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Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Competition typically brings out the best in players. And if it is competition the New Orleans Saints desire, the team will have plenty of position battles on the roster in the months leading to training camp. But no group of ...

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Old 05-14-2017, 11:14 AM   #1
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Competition typically brings out the best in players.

And if it is competition the New Orleans Saints desire, the team will have plenty of position battles on the roster in the months leading to training camp.

But no group of players arguably commands the spotlight like the linebacker corps, where the middle, strong side and weak side positions are up for grabs in the Saints' 4-3 base defense.

"Going into the season, we're going to have competition," coach Sean Payton said. "There won't be any assumed starting positions; there will be very few of those. We've signed players this offseason, we've drafted players to those positions this offseason and we'll try to get the best combination of players out there."

The Saints will have plenty of options to consider in the search for the starting group, of course.



Craig Robertson, Dannell Ellerbe, Nate Stupar, Stephone Anthony, Hau'oli Kikaha and Travis Feeney remain on the roster.

The Saints bolstered the group during the offseason with the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te'o through free agency and the signing Adam Bighill from the Canadian Football League to a reserve/future contract. New Orleans also used the draft to select Alex Anzalone in the third round, and then signed Sae Tautu as an undrafted free agent.

With numerous players set for battle, linebackers coach Mike Nolan concedes it is too early to forecast how it will work out before the start of the regular season.

"I'm glad about that because the competition is going to be there for some time," said Nolan, who replaced former linebackers coach Joe Vitt. "The addition of Manti and Klein to the group, last year's starting group is back, hopefully Ellerbe can stay healthy and the whole corps, for that matter.

"And then to have drafted Alex, it's like I said, there will be a lot of competition for the three spots, so we're excited about that. And as you all know, the backup linebackers -- or linebackers just in general -- always contribute to the special teams, so hopefully that group helps our football team."

In addition to what currently shapes out as a deep collection of linebackers, the Saints have versatility.

Robertson, who anchored the linebacker corps in 2016 with a team-high 115 tackles (71 solo), recorded one start at the strong side position, seven starts at weak side and seven starts at middle linebacker, where he closed the past season.

Stupar logged four starts at middle linebacker and a start at strong side linebacker, and contributed a team-high 348 snaps on special teams.

Klein, who played the past four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, can play all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 base defense.

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Old 05-14-2017, 12:25 PM   #2
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

Yeah this linebacker competition will be legit !
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Old 05-14-2017, 01:18 PM   #3
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

Here's hoping Stephone Anthony takes a huge jump forward this year with Nolan's coaching....
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Old 05-14-2017, 02:14 PM   #4
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

I'll be interested to see what Adam Bighill does in camp.
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Old 05-14-2017, 08:24 PM   #5
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

When the competition stops, trade'em in for new ones!
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Old 05-14-2017, 09:21 PM   #6
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

I'm more excited about this group than any other. I really think Nolan is going to make a big difference.
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Old 05-15-2017, 07:33 AM   #7
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

Hoping our coverage improves at LB allowing us to stay in base 4-3 more often.
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Old 05-15-2017, 12:11 PM   #8
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

Who knows? Maybe LB'er will be a strength this year under Nolan with all this talent. Having quality LB'ers may mean less of the 4-2-5 look out of necessity but I wouldn't count on it.
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Old 05-15-2017, 03:39 PM   #9
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Re: Saints' Mike Nolan on linebacker position battles: 'Competition is going to be there for some time'

Yeah, the only way I see the 3-safety set happening with any frequency is if Kenny V is played like a LBer like Thomas Davis was early on in his career before he and the rest of the league realized he was a linebacker and no longer a safety...
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