-man roster at any point throughout the season due to an injury or the coaches’ decision to give someone else a look. Keith Kirkwood, Vince Beigel, Garrett Griffin, and Dwayne Washington all started 2018 with practice squad designations, only to make it to the active roster later in the season. I am going to point you guys in the direction of a masterfully written breakdown of the 2019 practice squad, courtesy of my colleague Ross Jackson. I urge you to go check it out here.

Thank you guys for stopping by. I hope this breakdown helps put y’all in position to know exactly what to expect from each and every member of the 2019 Saints roster. I would love to hear your feedback on Twitter. My handle will be right below this article. I look forward to talking to y’all soon.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DCBilliotJr for daily Saints talk and live tweeting of each and every game!