They are players you might not have heard of until the New Orleans Saints began training camp five weeks ago.
If you had heard of them you probably knew very little about them compared to what you know now.
But they’ll be front and center when the Saints close the preseason against the Los Angeles Rams (7 p.m. Thursday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome).
Many will start, most will play a lot, presumably all will get into the game.
The names aren’t Drew Brees or Cameron Jordan or Marshon Lattimore or Michael Thomas or Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara or Terron Armstead or Max Unger or Marcus Williams. Well, OK, one of them actually is named Marcus Williams, but that’s a story for later.
Saints play-by-play announcer Zach Strief, whose 12-year career as an offensive lienman with the team ended just a few months ago, told the New Orleans Quarterback Club on Tuesday that the fourth preseason game has always been something he has looked forward to.
As a player he recognized how important it was for players fighting for a job, the incentive of securing or maintaining gainful employment and continuing a long-time dream rivaling that of even a Super Bowl.
Strief entered the league as a seventh-round draft choice and had nothing guaranteed as a rookie or even a young veteran. Even after establishing himself over the years, in the most recent training camps he had to look over his shoulder at young, talented, hungry candidates to take his job.
Yes, Thursday’s game will feature few if any of the Saints’ best players. It won’t be played for the stakes of a regular-season game or with the skill or precision level we can expect to see in the season opener against Tampa Bay 10 days later.
But for most of the players who do compete Thursday night, the stakes couldn’t be higher. They’re fighting for jobs.
Many will get hired, many will not.
Those who do get hired will be part of a team with warranted Super Bowl expectations and they will have a hand, even it it’s a very small hand, in whether those expectations are met.
The names of the guys on the bubble – even those hanging on by their fingertips – are more familiar now:
Jonathan Williams, Shane Vereen, Boston Scott,Keith Kirkwood, Rick Leonard, Michael Ola, Don Barclay, Deon Yelder, Nate Wozniak, Cameron Tom, Devaroe Lawrence, Jay Bromley, Taylor Stallworth, Mitchell Loewen, Jayrone Elliott, Arthur Maulet, Natrell Jamerson, Kamrin Moore, and, oh yeah, Marcus Williams.
No not that Marcus Williams, not the second-round draft choice from Utah last year. Not the guy who started and had a really good rookie season. Not the guy who in Minnesota … well, no need to get into that again.
No, the other Marcus Williams, the five-year veteran who played with Jets and Texans. The guy who cost Craig Robertson a pick-six against the Chargers last Saturday because he committed pass interference, then made a pick-six of his own.
Maybe he makes the team and maybe he doesn’t.
But a few weeks ago when he signed he was merely a quirky namesake of a Saints starter. Now he’s a candidate to make some team, even if it isn’t this one.
There are others like him. Guys who were elsewhere when training camp began late last months, including Brandon Tate, likely the team’s No. 1 return specialist.
Most of these guys won’t be around when Tampa Bay comes to town, but a bunch will.
And the ones who do stick around will do so to a large degree based on how they perform Thursday night.