1. The Tanner-Parker Sprint. The No. 5 receiver spot, which appeared to be closed a couple of weeks ago, may now have a cracked door. If Andy Tanner had slipped, he lifted himself back into consideration with his two-touchdown performance against the Houston Texans. A good showing against the Miami Dolphins will bolster his case. But overall, Parker, who also has a couple of touchdown receptions this preseason, arguably has had a better body of work. And he showed some ability as a returner (52-yard kickoff return vs. Houston). You figure each will receive a good amount of snaps against Miami, so the last impression may provide the swing vote.
2. The Cadet-Robinson battle. Running back Travaris Cadet was a nice find as a rookie free agent last season. Khiry Robinson, a rookie free agent this year, is trying to unseat Cadet for a roster spot. Cadet hadn’t had a great preseason after two games (18 carries, 35 yards, two fumbles) but he bounced back in the third (four carries for 16 yards, three catches for 37). But Robinson, who leads the New Orleans Saints in rushing this preseason (27 carries for 113 yards, and another 53 yards on five receptions) has impressed. Given that the top three backs (Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles) aren’t likely to play much, if any, the two undrafted players will have a chance to shine. And, again, the last impression may be the most important one.
3. Outside linebacker. Junior Galette hasn’t played a preseason game and there probably isn’t much reason for him to try to break a sweat tonight, and Will Smith injured his knee against Houston and is out for the season. Those are/were the starters. And Martez Wilson, who was being counted on to be a key rotational player, hasn’t played this preseason. So a door is open for players like Jay Richardson, who has shown flashes during his playing time and hasn’t been on an NFL roster since 2010, and Baraka Atkins, who hasn’t been on an NFL regular-season roster since 2009. Veteran Parys Haralson was acquired in a trade to help shore up the position and Ray Shipman also will have a chance to shine but right now a void exists and several players will have an opportunity to fill it.
4. RG4. Not so quietly, free agent rookie quarterback Ryan Griffin (who wears No. 4; hence, Drew Brees’ proclamation of Griffin being deemed “RG4”) has had a very strong preseason. He has completed 17 of 28 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, and has exhibited a good grasp of the offense, which is an extremely advanced version of the offense he ran at Tulane (Tulane Coach Curtis Johnson is a former Saints assistant). The Saints would like to keep him around, likely on the practice squad. He seems to have that quarterback-of-the-future look.
5. Backed Into A Corner. Is there a roster spot available for free agent rookie Rod Sweeting or veteran Chris Carr? Each has shown some ability this offseason. Carr knows defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s defense and is NFL-savvy, and Sweeting is a promising find who hasn’t been swallowed by his first training camp and preseason. Each should have ample opportunity to show his talent in the final tuneup.