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Five New Orleans Saints players to watch vs. Ravens

Don't overlook the final preseason game. True, starters aren't likely to play and if they do, it's a break-a-sweat cameo or because they simply need some reps due to returning from injury or inactivity. But there still are jobs to be won, if not with the New Orleans Saints then, perhaps, with another team that is intrigued by what it sees on tape. With that in mind, here are five who can help their causes with the Saints, or someone else, as New Orleans closes out the preseason against the Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday at 7 p.m.:

  1. Last call for Garrett Grayson and Ryan Nassib. They'll receive the majority of the snaps at quarterback and one or the other still has a chance to play himself into the No. 3 quarterback spot on the roster. Neither has "wowed" this preseason and if the Saints can't find what they're looking for from either, they could opt to bring in another prospect after he has been released from another NFL team (like I said, every player is auditioning for every team). Keeping two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster would allow the Saints to go a bit deeper at another position, but it'd be nice if Grayson or Nassib would force the team into a difficult choice.
  2. The comeback from ulcerative colitis by linebacker Michael Mauti has been inspiring. After dropping to 190 pounds and having surgery to remove his large intestine last year, he's at his playing weight (243 pounds) and in the mix for a roster spot. But the Saints' former special team captain could use a big play or two, particularly on special teams, to help his cause. The linebacker group is deeper than the previous few seasons (though Nate Stupar exited last Saturday's preseason game against Houston with an injury; the severity is unknown) and cracking the rotation will be difficult. So Mauti likely needs to do what he does best – shine on special teams – to earn a spot.
  3. Speaking of shining on special teams, Chris Banjo already has shown he can do that. Three solo tackles and an assist on special teams against the Chargers, and another special team stop against the Texans, show that he has the instincts and desire for it. Likely, the Ravens game is a chance for him to show his value as a safety in the Saints' defense. New Orleans is deep at that position, too, but Banjo's special team value may make him a keeper.
  4. There isn't much doubt that Adam Bighill knows what to do defensively, and how to do it. The NFL game isn't too big for the former CFL star, but he's another player who's caught in the linebacker logjam. The top six players at the position seem to be set – A.J. Klein, Craig Robertson, Alex Anzalone, Manti Te'o, Stephone Anthony and Stupar. But other than his size – you can't dress up 5 feet 10, 230 pounds – there's a ton to like about Bighill. He's practice-squad eligible, he's a player that the Saints want to keep around and if injuries occur at the position, New Orleans could do a lot worse than having him as an option.
  5. Defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen has shown why the Saints sought him as an undrafted rookie last year, and kept him around even though he was injured and couldn't play in 2016. He has 1.5 sacks this preseason and has "flashed" at defensive tackle (one of the five positions he played in college at Arkansas). He should be among the players to get a heavier workload vs, the Ravens and while the Saints like what they have along the defensive line, Loewen could continue to build on the foundation he's laying with another solid showing. Again – and this can't be said enough – these players are auditioning for the entire NFL, not just the Saints.
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