Before the start of the 2011 season the New Orleans Saints brought in two defensive tackles — signing Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun “Big Baby” Rogers — but neither truly made the impact the team had hoped.
Now both are unrestricted free agents and have little chance to return to the Saints for an encore season.
New Orleans then went and signed the best run stuffing defensive tackle available in free agency this year when Brodrick Bunkley agreed to terms on a 5-year, $25 million contract with the team.
Bunkley, a former first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006, was traded away to the Broncos after the Eagles acquired Cullen Jenkins last year.
He totaled 43 tackles with the Broncos last season and was one of the bright spots to a run defense that stiffened up dramatically towards the end of the season.
At 6’2 and 306 pounds Bunkley shatters the mold of the traditional “big belly” defensive tackle. He’s quick (4.94 forty-yard dash) and extremely strong (44 reps of 225 pounds).
Under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo the Saints defense needs to find ways to generate more pressure with their front four as they will not blitz anywhere near as much as they have in previous seasons.
So far Bunkley has looked the part during the Saints OTA sessions at their Metairie practice facility.
Acting head coach Joe Vitt continues to gush over free-agent pickup DT Brodrick Bunkley: “It’s all business (with him). This is his worst nightmare, being in a non-padded camp like this. He is all business. He is a contact player. I think that even in his shorts you can see the technique and the power and explosiveness that he possesses.”
New Orleans defense figures to be much better this season under the guidance of Spagnuolo, who has already installed more zone schemes that should help eliminate the Saints penchant for giving up big plays.
Spagnuolo has also toyed with numerous formations on the defensive line, rotating a variety of players in at a variety of positions.
Most notably during one series he kicked defensive end’s Will Smith and Cameron Jordan inside to defensive tackle, replacing them on the edge with speed rusher’s Martez Wilson and Junior Galette.
Bunkley should be able to provide the Saints with a serious inside pass rush along side starter Sedrick Ellis.
In six NFL season Bunkley has totaled 187 tackles, 6 sacks, and 7 pass deflections.