Saints react to change in cuts
Backups to get more audition time, while starters may play part time in just two preseason games
Quarterback Drew Brees and running backs Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson didn’t take the field in the New Orleans Saints first preseason game of 2017. There was no reason for them to play; the trio will definitely make the final roster. Keeping them out of the game didn’t have much to do with their health. Rather it gave Saints coaches more time to evaluate other players further down the roster.
In May, NFL owners eliminated the league-mandated first set of 15 player cuts required during training camp. Now, instead of going from a 90 players to 75 to 53 in preseason, there will be one cut from a 90-man preseason roster to a 53-man regular season roster.
The change gives teams more time to evaluate down-the-roster players’ strengths, weaknesses, ability to learn schemes, and overcome injury. It really improves the chances for borderline players who are hoping the bubble they and their professional football dreams are riding on doesn’t burst.
While it increases the stress of trying to get to the appropriate number of players for the league’s coaching staffs, it’s good for players. Now, 480 players (15 per team) will see more preseason playing time. That gives them a leg up in making a team’s regular season roster or practice squad.
As usual, starters will see the majority of their preseason action in the second and third games. Usually they play a series, maybe two, in the first preseason game and none in the fourth, simply to avoid injuring starting players.
For the Saints, it means expected second-string quarterback Chase Daniel got to start against the Cleveland Browns last night. It also gave the option for Sean Payton and his coaches to get a longer look at evaluating Garrett Grayson and Ryan Nassib for the third-string job. This will be crucial for Grayson, a 2015 third-round draft choice who has underwhelmed the Saints staff thus far. Once seen as a potential replacement for Brees, this seems to be a make or break preseason for Grayson’s future in New Orleans.
The change will also be better for morale in every locker room across the league. Cut days are difficult and emotional. As anyone who has been with a company going through layoffs knows, it’s easier for everybody to go through it once, rather than having the stress of ongoing cuts and the coming axe hanging overhead. It will also limit the daily stress of worrying that a single mistake could affect a player’s status.
The change will also mean that each of the NFL’s 32 teams will cut 37 players at once, making 1,184 free agents available for immediate pickup. That will make for a wildly interesting week, as teams sift through cut players to bolster the holes in their rosters.
Many argue there are too many preseason games and think the NFL should cut back the number from four to two or three. The elimination of the first cut will allow for greater evaluation for the teams, but fans may feel they are losing out. The league charges the same price for preseason games as regular season games, but the quality is not nearly the same. It is understandable that coaches want to see their potential players in as much game action before setting their rosters. But if the new trend means stars will only play part of the second and third games while sitting out the first and last, fans will be upset as they’re not getting what they’re paying for.