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Garrett Grayson needs to leave impression in Saints' preseason finale

METAIRIE, La. -- Garrett Grayson is on the bubble. If not next week, then definitely next spring.

Instead of taking a big leap forward in his second NFL season, the New Orleans Saints quarterback has been taking two steps forward, then two steps back, throughout an inconsistent summer.

There is still potential there, which means there is a good chance Grayson will stick on the 53-man roster behind veterans Drew Brees and Luke McCown this year. But the bigger danger for Grayson is that the Saints could decide to move on to a new developmental prospect in next year’s draft.

That makes Thursday night’s preseason finale awfully important for Grayson, who needs to leave a lasting impression on the team before he goes into hibernation during the regular season. Coach Sean Payton said Grayson will likely play about a half against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I’m sure he’s excited to get back out there to work, receive some playing time this Thursday and improve on some of the things which he can,” said Payton, who was critical of Grayson after last week’s 27-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he threw two late interceptions.

“He struggled tonight, right?” Payton said after that performance. “I was disappointed with a couple of those plays. The interception to the running back is poor, and obviously he gets blinded on the linebacker throw and forces it, so that was troubling.

“He had a good play early on with the touchdown pass, but I’d like to see him further along at this point than he is.”

Grayson has just one TD pass and four interceptions this preseason. He has completed 28 of 54 passes -- barely more than 50 percent, though he has been a victim of some dropped passes.

To be fair, Grayson’s body of work is about more than just the preseason games. He has talked often this summer about feeling more comfortable and confident and having a better grasp of the playbook.

But at some point he needs to translate that onto the field, and tonight would probably be a wise time to start.

Here are three other things worth watching in the Saints’ preseason finale:

Kickers still close. The Saints’ kicker battle between veterans Connor Barth and Kai Forbath is still close enough that it could come down to a missed kick Thursday night or a clutch field goal of 50-plus yards. I’d give the slightest edge to Barth, who is 1-for-1 on field-goal attempts this preseason, compared to Forbath’s 2-for-3 (a 50-yard miss). But Payton said last week that the Saints are still on the lookout for something to “jump out.”

WR Brandon Coleman. Payton made similar comments about the third-year receiver Coleman two weeks ago that he made about Grayson last week. But Coleman seemed to respond well in the last preseason game and in practices. I still have Coleman on my 53-man roster for now -- but he’s written in pencil and could still sway the decision one way or the other.

Pass-rushers. Obviously the guys on the current roster haven’t nailed down their jobs, considering the Saints went out and acquired Paul Kruger and Chris McCain this week. Kruger is a roster lock -- as are Cam Jordan and probably Kasim Edebali. But backups such as Obum Gwacham, Davis Tull and Darryl Tapp could potentially still be fighting for their roster spots Thursday night. Even McCain is basically on a one-week tryout, since the Saints only have to give up a seventh-round pick to the Miami Dolphins if he makes the team.