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Mike Gillislee expected to be physical runner for New Orleans Saints

Payton: "I think the vision is a first- and second-down runner"

August 18-30-2018
Pre Season Game - 2P
New Orleans 20 - Los Angeles 0 (W)
Saints 3-1 in 2018 Pre Season

New Orleans Saints 2018 Season

Michael C.  Hebert
August 18-30-2018 Pre Season Game - 2P New Orleans 20 - Los Angeles 0 (W) Saints 3-1 in 2018 Pre Season New Orleans Saints 2018 Season Michael C. Hebert

We can't say that Sean Payton didn't warn us, hasn't warned us and, likely in the future, won't continue to warn us about assuming each member of the Saints' opening-game, 53-man roster will be someone who was in the building the majority of the offseason.

The first significant add was the trade for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on Aug. 29, the day before the Saints played their final preseason game, as New Orleans sought to upgrade the No. 2 quarterback position.

The next was running back Mike Gillislee, who was released by New England on Saturday, and snapped up by the Saints shortly after in the effort to help fill the vacancy created by Mark Ingram's four-game suspension to begin the regular season.

He'll join Alvin Kamara, Boston Scott and, possibly, Trey Edmunds, as running backs on the Saints' roster.

In four starts and 32 career games, the 27-year-old Gillislee has rushed for 1,248 yards and 16 touchdowns on 258 carries. His most productive season was with Buffalo in 2016, when he ran for 577 yards and eight touchdowns on 101 carries. Gillislee also has caught 16 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.

"He's the running back that we felt could help our team this year," Payton said during a Monday morning teleconference. "We've kind of gone through all the tape with these players. He's a player we're familiar with. He was a guy that you kind of pay attention to during the preseason."

This preseason, with the Patriots, Gillislee ran 33 times for 100 yards and a touchdown.

"I think the vision is a first- and second-down runner that has given them hard yards," Payton said. "He's a guy that can be physical. He can handle the workload. So the vision for the player is not to bring him in and throw him the ball 15 times in a game.

"I have an idea of how he learns. Spent quite a bit of time with him on the weekend just going through our system, their system, how they call things. He's pretty sharp and I think in a short period of time, he'll get up to speed."

NOT A GRAY AREA: Defensive back J.T. Gray missed as many preseason games (two) as he played in, but didn't squander the chance to make a mark when he was available. The undrafted rookie from Mississippi State made the roster in the manner that most undrafted rookies make the roster. "He can run and hit in the kicking game exceptionally well," Payton said. "And he's one of those guys that, when I talk about the kicking game, making it in special teams, he's an example."

BUCS ADJUST: The Saints' opening-game opponent, Tampa Bay, also will be without a starter for the season opener in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. The Buccaneers will be minus quarterback Jameis Winston, who will sit out the first three regular-season games due to a league suspension. That leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin, a former Saint, as Tampa Bay's primary options at quarterback.

"They're going to run their offense," Payton said. "We expect them to be balanced and try to establish a good ground game – when you play on the road in a noisy environment, that can help. But I think that there'll be some tweaks, maybe, as to what they want to do. But both those quarterbacks are guys that are comfortable making throws in the pocket and getting out on the perimeter and leading their team."

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