The time is now for someone to shine, and maybe even claim a roster spot with the New Orleans Saints (or with another NFL team, if the Saints happen to be stacked at that particular position). So, while the fourth and final preseason game won’t feature much in terms of starters and major contributors playing, it will provide a vehicle through which a player on the bubble can make one last, positive impression that could help him. Here are five players to watch against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
- Cornerback Arthur Maulet played in six regular-season and both playoff games for the Saints last season, but that didn’t guarantee him any security this offseason. Being injured and missing time wasn’t something he hoped to put on his resume for training camp, but he’s back and a good showing against the Rams could be a huge factor for him. Maulet had some impressive days in camp, and the Saints like what he offers as a slot cornerback and special team contributor. That could be a separating factor for him. But when you miss time, you allow someone else to slide in and make an impression. He probably needs to make up some ground against the Rams.
- Speaking of making an impression, cornerback Marcus Williams had a pick-six against the Chargers and as a defender, there aren’t many better ways to get a coaching staff’s attention than to cause a turnover that directly results in points. Also, it highlighted a couple of positives: Williams had good anticipation on the play, and he didn’t allow a pass interference penalty a few plays earlier – he thought it was a clean pass breakup – to affect him mentally. He was a training-camp addition so he was a little behind in terms of learning the defense, but it looks like he’s up to speed now. Another solid game is what he needs.
- I’ll give a two-for-one here, because they’re from the same position group and they both bear watching: receivers Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis. Carr seems to be emerging at the right time, getting some reps with the starters during practice and not squandering his opportunities. He has been sure-handed and reliable, and those traits are invaluable when it comes to gaining the trust of quarterback Drew Brees. He looks like a keeper for the active roster, but nothing is a given. Lewis, who has been on the roster the previous two season and has 27 regular-season games under his belt, just hasn’t look as much like a sure thing. He hasn’t gotten many opportunities in the return game (that might change against the Rams) and while he caught a long pass from Tom Savage in the Chargers preseason game, he hasn’t done much to garner much attention in the passing game since a spotlight day in practice a few weeks ago. These two might be going to the wire for a receiver spot.
- As an offensive lineman, Josh LeRibeus has a lot going for him: He’s a veteran who has started at center in the NFL, and he’s versatile enough to play all three interior line positions. But rookie Will Clapp offers this: A less expensive alternative who possibly can play the same positions. Experience and performance may win the day, but Clapp has earned the right to be in the conversation as a backup offensive lineman. And if Clapp is in the conversation, it might mean that LeRibeus could use a good showing against Los Angeles.
- The Saints liked defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad enough to draft him in the sixth round last year. But since tying for the NFL lead in preseason sacks (four) last year, he hasn’t flashed much. New Orleans drafted Marcus Davenport and return Alex Okafor at right defensive end, and have All-Pro Cam Jordan and second-year talent Trey Hendrickson to work at left defensive end. Muhammad only might need more seasoning to be a contributor, but it’d be nice to see him wreak a little havoc in the final preseason game to remind everyone why he was drafted.