The New Orleans Saints host the visiting Miami Dolphins in their final game of the 2019 NFL preseason this Thursday night, and a handful of players for the Black and Gold will be desperately battling for a permanent spot on the team’s Final 53-man roster.
The Saints must cut down their team’s Final Roster for the upcoming 2019 NFL regular season to 53 players no later than by 4 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Central Time on Saturday, August 31st.
With that thought in mind, this morning we look at five players who are among the most likely to get CUT from the team — including one player that might surprise you.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Wide Receiver
Taysom ➡️ Lil'Jordan Humphrey ➡️ Endzone
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 10, 2019
At this point, it seems that the Saints’ coaching staff will likely only keep five wide receivers on the final roster, and the first three spots appear to have already been secured by All-Pro Michael Thomas, veteran Ted Ginn. Jr., and 2nd-year star Tre’Quan Smith. That leaves a handful of other players at the position competing for only two remaining spots, including Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr, Simmie Cobbs, Cyril Grayson, Jr.. Travin Dural, Emmanuel Butler, and undrafted rookie Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who is a very popular player with Who Dat fans.
Unfortunately for Humphrey, in spite of a few highlight moments throughout the team’s recently-completed Training Camp and a strong performance in the first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, the young but talented 21-year old former University of Texas star just hasn’t made enough of an impact to earn the chance to stick around; especially compared to fellow undrafted rookie and the previously-mentioned Emmanuel Butler — who was this year’s Training Camp stand-out performer.
That likely leaves Humphrey on the proverbial “outside looking in”, and a likely cut this coming weekend. Undoubtedly, he will be offered a spot on the team’s Practice Squad next week, but likely not before some other NFL team decides to claim him on waivers.
Marcus Sherels, Kick Returner
New #Saints CB/PR Marcus Sherels earned a career high punt return grade of 85.6 in 2016 after he took 21 punts for 292 yards (13.9 avg.) and 2 TDs.
Since @PFF began ST grading in 2013, Sherels has returned punts for over 1,900 yards (11.2 avg.) and 4 TDs.
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) March 21, 2019
Sherels has been one of the very best kick returners in the NFL dating back to his time with the Minnesota Vikings, where he played his first nine seasons. The Saints signed the 31-year old special teams stand-out in Free Agency several months ago, and undoubtedly did so in part thanks to the fact that he’s been one of the NFL’s elite players at the position, scoring five career touchdowns off of punt returns.
But Sherels wasn’t ever “penciled in” for the permanent punt returner role and had to compete in Training Camp, where he attempted to outshine undrafted rookie sensation Deonte Harris, the diminutive (5-foot-6, 170-pound) former Division II “superstar” at small school Assumption College — where he was considered one of the most prolific punt returners in NCAA history.
Our kind of jets 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Deonte Harris takes it all the way back! pic.twitter.com/iZJtJ8TZEx
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 25, 2019
However, the 22-year old Harris clearly out-performed the veteran throughout the majority of their head-to-head competition in Training Camp, and the immensely-talented rookie appears to have won the job thanks to his punt run-back of 78 yards for a touchdown in last week’s 28-13 Saints win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. Barring some sort of miracle in this Thursday’s game against the Dolphins, Sherels looks to be headed to the unemployment line after this coming Labor Day Weekend.
Michael Ola, Offensive Tackle / Guard
— SaintsNOW (@SaintsNOW) February 19, 2019
The Saints re-signed the versatile 31-year-old veteran O-Lineman Ola to a one-year deal earlier this year after he finished last season on injured reserve due to a high-ankle sprain. He was essentially on and off the roster sporadically last season, where he ultimately appeared in six games as a reserve offensive lineman, subbing in mostly for starting left tackle Terron Armstead.
But after a less-than-stellar performance in the team’s recently-completed Training Camp, Ola was basically exposed as a glaring liability at the left tackle spot when he replaced Armstead in the lineup during last week’s preseason game against the Jets. The “drop off” with Ola in the game became quite evident — as back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater faced immediate pressure.
Oh my. Veteran Michael Ola gets the chance to audition for the backup LT job when Terron Armstead calls it an early night. And he promptly lets a rusher have free access to hit Teddy Bridgewater. Not gonna help his case.
