METAIRIE — Though brimming with confidence after a promising start to training camp, third-year wide receiver Adrian Arrington knows exactly where he stands in the pecking order to make the New Orleans Saints’ 53-man roster.
“You would think those first three (wide receivers) are pretty much locked in — Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore,’’ Arrington said in his best handicapping voice while trying to cool down after practicing in sauna-like conditions Friday morning. “Then, you got me, Nick Toon and Joe Morgan, we’re all kind of competing for that fourth spot.
“I’m hoping they keep five; the more, the better, obviously. But you never know. Those fourth and fifth spots —- and even a sixth spot — usually come down to who contributes more on special teams. We’ve kept six receivers before, so you never know how it’s going to play out.’’
It begins to play out Sunday night at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, where the Saints will face the Arizona Cardinals in the annual Hall of Fame game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on NFL Network.
Arrington is expected to get his share of reps based on in-week comments made by Saints interim coach Joe Vitt, who plans to treat this first exhibition game in the absence of suspended coach Sean Payton much like the team’s annual Black and Gold scrimmage when every able-bodied player gets in the fray.
That approach sits well with Arrington, who’s hustling to fill the void created by the departure of veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to the San Diego Chargers in March.
On paper, replacing Meachem might be a tall order for Arrington, who has little to show since joining the Saints as a seventh-round draft pick in 2008: five games, nine receptions and more season-ending injuries (one in 2008) than touchdowns (zero).
But the potential is there or Arrington would be history in New Orleans, especially since playing on special teams is a prerequisite for a receiver who seldom makes the game-day roster. He does not, several competitors do, including Morgan and special teams captain Courtney Roby, who return punts and kicks, respectively.
“Ever since my rookie year when I broke my toe in the first preseason game and had to go on IR, I’ve been healthy enough to play,’’ said Arrington, a tall, wiry target at 6-feet-3, 192 pounds. “I’ve just been behind Colston and Henderson, who have been starting forever, and Lance, who is one of the best route runners I’ve ever seen.
“Then, there’s Meachem, who was a first-round pick and a speedster-type guy who could make big plays. So, I’ve always been behind good guys who were here before me.’’
With Meachem gone, that’s one less “good guy’’ in front of Arrington. Additionally, Toon, the team’s fourth-round draft pick, is expected to miss the next six to 10 days recovering from a foot injury, leaving more exhibition reps perhaps for Arrington.
“Adrian is one guy who’s having a heck of a camp,’’ Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. “He has stood out. He’s proving himself. He’s had some circumstances in the past but he’s always been a guy who’s reliable. He’s on time for everything. He knows what to do. He’s smart. This training camp has been a great opportunity for him.’’
Left unsaid is that Arrington probably needs to cash in on this opportunity because it could be his last in New Orleans.
“I’ve been having a good camp so far,’’ Arrington said. “Hopefully, if I can stay healthy and continue on what I’ve started here, I can step into that fourth receiver role. I won’t be doing the same things that Meachem did — he was a vertical, stretch guy. But, I can come in there and be able to play any position and run whatever routes necessary and give a starter a break or what not.’’
No doubt, Morgan,Toon and Roby and others are thinking the same thing.
“Guys like me are on the bubble every year,’’ Arrington said. “I’d say anybody who isn’t a starter is on the bubble, but especially a guy like me who is fighting for a fourth or fifth wide receiver spot.
“I would say all of us — me, Toon, Morgan, Roby and guys like that — we’re all competing for a job. Not a starting spot, but a roster spot. So, guys like me are on the bubble every year.’’