New Orleans Saints OTAs: defensive line impressions
It's clear early that the New Orleans Saints under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo are going to use heavy shuttling along the defensive line. This is something New Orleans and most teams have been doing for some time, of course, but the Saints are shifting players from unit to unit and position to position.
At defensive end, for example, veteran Will Smith and second-year man Cameron Jordan are the starters. But given Smith's 4-game suspension when the season starts, the Saints are giving lots of reps to Turk McBride and moving ends Turk McBride, Junior Gallette, Greg Romeus and Martez Wilson in and out.
Romeus and Wilson are the intriguing members of that group, as Romeus spent last year out recovering from a major knee injury suffered his senior year at Pittsburgh, and Wilson is being moved from linebacker. The Wilson move, Spagnuolo and interim head coach Joe Vitt have indicated, was designed partly to take advantage of his superior speed on the edge and also his linebacker experience as, with more zone packages planned, the Saints like Wilson's ability to drop back into coverage.
Inside the shuttling is also fast and furious. Sedrick Ellis, for instance, even took some snaps with the third unit Thursday, although it appears he and Brodrick Bunkley, the free agent signed out of Denver, are currently the starters. Tom Johnson, beginning his second year with the Saints, is getting a lot of reps. On one snap, the Saints even lined Smith up at tackle, an unheard of move for the 9-year veteran.
Bunkley, it should be noted, has shown considerable hustle, not quitting on plays. He ran nearly the length of the field last week in an unsuccessful bid to catch quarterback Chase Daniel on what appeared to be a 60-yard scoring scramble, and Thursday he ran hard downfield after speedster Darren Sproles after a catch.
McBride, meanwhile, had an excellent edge rush Thursday.
It remains to be seen how Akiem Hicks, the Saints top draft pick in the third round last April, will fit into the mix but obviously he is yet another option the club feels will be able to contribute on the line and perhaps keep the interior there fresh to contribute something more than mere run stoppage.
Last year, the Saints added Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers as massive bodies in the middle but the team did not appear to get much production from that spot on the field.
New Orleans Saints OTAs: defensive line impressions - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com
Hicks will probably get more and more reps as the season goes on. He should prove to be a great 3rd round pick. I know some folks thought he would be there later but we wanted him and I hope he meets expectations.
At this point there is no telling what our starting 4-3 looks like.
I hope Hicks dominates. The entire line also.
Almost forgot about Bunkley ... we should be improved!
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