Hello. Is this thing on? OK, great! Hi there, Who Dat Nation! It’s good to see you again. It’s time for those four words that put a smile on our faces every September. Football season is back! With the New Orleans Saints first game just a few days away, we’re going to start off by diving into this year’s opening day roster to get you familiar with who you’ll see on the field for this upcoming season.
Before we do that, I’d like to introduce you to our new home for your favorite Saints coverage. Pelicans Report has become a mainstay for great New Orleans Pelicans coverage and discussion, so we are now looking to extend those sources to the football side of New Orleans sports. Not only will we be bringing over the same articles that you were used to with Saints 247, but we are looking to make it bigger and better. As we go through the season, we’re most interested in getting our readers more and more involved. We urge you to join in for discussions and even make suggestions on what you may like to see in the future. We’re looking forward to what will be a great season with you guys and I’d personally like to thank you for being a part of our new journey. If you’re already reading this, you’re in the right place. Sit back and come along for the ride through the 2015 season and beyond!
Alright, now it’s time to get to it. What today’s article is going to consist of is a position by position breakdown of the players that make up the 53 man roster. I’ll introduce you to the new players on the roster, along with brief summaries of each player and what you can expect their role to be throughout the year.
Saints 2015 Offensive Roster
- #9 Drew Brees – It’s only fitting that the first name listed is the greatest player to ever don a New Orleans Saints uniform. Brees is entering his 15th season in the NFL (10th with the Saints) and is looking to get back to MVP form.
- #7 Luke McCown – McCown returns for his 3rd season in black and gold, serving as the primary backup behind Drew Brees. McCown’s veteran leadership and consistency won his battle for a roster spot against Ryan Griffin, who has since been waived and picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- #18 Garrett Grayson – The Saints spent the 75th overall selection in this past April’s NFL Draft on the rookie QB out of Colorado St, hoping he can develop into the heir apparent to future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees. Grayson has many of the same skills and traits as Brees, but is still very raw and will look to soak up as much knowledge as possible behind his to veteran teammates.
- #22 Mark Ingram – New Orleans chose not to pick up Ingram’s fifth year option of his rookie contract prior to the 2014 season, but following Ingram’s breakout season a year ago, the Saints brought him back on a four-year, $16 million contract to be the team’s starting running back in what they hope to be a more consistent, successful running game.
- #29 Khiry Robinson – Robinson is entering his 3rd season with the Saints and will continue with his role of doing whatever Coach Sean Payton needs him to do, whether it be taking carries to spell Mark Ingram or catching passes out of the backfield.
- #28 C.J. Spiller – One of the biggest off-season signings for the team, Spiller will fall into the Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles role that has always played a very big part of the Saints offense. Spiller had minor surgery on his knee during training camp, but should be an immediate contributor as soon as he’s healthy.
- #23 Marcus Murphy – Murphy was selected with the team’s 7th round draft pick, specifically for his return game skills out of Missouri. He shined in the SEC, but needed to beat out Jalen Saunders, who did a very nice job for the Saints in the second half of 2014. Not only did Murphy run away with the job(pun intended), he also showed he can contribute to the offense, getting plenty of reps while C.J. Spiller missed time during the preseason.
- #34 Tim Hightower – Despite being out of the NFL for the past three regular seasons following an ACL tear in 2011, Hightower signed with the Saints this off-season and showed that he just may have something left in the tank. With only four wide receivers on the roster, it’s possible that Hightower may be expendable once C.J. Spiller is healthy and the Saints choose to sign a fifth receiver, but until then, he has shown that he can still be an effective runner between the tackles.
- #35 Austin Johnson – After becoming the starting full back entering the 2014 season while projected starter Eric Lorig recovered from an ankle injury, Johnson took the job and never looked back. Even when Lorig returned last year, Johnson remained the starter, proving his worth both as a blocker and sneaky pass catcher out of the backfield. Johnson beat out a healthy Lorig this training camp and enters the 2015 season as the only full back on the roster.
