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Saints offense mostly steady in updated 53-man roster projection

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The New Orleans Saints' first off day of training camp seemed like a good time to update my projected 53-man roster.

I broke down the defense earlier. Here’s a look at the offense and special teams, where I’ve made only two changes: adding receiver/return man Jalen Saunders in place of running back/return man Marcus Murphy and switching out the backup tight end (for Week 1, at least).

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

It will be a tight battle between McCown and Griffin for the No. 2 job all summer. But I went with the experienced option since that’s what the Saints have done each of the past two years.

Running backs (3): Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Khiry Robinson (cut: Marcus Murphy, Tim Hightower, Edwin Baker)

Three running backs is a little light. But I cut Murphy since I think he needs to win a kick-return job to make the roster, and I’m giving Saunders the early edge there. Coach Sean Payton said the Saints like what they’ve seen from Hightower, who is attempting a come back after three years out of the league. But it will be hard for Hightower to crack the roster if he doesn’t play a prominent special-teams role. He’s the man, though, if anyone else gets injured.

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

Johnson and Lorig are in a dead heat, which will probably remain the case all summer.

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

Coleman has been one of the stars of the summer, so I’m practically ready to write his name in ink. The next question is whether he’ll vault ahead of Toon into the No. 3 job. Josh Morgan and Joe Morgan are very much in the mix, and both have probably outshined Jones so far in this first week of camp. But I’m sticking with Jones because of his upside. I added Saunders since I think he’s the leading candidate to return kicks.

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

Charles can’t play in Week 1 because of a league suspension for violating the personal conduct policy. So someone has to fill in that No. 3 job for at least a week -- if not permanently. Both Charles and Brock are primarily blockers.

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

The Saints could easily keep four tackles, so all of these guys are still in play. I just decided to give my eighth offensive line spot to undrafted rookie Sean Hickey, who has lined up as both a guard and tackle so far this summer. Some young guys are going to crack this roster, and this feels like as good a spot as any.

Guards (3): Jahri Evans, Tim Lelito, Sean Hickey (cut: Mike McGlynn, Cyril Lemon, Cole Manhart)

See above for my explanation on Hickey. Veteran McGlynn has been nursing an unspecified injury, which isn’t helping his chances early in camp. But there’s still plenty of time.

Centers (2): Max Unger, Senio Kelemete (cut: Mike Golic Jr.)

Pretty easy choice here. Saints offensive line coach Bret Ingalls singled out Kelemete for having an excellent summer while transitioning from guard to center.

Specialists (3): P Thomas Morstead, K Dustin Hopkins, LS Justin Drescher (cut: K Zach Hocker, LS Chris Highland)

Hopkins’ strong leg is hard to miss. He booms all his kicks. He also hasn’t missed yet in camp, while Hocker missed one. But the key for both guys will be showing consistency over the long haul -- with the preseason games weighing heavily in the decision. Drescher has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury but should have a job waiting for him if he comes back soon.