Try to think of the New Orleans Saints defense in the last twenty years, specifically the linebacker position. Naturally the Dome Patrol comes to mind, consisting of Rickey Jackson (LOLB), Sam Mills (LILB), Vaughan Johnson (RILB) and Pat Swilling (ROLB). Together they formed what is widely considered to be the leagues fiercest, and all time greatest linebacker core’s in football history.
From 1987 to 1992 the quartet demolished opposing offenses with ease giving up 10 points or less in 27 games with 5 of those games being complete shut outs. They still remain as the NFL’s only complete set of linebackers to be voted into the Pro Bowl in 1992, and were the sole reason the Saints made the play-offs on four separate occasions during their tenure.
However from there, play- making linebackers are a rarity with the Saints, before the Dome Patrol and after. There have been some good players — LOLB Keith Mitchell (1997 – 2001), ROLB Renaldo Turnbull (1990 – 1996), MLB Winfred Tubbs (1994-1997) — but largely there are just not many impact players through the years.
Fast forward to the modern day Saints and their current group of linebackers. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is the captain of the defense and without question it’s best defensive player, but to each side the “star players” are just not there.
ROLB Danny Clark and LOLB Scott Shanle are tough. durable tacklers that seem to lack big play ability. Fans have long awaited an upgrade at each position, and it’s likely they will get just that this year as both Clark and Shanle are scheduled to become free agents.
New Orleans also drafted two linebackers this year in Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey, both from the University of Illinois.
Bussey was the Saints last pick in the seventh round. It appears at least from the beginning he will make his mark on special teams and as a backup.
Wilson on the other hand ,a third round pick, has everyone talking as well as hoping he can produce big numbers for the Saints at outside linebacker.