- #12 Marques Colston – Old faithful. The Quiet Storm. Mr Reliable. Call him whatever you want, but Colston returns for his 10th season as one of two players remaining from Sean Payton’s first draft class in 2006. He’ll always be there when needed and despite having always been a big red zone target for Drew Brees, he may just be an even bigger one in the absence of Jimmy Graham. You can also look for him to mentor second year receiver Brandon Coleman, who is basically Marques Colston ten years ago.
- #10 Brandin Cooks – When you discuss young, dynamic players in the NFL, Cooks’ name has to be in the discussion. With a year under his belt, look for Cooks to do just about everything as Sean Payton utilizes his speed and athleticism.
- #16 Brandon Coleman – As I mentioned before, Coleman has the skill-set of a young Marques Colston. After struggling as an undrafted free agent last preseason, Coleman has made tremendous strides and earned his spot as the team’s #3 receiver.
- #83 Willie Snead – Quite possibly the biggest surprise of training camp was the emergence of Willie Snead. While we’re comparing young Saints receivers to familiar faces we all know, look no further than the type of player that Lance Moore was. Snead is sure-handed, elusive, and a great route runner. Look for the second-year player out of Ball State to become a reliable target for Drew Brees.
- #82 Ben Watson – He may be entering his 12th NFL season, but even as a veteran, he has big shoes to fill. With Jimmy Graham traded in the off-season, Watson has the chance to have one of the best seasons of his career in what has proven to be a tight end friendly offense.
- #89 Josh Hill – Even when Jimmy Graham was healthy and contributing, Hill still made plenty of plays on his own. He’s better at pass-catching than run blocking, so look for him to see the field on passing downs and specifically in the red-zone.
- #72 Terron Armstead – Entering his 3rd season with the Saints, Armstead looks to be another diamond in the rough on the offensive line that the Saints front office has been known for finding. He took over at left tackle late in 2013 and retains that job entering 2015.
- #64 Zach Strief – The veteran right tackle is back for his 10th NFL season and will not only play his typical role at right tackle, but he will likely be rookie 1st round pick Andrus Peat’s biggest mentor.
- #75 Andrus Peat – Speaking of Peat, he enters his rookie season as the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Unlike most tackles that are drafted in the first round, Peat will not be thrown straight into a starting job, but will instead sit back and learn. You will also see him on the field reporting as an eligible receiver when the Saints go with their three tackle formation that was made so famous by Peat’s own mentor, Zach Strief.
- #73 Jahri Evans – The second of the only two players remaining from Sean Payton’s first draft class, Evans returns to start at right guard for the Saints for the 10th straight year.
- #68 Tim Lelito – Picked up as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 NFL draft, Lelito has always been a backup at both guard and center. After New Orleans traded Ben Grubbs to Kansas City in the off-season, Lelito will now enter his more natural position as he starts at left guard this year.
- #63 Mike McGlynn – Entering his 8th season in the league and now with his fifth team, McGlynn serves as the primary backup to both guard positions. He has started 61 games through his first seven years, so the experience is there if needed.
- #60 Max Unger – One of the two key pieces that the Saints received for sending Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks, Unger comes in as the team’s much needed anchor at the center position that they’ve been missing for a while. Unger is a two-time Pro-Bowler and was a First Team All-Pro in 2012.
- #65 Senio Kelemente – Entering his 3rd season in the NFL, Kelemente will serve as a backup to both the center and guard positions.
Saints 2015 Defensive Roster
- #94 Cameron Jordan – Jordan led the Saints with 12.5 sacks in 2013 in just his third season and despite dropping down to just 7.5 a year ago, he and the Saints agreed on a five-year contract extension worth up to $60 million back in June. Jordan will play his typical role at defensive end as both a pass rusher and a very solid run stopper.
