Finding the right 53 players for his team, Saints coach Sean Payton admits, keeps him up nights.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re not missing somebody really good who winds up somewhere else,” he said. “It’s been something we’ve been pretty good at over the years, but shaping your roster is the most important element of training camp.”
It’s a good bet that Payton has a final 53 in mind, or he can probably tell you 45 or so of the names, especially with no apparent injury situations heading into training camp and the team in good position salary cap-wise.
“It’s simple math,” he said. “There are 90 guys here (actually 89), and I don’t specifically envision any additions or subtractions to this 90, although that changes a lot.
“We are evaluating, but it’s hard to make fair evaluations until we get into the pads and they are able to block, tackle and do the things that are necessary in football.”
As Payton, said, he has until Aug. 31 before his final decisions are due. We’re not giving ourselves that luxury.
Here, as the OTAs wrap up, is a way, way too early speculation on the Black & Gold heading into the opener against Atlanta:
Quarterbacks: (1) Drew Bees; (2) Seneca Wallace. Wallace appears to have the edge over Luke McCown. Rookie Ryan Griffin from Tulane goes to the practice squad.
Running backs:(3) Mark Ingram; (4) Pierre Thomas; (5) Darren Sproles; (6) Travaris Cadet; (7) Jed Collins; (8) Khiry Robinson. There’s usually a spot for a rookie free agent here, and Robinson gets it.
Wide receivers: (9) Marques Colston; (10) Lance Moore; (11) Joe Morgan; (12) Nick Toon; (13); (14) Jarred Fayson; (15) Courtney Roby; (16) Kenny Stills. Stills, a fifth-round draft pick, is a shaky final choice and could be replaced after the last cut, especially if Morgan has to miss any time because of his pending DUI charges.
Tight ends:(17) Jimmy Graham; (18) Benjamin Watson; (19) TBA; Rookie free agent Josh Hill has a shot, but the third spot will likely go to a late pickup.
Offensive linemen:(20) Brian de la Puente; (21) Zach Strief; (22) Ben Grubbs; (23) Jahri Evans; (24) Charles Brown; (25) Ricky Henry; (26) Andrew Tiller; (27) Terron Armstead; (28) Jason Smith. Smith’s ability as a third tight end keeps the former No. 2 overall draft pick on the roster.
Defensive linemen:(28) Brodrick Bunkley; (29) Cameron Jordan; (30) Kenyon Coleman; (31) Martez Wilson; (32) Junior Galette; (33) Akiem Hicks; (34) John Jenkins; Coleman, a 12-year veteran, has been running ahead of Hicks as one of the starting ends.
Linebackers: (35) Will Smith; (36) Jonathan Vilma; (37), Curtis Lofton; (38) Victor Butler; (39) Ramon Humber; (40) Chris Chamberlain; (41) Chase Thomas. Sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson winds up on the practice squad.
Defensive backs:(42) Keenan Lewis; (43) Roman Harper; (44), Jabari Greer; (45) Malcolm Jenkins; (46) Corey White; (47) Kenny Vaccaro; (48) Jim Leonhard; (49) Rafael Bush; (50) Pat Robinson. Former No. 1 pick Robinson hangs on, but free agents A.J. Davis and Rod Sweating make it a tough choice.
Specialists: (51) Garrett Hartley; (52) Thomas Morstead; (53) Justin Drescher. Team stands pat with ’12 trio.