04-13-2005, 02:13 PM
5000 POSTS! +
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: San Antonio, TX
The Draft and what I would give up for a TOP LB
Kelley, ask and ye shall receive:
Saints need youth and speed on DScouts Inc.
James Allen and Derrick Rodgers are expected to return, but ideally both have to compete for a starting job. Rodgers, who turns 34 this year, is coming off a season-ending back injury and hasn\'t made enough big plays when he\'s been healthy. While Allen is more likely to hold onto his starting job, he frequently gets caught out of position.
Colby Bockwoldt and Levar Fisher, an unrestricted free agent who signed during the offseason, should provide good depth. However, neither is ready to compete for a starting role. Fisher missed all of last year with a knee injury and Bockwoldt, who lacks ideal athletic ability, may never develop into a quality every-down player.
New Orleans needs a linebacker capable of pushing Allen and/or Rodgers, and it should be able to find one in the early rounds of the draft. Texas\' Derrick Johnson, Maryland\'s Shawne Merriman and Virginia\'s Darryl Blackstock have the speed, agility and burst to develop into the playmaker the Saints currently lack here.
StinchcombJon Stinchcomb is expected to step into the starting slot on the right side vacated by Victor Riley, who is an unrestricted free agent. However, Stinchcomb is a better pass blocker than run blocker, so he may be a better fit on the left side, and the departure of Riley has weakened depth.
The Saints should use a first-day pick on a tackle who has the potential to replace Stinchcomb on the right side. This would allow Stinchcomb to move to a backup role, where he should provide excellent depth. Mississippi\'s Marcus Johnson and Syracuse\'s Adam Terry are capable of filling this need and both should be available in the second round.
Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown are serviceable starters, but neither is a shutdown corner. McKenzie doesn\'t have the second gear to recover when he gets caught out of position and Brown isn\'t fast enough to run with premier vertical receivers. Their inability to hold up on islands limits the amount of times defensive coordinator Rick Venturi can blitz.
The good news is there is some depth here, as Jason Craft has re-signed and Fred Thomas is expected to return. Although Ashley Ambrose will likely have to take a pay cut to come back, he could return as well.
New Orleans should add a cornerback who is capable of pushing Craft for the nickel back role this year and has the size, speed and athletic ability to eventually replace Brown on the outside. Maryland\'s Domonique Foxworth and Howard\'s Ronald Bartell Jr. are projected first-day picks who have the natural ability to fill this need.
SullivanThe hope is that 2003 first-round pick Johnathan Sullivan finally starts realizing his awesome potential and wins the starting job opposite Brian Young. However, he failed to appear in the last eight games of last season, and the Saints need to start preparing for the possibility he continues to struggle.
While Howard Green does a nice job defending the run, he tends to wear down. Ideally, the Saints don\'t want him to play an every-down role like he did last year. Tony Bryant, who re-signed, is strictly a situational player and 32-year-old Willie Whitehead has had some problems staying healthy.
It\'s important to note that Young is an undersized one-gap defender who should play opposite a defensive tackle who can draw double teams away from him to be truly effective. As a result, the priority here will be adding a defensive tackle who has the bulk to occupy blockers at the line of scrimmage and enough quickness to develop into a starter.
SmithDwight Smith should be an upgrade at free safety over Tebucky Jones, who signed with Miami after New Orleans made him a cap casualty. However, strong safety remains a concern. Although Jay Bellamy plays with a mean streak and flashes the ability to deliver the big hit, he is an inconsistent open-field tackler and he has lost a step with age.
Mel Mitchell lacks great cover skills, and he too fails to wrap the ball carrier up far too often. Look for the Saints to add a safety who can push Bellamy for playing time and eventually replace him.
Todd Bouman will likely return to back up Aaron Brooks, but he turns 33 this year and is on the downside of his career. It\'s unclear if unproven No. 3 Kliff Kingsbury will be ready to assume that role when the time comes. Don\'t be surprised to see Saints use a middle-round pick on a quarterback.
An ankle injury slowed Deuce McAllister and played a big part in his numbers dropping last year, but he is among the best in the league when he\'s healthy. However, the Saints don\'t have a back on the roster ready to step in should he sustain another injury.
Aaron Stecker and Fred McAfee both lack the size to shoulder a heavy workload. Expect New Orleans to use a second-day pick on a back in an effort to improve the depth here.