5 Saints Who Need To Step Up Or Step Out
By Greg Barber
Training camp is only a few days away, and it is time to find out who makes the team and who is out on the street in New Orleans this year. Star players like QB Drew Brees and LB Curtis Lofton are safe from being cut, unlike several undrafted free agents who have a slim chance of making the Saints.
Here are five players who were on the 2012 New Orleans Saints that could be running the risk of not making the squad in 2013. This will potentially be a "step up or step out" scenario for these veterans.
Zach Strief, RT
Strief struggled at right tackle in 2012. He had trouble handling quicker defensive ends, which shows the need to improve his footwork. Strief's struggles were due in part to injuries that kept him on the sidelines for part of the season, but OTs Charles Brown and Thomas Robinson played much better in his place. It is not safe to assume that Strief will be the starter come Week 1. Look for fellow OTs Marcel Jones and Jason Smith to be nipping at his heels come training camp.
Brian de la Puente is in a similar boat as Strief as he was highly unimpressive last year. He got pushed around a lot and just failed to be that road grader the offense desperately needed. His position is probably a lot safer than Strief because there is only rookie C Elliott Mealer for him to compete with. There is still a possibility for him to be benched, so de la Puente can't be too comfortable with the situation.
Will Herring, LB
Herring is mainly a special teams player who generally comes off the bench on defense. When he is playing on defense, he seems to disappear - he is out there, but he rarely makes a play. Special teams plays an important role on the team, but Herring can be replaced by other players who are more versatile. My best guess is he does not make the team this season.
Chamberlain came to the Saints in 2012 but did not play due to a knee injury that ended his season. What might be more frustrating for Chamberlain is that he came to New Orleans so that he could work with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, only to see him fired after one year. So now he is not only dealing with a new defensive coordinator, but he is learning a whole new defense. During training camp, Chamberlain has to show that he belongs on the roster and it will be a tough, uphill battle for him to make the team.
There is not a strong possibility of Hawthorne being cut from the team for the time being, but he really needs to get back to his previous form from his days in Seattle. Hawthorne was a tackling machine for the Seahawks and looked like a huge pickup for the Saints in 2012. So far, it has not panned out. While it will be a challenge for Hawthorne to turn his game around, do not give up on him yet. If he manages to get back on track, he and Curtis Lofton together will be a very effective team.
All five of these players have the potential to make a positive impact on the team. If they play at a high enough level next week, they get a chance to show the team and Saints fans what they can do.