- #76 Akiem Hicks – As a 3rd round pick, Hicks was the Saints’ top player selected in the 2012 NFL draft, being without both their 1st (traded for Mark Ingram in 2011) and 2nd (taken away for Bounty-gate) round selections. He has been a solid contributor through his first three seasons, even flashing signs of brilliance here and there. Hicks will line up opposite of Cam Jordan and hope to build upon some very solid potential.
- #78 Bobby Richardson – Coming into training camp as an undrafted free agent out of Indiana, Richardson was another player who’s odds to make the team didn’t look great. He nixed that notion, proving to be disruptive on the defensive line and showing a keen ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.
- #90 Tavaris Barnes – Another undrafted rookie from this past draft, Barnes, too, proved he has the skill-set to contribute on the Saints defensive line.
- #58 Obum Gwacham – Gwachum was drafted by the Seahawks in the 6th round of the NFL draft back in April, but due to the competitive talent on their defense, was waived following their final preseason game. New Orleans quickly scooped him up, falling in love with his versatility to put his hand in the ground and rush from the defensive end position or stand up from the outside linebacker position in the 3-4 defense.
- #93 Kevin Williams – Entering his 13th season as one of the best defensive tackles in the game over the past decade, Williams showed he still has some game left in him with a very good training camp. Look for the veteran to get significant playing time along with John Jenkins.
- #92 John Jenkins – Speaking of Jenkins, the third year player out of Georgia is hoping to remain healthy after battling injuries for most of his early career. He has flashed plenty of talent and can now play and learn alongside of Kevin Williams.
- #95 Tyler Davison – A 5th round pick by the Saints in this year’s draft, Davison looks to bring both power and speed from the tackle position.
- #71 Kaleb Eulls – Eulls was yet another undrafted free agent signed by the Saints following the 2015 draft. He was a four-year starter at Mississippi State as a very good run stopper.
- #50 Stephone Anthony – New Orleans took Anthony with the 31st overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft after receiving that pick along with Max Unger for Jimmy Graham in the trade with Seattle. Anthony drew rave reviews from many scouts before the draft, whom then praised the Saints for selecting him as their next leader at the middle linebacker position. He will play the same role that we saw from Johnathan Vilma and Curtis Lofton for years.
- #59 Dannell Ellerbe – Coming over in a trade with the Miami Dolphins as part of a package for Kenny Stills, Ellerbe hopes to get back to the success he had filling in for Ray Lewis when he was injured during the Baltimore Ravens 2012 Super Bowl run. Ellerbe signed a massive contract in Miami following that season, but never could get back to the same success due to both injuries and playing out of position.
- #57 David Hawthorne – Entering his 4th season as a Saint, Hawthorne returns to provide leadership in the linebacking core. He can do whatever Rob Ryan asks him to do and will also play a key role in mentoring rookie Stephone Anthony.
- #53 Ramon Humber – Now entering his 6th season with the Saints, Humber will play his usual role of fill-in at the linebacker position whenever someone needs a rest or is injured.
- #56 Michael Mauti – A name familiar with those from the Northshore area of Louisiana, the former Mandeville Skipper spent his first two season with the Minnesota Vikings, but was cut over the weekend as they trimmed down to their 53-man roster. The Saints quickly scooped up the former local prep star and will give him a chance in black and gold.
- #45 Hau’oli Kikaha – Say it with me, “Ha-oh-lee Key-kah-hah”. Kikaha was the Saints’ 2nd round draft pick and to say that he can rush the passer is an understatement. With the turnout of the Junior Galette debacle unknown at the time, Kikaha became an even more important pick after the team was forced to release the troubled linebacker. We know that Kikaha can rush the passer, but he also showed the ability to play the run in the preseason, as well.
- #91 Kasim Edebali – Entering his 2nd season with the Saints, Edebali looks to contribute even more on defense, along with what he already does on special teams.
