September 2, 2006

Final Cuts Announced: Payton's first 53-man roster a product of tough decisions

The Saints' final round of cuts included two of Payton's own draft picks and four of Haslett's.

Of the loaded receiving corps, the Saints released 2006 sixth round pick Mike Hass, 2005 fourth round pick Chase Lyman and free agent pickup Chris Horn.



Punter Mitch Berger will apparently be healthy enough for the regular season despite a problematic groin muscle injury, because undrafted rookie Steve Weatherford, who was excellent all preseason, was cut.

Others cut were running back Jamaal Branch, linebackers Colby Bockwoldt, EJ Kuale and Jay Foreman, tight ends Zach Hilton and Billy Miller, cornerbacks Josh Lay and Grant Mason, quarterback Adrian McPherson, defensive linemen Joe Minucci, Brandon Villareal, Javon Nanton, Jimmy Verdon, and Josh Williams, center Dwayne Ledford.

The Saints placed WR Michael Lewis on the physically unable to perform list. G Jermane Mayberry and LB Tommy Polley were placed on injury reserve.

One day later, on September 3, the Saints cut QB Todd Bouman, DE Tony Bryant, DB Anwar Phillips and T Ben Archibald and waived WR Bethel Johnson with an injury settlement.

Arriving on Sunday in place of them were: WR Terrance Copper, DB Curtis Deloatch , DB DeJuan Groce, DE Michael Haynes and T Rob Pettiti.

The Saints can begin to establish a practice squad of eight players on Sunday. The team announced that RB Jamaal Branch, LB E.J. Kuale, WR Chase Lyman and DT Brandon Villarreal were added to the practice squad on Sunday.

Meanwhile, at least two former Saints have been picked up by another team. TE Zach Hilton was claimed by the Jets, and LB Colby Bockwoldt was claimed by the Titans. Also, former Saint G Kendyl Jacox, cut earlier this offseason, has landed in Miami.

Analysis

The roster is by no means set in stone, but the quantities of players on the team is very unfamiliar to those used to Haslett's usual allocations.

Departing from the previous administration's normal roster levels, the Saints have kept six safeties, six receivers, two fullbacks and only five linebackers.

At safety, the team has kept six safties, but will try to make best use of all of them. Youngsters Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper, the team's back-to-back second round draft choices, have started in preseason games together. They are backed up by solid veterans Omar Stoutmire and Jay Bellamy. Quality men and reliable players on and off the field, they provide a dependable fallback to both challenge and mentor their younger counterparts. Behind them at the position, special teams captain Steve Gleason and passing down contributor Bryan Scott round out the position. Scott arrived with the team in a trade that send left tackle Wayne Gandy to the Falcons.

At wide receiver, Joe Horn and Devery Henderson are the only returning receivers from last year's team, although Lance Moore spent time on the practice squad. Rookie Marques Colston made the final roster and looks to be one of the top three players, while free agent addition Jamal Jones cotinues his unlikely rise from unknown at the start of camp to the 53-man roster.

Bethel Johnson and Lance Moore look to be the top options at kick and punt returners, although Johnson may be inactive for a few weeks while recovering from a knee sprain in preseason week three. Johnson was the product of the trade with New England that excised former sixth overall pick DT Jonathan Sullivan from the roster.

The Saints kept three runningbacks, including Aaron Stecker who was only able to return to the practice field this week. Jamaal Branch, who carried the load for much of the preseason following Stecker's injury, was released but is eligible for the practice squad, like so many of the team's young players. Two fullbacks on the roster is most unfamiliar to Saints fans, with blocking-style Mike Karney set to start but with hybrid FB/RB Keith Joseph behind him as a special teamer and possible spot situation player if he is active. Joseph is a big 250 pound bruising runner who ran a lot at Texas A&M but has developed as a lead blocker well. Joseph was with the team last year and was a Haslett-era undrafted rookie pickup.

At linebacker, considered to be the weakest group on the depth chart, the Saints kept only five. In the Haslett era as many as seven would be carried at the position because of the preference for linebackers on special teams. Two of the five are returning Saints from 2005 but they are both backups. New starters appear to be Mark Simoneau, Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita with Terrance Melton and Alfred Fincher backing them up. The Saints cut Jay Foreman, who had competed with Fujita for the starting MLB job before Simoneau arrived from the Eagles.

On defense, one of the newest Saints in Antwan Lake remains on the active roster for now. Lake, who was claimed on waivers eight days ago from Atlanta, is a pass-rushing type defensive lineman who can swing to end or tackle. Ahead of him are newcomer Hollis Thomas and three returning Saints in Rodney Leisle, Brian Young and Willie Whitehead, the longest current tenured Saint.

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