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Looking at the New Orleans Saints initial 53-man roster

Starting quarterback Derek Carr and backup quarterback Jameis Winston celebrate after a touchdown (Photo from the New Orleans Saints/Twitter)

The New Orleans Saints have made their cutdown to 53 players and a few surprises came out right before the deadline.

To start with, both veteran special teams players – kicker Wil Lutz and punter Blake Gillikin – had tough camps as newcomers Blake Grupe and Lou Hedley took advantage of their opportunities this preseason.

Lutz, a former Pro-Bowler, was traded Tuesday morning to the Denver Broncos and former Saints head coach Sean Payton. Gillikin was cut, even though the organization was searching for a trade in the final days leading up to the deadline.

Offensively, New Orleans stuck with the three quarterbacks that have performed in the preseason: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, and Jake Haener.

At running back, Kirk Merritt and Kendre Miller made the list despite being outperformed in total yards by rookie Ellis Merriweather (cut). Those two will join Jamaal Williams in the backfield as New Orleans awaits the return of Alvin Kamara from suspension.

Looking at the wide receivers, Lynn Bowden and rookie Shaquan Davis were stripped of roster spots in favor of Tre’Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood.  

Receivers Lynn Bowden and rookie Shaquan Davis were stripped of roster spots in favor of Tre’Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood. Other wideouts listed are Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, and A.T. Perry.

The Saints had a tough decision at tight end with Lucas Krull putting up impressive preseason numbers amid a very competitive room. However, management ended up giving Krull the pink slip and kept Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham, and Taysom Hill on the roster.

The offensive line did not bring many questions to the table as the obvious difference between the first and second teams. Even though they eliminated several from the final roster, a few guys will need to hang around on the practice squad due to injuries, including Storm Norton, Lewis Kidd, and Calvin Throckmorton.

Offensive linemen who did make the cut were Ryan Ramczyk, Trevor Penning, Landon Young, James Hurst, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Andrus Peat, Nick Saldiveri, and Max Garcia.

Defensively, more questions have arisen due to performance, although the nine defensive linemen are pretty much solid from top to bottom. Those listed are Cameron Jordan, Carl Granderson, Payton Turner, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Isaiah Foskey, Nathan Shepherd, Khalen Saunders, Bryan Bresee, and Malcolm Roach.

Reviewing the linebacker corps, the first three to make it – Demario Davis, Pete Werner, and Nephi Sewell – were of no surprise but what did catch some off guard was the retention of Zach Baun and D’Marco Jackson over Anfernee Orji and Ryan Connelly with the latter two having minimal performances during the preseason. My thought is that Baun and Jackson must be more capable on special teams.

Even though it’s not obscene cutting safeties Jonathan Abram and Smoke Monday and cornerback Bradley Roby, replacing these players with Lonnie Johnson, Jr., rookie Jordan Howden, and Isaac Yiadom shows the Saints intend on heading in a different direction with their secondary.

Other secondary members on the 53-man roster are Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Maye, J.T. Gray, Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, and Alontae Taylor.

“Always a tough day when you have to make a lot of roster moves,” said New Orleans Saints second-year Football Coach Dennis Allen.  “We’re down to 53 and we had to release some good players.  We had a few tough decisions, but we feel like we are going to get value for the decisions made.”

Any players cut could end up on the practice squad, say they clear waivers and aren’t picked up by another team. New Orleans can have up to 16 players on their practice squad when the 2023 season begins on Sept. 10 against the Tennessee Titans.

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