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TheOak 01-23-2014 01:30 PM

New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
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This is the seventh installment in a 10-part series where we take a glimpse at every New Orleans Saints position group and assign a grade for 2013.

LINEBACKERS

Whether it was because of injuries to Victor Butler, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma before the regular season or another factor, the Saints ultimately ditched the 3-4 scheme for the most part and lined up in more of a 4-2-5 formation as their base defense.

That meant we saw mainly Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne as the linebackers. Lofton lived up to expectations, being the solid tackler and defensive leader in the middle, while Hawthorne exceeded expectations after a lackluster 2012. Parys Haralson received much of the playing time as a third linebacker, while the rest of the group saw spot duty and roles mostly on special teams.

There were far more positives than negatives for this group, which might not have been the case in previous years under Sean Payton.

CURTIS LOFTON

The Saints' middle linebacker was one of few bright spots on the team's 2012 defense. He continued his heady play in 2013 by leading the Saints with 125 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Blitzing was a bit of a change from Lofton's previous role, as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan sent him up the gut nearly every game. And it was effective.

New Orleans ought to feel comfortable at middle linebacker for a few years with Lofton manning the position.

DAVID HAWTHORNE

Hawthorne initially didn't seem like a sure fit as injuries, spotty play and a high price tag presented all of the makings of a bad free-agent signing in 2012. But a healthy Hawthorne meshed well with the defense this season.

His 91 total tackles ranked second on the Saints behind Lofton. Ryan didn't hesitate sending Hawthorne after opposing passers, either, as the Saints' linebacker picked up three sacks. Hawthorne also led the team in postseason tackles with 15 total stops, including 10 solo tackles.

Lofton and Hawthorne should provide the Saints with a nice 1-2 punch for the next couple of seasons.

PARYS HARALSON

The Saints were in need of a veteran body after the rash of injuries during the preseason and obtained Haralson from San Francisco. Although he started eight games, Haralson was more of a situational player.

But don't take that as a knock on Haralson, who served his purpose when Ryan was able to employ some 3-4 looks and other alignments when an outside linebacker was needed. Haralson piled up 30 total tackles and 3 sacks in the regular season.

He tore his pectorial muscle in the playoff win at Philadelphia and missed the Seattle loss. Haralson is an unrestricted free agent, so his time with the Saints might already be up.

WILL HERRING

The veteran came back to the Saints in 2013 at a reduced salary and again found his niche as a special teams staple. Herring served as New Orleans' special teams captain and ranked second with 11 tackles on coverage units. Herring will be an unrestricted free agent in March.

RAMON HUMBER

The fifth-year defender started three games and tallied 29 total tackles and a half sack. Humber performed well during the preseason but remained a backup and spot player throughout much of 2013. He mainly served as a special teamer, compiling nine total tackles. Humber will be an unrestricted free agent.

KEVIN REDDICK

The undrafted rookie played primarily on special teams coverage units as he led the Saints with 13 total tackles. With other linebackers being free agents, there's a possibility Reddick may get more playing time on defense in 2014.

KEYUNTA DAWSON

Dawson's arrival in New Orleans leading up to Week 6 meant the beginning of the end for 2011 third-round pick Martez Wilson. Dawson served as more of a defensive end in specific packages, but a calf injury sidelined him for five games. He will be an unrestricted free agent.

Dawson did create one of the bigger plays of the season in Atlanta. He forced a fumble with the Falcons deep in Saints territory, allowing cornerback Corey White to pounce on the ball to help secure the win.

KYLE KNOX

The Saints added Knox to the 53-man roster off the practice squad on New Year's Day. He'll fight for a roster spot in 2014.

VICTOR BUTLER/JONATHAN VILMA/WILL SMITH

Butler (June) and Smith (preseason) each sustain season-ending ACL tears, while Vilma began the season on injured reserve/designated to return. Vilma played in only one game and then the Saints placed him on IR.

Butler will likely be the only player of the trio to return in 2014. Vilma is an unrestricted free agent. Smith is a top candidate to become a salary cap casualty. Cutting him would save the Saints $11.55 million.

Overall position grade: B

New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers | NOLA.com

hagan714 01-23-2014 01:51 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
pass defense and anchoring the edge the group grades out at a D-

were is Jr ?

