The Saints put the finishing touches on the preseason Thursday night with a 16-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The final exhibition game, though, is never about the final score or starters, as quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara, wide receiver Michael Thomas, defensive end Cameron Jordan and cornerback Marshon Lattimore were among many players on both sides of the ball not participating in the action.

Nevertheless, there are still areas to takeaway from the game, including:

HARRIS DO ENOUGH FOR ROSTER SPOT?

Rookie wide receiver Deonte Harris did enough to show he deserves the nod at returner in the first three preseason games, and that scenario likely solidified Thursday night.

Instead of Harris lining up to take the first kickoff return, the Saints put in wide receiver Cyril Grayson Jr. Harris also didn't field the first punt and was involved on offense.

The latter part is extremely important because Harris could make the roster as either the fifth or sixth wide receiver. One of the biggest question marks surrounding the 5-foot-6, 170-pound Harris was whether he could contribute elsewhere outside of returning. He caught two passes for 18 yards in last weekend's preseason matchup against the New York Jets, and followed up with a catch for 1 yard and a 9-yard run on an end around in the second quarter.

After halftime, Harris' night was over and now he will wait out the decision period, which appears to lean in his favor.

Cornerback Marcus Sherels, who signed a one-year deal during the offseason, did not dress for the fourth straight preseason game. Sherels joined the team with returning in mind, but the missed time for an undisclosed injury clearly opened the door for Harris.

ROOKIE DB SHINES

Rookie safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson enjoyed a good opening series against the Dolphins, totaling three tackles. One of the plays involved a 2-yard tackle for a loss.

Gardner-Johnson's position on the initial 53-player roster shouldn't be in question given his performances in training camp and preseason action. The Saints covet versatility in their players, and Gardner-Johnson provides flexibility to play safety or cornerback. He has also taken pregame warm-up repetitions at returner.

On the game against Miami, Gardner-Johnson finished with five tackles.

BACKUP WARS

With a total of 37 players not dressed for the preseason finale, the game was obviously about the backups, especially players still in battles at key depth positions.

Cornerback Ken Crawley, whose roster spot isn't a certainty, made a case to remain with a nice pass breakup in the end one. Will Compton, who recently signed in the wake of injuries to Alex Anzalone and Craig Robertson, had five tackles before leaving with an ankle injury, according to a report on the TV broadcast.

Rookie linebacker Kaden Elliss put the finishing touches on an outstanding training camp and preseason with seven first-half tackles against the Dolphins.

BUSHROD RETIRES

Jermon Bushrod knew it was time to hang up his cleats.

On offense, Michael Ola got the start at left tackle with Terron Armstead not playing, while Patrick Omameh got the nod at right tackle with Ryan Ramczyk not dressed. The Saints need a swing tackle, so Ola and Omameh had to make a statement with the playing time, and then hope they did enough to show out on film for the coaching staff.

Deep inside, the offensive tackle still has the desire to play. But after 12 professional seasons, seven with the New Orleans Saints, the 35-year-old Bushrod had to start listening to his body.

"My heart's always going to be in it, but my mind and body kind of gave me the answer," Bushrod said Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "In my heart of hearts, I'll be 55 years old and feel like I could still go block somebody. You know it's not going to happen, but that's jut the competitor in me."

Bushrod announced his retirement from the NFL during a third-quarter appearance on the Saints television network.

He will sign a ceremonial one-day contract Friday and retire as a member of the Saints.

Even though he played for Chicago Bears (2013-15) and Miami Dolphins (2016-17), his decision to leave as a Saint proved easy.

"I had a lot of real good years here," Bushrod said. "We won a Super Bowl here. I had the opportunity to come back here, and this place just means a lot to me."

Bushrod easily had his best professional seasons in The Big Easy since entering the league in 2007 as a fourth-round pick out of Towson with the Saints.

He was a key contributor on the offensive line during the Saints' run to a Super Bowl championship in 2009. From 2007-12, Bushrod emerged as one of the league's best blockers while totaling 62 starts en route to Pro Bowl selections in 2011 and 2012.

Bushrod returned in 2018 on a one-year contract and started five games in place of an injured Terron Armstead.

After not returning during the offseason, Bushrod still had options and said "four or five teams" reached out to him to see if he would be interested in playing for them.

Bushrod, though, elected to stay retired. He said he's content with the decision to walk away from football.

"I feel good about it," he said. "I don't feel bad. It's a time to be celebrated. I've done everything in this league that I ever wanted to, things I thought I never would do, so I'm blessed, fortunate. God's been good to me."