After four preseason games, the Saints appear set at most roster spots, but nothing is ever certain. Just when we thought we were close to nailing down the entire 53-man roster, they waived DT Remi Ayodele as part of 15 mandatory cuts to get down to 75 players earlier this week.
If Ayodele, who appeared to be a good bet to make the final roster, is a goner that early, the Saints may have a few more surprises when they make their final cuts on Friday.
Stock rising: DT Tyrunn Walker. With Ayodele out of the picture, Walker, an undrafted rookie from Tulsa, has a real shot to make the team. He has seven tackles and two sacks in the preseason. His primary competition for the fourth tackle spot, Tom Johnson, has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, and the Saints likely will keep five tackles anyway.
Stock falling: TE Daniel Graham. The Saints signed the 33-year old veteran, who has 224 career receptions, on Aug. 11. Only two of those catches came last year when he played for Tennessee, though, and he had zero receptions against Houston on Saturday.
QB -- In: (2) Drew Brees, Chase Daniel. Out: Sean Canfield. Daniel is a lock to back up Brees. The Saints probably will place Canfield on their practice squad for the third consecutive year. He still has a long way to go to be a viable option.
RB -- In: (5) Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory Travaris Cadet. Out: Joe Banyard. Keeping five RBs would be a stretch, but the Saints have been plagued by injuries at the position in the past and Cadet also can line up as a receiver in the slot. He has done most of his damage in the preseason as a receiver, catching almost twice as many passes (22) as any other Saint. Cutting Ivory, who led the team in rushing two years ago, would amount to insanity.
WR -- In: (5) Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Courtney Roby, Adrian Arrington. Out: Joe Morgan, Greg Camarillo, Andy Tanner, Nick Toon (injured reserve). This is the hardest position to call. Counting Roby, who has been almost exclusively a special teams player in the past, the Saints normally keep six wideouts. All indications are that Arrington will be the fourth receiver if he recovers from meniscus surgery by the start of the regular season, but he’s no lock. Also in the picture: Morgan, a speedster who ranks second to Cadet with 12 preseason catches; Camarillo, a possession receiver the Saints picked up Aug. 19; Tanner, who was having a good preseason before spraining an ankle badly; Toon, a rookie who is supposed to play against Tennessee on Thursday after missing the first four games with a left-foot injury. It's unlikely the Saints will cut Toon, their fourth-round pick, but they may put him on injured reserve. Morgan has survived our other projections because of his big-play potential, but he is raw. He lost a fumble against Houston, then scored the winning TD. If the Saints keep five receivers, he’s in trouble. If they keep six, he will probably make the roster.
TE/FB -- In: (5) Jimmy Graham, David Thomas, Michael Higgins, Jed Collins, Korey Hall. Out: Graham, Derek Schouman. Higgins appeared assured of a roster spot until the Saints traded for Graham. He still should be in good shape after catching two passes against Houston, increasing his preseason total to 11. Collins and Hall, the only fullbacks on the roster, are all but assured of spots.
OL -- In: (8) Jermon Bushrod, Jahri Evans, Brian de la Puente, Ben Grubbs, Zach Strief, Charles Brown, Matt Tennant, Eric Olsen. Out: Marcel Jones, DeOn’tae Pannell, Aderious Simmons. No change from the last projection. The only issue is whether the Saints will keep a fourth tackle (Jones) instead of Tennant and Olsen, who both can play center or guard.
DL -- In: (9) Sedrick Ellis, Brodrick Bunkley, Akiem Hicks, Johnson, Walker, Junior Galette, Cam Jordan, Turk McBride, Martez Wilson. Out: Alex Daniels, Braylon Broughton. The Saints figure to keep five interior guys and four outside guys if they go with nine linemen because DE Will Smith will return after a four-game suspension. Walker’s two sacks are the most for any New Orleans player in the preseason. The release of Ayodele indicates the coaches believe in Walker’s potential.
LB -- In: (7) Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring, Barrett Ruud, Ramon Humber. Out: Lawrence Wilson, Kadarron Anderson, Ezra Butler. Wilson had a chance to make an impression at the injury-depleted position against Houston and finished with only one tackle. Humber, who is out with a hamstring injury and will miss the first three games for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, is the better long-term choice.
DB -- In: (9) Patrick Robinson, Jabari Greer, Johnny Patrick, Corey White, Marquis Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jonathon Amaya. Out: Jose Gumbs, Jerico Nelson, Elbert Mack, Nick Hixson. This group should be set. Amaya made two tackles against Houston and played more than Jose Gumbs, an undrafted rookie from Monmouth who is his primary competition for one of the last spots on the roster. The other eight guys are locks.
Special teams -- In: (3) Garrett Hartley, Thomas Morstead, Justin Drescher. Out: John Kasay. Hartley was short on a 53-yard attempt against Houston, but that was not the type of miss that will cost him his job. Kasay has one more game to provide a compelling reason why the Saints should ignore his age (42). He’ll need help from Hartley.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on twitter @CBSSportsNFLNO.