Utah_Saint 01-23-2014 01:52 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
It's probably a good sign to see that the linebackers and NOT the safetys lead the team in tackles.

Utah_Saint 01-23-2014 01:53 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hagan714 (Post 575435)

were is Jr ?

I was curious about that too. They must've considered him a DE?

Cruize 01-23-2014 01:54 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
Trade up for Mack or hope Attaochu is still around in the third.
1 - OT Moses
2 - CB Jean-Baptiste
3 - OLB Attaochu
4 - WR Janis
5 - ILB Jackson
6 - S Sunseri

rezburna 01-23-2014 02:12 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Utah_Saint (Post 575437)
I was curious about that too. They must've considered him a DE?

He was playing mostly DE by the end of the year. Like they said, we started running a 4-2-5 and 4-3 most of the time due to lack of depth.

teddybarexxx 01-23-2014 02:18 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
well who dats you know my m-o, try to keep everyone (if you can). my reason for this is i feel in order for a team to be effective you have to stay around long enough to become a team versus "just another guy" in the locker room. remember the days before free agency? teams remain dominant because guys were there long enough to gel with each other. so if we can resign a lot of our free agents and perhaps bring in some new young talent especially in the wr position and ol position i feel our chances of getting back to superbowl form will be great!

Jack Vegas 01-23-2014 02:19 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
Must be considering Galette a DE, which is fair since we did play a majority of the time in 4-man fronts.

I love the Lofton/Hawthorne combo. Talk all you want about their supposed lack of coverage ability, but we had the #2 pass defense and I can't recall any time where opposing running backs and tight ends really gave them issues. I like the way they attack the run too; I think Ryan's scheme is set up to be somewhat vulnerable to the run in favor of rushing the passer. BUT, when they really wanted to lock it down on a running back, they did it with flying colors.

Haralson, I also really like and wish he had more playing time. This is JMO but I felt like we were much better against the run when he was in there. If his injury isn't too terrible I would like to see him back, I think he could contribute a lot more as a strongside 4-3 guy as well, when we need that.

No problem with Herring, decent special teamer but I think we can move on. Humber is just as good on special teams and actually has starter potential and is just an all-around better player, IMO. He is more than ready to take on a bigger role. Same for Reddick. I would love to see what he's got, but when you look at how Lofton and Hawthorne have performed at those ILB positions it's hard to find a reason to play somebody else.

IMO we are incredibly thin at the OLB/end rush spot if we want to have any semblance of being a 3-4 defense. Galette is solid, but you'd like him to be more consistent and we still don't know anything about Butler and he's coming off a major injury. Potentially Galette/Butler/Haralson is a very good OLB rotation but those last two are pretty major question marks. Hopefully somebody like Rufus Johnson or Dawson really steps up and makes a claim for a spot, or maybe we draft somebody. I wonder if the Martez Wilson experiment wasn't ended a little prematurely because he did at least seem to do a good job of rushing the passer and was a pretty hard-nosed guy.

I look forward to these positional breakdowns a lot. Should be interesting discussion.

TheOak 01-23-2014 02:46 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by teddybarexxx (Post 575446)
well who dats you know my m-o, try to keep everyone (if you can). my reason for this is i feel in order for a team to be effective you have to stay around long enough to become a team versus "just another guy" in the locker room. remember the days before free agency? teams remain dominant because guys were there long enough to gel with each other. so if we can resign a lot of our free agents and perhaps bring in some new young talent especially in the wr position and ol position i feel our chances of getting back to superbowl form will be great!

Cant do what you keep repeating... We had a 53 man roster and if we sign them all as you want, we cant bring in anyone or draft anyone.

We are full.

Care to discuss or just posting the same thing repeatedly?

halloween 65 01-23-2014 05:59 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: linebackers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Cruize (Post 575438)
Trade up for Mack or hope Attaochu is still around in the third.
1 - OT Moses
2 - CB Jean-Baptiste
3 - OLB Attaochu
4 - WR Janis
5 - ILB Jackson
6 - S Sunseri

I like the#5 Andrew Jackson pick, patterns his play after Ray Lewis. We will need 1 more good ILB to run a good 3-4.


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