Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send ‘em anytime @MikeTriplett.
@MikeTriplett: Great question, though three is awfully optimistic. I’ll start with the easiest answer -- left tackle Terron Armstead. I felt that way before training camp, and he has only enhanced that since. As I’ve written several times, Armstead has been arguably the most impressive player in Saints camp, including the last few days against the New England Patriots.
Next I’ll go with cornerback Keenan Lewis, who has been right on the cusp the last two years, especially 2013. If he continues to play at the same consistent level and the Saints show marked improvement on defense overall, he might finally get the nod.
Third is tougher. I expect a big year from receiver Brandin Cooks, but that’s an extremely difficult position group to crack into (see Marques Colston’s entire career for example). I expect a nice bounce-back year from defensive end Akiem Hicks, but I doubt he’ll rack up the sack total require to earn Pro Bowl recognition. Perhaps safety Kenny Vaccaro could get in with a big year, since he already has some name recognition. Or maybe even a wild card such as rookie middle linebacker Stephone Anthony, who will get a ton of credit if the Saints defense turns things around while he’s calling the plays.
@MikeTriplett Hello Mike, which UDFAs were you most impressed by and would you change your Saints record prediction based on training camp?— Jan-Hendrik Otto (@whodatgermany) August 21, 2015
@MikeTriplett: The two unheralded guys who have stood out most in Saints camp are undrafted rookie defensive lineman Bobby Richardson and second-year undrafted receiver Willie Snead. I have been impressed by a lot of the undrafted defensive linemen at times (Richardson, Tavaris Barnes, Kaleb Eulls and Ashaad Mabry). Linebacker Henry Coley has made some good plays, among others.
As for your second question, I’ll stick with 10-6 for now, though we have seen some warts in both the games and practice. I wouldn’t be too worried about the early sloppiness with penalties. But the injuries are a big concern. I still don’t know what this defense will look like when fully healthy.
So far, the indication is that guys such as C.J. Spiller, Brandon Browner, Lewis, Byrd, Vaccaro and Hicks will be back in time for the regular season. They need to be.
I still have faith in the offense to produce at a top-five level, even with so many moving parts. And let’s say the defense can finish somewhere around 24th. That’s a good enough recipe for 10 wins.
@MikeTriplett You keep leaving Joe Morgan off of your final 53. Asides from Cooks, who else can stretch the field like Joe?— Autry Alexis (@autryalexis) August 19, 2015
@MikeTriplett Having still not really stepped it up, how in danger of missing out on a final roster spot is Nick Toon?— Aaron David (@DimwittedGenius) August 21, 2015
@MikeTriplett: I think these two questions go hand in hand, and there is definitely a chance Morgan could pass up Toon in the pecking order. I think those two are fighting for just one spot, along with veteran Josh Morgan.
Here’s my rationale: I think Cooks, Colston and now Brandon Coleman have emerged as the top three guys, and the Saints typically only use four receivers on game days (not counting special teams). That fourth receiver likely needs to be a standout blocker, to be used in those heavy run/play-action packages, like Robert Meachem used to be.
That doesn’t really clear things up, since both of the Morgans and Toon have been praised for their blocking in the past. But maybe Joseph Morgan’s stretch-the-field speed could be a tie-breaker.
After that, I think second-year pros Seantavius Jones and Willie Snead could make the roster as “redshirt” prospects, though they might be relegated to special teams work early on.