Costa Mesa, Calif. - There still are positions and repetitions to be won or lost for many New Orleans Saints players this preseason. Receiver Tommylee Lewis made a mark in the first preseason game, with 10 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Here are five players who will look to leave an imprint on Sunday’s game against the Chargers:
- Sunday marks the game-conditions unveiling of cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the first of the Saints’ two picks in the first round (No. 11 overall) – and not a moment too soon. The news last Wednesday that Delvin Breaux has a broken fibula and is expected to miss six weeks came at an awful time for the Saints, who are looking for improved cornerback play and were hoping that Breaux could get healthy and help provide it. Lattimore was the consensus top cornerback in the draft, and the Saints are eager to see what he has. He isn’t totally recovered from an injury, so he’ll be on a pitch count against the Chargers. But the fact that he’s on the field hopefully will bolster a defense that needs help on the back end.
- And speaking of debuts by 2017 first-round draft picks, that also applies to left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who also missed the preseason opener against Cleveland. Ramczyk has big cleats to fill at left tackle – Terron Armstead is considered one of the league’s best when healthy, and Andrus Peat has proven capable when shifting from left guard to left tackle. But the Saints believe Ramczyk, who played left tackle in college but was drafted No. 32 overall to phase in at right tackle for Zach Strief, has the physical and mental goods to play the position, which would allow Peat to settle in at left guard. Ramczyk’s trial-by-fire began against his Saints teammates, then phased to the joint practices with the Chargers. The education continues with tonight’s preseason game.
- The focus on quarterback play remains on Garrett Grayson, as he continues to look to justify the Saints’ faith in him. The third-round pick from 2015 was uneven in the preseason opener (11 of 16 for 126 yards, sacked four times and lost a fumble) and has to play better. Ryan Nassib wasn’t bad (10 of 14 for 110 yards and a touchdown, and was sacked once) and the truth is that Nassib looked better against Cleveland than he had in most of his practices against teammates. It’s iffy whether the Saints will carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, so Grayson or Nassib will have to show more than they’ve shown in order to make themselves keepers.
- All Corey Fuller does is keep making attention-grabbing catches in practice. The receiver has to do some of that in the games, but he has the combination of size (6 feet 2, 200 pounds) and ability that makes him very enticing. Fuller, too, missed the first preseason game because of an injury, so his chance to make an impact was damaged by the lack of reps against Cleveland. But I don’t think the Saints are locked in on receivers past the top three (Michael Thomas, Willie Snead IV and Ted Ginn, Jr.) and if that’s the case, the free-for-all for the last two spots – if the Saints keep five receivers – is among Lewis, Fuller and Brandon Coleman. Lewis, as it was mentioned earlier, put together some good tape against Cleveland. Fuller will attempt to do the same against the Chargers.
- Breaux’s injury and absence opens a spot at cornerback. Perhaps, the top five slots are taken by Lattimore, P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley, De’Vante Harris and Sterling Moore. You figure the Saints will go at least six deep at the position, perhaps seven and maybe eight (it’s impossible to have too many good corners in a pass-happy league). Enter rookie Arthur Maulet, a former Bonnabel High standout who (stop me if you’ve heard this before) missed the preseason opener due to an injury. Maulet was impressive in minicamp and early in training camp, then had his momentum derailed by the injury. He’s healthy now and he should get some looks, beginning tonight. He has to make the most of them.