The New Orleans Saints are not remotely the same team that won the NFC South last season and hosted a Wild Card playoff game. Between Drew Brees’ retirement, Michael Thomas’ ankle surgery, and a slew of free agency departures, there are massive changes all across the roster from last season.
The Green Bay Packers will be the first team to play against this newly reformed Saints roster, so we at Acme Packing Company took a look at New Orleans’ depth chart this week to start previewing the game. What we found was alternately bizarre, confusing, and truly shocking. Here are a few of the strange items we observed when examining the Saints’ official depth chart.
Since the Saints play a 4-3 base defense, they list three linebacker positions on the depth chart. The Mike linebacker spot is unsurprising, with the team listing Demario Davis as the starter and second-year pro Chase Hansen as his backup. But the Will (weak-side) and Sam (strong-side) linebacker spots show some strangeness on the depth chart. New Orleans lists four players at the Will position: starter Kwon Alexander, second-teamers Zack Baun and Pete Werner, and third-stringer Andrew Dowell. But on the strong side, only starter Kaden Elliss is mentioned. Will Baun or Werner move to the strong side if Elliss were to get hurt or need a breather? Yeah, probably, or maybe Alexander would switch sides. Who knows?
Like at the Sam, the Saints show no backup at center behind starter Erik McCoy. It is likely that starting right guard Cesar Ruiz would move inside if needed, giving way to backup Calvin Throckmorton (who is listed as the sole backup at both guard spots). Still, having no backup center listed is an intriguing choice.
The Saints are in a tough spot at defensive tackle. Their only proven player, David Onyemata, is suspended for the first few games of this season. That, combined with Sheldon Rankins’ departure in free agency and the trade of Malcolm Brown to the Jaguars in March, leaves the Saints with precious little experience at the tackle spot. A few of the names on the depth chart will be especially familiar to Packers fans, and not in a way that will inspire fear among the followers of the Green and Gold.
At one tackle spot, the Saints list Malcolm Roach and Shy Tuttle as the starter and backup, respectively. Roach played in nine games for the Saints last year as an undrafted rookie while Tuttle has played in all but three games over the past two seasons, pitching in with four starts. But at the other spot, we find two former Packers draft picks: Christian Ringo, a 6th-round pick back in 2016, is penciled in as the other starter at tackle, with Montravius Adams, Green Bay’s 2017 third-rounder, as his backup.
If this shocks you, it should. After running out his rookie contract last season, Adams signed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots early in free agency. However, the Patriots cut him at the end of training camp, and the Saints picked him up on Monday. But at least Adams has played football in the last two years; the same cannot be said for Ringo, who has not appeared in an NFL game since 2018, when he played in one game for the Dallas Cowboys and five for the Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, after the Bengals released him at the end of the team’s 2019 training camp, Ringo was out of football until last November, when he signed to the Saints’ practice squad. Now because of Onyemata’s suspension, he’s apparently going to start in week one against the team that drafted him five years ago.
Despite the amazing choice to plan on starting Christian Ringo at tackle, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Saints’ roster at present is the fact that they have no kicker on the 53. Their normal kicker, Wil Lutz, went on injured reserve after cut-down day, as the team presumably intends to bring him back after a few weeks’ time. On their depth chart, the Saints therefore have no kicker and no kickoff specialist listed.
New Orleans does have a kicker, Aldrick Rosas, on their practice squad, so barring something unexpected, he will receive a gameday elevation or a call-up to the 53 before Sunday’s game. But a team not carrying a place-kicker on the 53 with just days before their season opener is a truly bizarre situation, made possible only by the NFL’s expanded practice squad rules.