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Saints roster projection: Veterans Anthony Spencer, Parys Haralson on bubble

My latest 53-man roster projection for the New Orleans Saints still has at least one too many veteran defensive players on it.

I think the Saints will ultimately cut at least one guy from the group of Anthony Spencer, Parys Haralson, David Hawthorne or Dannell Ellerbe. Most of them won't be starters, and none are elite special teams contributors. That's a bad combination for an older player in the NFL.

But I'm not ready to cut any of them based on performance just yet, so consider them written in pencil for now. Injuries might be the deciding factor. Ellerbe, Spencer and Humber all got dinged up during the preseason opener.

To make room for all of those vets, I left off second-year safety Pierre Warren (who has had a quiet summer) and rookie linebacker Davis Tull (who is expected to make his practice debut Tuesday). One of them could easily supplant a veteran by summer's end if they earn a key special teams role.

Defensive ends (5): Cameron Jordan, Akiem Hicks, Bobby Richardson, Parys Haralson, Anthony Spencer (cut: Tavaris Barnes, Markus Pierce-Brewster)

I almost cut Spencer since he was in coach Sean Payton's doghouse for two pre-snap penalties in last Thursday's preseason opener and he's been sidelined with an injury ever since. But I think he's had a decent camp overall, flashing a little more than Haralson.

Defensive tackles (3): John Jenkins, Kevin Williams, Tyeler Davison (cut: Kaleb Eulls, Ashaad Mabry, Austin Brown)

Eulls, Mabry and Barnes have all shown some nice things. Lots of opportunities for rookies on the D-line.

Linebackers (7): Stephone Anthony, Dannell Ellerbe, David Hawthorne, Hau'oli Kikaha, Kasim Edebali, Ramon Humber, Ronald Powell (cut: Davis Tull, Henry Coley, Jerry Franklin, Justin Anderson, Chris Young)

Ellerbe has been injured for most of camp, but the Saints have consistently kept him ahead of Hawthorne when healthy. And I thought he made a couple nice plays in the game before being hurt. ... Coley has made some nice plays in camp and could also take the special teams route to the roster.

Cornerbacks (6): Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux, Damian Swann, P.J. Williams, Stanley Jean-Baptiste (cut: Brian Dixon, Kyle Wilson, Terrence Frederick, Travis Manning)

Six corners might be a must with the injuries the Saints have been battling here.

Safeties (4): Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush, Vinnie Sunseri (cut: Kenny Phillips, Pierre Warren, Jamarca Sanford)

Phillips or Warren could easily crack this list -- especially if Byrd's injury continues to linger.

Quarterbacks (3): Drew Brees, Luke McCown, Garrett Grayson (cut: Ryan Griffin)

I still think it's about 50-50 between McCown and Griffin, but McCown has beaten him out the past two years and I've seen no reason to change that yet.

Wide receivers (6): Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Brandon Coleman, Nick Toon, Seantavius Jones, Willie Snead (cut: Joseph Morgan, Josh Morgan, Jalen Saunders, Lance Lewis, R.J. Harris)

Snead won me over with another great week of practice and a fantastic catch in the game. He's one of those guys that doesn't have a clear role in the team but has earned the right to be stashed.

Running backs (4): Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, C.J. Spiller, Marcus Murphy (cut: Tim Hightower, Edwin Baker)

Murphy must have been inspired when I cut him two weeks ago. Payton singled him out as one of the best performers in the game as a kick returner -- and he scored a touchdown, too.

Fullbacks (1): Austin Johnson (cut: Erik Lorig, Toben Opurum)

Another 50-50 battle between Johnson and Lorig.

Tight ends (3): Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill, Kevin Brock (one-game suspension: Orson Charles) (cut: Michael Egnew)

The Saints have been playing musical chairs on the back end of this group. The No. 3 job is wide open.

Offensive tackles (3): Terron Armstead, Zach Strief, Andrus Peat (cut: Bryce Harris, Nick Becton, Antonio Johnson)

Johnson had an awesome block on Murphy's TD run in the preseason game -- a great time to shine.

Guards/centers (5): Max Unger, Jahri Evans, Tim Lelito, Senio Kelemete, Sean Hickey (cut: Mike McGlynn, Mike Golic Jr., Cyril Lemon, Cole Manhart)

I've gone with Hickey as my eighth guy all summer because of his versatility as a tackle/guard. But I considered switching to Johnson because those “flash” plays matter.

Kicker (1): Dustin Hopkins (cut: Zach Hocker)

Hocker's 50-yard miss in the game helped him shine, because he proved he could bounce back. Hopkins' strong leg stands out even more, though.

Punter (1): Thomas Morstead

Long snapper (1): Justin Drescher