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John DeShazier: Green Bay game important evaluation tool for Saints

Decisions still need to be made on 53-man roster

On the one hand, the fourth preseason game almost is a necessary evil for some players.

Established veterans who have nothing to prove rarely participate in it unless they're working their way back from injury, and prized rookies who already have carved out a niche often are held out if the risk is greater than the possible reward.

And then there are the players for whom the preseason finale is the determining factor in whether they are members of the 53-man, regular-season roster or if they are told that their dream is to be deferred, or pursued with another franchise.

The evaluation process for the New Orleans Saints isn't nearly over, and won't be complete until Thursday's preseason game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field is over. As is the case every season, there still are roster spots to be decided and the process will go all the way down to the very end.

"It will be probably eight to 10 players at different positions that we're evaluating still, that will get a lot of playing time," Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. "Many of them got a lot of snaps (Sunday against Houston), and there will be a number of these guys that will get a lot of snaps this Thursday.

"It's part of the process. We're taking all of the information and yet, it's still important. In a game, you can see a lot relative to the amount of snaps they have. Some players maybe haven't gotten as many opportunities, or they got 30 (snaps) this past Sunday and they get another 40, 45. I think it's important."

It's the last chance to make good impression, or to confirm what already has been seen. So while starting quarterback Drew Brees is unlikely to play a down, the snaps taken by Ryan Griffin could go a long way toward determining whether he wins the job as Brees' backup, or is cut loose and manages to find an opportunity with another NFL team.

Ditto for the reps given to several members of the receiving corps; the top three positions appear to belong to Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks and Brandon Coleman, but nothing seems solidified beyond that. So Willie Snead can continue to press toward a roster spot, and Joe Morgan could continue to make his bid to stick again, and Josh Morgan could hope to open eyes anew.

And then there is a game to be played and, if not won, to show improvement.

Reserves or not, Payton and his staff would like to see a decrease in penalties (34 in the first three preseason games) and an increase in quarterback pressure (one sack this preseason). And they'd like to see the improvement occur despite an abbreviated work week.

"The focus for us still, though, is our prep right now for Green Bay," he said. "It's a shorter week, and just making sure we're ready to play that game and make the proper evaluations. There'll be a handful of guys getting a lot of work."

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