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) August 24, 2019
Ola can play all of the spots on the O-Line, and that in and of itself had made him a valuable addition to the roster, but he apparently appears to have regressed over the past year and clearly struggled in a rather mighty fashion against the Jets. Ola has played for a handful of different NFL teams throughout his professional career, but it appears that career could now potentially be coming to an end once this weekend arrives.
Kayvon Webster, Cornerback
— New Orleans Saints (@nworleanssaints) June 12, 2019
Webster is a former World Champion who played a vitally key role as a backup CB and special teams stand-out for the Denver Broncos when they won Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers in February of 2016. The 28-year old Webster – who also played for the Rams before tearing an Achilles tendon and being released by Los Angeles – signed with the Saints earlier this off-season, and appeared to show no lingering or ill-effects from that injury.
Webster performed well for the most part during Training Camp and had seemingly healed sufficiently enough to resume his NFL career with the Black and Gold. However, a few weeks ago during the team’s preseason loss to the Vikings, Webster drew a pass interference call against Minnesota WR Laquon Treadwell in the 3rd quarter, and while it wasn’t necessarily an egregious mistake on his part, NFL officials didn’t find sufficient evidence to overturn the 21-yard penalty against Webster and the Vikings’ drive continued.
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) August 10, 2019
Granted, it’s not necessarily written in stone at this point, but with so much competition this summer at defensive back, it means that Webster needed a much stronger performance in the three remaining preseason games, including this Thursday night against the Dolphins in the preseason finale. Unless he can make something dramatic happen, Webster now appears to be a long-shot to make it beyond the final roster cuts during this upcoming weekend.
And the one Saints roster cut one that might surprise you: Alize’ Mack, Tight End
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) May 10, 2019
Assuming it happens (which at this point seems very likely), this is the one roster cut some Who Dat fans might find to be a bit surprising, especially given the fact that Mack – who was the one of two of the team’s 7th-round draft picks in this year’s 2019 NFL Draft (the #231 overall pick) – had been projected by several observers and analysts as a young player who the Saints would seek to “groom” to become the new #1 starter at the TE position sometime down the line.
Mack told reporters after his selection that he believed that he could ultimately become a “weapon” in the Saints offense following his successful career at the University of Notre Dame, and NFL scouts agreed with that assessment for the most part. Mack was projected to be a 3rd to 5th round pick by a variety of analysts, but in a very similar fashion to other players in this 2019 Saints Draft Class, ‘fell’ down the draft board and was still available.
Notre Dame tight end Alize Mack geuaxs to the Saints in the 7th Round.
6th Irish tight end to be drafted since 2011 pic.twitter.com/D2LoN3Sor8
— Adam Derengowski (@AdamDerWSBT) April 27, 2019
Mack moves extremely well for a man of his size, and as an added bonus it was thought that he had the perfect mentor for learning how to play the position in the NFL effectively in starting tight end and 10th-year veteran Jared Cook for the first few seasons in the League. Unfortunately, however, Mack just never seemed to evolve and blossom (at least not yet) into the player the Saints were hoping to get when they originally selected him.
Taysom Hill to Alize Mack. Future of the Saints offense? pic.twitter.com/WEA3BfeRmZ
— WWL Radio (@WWLAMFM) July 29, 2019
It was a grueling, long practice at #Saints training camp today. When the temperature heats up, so can the players. Trey Hendrickson and rookie Alizé Mack got into it on Monday. @FOX8NOLA pic.twitter.com/IeslCdUi2W
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) July 29, 2019
Mack has battled injuries and inconsistency (including several notable “butt-chewings” during practice from head coach Sean Payton) and although he still could have an outside chance to make the team, he’s been clearly outplayed by 5th-year veteran and journeyman tight end A.J. Derby, who had a stellar performance in the preseason win last week against the Jets.
At this point, the Saints seem intent on keeping only three tight ends (Cook, back-up #2 TE Josh Hill, and Derby) on their Final 53-man Roster, which would mean that Mack would still be a likely candidate for the Practice Squad if he in fact gets cut. But that’s only going with the assumption that the team will actually extend him the opportunity in the first place.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius