From the moment Scott Fujita departed in free agency to the Cleveland Browns the Saints have sought out an internal replacement to the former four-year starting strong side linebacker, that internal replacement just never really materialized
New Orleans would go on to sign former Jaguar outside linebacker Clint Ingram earlier this off-season in hopes he could step in and replace or better Fujita’s production. Unfortunately Ingram’s recovery from knee surgery did not progress as the Saints had hoped and he ended up being placed on the PUP list.
Now he is unavailible to the team until at least after week six of the regular season.
Then there was the emergence of promising young second year linebacker Jonathan Casillas at the weak side linebacker spot who played so well in the preseason was promoted to the starter.
Casillas promotion allowed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to slide over current starting weak side linebacker Scott Shanle to the strong side. All seemed well and it appeared Williams was content to enter the 2010 season with Vilma, Shanle and Casillas as his starting linebacking core.
However Casillas was lost for the season with a foot injury he suffered in the final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, back to square one.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, another promising young linebacker, may resume the starting role at strong side linebacker. Dunbar had been running with the first team defense there for most of the preseason before the switches made by Williams.
Shanle likely will move back to his natural role at weak-side linebacker but Williams could opt to keep Shanle on the strong side exclusively.
Veteran linebacker Danny Clark was signed by the team yesterday after his release from the New York Giants. Clark spent the 2006 season with the Saints in a backup role to then starter Mark Simoneau but has been a starter with virtually every team he has been with including the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders.
Clark can play strong side linbacker and middle linebacker but was obviously brought in to shore up the strong side so the possibility exists that Clark could be lined up as the starter at strong side this week when the Saints face the Vikings.
Gregg Williams has gone on record several times stating he is not afraid to use a rotation of linebackers based on the given situation on the field to better utilize all of the talents of each individual backer. It is possible that fans will see “multiple packages” at linebacker throughout the course of the game.
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