By Barry Hirstius – Contributing Writer
The New Orleans Saints wrapped up their 2018 Pre-Season schedule last night with a convincing 28-0 shut-out victory over the Los Angeles Rams, to finish the exhibition slate with a (3-1) record.
Up next for New Orleans: their 2018 Regular Season home opener at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 9 more days from now (September 9th), when they host the visiting NFC South Division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, before the Saints turn their focus towards the Bucs and the imminent arrival of the Regular Season, they must first cut their team’s Final Roster down to their designated 53 players no later than by 4 p.m. Eastern / 3 p.m. Central time tomorrow (Saturday, September 1st).
With that thought in mind, this morning Big Easy Magazine looks at 5 Saints players who most likely earned themselves a Final Roster spot on the team, in last night’s impressive victory.
And we start with……
TAYLOR STALLWORTH, BACK-UP DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Out of the 5 players listed this morning, Stallworth is the only undrafted rookie free agent from this year’s 2018 Saints UDFA Class; and he also might be the one who’s most likely “teetering on the edge” between a Final Roster spot tomorrow or ending up on the Practice Squad instead.
It certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort on his part last night, as he had a solid performance at the nose tackle spot that included a forced fumble that he returned for a touchdown; but his score was wiped off the board by a “illegal hands-to-the-face” penalty by fellow DT Devaroe Lawrence. Later in the game, Stallworth was escorted to the sideline by trainers after being tended to in the 4th quarter with an unspecified injury, but he returned a short time later.
Overall, Stallworth has been among the most impressive rookie performers throughout Training Camp and the Pre-Season, and the former University of South Carolina star provides depth as a run-stuffing nose tackle who has shown the short area quickness and agility to provide some pass rush when needed. That was never more evident than last night, and it’s the reason why he could end up making it as the team’s final DT while eventually pushing Tyeler Davison HARD for a starting role at nose tackle down the line.
BOSTON SCOTT, RUNNING BACK / KICK RETURNER
Coming into last night’s contest, there were some observers that felt Scott still needed to prove himself worthy of a Final Roster spot, and clearly his very impressive 12 carry, 68 yard and 1-TD performance did exactly just that and more.
But what probably “clinched” it for him was how good he’s looked recently on Special Teams, specifically at the kick returner position; where last night he was equally if not more impressive than presumed #5 wide receiver Brandon Tate, whose presence had led some of those same observers to feel it actually limited his opportunities to prove he belonged on the roster.
Nevertheless, Scott ran hard and despite his diminutive 5-foot-6 inch frame that has drawn comparisons to former Saints star and Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles, last night Scott showed everyone that he CAN PLAY like Sproles in some similar ways, which no doubt is a pleasing sight for head coach Sean Payton. Scott might not have a defined role within the offense to start the Regular Season, but he looks capable of handling either / both the RB and kick returner duties, if they need him to,
ARTHUR MAULET, CORNERBACK
Maulet, who starred in college at the University of Memphis, is a 2nd year undrafted player that of course most Saints fans are well aware is a Kenner, Louisiana native (suburban New Orleans); and was an all-around athletic high school superstar at Alfred J. Bonnabel High School, which is right off the I-10 interstate approximately 13 miles away from downtown.
Maulet was an all-state soccer player, an all-district punter, and a all-district cornerback at Bonnabel, and he made a name for himself already when he first earned a spot last season on the Saints Practice Squad. He later got put on the Final Roster and spent six regular-season games and two playoff games on the 53-man roster, playing primarily as an “ace” on special teams.
This Summer, it appeared that Maulet was virtually “guaranteed” a Final Roster spot thanks to the impressive performance that he had early on in training camp, but then an injury against Arizona in the 2nd Pre-Season game seemed to dramatically lessen his odds. Last night however, he made a strong statement on his own behalf with two passes defensed, including one was nearly intercepted, along with a tackle for loss. It will be very close, but it would seem that Maulet has done juuuuuuuust enough, to earn his 2018 Regular Season keep.
TAYSOM HILL, #3 QUARTERBACK
By trading for Teddy Bridgewater this past Wednesday (Aug. 29th), the Saints essentially handed the #3 QB job to Hill; who many fans and observers of the team felt was the better option anyway when compared to former #2 QB Tom Savage — who should already be packing his bags for the New Orleans International Airport while you read this.
However, there was the prevailing notion given Hill’s “roller coaster ride” for the majority of the Pre-Season that saw him both at his very best as well as at his very worst, that he needed a solid performance against the Rams to fully secure the #3 spot behind Brees and Bridgewater. Hill got the starting nod and delivered on his end of the bargain; as he finished 10 of 17 for 159 yards with a TD, along with a 109.7 passer rating. Hill also added three carries for 31 yards, including an 18-yard scramble that converted a fourth down.
Once again, Hill was effective moving the offense with both his arm and legs, and showed just why the Saints have kept him around up to this point. Throw in his play on special teams, and it becomes evident that he’ll have some type of impact (possibly as a “decoy” in the offensive backfield on certain plays) at some point during the Regular Season.
NATE STUPAR, LINEBACKER
Every season since signing with the Saints as an unrestricted free agent back in March of 2016, Stupar has always seemed to continually have to prove that he was good enough to play linebacker, given his more notable League-wide reputation as a Special Teams “stand out”.
For those that may have doubted that capability, last night Stupar put on a clinic; while flashing the athleticism and desire necessary to remain with the team after missing the 2017 season with a torn ACL.
Stupar finished with a whopping 12 tackles (5 solo, 7 combined), 3 sacks, 3 quarterback hits, 3 tackles for loss, an interception, a pass defensed / batted down, and a fumble recovery. But clearly it was his visibly evident passion that he gave on every single play, that allowed him to put up such an impressive performance. The young and always-improving Saints defense NEEDS players just like Stupar — and it’s the reason while he’ll still be on the 2018 Regular Season Final Roster come tomorrow….
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Barry’s writing, be sure to check out his interview piece on Saints linebacker Demario Davis! Don’t forget to also check out our series on things to do in New Orleans as well as a piece we released today on a controversial movie filmed in New Orleans!