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TallySaint 08-09-2005 09:05 AM

Veteran D Line
 
Veteran line could crowd out rookies

Work ethic impresses coaches

Tuesday, August 09, 2005
By Jeff Patterson - Times Picayune

Jimmy Verdon knows the numbers don't stack up in his favor.

The rookie defensive end can look at the Saints' depth chart and see Charles Grant, Darren Howard, Will Smith and Tony Bryant listed ahead of him. The Saints defensive front is crowded.

On the second day of the NFL Draft in April, the Saints used their sixth- and seventh-round picks on defensive linemen Jason Jefferson and Verdon, respectively. With a veteran line in place, the chances of either cracking the lineup are slim.

"I was real excited and then I started looking, and they only have four defensive ends that looks like a good chance to make the team," Verdon said. "Then I realized who they were."

Even though Jefferson and Verdon have impressed the Saints coaching staff, neither is guaranteed a roster spot once it's trimmed to 53 players Sept. 4.

But both linemen have respectable résumés.

At Wisconsin in 2004, Jefferson, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound defensive tackle from Chicago, had three sacks and 25 tackles. Verdon, a 6-4, 280-pound defensive end from Pomona, Calif., was a second-team All-Pac-10 player at Arizona State last season. In 2004, he had 40 tackles, including eight for losses.

"Those guys are more athletic than you think," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "They are tough guys. They work hard. They're dependable."

Jefferson has been playing with the second-team defense.

"Very smart, very disciplined player," defensive line coach John Pease said. "It's amazing how quickly he's picked up a pretty complicated defensive system."

"We came in this spring and I just have been in the playbook ever since," said Jefferson, who has a degree in sociology. "That's the one thing you can control."

"It's one of the things we are starting to look for in the draft, guys who are not only good character guys and good football players, but guys who are good students," Pease said.

Jefferson likely will play the majority of his snaps with the second team, Pease said.

"Right now, this group is the same group we finished those last four games of last year. And to break into that group is going to be hard.

"If we're cooking, if we step back up and we just pick up where we left off, it would be stupid for us as coaches to mess with that too much."

Story continues...
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