Big-name linebackers on bubble in Saints' 53-man roster projection

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The New Orleans Saints open training camp on July 26 at their practice facility in Metairie, Louisiana. Here’s a 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Drew Brees, Chase Daniel

You can write these two guys in Sharpie. After that, it’s a toss-up as to whether the Saints will keep a third developmental QB on the active roster. Young contenders Garrett Grayson and Ryan Nassib will need strong preseason performances to earn a place.

RUNNING BACKS (4): Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco

The Saints had to make two tough cuts here with Travaris Cadet and Marcus Murphy. But I think their spots are in jeopardy because rookie Alvin Kamara is the new “joker” back as a runner/receiver and new receiver Ted Ginn Jr. should be a primary return man.

FULLBACK (1): John Kuhn

This was an easy choice after Kuhn’s terrific debut season in New Orleans last year. How was he still available last August?

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman, Tommylee Lewis

I’m sticking with incumbents Coleman and Lewis for now, but both of them could be beaten if someone such as Corey Fuller continues to impress this summer. Lewis will have to prove to be an indispensable return man to beat guys such as Cadet and Murphy.

TIGHT END (3): Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui

I wanted to add veteran John Phillips or Clay Harbor to this list, but I ran out of room. Either one could easily make the roster, especially if Hill isn’t back to full health early in the preseason.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Max Unger, Zach Strief, Andrus Peat, Larry Warford, Senio Kelemete, Ryan Ramczyk, Josh LeRibeus, Bryce Harris

Terron Armstead isn’t here because he’ll start the year on the physically unable to perform list. That eighth roster spot should be a free-for-all among youngsters Jack Allen and Landon Turner and veterans Khalif Barnes and Harris, among others.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Alex Okafor, Tyeler Davison, David Onyemata, Trey Hendrickson, Darryl Tapp, Hau'oli Kikaha, Al-Quadin Muhammad

There's a lot of wiggle room here as the Saints try to identify some edge rushers who can make an impact. Kikaha needs to show that he can return to form after an ACL injury that wiped out his 2016 season. Muhammad (a sixth-round draft pick) needs to show that he is ready to contribute as a rookie. I have them just beating newly-signed veteran nose tackle Tony McDaniel and young edge rusher Obum Gwacham.

LINEBACKER (7): A.J. Klein, Dannell Ellerbe, Craig Robertson, Alex Anzalone, Nate Stupar, Manti Te'o, Stephone Anthony

I’m cheating here because I don’t really expect all seven of these guys to make the roster in a crowded position group. If they all stay healthy, I think it’s an either-or choice between Te'o and Anthony, two high-profile names facing make-or-break summers. There isn’t enough room for all of these guys, especially because Te’o and Anthony aren’t special-teams standouts. Anthony needs to prove that he can revive his career after struggling with read and recognition issues the first two seasons. Te’o needs to prove that he can return to form after missing most of the previous season in San Diego because of an Achilles injury. Another name to watch here is former CFL standout Adam Bighill.

CORNERBACK (6): Delvin Breaux, Marshon Lattimore, P.J. Williams, Sterling Moore, Ken Crawley, Arthur Maulet

Second-year pro De'Vante Harris and third-year pro Damian Swann might be my two most difficult cuts yet. But you know at least one or two undrafted rookies will make this roster -- and Maulet was as impressive as any one of them during OTAs and minicamp. It will probably come down to which of these guys looks best on special teams in the preseason.

SAFETY (5): Kenny Vaccaro, Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams, Rafael Bush, Erik Harris

Veteran Chris Banjo is another difficult cut because he has been so strong on special teams in his career. But so are Bush and Harris, and I couldn’t make room for all of them.

SPECIALISTS (3): P Thomas Morstead, K Wil Lutz, LS Thomas Gafford.

Morstead and Lutz are obvious. Gafford is a longtime NFL veteran who was just signed in June. He’ll have to beat undrafted rookie Chase Dominguez, as well as other long snappers who get cut around the NFL in September.