Sean Payton praises several young Saints, including CB P.J. Williams

HOUSTON -- My next 53-man roster projection for the New Orleans Saints will probably include four undrafted rookies: Cornerbacks Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris, receiver Tommylee Lewis and center Jack Allen.

Saints coach Sean Payton mentioned all of those players by name Wednesday when asked who else has jumped out to him beside Lewis during the first three weeks of training camp.

Payton also offered strong praise to second-year cornerback P.J. Williams, who has been off to a great start this summer after spending his entire rookie season on injured reserve.

“I think there’s a group of corners that probably a lot of our fans don’t know yet that are doing a real good job,” Payton said. “I think we have good competition at the safety position. We’ve talked about some of the young receivers. I think we’re deep at the running-back spot. There are a few of these young linemen, Jack Allen's a young, free-agent center who’s had some good reps here at camp. So I think that’s ongoing.

“If you’re really paying attention to the playing time, you’re seeing some of these rookies out there in the first half, whether it’s Crawley, Harris, whether it's [second-round safety] Vonn Bell, those guys are all competing on defense for playing time. P.J. the same way, shoot, he’s lining up and playing with the first team and he’s been playing well. So that’s real encouraging.

“At the running-back position, I think you’re going to see, we’ve got a handful of guys, some of them do different things. [Seventh-round draft pick] Daniel Lasco is having a good camp, [fourth-round defensive tackle David] Onyemata. That draft class so far we’ve been impressed by how they’re prepared and how they’re transitioning come to the field. That’s encouraging.”

The Saints’ second preseason game at the Houston Texans on Saturday night should be a big showcase for most of the guys on this list. The starters typically play one or two quarters in the second preseason game, leaving plenty of snaps for the young guys fighting to make the team.