METAIRIE, La. -- It didn’t necessarily play out on the field, but third-year New Orleans Saints quarterback Garrett Grayson said he felt more comfortable than ever in Saturday’s 13-0 preseason victory over the Houston Texans.
“I just kind of felt like myself again, for really the first time since I’ve been here,” said Grayson, who completed 2-of-6 passes for 35 yards in the final 16 minutes of Saturday’s game. “I don’t want to say (the speed of the game) was extremely slow, but it just felt like the college pace for me. I think I was seeing things quicker and recognizing things a lot faster.
“So that was a good feeling ... and I’m hoping I can go out and put some more good film out in that fourth game and then just see where it goes.”
It’s hard to imagine that Grayson can do enough in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to secure a place on New Orleans’ 53-man roster. Drew Brees is the starter, Chase Daniel is the backup, and the Saints need the rest of their roster spots in other areas.
However, it is likely that the Saints will continue to develop Grayson as their third quarterback on the practice squad, like they did last year -- unless they choose to go with fifth-year pro Ryan Nassib or a young quarterback cut by another team instead.
Even though Grayson’s preseason performances haven’t really shown it (13-of-22 for 161 yards, with no touchdowns, no interceptions, five sacks and one lost fumble), he has insisted all summer that he feels more comfortable in his third year in the Saints' system. Grayson reunited with his Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, who is now at Florida, for some retooling in the offseason.
And Sean Payton has been generally complimentary this summer of Grayson, whom New Orleans drafted in the third round in 2015.
“I think we’ve seen progress, I would say probably more so this year than we had seen in those early two years,” Payton said. “So we’ll keep working with him. I’m sure he’ll get to play a bunch Thursday.”
Grayson clearly has not emerged as the heir apparent to Brees. It seems obvious by now that the Saints didn’t find their own version of Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott with their highest-drafted quarterback since Archie Manning.
However, there is still a scenario where Grayson sticks around long enough to graduate into a backup role in the next year or two if he continues to show development.
“Obviously I would love to be here,” Grayson said. “This is obviously the team that drafted me and has given me every opportunity to succeed. So I’m hoping I’ve put good film and good practices together.
“I definitely want to be here and be part of this team because I think we’ve got something really special brewing.”
Some other key players to watch Thursday before the Saints slice their roster to 53 players by Saturday:
CB Arthur Maulet: The New Orleans native was an early pick for this year’s undrafted free agent darling with an impressive showing in OTAs and minicamp. But he’s probably sixth on the depth chart at cornerback right now for a team that might keep only five. He missed some training camp time with a minor injury and knows he needs to make a big statement in extended playing time Thursday.
DL Mitchell Loewen, Obum Gwacham: Defensive line is the hardest position for me to project on my 53-man roster because the Saints have at least 11 worthy candidates. Right now I have Loewen barely making it because he has shown pass-rush ability from the inside. And I have Gwacham barely missing it because the Saints are deeper at defensive end. But Payton singled out Gwacham for his special-teams play -- which might be the deciding factor.
LBs Michael Mauti, Bryan Braman: Braman just showed up last week and immediately flashed the special-teams prowess he has been known for throughout his six-year career with the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles. Mauti was the Saints’ special-teams captain last year before he dealt with a health issue. I don’t know if there is room for both on the roster, considering veteran backup linebackers Craig Robertson and Nathan Stupar also stand out on special teams.
WRs Tommylee Lewis, Corey Fuller: Two of the most impressive players in camp this summer, but I’m not really sure what they can do Thursday to change the Saints’ opinion of them. Lewis can’t do much better than he has already done in practices and games (and I have him on my 53-man roster for now). On the flip side, there just might not be room for Fuller with so many established receivers and special-teamers ahead of him.
OL Josh LeRibeus, John Fullington: I have these guys penciled in as the seventh and eighth offensive linemen (not counting Terron Armstead, who may or may not start the year on the PUP list). But they’ll both need to cement their places ahead of other candidates on the Saints’ roster or other teams’ rosters around the league. Both should see extended playing time -- with LeRibeus getting a look at guard after playing center most of the summer.