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New Orleans Saints starting lineup projection

The Saints have high expectations for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints open training camp on July 30 at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Here’s a starting lineup projection:

Quarterback (Drew Brees): Still one of the NFL’s elite passers at age 36, but he needs to cut down on the 20 turnovers that plagued him last season.

Running back (Mark Ingram): Opened coach Sean Payton’s eyes by proving he could be a workhorse last year; will lead committee with C.J. Spiller and Khiry Robinson.

Fullback (Austin Johnson): One of the tightest battles on the roster; Johnson and veteran Erik Lorig split the job last year because of injuries.

Wide receiver (Brandin Cooks): Big things expected from the dynamic speedster who led all NFL rookies last season with 53 catches before a season-ending thumb injury in Week 11.

Wide receiver (Marques Colston): If he stays healthy, the Saints’ all-time leading receiver and TD producer could re-emerge as the top red zone target now that Jimmy Graham is gone.

Tight end (Benjamin Watson): Will split time with rising young backup Josh Hill, but should play more snaps as a trusty blocker and underrated receiving option.

Left tackle (Terron Armstead): Supremely athletic third-year pro holds record for fastest 40 time by OL at the combine (4.71 seconds). Last season, He suffered a neck injury in December that was costly for the team.

Right tackle (Zach Strief): Big, physical 10th-year pro has arguably been the team’s steadiest lineman the past two years, but he’ll have to hold off first-round draft pick Andrus Peat.

Left guard (Tim Lelito): The Saints are confident the undrafted third-year pro is ready to replace former Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs after he played well in spot starts at center and guard.

Right guard (Jahri Evans): Six-time Pro Bowler remains standout run-blocker, but has started to show some inconsistency in pass protection as Brees' sack totals have risen the past two years.

Center (Max Unger): The Saints acquired the two-time Pro Bowler from Seattle as part of the Graham trade to help that pass protection. Health will be key for Unger after missing 10 games to knee and ankle injuries last year.

Defensive end (Cameron Jordan): The Saints signed the former Pro Bowler to a five-year, $55 million contract extension. He has the versatility to rush the passer and defend the run as both a defensive end and tackle.

Defensive end (Akiem Hicks): The powerful 6-foot-5, 324-pounder had a disappointing 2014 season with just 41 tackles and two sacks. He still has great potential for a breakout in his contract year.

Nose tackle (Brodrick Bunkley): The solid but unspectacular veteran ended last season on injured reserve with a quad injury. If healthy, he will split time with John Jenkins and Kevin Williams.

Outside linebacker (Junior Galette): Saints’ best pass rusher with 22 sacks over past two years, but he could face a league suspension for violence allegations. He's also recovering from a summer pectoral injury.

Outside linebacker (Anthony Spencer): Former Pro Bowler was an elite pass-rusher with the Cowboys before a major knee injury in 2013. He signed as a free agent to reunite with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Inside linebacker (David Hawthorne): One of best battles in camp between Hawthorne and first-round pick Stephone Anthony. Hawthorne has experience, but Anthony is the more dynamic athlete.

Inside linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe): Former Ravens and Dolphins veteran missed 15 games with a hip injury last year. The Saints hope he can regain his playmaking ability from 2012 Super Bowl run.

Cornerback (Keenan Lewis): 6-1, 208-pounder has emerged as a standout corner in two years with Saints, snagging six interceptions and holding up well against top receivers like Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jeffery.

Cornerback (Brandon Browner): Physical press-coverage specialist who won Super Bowls with New England and Seattle. He was a top free-agent priority for the Saints after multiple No. 2 CBs flopped last year.

Free safety (Jairus Byrd): Three-time Pro Bowler with the Bills had 22 interceptions in his first five years but struggled early last year after signing with Saints. Then, he missed the final 12 games of the season with a knee injury.

Strong safety (Kenny Vaccaro): Big things are still expected from the versatile third-year pro who dazzled as a rookie but then struggled last season with missed tackles and assignments.

Punter (Thomas Morstead): One of the NFL’s best legs on punts and kickoffs, made Pro Bowl in 2012 and ranked second last year with net punting average of 42.9 yards.

Kicker (Dustin Hopkins): Too close to call between Hopkins and Zach Hocker – two youngsters with no regular-season experience. Hopkins set the NCAA career-scoring record at Florida State.

Long-snapper (Justin Drescher): Steady as it gets, Drescher has remained comfortably under the radar for the past five years.

Kickoff returner (Marcus Murphy): The Saints drafted Murphy in the seventh round specifically because of his return prowess, but he’ll have to beat out incumbent Jalen Saunders, among others.

Punt returner (Brandin Cooks): Cooks was the primary punt returner last year, but the Saints may want to limit his exposure since he’ll likely be team’s No. 1 receiver.