Off-Season Analysis: LB's Wanted... Again
Off-Season Analysis: LB's Wanted... Again
By JoshuaBranning - SaintsReport.com Staff Writer - 3:18 pm CST
The LB's, as a whole, were an undisciplined, inattentive, and overmatched weakness that cost the Saints games. Still we stand put every off-season waiting on "If's" and "Maybe's" to develop miraculously. The truly disturbing part of this problem is that there are some talented players on this roster that have simply not progressed at all. This falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaches... Not just LB coach Winston Moss, but all the way to the top where Haslett resides.
1. Sedrick Hodge 6'2"245- Hodge is a good LB with a lot of tools. He has great speed and is terrific in coverage, but his run support is only average at best. He hasn't progressed at all since his days in North Carolina, just like all of the other young LB's on the roster. Because the details of the game seem to be afterthoughts for the whole group.
2. James Allen 6'2" 240- Lots of ability... Great speed and can rush the passer or drop back in coverage. There are questions about his ability to mentally grasp the scheme. He has the talent to be a very good player, but once again the young LB's are not developing into high quality starters. So Allen should stick as a backup/special teamer, but isn't in a position to become the player he can be.
3. Cie Grant 6'0" 225- Grant was brought in to be the new breed of MLB, but that extra weight has kept him on the sidelines for most of the year. He has college starting experience playing CB, FS, SS, and LB, but the smart move would be to slide Grant to WLB to take advantage of his speed and coverage ability. The Broncos did this with WLB Ian Gold and he has become an exceptional player.
1. Darrin Smith 6'1" 235- Has officially hit the wall as a player. Smith is intelligent, articulate, and a super locker room guy, but the time has come. He has done everything a professional athlete could hope to accomplish and I wish him the best of luck.
2. Orlando Ruff 6'3" 250- Ruff is extremely stiff and his run stuffing abilities were exaggerated by a coaching staff feeling the now lukewarm heat. Ruff also committed several special teams penalties during the year, but will be brought back to training camp. Hopefully the unit will be talented enough to afford Ruff a chance to catch on with another team early.
3. Derrick Rodgers 6'0" 230- Tremendous tools, good locker room guy, and is someone who certainly could be upgraded, but if he is brought back for one more year no one should complain. He could be a Great pass rusher, but he was never put in a position to attack and showcase his true talents. Really good player.
4. Roger Knight 6'0" 245- Strictly a special teamer... Doesn't appear to have the potential to develop into a starter.
1. MLB Randall Godfrey 6'2" 245 Seahawks- Jim Haslett called him a washed up two down LB, but Godfrey was head and shoulders better than what we have. He was also a great locker room presence for Seattle and that is where his true value resides. Because Godfrey might be slowing down, but three years ago he was, by some scouts accounts, the best MLB in football. To bring that kind of leadership and ability to this unit would be tremendous.
2. MLB Derek Smith 6'2" 245 49ers (Possible Cap Casualty)- Smith could be on the way out because of the 49ers cap problems and their younger LB's are ready to blossom. He has very good range, great instincts, and is a very likeable workmanlike player that younger players seem to love. His leadership would be a great addition.
1.WLB Ian "Crash Test" Gold 6'0" 220 Broncos- Gold is one of my favorite players in the league. He came to Denver an extremely undersized rush end, but developed into a vastly underrated all around LB. Gold's enthusiasm is contagious and his "Ear's penned back" mentality is a wonderful thing to watch. The only negative to Gold is that he tore a knee this year, but should be ready for camp because of his great genetics that have allowed him to recover at a record pace. If he was completely healthy I doubt the Saints would spend the amount of money needed to sign him, but because of the amount of young depth we have on this roster and Gold's never say die mentality the risk isn't so great that you don't take a chance on having a great leader and a great player.
2. WLB Julian Peterson 6'3" 235 49ers- Peterson is the most versatile player in the league. He has started for the 49ers at OLB, SS, DE, and CB. He also has a star quality that a team can market around. He has GREAT speed, good instincts, and is a very good all around LB with big-play ability. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers handle the off-season because having WR Terrell Owens, CB Ahmed Plummer, and LB Peterson hitting the open market at the same time puts the team in a rough situation. Something has to give and they can't keep all three.
