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Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game BY LUKE JOHNSON | STAFF WRITER JUL 8, 2020 It was not long after the New Orleans Saints drafted former Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun ...

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Old 07-09-2020, 08:19 AM   #1
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Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

BY LUKE JOHNSON | STAFF WRITER JUL 8, 2020



It was not long after the New Orleans Saints drafted former Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun that they made clear their intentions to use him as an off-ball linebacker, where his athleticism and intelligence could shine.

But an organization that has reaped the benefits of allowing versatile players to maximize their unique individual skills also sees the potential for a little bit more.

“We love the flexibility of the player,” defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “That was one of the things that was the most intriguing to us about him. There's a vision for this guy being able to move around and do some different things for us.”

Count Bobby April, Baun’s position coach at Wisconsin, as one who is excited to figure out what that ultimately means.

“There are so many tools they can play with,” April said.

The Saints might have drafted Baun because they believe he profiles well as a linebacker in their 4-3 defense, but they also hope Baun can use his tool belt to unlock a role as a backfield disruptor.

Baun spent a good portion of his breakout senior season with the Badgers harassing opposing backfields off the edge, recording 19 1/2 tackles for loss at 12 1/2 sacks in 2019 to finish in the top 10 nationally in both statistical categories.

And Baun didn’t just pile up numbers against bad teams. His five sacks against ranked teams — two against Ohio State, two against Minnesota and one against Michigan — tied for third nationally.

New Orleans’ overall vision for Baun is at the Mike and Sam linebacker positions — playing in space behind the defensive line, or off the ball. But as first-year Saints linebacker coach Michael Hodges said, there’s an additional situational piece to that plan.

“When we get to third down, that pass rush value — man, we're going to try to leverage the hell out of it,” Hodges said.

All of which should make the Saints’ chosen deployment of Baun one of the most interesting things to watch on the defensive side of the ball once training camp begins.

When meeting with local media shortly after the Saints traded up to select him in the third round, Baun said his positional fit at the NFL level was “kind of the big question” and that he was “most comfortable on the edge” because that is where he spent the majority of his time in college.

“But,” he said, “I consider myself a linebacker that can do a lot of different things and I think my versatility is my biggest attribute.”

This has been trained. His college defensive coordinator, Jim Leonhard, does not envision Baun having a problem fitting in wherever the team deems necessary. He said Baun’s athleticism is always the thing that pops off the game tape — the speed, power and playmaking ability in space.

Leonhard made sure to emphasize that last part — in space — because it wasn’t really until Baun’s final year at Wisconsin that they asked him to play more off the edge. The idea was to test Baun’s comprehensive defensive acumen, asking him to wear a variety of hats rather than narrowing his focus to his duties as an off-the-ball linebacker.

“We challenged him over the last year to learn, and we exposed him to play in the box,” Leonard said. “We had a pretty good idea that might be the next step for him, at least in some capacity.”

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Old 07-09-2020, 08:24 AM   #2
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Re: Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

Our defense has so much versatility now that there is no way an offense can have a clue what they are planning based upon personnel alone. Lineman can play inside or out. LB's float between standing to take the edge, dropping into coverage, and everything in between. The same sort of flexibility in the backfield. It's going to be exciting.
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Old 07-09-2020, 09:16 AM   #3
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Re: Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

This is Patriots-like. Multi scheme.
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Old 07-09-2020, 11:00 AM   #4
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Re: Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

The question will be "can Dennis Allen get this defense going before the season starts?" The last few years, it seams it's taken a few weeks into the season before the defense gets itself together.
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Old 07-19-2020, 11:49 AM   #5
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Re: Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

Originally Posted by Utah_Saint View Post
The question will be "can Dennis Allen get this defense going before the season starts?" The last few years, it seams it's taken a few weeks into the season before the defense gets itself together.
And that my friend is the biggest question mark for the season!
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Old 07-19-2020, 11:53 AM   #6
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Re: Zack Baun's flexibility? It's key for the Saints to maximize this part of rookie LB's game

Too bad we won’t find out until 2021.
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