- #55 Davis Tull – Another one of those potential diamond in the rough players that the Saints have a knack for finding, Tull was selected in the 5th round of this year’s draft out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He has already flashed the ability to rush he passer and could become another solid late-round steal.
- #21 Keenan Lewis – The local veteran enters the season as the team’s top cornerback, but will miss the first few games after undergoing hip surgery early last week. The good news is that Lewis has played while injured and still been capable of shutting down receivers, so there isn’t much doubt that he won’t be able to bounce back quickly.
- #39 Brandon Browner – Another big free agent signing, Browner not only brings a strong game, but a championship pedigree. He played on the past two Super Bowl Championship teams. Browner will serve as the team’s top cornerback until Keenan Lewis returns, then the two will play opposite the field from one another as they did back at Oregon State in the late 2000s.
- #40 Delvin Breaux – He doesn’t quite fit the diamond in the rough status, but he could prove to be another one of the steals that the Saints have come across. Breaux was a five-star recruit coming out of McDonogh 35 of New Orleans and poised to head to LSU with a full scholarship, but tragically broke his C4, C5, and C6 vertebrae in 2006. It wasn’t until 2012 that Breaux finally found his way back to the football field with developmental squads, then eventually made his way to the CFL in 2014 last year, becoming an All-Star. He signed with the Saints in the off-season and looked great through the preseason, eventually defying the odds to make the 53-man roster. He’s not here just to be a good story, though. Watch as this guy contributes as a big part of the Saints secondary this year.
- #20 Brian Dixon – The second year corner returns to provide both depth at the cornerback position and play a role on special teams.
- #27 Damian Swann – A late 5th round pick in the 2015 draft, Swann made the team after solid play during the preseason.
- #24 Kyle Wilson – Wilson is a former 1st round pick from the 2010 NFL Draft and played his first five years with the New York Jets, but was never able to put it all together. He was mediocre through training camp, but provides much needed depth until Lewis and Browner are healthy.
- #31 Jairus Byrd – Byrd has been nothing but the biggest question mark since training camp began in early August. Not only has be been absent from the playing field, he was rarely even seen on the sidelines during open portions of practices. His return has been a giant mystery, leaving many to wonder if he’d be put on the PUP list, but the Saints chose not to do that and reports came out this week that although he won’t play in Week 1, he’s quickly improving and should be back soon. Once back, he has the potential to be the best free safety in the NFL.
- #25 Rafael Bush – Bush was once just another guy with the last name of Bush to wear #25 for the Saints, but he has now become a mainstay at the safety position over the past two years. He’ll see lots of action, even when Byrd is healthy, when Rob Ryan chooses to put three safeties on the field.
- #32 Kenny Vaccaro – He went from having a phenomenal rookie season to being benched at the end of the 2014 season. Vaccaro has mentioned that a fire was lit inside of him when he realized that he needed to step up coming into this season. He’ll start at strong safety and also play a very important role in run defense much like Roman Harper did.
- #33 Jamarca Sanford – Sanford came to the Saints late in 2014 and stuck around through training camp to make it onto the final roster. He’ll provide depth, especially while Jairus Byrd continues to heal.
Saints 2015 Special Teams Roster
- #2 Zach Hocker – Hocker beat out Dustin Hopkins in a very close battle for kicker that went down to the final preseason game. He was a four year kicker for Arkansas who has a strong leg, making 5 of 7 field goals from 50+ yards in his college career.
- #6 Thomas Morstead – Returning for his 7th season, Morstead remains one of the best punters in the NFL.
- #47 Justin Drescher – Drescher returns for his 6th season in New Orleans, serving as the team’s long snapper.
That wraps up your 2015 New Orleans Saints roster overview. We’ll be sure to follow any signings and releases as they happen throughout the year. Keep an eye out for more to come over the next few days as we prepare for Sunday when the Saints kick off the 2015 season in Arizona.
As always, Who Dat?!