1. MLB/OLB D.J. Williams 6'1" 240 4.5 Miami- Williams is one of the best athletes in the entire draft. He has tremendous range, great acceleration, and very good instincts. Has great hips for a man his size that should allow him to cover TE's and even some WR's. D.J. is also a very sure tackler because of how well he squares up. The bottom line is Williams has the look of a future All-Pro and would be a tremendous addition.
1-B. MLB Jonathan Vilma 6'1" 220 4.5 Miami- Vilma is a playmaker... Sure people can use words like short, light, and undersized to make the mighty proclamation that he'll never make an impact in the NFL, but in a cover two defense the MLB doesn't have to be huge overstuffed athlete... They just have to be fast, active, and put themselves in the right position. Vilma can do all this and more. Also another spot where Vilma truly stands out is his willingness to lead by example. He is a film room staple, gym rat, and a coaches best friend when it comes to playing hard and demanding more out of his teammates. He is just a terrific talent that is being labeled as too small, but should still be at the least a late second round prospect.
1. OLB Josh Buhl 5'11" 215 4.4 KSU (Forty is on KSU's fast track so probably is actually a 4.5 guy) - Buhl has terrific sideline to sideline range, a nose for the ball, great speed, terrific hips for coverage, and sensational instincts... So why is he currently listed as a second day prospect? He comes in at a massively mouse sized 5'11" 215 and thats on KSU lasagne day. And some scouts seem to dismiss anyone who doesn't fit the prototypical model of an NFL LB without actually watching a playmaker at work. Buhl's other negative is that he has trouble shedding blockers so teams try to run directly at him, but with continued progression on how to use his quick hands to escape would be blockers could allow him to overcome that in the pro's. Bluntly put- Buhl, at the least, will be a really talented special teamer that squares up extremely well on every tackle... For that alone he would be an extremely welcome addition.
2. OLB/MLB Bryan Hickman 6-3 230 4.5 KSU- Hickman is extremely bright. He is also one of the better coverage LB's available in the draft and appears to have the ability to play inside or out. Despite having a great size/speed ratio he isn't getting much respect and is being billed as a Fifth rounder, but by draft day he should jump into the third round where someone will land a steal. If somehow the Saints could walk away with both Hickman and Josh Buhl, the two have played together for nearly a decade, the team would have a dynamic duo to build a championship defense around. Great player.
The current LB situation is one of the worst in the league and a complete overhaul is needed, but that has been known for the last three seasons under Haslett. Still we have the very same holes we had last off-season and the year before. Mediocrity seems to be the order of the day, but hopefully with some injected veteran leadership at MLB and a young playmaker at WLB the LB's will gain confidence and begin to understand what it is to dominate a team.
This is a look at what could be next year's LB's corps...
SLB- Sedrick Hodge
MLB- Randall Godfrey
WLB- Ian Gold
4. D.J. Williams
5. Cie Grant
6. James Allen
7. Josh Buhl
Off-Season Analysis: LB's Wanted... Again
This article brings up one of the most frustrating aspects of Hasletts tenure with the Saints. His inability to bring in or develop LB talent. As a former LB one would think our LB\'s would be a stregnth rather than the glaring weakness that they are and have been for the whole Haslett era. This must change if we are ever to have a defense worth a damn. Moss is worthless should of fired him, not Alexander.
I dsagree with the article putting Rogers in the goner list although I do agree with the description of him., He was our best LB and would be a good complement to any additions we make.
I would love to see Godfrey in here, he would of been great here this year and can\'t believe we didn\'t try for him after the Titans released him. He can play and is the kind of leadership and stability we need. He should be able to be had for a reasonable cap price as well.
Al Wilson from the Broncos is another ILB I hope we take a look at. He is a pro bowler and the kind of tough we need. He has been in the league only 5yrs so he has plenty left in the tank yet is experienced as well. The Bronco\'s just drafted MLB Terry Pierce in the second round and liked his play so they might let Wilson go if the money gets to rich for them.
[Edited on 1/3/2004 by saint5221]
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