2018 New Orleans Saints starters, 53-man roster, schedule prediction

Teddy Bridgewater will back up 39-year-old Drew Brees this season after the Saints traded a third-round pick to the Jets to get him. Photo by Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints finalized their 53-man roster over the weekend, including a surprising 11th-hour change from backup running back Jonathan Williams to former New England Patriots running back Mike Gillislee. Here is the full roster, sorted by position, with my game-by-game predictions on the side:

QUARTERBACK (3): Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill

The Saints made one of their biggest splashes of the offseason three days before roster cuts were due -- trading a third-round draft pick to the New York Jets for Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick. It was a hefty price to pay for a one-year rental of a backup QB. But now the Saints arguably have the most stacked quarterback room in the entire NFL.

RUNNING BACK (3): Alvin Kamara, Boston Scott, Mike Gillislee, (*Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games)

This group is unexpected after the Saints cut Williams on Saturday and signed Gillislee on Sunday. They also released veteran Terrance West earlier this month and placed veteran Shane Vereen on injured reserve. It's unclear exactly how they will divide up the workload while Ingram is serving a four-game suspension to start the season. But it's clear the team already has some faith in the rookie sixth-round pick, Scott, after his impressive summer.

FULLBACK (1): Zach Line

The Saints started with two fullbacks but wound up releasing backup Trey Edmunds (who was a core special teamer for them) on Monday.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis

This group is jam-packed -- so it’s possible that either Meredith or Carr could be inactive in Week 1. Meredith finally had a breakout game in the preseason finale with two catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. But he is still trying to find his groove after missing all of last season with a major knee injury, then missing a couple weeks in training camp with a minor injury.

TIGHT END (3): Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill, Dan Arnold

Arnold is perhaps the most unlikely member of New Orleans’ 53-man roster after spending last season on injured reserve as an undrafted wide receiver, then converting to tight end this summer. But the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder (and growing) was impressive enough as a pass-catcher to earn his keep as a potential mismatch.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Max Unger, Terron Armstead, Larry Warford, Andrus Peat, Ryan Ramczyk, Jermon Bushrod, Cameron Tom, Will Clapp, Josh LeRibeus

The Saints had it made in recent years when veteran backup Senio Kelemete was a reliable backup at all five o-line positions before he signed as a starter with the Houston Texans in free agency. So they signed Bushrod in free agency, and they went with two young backups they really like in the interior in Tom and Clapp. One of their most notable cuts was rookie fourth-round draft pick Rick Leonard, who didn’t come along as quickly at offensive tackle as they’d hoped.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Alex Okafor, Tyeler Davison, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Trey Hendrickson, Mitchell Loewen, Taylor Stallworth

The Saints had some of their toughest decisions here, where they kept impressive undrafted rookie Stallworth over guys like veteran Jay Bromley, veteran George Johnson, former sixth-round draft pick Al-Quadin Muhammad and impressive first-year pro Devaroe Lawrence. Fortunately the rest of the league was paying attention, so they were at least able to trade Lawrence to the Cleveland Browns for a seventh-round draft pick.

LINEBACKER (5): Demario Davis, A.J. Klein, Alex Anzalone, Manti Te’o, Craig Robertson

The only real surprise here came Monday, when the Saints released veteran backup/special teams ace Nathan Stupar. Also of note: They parted ways with former second-round draft pick Hau'oli Kikaha, who tried to make the conversion from DE to OLB but just didn't have an ideal position fit.

SECONDARY (11): Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Kurt Coleman, Ken Crawley, Patrick Robinson, Vonn Bell, P.J. Williams, Chris Banjo, Arthur Maulet, Justin Hardee, J.T. Gray

This had to be the Saints’ toughest position group to evaluate, hands down. They cut fifth-round draft pick Natrell Jamerson, sixth-round draft pick Kamrin Moore and impressive veteran newcomer Marcus Williams (the cornerback, not the safety), among others. Meanwhile, Gray was one of only two undrafted rookies who made the cut – largely due to his special teams ability.

SPECIALIST (3): Punter Thomas Morstead, kicker Wil Lutz, long snapper Zach Wood

Pretty easy choices since the Saints only had one of each in camp.

RETURNERS: Lewis, Scott, Ginn, Kamara

This was one of the biggest surprises of the weekend, since it looked like veteran receiver/return specialist Brandon Tate had a good grip on this role after signing on Aug. 1. Instead, it looks like the Saints will stick with last year’s primary return man, Lewis, and possibly give Scott a few chances in both the kickoff and punt return roles. Ginn is also an experienced punt returner. And they might use Kamara on kickoffs if they need some juice late in the season -- though they don’t want to overwork him.