Rufus Johnson

It’s that time again in the NFL when the roster must be cut down to 53 players. Probably 90 to 95% of the roster is set; it’s just a handful that is truly battling for those last roster spots. Those 3rd or 4th string players playing tonight aren’t just trying to make the Saints roster but are also auditioning for the rest of the NFL. It also will determine somewhat on who will go on the practice squad. To be honest who knows what the coaches and scouts are thinking, they always throw us a curveball when picking who is right for their 2013 roster (see Eric Martin) But as fans do I will give you my guestimate as to what I think are the bubble battles to watch in tonight’s game.

Andy Tanner, Courtney Roby and Preston Parker
This one is as tough as it gets, and I don’t have a clue which way they are leaning. Tanner in my opinion has played his way onto the roster, he started strong back in the OTA’s and hasn’t let up one bit through camp and the pre-season. Heck Tanner may have gotten stronger as the pre-season progressed; he has had the most consistent camp out of all of the players not just the wide receivers. The only question I have with him is how does he fit in with what the Saints do? I mean do the Saints open a roster spot for a possession receiver with very average speed who would only see the field when they go to four wide out sets which is not very often. (When they go for out sets, it’s usually Graham or Sproles in that role) I want Tanner on the roster because I think he deserves it, tonight watch how many snaps he gets, I think if you don’t see him much they are leaning on keeping him.

With Parker and Roby, things could get interesting tonight. I think these two are neck and neck for a spot on the roster. Roby has been the best special teams player on the team but that’s all he really does other than be an emergency WR. Parker on the other hand has proven he can be an asset in the passing game as well as an asset in the kicking game. Parker is hungry and if he has another good showing tonight then I think that might be the last straw for Roby. Either way I can’t see the Saint keeping both of them; I think Parker wins a spot on the roster.

Rod Sweeting, Chris Carr, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Corey White
Yes I put Safety Abdul-Quddus with the cornerbacks only because of the numbers game; if he makes it (or Leonhard for that matter) it would probably take a spot from the corner position. I honestly don’t know how this shakes out because none are locks for the roster. Even though I loved what I’ve seen of Sweeting in camp and somewhat in pre-season, I don’t know if it’s enough. Tonight’s game is huge for him, he better not drop any easy interception or he will wake up Sunday on the practice squad. Abdul-Quddus may be the odd man out but for the most part the coaching staff knows what he can do, I think it’s the play of the others (or lack of) that will determine his fate, it can go either way with Isa.

I would like to think Corey White’s roster spot is safe but you never know. Watching him in camp he was flying around and making plays but also got burned too, like Sweeting he needs to make the most of his opportunities and hold on to the ball when it hits you between the numbers. White started to come on last year before he got hurt but that was in Spagnolo’s zone coverage scheme, he’s yet to prove that he can cover one on one. Like I said, I think his spot is safe but it isn’t certain, probably 75 -25 he makes it. Chris Carr’s is the wild card here, the grizzled vet that has proven he has a little left in the tank. The question is, how much? I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much about him when camp kicked off and really didn’t pay much attention to him. The Black and Gold scrimmage changed that for me; his performance that day showed me he could play at a high level. I’m leaning on him making the roster but he is far from a lock, maybe 60 – 40 chances. The defensive back cuts will be one of the hardest on the team, the Saints have built some good depth back there and whoever gets cut won’t be unemployed long.

Baraka Atkins, Jay Richardson, Rufus Johnson and Kevin Reddick
I don’t even know why I put Richardson on this list because I think he’s a lock to make the team. He’s not flashy by any means but is a solid back up; I think he would have made the team regardless of the injuries. His ability to play DE and OLB go a long way when teams are figuring out the positional group cuts, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette need to heal real quickly because I think, while valuable for his versatility, Richardson is a back up. Baraka Atkins sits squarely on the bubble; he’s another one that needs to show up big tonight. While Atkins has shown flashes of getting to the quarterback he’s still far from being a lock on this roster. The injuries may have helped him some but I have a feeling he would have to have an eye-popping performance for him to earn his spot on the 53.

Kevin Reddick should see a lot of playing time tonight, it’s his time to build on what he has done the last few weeks. When camp first started I wasn’t that impressed with the undrafted rookie but it seems over the last couple of weeks the game has slowed down for him. He’s shown that he can shoot the gaps and be a run stuffer, his coverage skills are average but he’s no worse than Curtis Lofton in coverage. Reddick Just seems like a gamer unlike Eric Martin who was great in practice but disappeared in games. Will Reddick make the final 53? He’s a long shot in my opinion; I’m thinking he lands on the practice squad unless the Saints don’t want risk losing him through waivers.

And finally Rufus Johnson, if anyone has benefited from the unfortunate injuries to Will Smith and Victor Butler, Johnson is the one. I think he was practice squad bound if those injuries don’t occur, heck he still might end up there but his upside is too big to ignore. There is no doubt that it is taking time for him to adjust to the complex playbook of Rob Ryan and the technique of shedding his blocks at this level. But when it does come to him, look out. I still think he needs another year of coaching to contribute but the Saints might not have that luxury, a 16 game season is a long time and I think he makes the 53 solely for depth purposes. Maybe as the year goes on he may see some spot duty but for now he just needs to be a sponge and work his tail off. His time will come, but when will that happen is anybody’s guess.

Let the game begin, this is the last chance for a lot of these players to prove they deserve a spot on the 53 man roster. There are other battles for roster spots going on but these are the players I’m going to watch. Wait I take that back, I also will closely watch Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson battle. Me personally, I prefer Robinson over Cadet, he just runs better. And by that I mean his vision is really good and he has no hesitation hitting his lanes plus he runs hard as hell, what’s not to like. Well there it is some bubbles will burst some will not, we will find out soon.