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A Look at the Defensive Line

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; NewOrleansSaints.com Monday, July 23, 2007 - 12:00 PM DEFENSIVE LINE (numerical order from lowest to highest) DE Willie Evans: 1st Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints DT Lance Legree: 6th Season in the NFL; 1st Season with ...

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Old 07-21-2007, 06:56 AM   #1
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Cool A Look at the Defensive Line

NewOrleansSaints.com
Monday, July 23, 2007 - 12:00 PM


DEFENSIVE LINE (numerical order from lowest to highest)

DE Willie Evans: 1st Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints
DT Lance Legree: 6th Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints
DT Brian Young: 8th Season in the NFL; 4th Season with the Saints
DT McKinley Boykin: 1st Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints
DE Anton Palepoi: 5th Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints
DT Rodney Leisle: 4th Season in the NFL; 4th Season with the Saints
DT Brandon Villareal: 1st Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints
DE Will Smith: 4th Season in the NFL; 4th Season with the Saints
DT Kendrick Clancy: 8th Season in the NFL; 1st Season with the Saints
DE Rob Ninkovich: 2nd Season in the NFL; 2nd Season with the Saints
DE Charles Grant: 6th Season in the NFL; 6th Season with the Saints
DE Jon Hamm: Rookie
DT Antwan Lake: 5th Season in the NFL; 5th Season with the Saints
DE Josh Cooper: 2nd Season in the NFL; 2nd Season with the Saints
DT Hollis Thomas: 12th Season in the NFL; 12th Season with the Saints


Brian Young is a rugged veteran who has been a mainstay on the defensive front since being signed by the Saints as an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2004, starting all 47 games he has appeared in. Young’s consistency has been a hallmark of his career in New Orleans, as each year he has ranked among the defensive line’s top tacklers. In 2006, he started all 16 games and ranked third on the club with 5.5 sacks, his highest total since 2001. Young also posted 57 tackles and a fumble recovery – the eighth of his career. He has paid dividends since joining the club by being one of the defense’s most consistent and hard-working performers. For his career – including his stint with the St. Louis Rams from 2000-03 – Young has played in 107 games, with 78 starts, and recorded 484 tackles, 18.5 sacks, an interception and a pair of forced fumbles. A could be slowed early in training camp by a foot injury that he suffered while working out prior to the start of camp.

Will Smith, in his first season as a full-time starter in 2006, became a leader of the defensive line and emerged as one of the NFL’s top defensive ends. He was voted to the Pro Bowl and finished tied for 14th in the NFL with a career-best 10.5 sacks. Smith played in 14 games, sitting out the finale with the Saints having clinched a playoff berth and also missing one contest with a knee injury. The club’s No. 1 pick in 2004 has been a force since his arrival in New Orleans, notching 26.5 sacks in just three seasons, the second-most in club history in so short a span (Charles Grant, 27.5, 2002-04). Smith brings energy, toughness and a hard-nosed approach to each game, setting the tone for the entire defensive front, and he’s equally strong against the run. In his brief career, he has started 27-of-46 games and posted 200 tackles (142 solo), 10 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Kendrick Clancy was a free agent signing by the Saints in June, and adds depth and experience to the interior of the defensive front. Originally a third-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers (72nd overall) in 2000, he is a veteran of 80 career NFL games and started 30 games over the last seven seasons in stints with Pittsburgh, the New York Giants and the Arizona Cardinals. Clancy has recorded 106 career tackles (82 solo), three sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Charles Grant has been a cornerstone of the Saints’ defense since he arrived as a first-round pick in 2002, and with 36 has more sacks over that span than any other defender on the club. He teams with Will Smith to give New Orleans one of the NFL’s top tandems at defensive end, as both are active against the run and relentless pass rushers. Grant had one of his best seasons in 2006, leading the defensive line with 71 tackles, posting six sacks, deflecting four passes at the line of scrimmage, tying for the team-high with three forced fumbles and leading the club with two fumble recoveries. No player in team history has posted more sacks in his first three seasons than the 27.5 Grant had from 2002-04. He is an extremely durable player who has never missed a game in his career, starting 68 of 80 contests, including all 16 games in 2006. Grant was selected 25th overall in 2002 and had seven sacks that season, the fourth-highest total ever for a Saints rookie.

Hollis Thomas, a massive defensive tackle, opened a new chapter of his career in New Orleans in 2006 and responded with one of his best seasons, immediately emerging as a key piece of the Saints’ resurgent defense. While he fortified the middle against the run and had 49 tackles, Thomas’ contributions aren’t always best measured by statistics. His strength and ability to occupy at least two opposing blockers helped the other defensive linemen combine for 25 sacks. And while stuffing the run is his where he has built his reputation around the NFL, Thomas also helps crush the pocket on passing downs. He had 3.5 sacks last season, the most since he had 4.0 with Philadelphia in 2000 and his first sacks since that season. Thomas has started 107 of 138 games in his career and has notched 600 stops (364 solo), along with 17 sacks, nine forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. He also has a wealth of postseason experience, including appearing in Super Bowl XXXIX.

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