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Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

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Old 08-16-2018, 03:52 PM   #1
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Old 08-16-2018, 03:53 PM   #2
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Re: Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

BY NICK UNDERHILL | NUNDERHILL@THEADVOCATE.COM AUG 16, 2018 - 11:52 AM

You never know what you’re going to see when you show up at Saints practice.

Most of the players will be in the same positions they manned the day before. Once in a while the strong safety might rotate, and there could be some changes on the offensive line depending on who is available, but it’s hard to know who is going to be standing in at linebacker. It might be A.J. Klein and Demario Davis in a base package, but then someone like Colton Jumper might be taking first-team reps another day.

So, in other words, if you’re trying to figure out who the starters are going to be and write it down in ink, good luck.

“We don’t even know. Every day is a new day,” linebackers coach Mike Nolan said. “Sometimes I say we could go this way; we could go that way. Just hopefully more than anything else we stay healthy, so they’re all playing. That will be great because if they are all playing, then we’ll be rotating them.”

The last part of Nolan’s statement is a good reminder of how far this group has come. Think back a few years. The team couldn’t find one middle linebacker it liked. Stephone Anthony didn’t know where he was going, and James Laurinaitis couldn’t stay healthy. It was a constant rotation – but not in a good way. Now, the Saints have three or four guys who are candidates for the position, and any one of them would be worthy of snaps, even if Nolan says he isn't sure there's a "superstar" in the group.

There’s no need to lay out an argument on the topic. It’s only a matter of time before the group proves it. The question that needs to be answered is how will it all work out. At that, we can make some guesses.

The most common grouping of linebackers so far has A.J. Klein on the strong side, Manti Te’o in the middle and Demario Davis on the weak side. In sub packages, which is what defenses use about 70 percent of the time, Klein and Davis have stayed on the field. During the first preseason game against Jacksonville, Klein wore the communication device, a job he fulfilled last season, and Craig Robertson took over when he entered the game, however, New Orleans thinks several other players could handle that responsibility.

This has been a bit of a surprise. Davis had his best season last year with the New York Jets while playing middle linebacker. A lot of people had him pegged for the same role here, with second-year linebacker Alex Anzalone playing on the weak side. The thinking was that Davis and Anzalone would give the team two rangy players. And while that is still possible, the team likes having Davis out in space where he can make more things happen.

That could potentially squeeze Anzalone, who started at middle linebacker against Jacksonville, out of the starting lineup. But the Saints don’t think it will be difficult to get everyone on the field. They want to find ways to use all of the linebackers.

“There’s not somebody that you’d be a little bit nervous about going in the game,” Nolan said. “A lot of times when you have an injury you try to hide him in the game plan, and you do certain things that just fit him. This group, we put the game plan together, and we proceed as (defensive coordinator Dennis Allen) calls it.”

One might assume it would be beneficial to settle in on a specific group of players and get them used to playing and communicating with one another, but the players argue the opposite. They believe that moving around and playing alongside different players makes the group stronger.

“I think it’s a strength because we got guys who know multiple positions and that just helps us understand the defense better,” Klein said. “In the long run that’s going to make us a better defense.”

Anzalone echoed that comment.

“It’s a big benefit. Everyone knows what they’re doing; everyone knows where to expect help from in the run game, in the pass game as well,” the second-year player said. “Multiple guys knowing both helps the overall defense.”

Davis doesn’t care where he ends up playing. He just wants to be part of this group, which he says is populated by “goons and savages” who he believes are capable and smart enough to make anything happen on the field. He said he came here to play with those guys and work in Allen's scheme. Whatever that looks like for him is fine.

So, he’s trying to find ways to do his part within the group. There are times he ends up playing middle linebacker in the subpackage, but he’s mostly been on the weak side for now. Still, as Nolan said, the team isn’t sure where everything will end up in the end.

“I am flexible, so I just try to adapt to my environment,” Davis said. “It’s like what Bruce Lee says, ‘Be like water.’ You put it in a cup, it fits to the cup, you pour it out, and it goes everywhere. I try to adapt to my environment.”

Sounds like a good mantra for the whole group.
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It's not that my way is the right way, I just make the right way my way...
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Old 08-17-2018, 09:39 AM   #3
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Re: Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

I've understood since last year when Coaches Payton, Allen, and Nolan revealed in interview they had versatile linebackers who played all three positons...

Ergo, week-to-week, the matchups, game plan, and that which will not be said will decide who plays where the linebackers would lineup, no. of snaps...

The days of static hard-fast lineups are done, it's all about matching up personnel and making their quarterback hold the ball, getting 'em to the ground
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Old 08-17-2018, 10:15 AM   #4
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Re: Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

In nickel situations, I'd like to see Davis & CRobertson.
Base .. Davis, Teo and Robertson.

I remember our brother Hagan was extremely high on AJ Klein as a starting caliber LB in NO, however after a year or so all I'm seeing from AJ is a depth linebacker at best.
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Old 08-17-2018, 10:31 AM   #5
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Re: Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

Good talent all around. Having Robertson and Anzalone as "backups" is a good thing. Both can play in the NFL.
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Old 08-17-2018, 01:51 PM   #6
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Re: Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

Originally Posted by K Major View Post
In nickel situations, I'd like to see Davis & CRobertson.
Base .. Davis, Teo and Robertson.

I remember our brother Hagan was extremely high on AJ Klein as a starting caliber LB in NO, however after a year or so all I'm seeing from AJ is a depth linebacker at best.
He might be a better player if he could tackle......he has to be the worst tackler on the team! Send him to a couple of rugby practices and he'll learn how to bring a player to the deck.
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Old 08-19-2018, 06:26 AM   #7
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Re: Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says

Originally Posted by K Major View Post
In nickel situations, I'd like to see Davis & CRobertson.
Base .. Davis, Teo and Robertson.

I remember our brother Hagan was extremely high on AJ Klein as a starting caliber LB in NO, however after a year or so all I'm seeing from AJ is a depth linebacker at best.
I'd like to know more details of Klein's injury(s) from last season as I suspect he's been more limited by those than Payton & Saints have disclosed...
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Where will the Saints linebackers line up Week 1? 'We don't even know,' New Orleans coach says This thread Refback 08-16-2018 04:11 PM 4


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