The Saints roster is beginning to take some shape, ahead of schedule.
The NFL won’t require teams to whittle down rosters to 75 until August 27, but Monday, the Saints first day back after Friday’s preseason game against the Raiders, the Black and Gold released eight players, including backup quarterback hopeful Seneca Wallace and veteran receivers Patrick Crayton and Steve Breaston.
Wallace needed to have a defining game Friday to stay in the hunt for the job of Drew Brees’ backup, but he didn’t even have a respectable performance.
Wallace went 3 of 6 for 32 yards with one interception and one fumble returned for a touchdown.
Its been a tough go for Wallace lately: the 33-year-old strained his groin early on in training camp, and therefore didn’t see any action in the first preseason game against Kansas City.
Meanwhile, Luke McCown, Wallace’s main competition, put up an impressive performance versus the Chiefs, adding to the pressure already surrounding Wallace, who hasn’t played in a regular season game since late in the 2011 season when he was with the Cleveland Browns.
Versus Kansas City, McCown completed 18 of the 28 passes he attempted for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The Louisiana Tech product worked with the Saints during preseason last year, before heading to Atlanta for the regular season to backup starting quarterback Matt Ryan after the Falcons released Chris Redman.
Critics have chastised McCown for freezing under pressure, but the Saints clearly saw enough from Wallace Friday night to be comfortable cutting ties.
McCown says the Saints decision to release Wallace does not enable him to relax.
“No, I honestly look at it as that I need to be more sharp. I need to continue to prove their decision right,” McCown said. “Now it’s about showing why they made the decision they made to keep me and continue to get better.”
Head coach Sean Payton warned the match-up against the Raiders was important because jobs would be lost, and he was not bluffing.
The Black and Gold waived DB A.J. Davis, WR Jared Fayson, G Ricky Henry, LB Chase Thomas and DB Dion Turner, in addition to cutting Breaston and Crayton. The Saints roster now stands at 81.
“The schedule is different than it used to be ten years ago,” Payton said. “With the way our practice schedule shapes up, this is something that we felt was going to help us get more repetition with some of the other guys competing and we’ll continue to look at doing that.”
The team also officially placed defensive end Kenyon Coleman on Injured Reserve. The former Cowboy was supposed to help smooth the transition into the new Rob Ryan defense, until he tore a pectoral muscle.
The Saints now turn full attention to preparing for Sunday’s nationally televised game against the Houston Texans, where the starters should see significant action.
“Typically you are going through the first half and then kind of looking at the snap count at halftime and then making a decision,” Payton said. “There are times when we have come out in the third quarter with starters because the reps weren’t as many and we’ll kind of approach it the same way.”
Monday, linebackers Jonathan Vilma, Chris Chamberlain and Junior Galette all missed practice. However, the Black and Gold did get some key names back: wide receiver Marques Colston, linebacker Curtis Lofton, special teams captain Courtney Roby and linebacker Martez Wilson all dressed for practice.