The New Orleans Saints “Bounty Gate” scandal has dominated the off-season headlines. It’s the story with more twists and turns than a Six Flags roller coaster — it just won’t go away.
Just when things seem like they are getting back to normal new evidence is presented, Jonathan Vilma files a new lawsuit, and more people close to the sport begin to question the legitimacy of the NFL’s shaky evidence.
Fan’s are ready to move on, the players are ready to move on.
But the Saints will move on eventually, the show will go on, and they will be their normally competitive self as long as Drew Brees is at the helm.
New Orleans has a roster full of talent that flies under the radar. Players like Martez Wilson and Patrick Robinson are both good examples, and where we will start as we examine the young talent over coming weeks.
Martez Wilson may have the most pressure to perform of the two. Drafted in third round last year as an outside linebacker, the Saints have made the decision to place him at right defensive end given the plethora of linebackers already available at their disposal.
The Saints are not ready to call the move a permanent one, but it would be shocking if they decided to move him back to linebacker after he impressed coaches at defensive end throughout training camp.
Wilson has embraced the new role as he likes the idea of being a pure pass rusher in comparison to his skill set.
During the 2011 NFL Combine he tested as the fastest linebacker in the forty-yard dash, and he could use that speed to be a disruptive force on the edge much like Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants.
More importantly for Wilson is the pending four-game suspension of starting right defensive end Will Smith, the penalty for his alleged involvement in the bounty system.
Smith — along with Vilma, Scott Fujita, and Tony Hargrove — tried valiantly to appeal the suspensions handed down by Roger Goodell. He of course has ultimate authority over the matter, and in the end decided to uphold the suspensions in full.
Unless a miracle occurs, Smith will be on the bench for the Saints first four games, leaving the starting role to Junior Galette and Wilson to co-habitate for the first quarter of the season.
In Steve Spagnuolo’s defense it’s imperative that the front four (two DT’s and two DE’s in base set) are able to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Gone are the days of Gregg Williams blitz happy formations.
Wilson will have to prove he can beat NFL left tackles consistently and not get swallowed up when defending the run. He will also be called on to drop into coverage, something that his background as a linebacker should benefit him greatly.
Patrick Robinson is now the sole number one cornerback on the right side, this after being contested for the spot most of last season by former starter Tracy Porter, who moved on to the Broncos in free agency this year.
Fans will probably recall Robinson’s shaky start to the season last year. Against the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers picked on Robinson most of the game, completing 5-of-5 passes against him for 80-yards and one touchdown.
Not the debut the team had in mind.
But Robinson played nicely for the Saints down the stretch, leading the team in interceptions with four, was second on the team in pass deflections with 15 all while notching 47 tackles.
According to PFF (Pro Football Focus) Robinson ranked ninth in the NFL with a 65.8 opposition quarterback rating against him during the 2011-2012 season.
In 2012 teams are going to go after Robinson early, given that he is opposite Jabari Greer, one of the best under-the-radar-lock-down cornerbacks in the NFL today.
Robinson will have to play a larger role in the Saints secondary as Spagnuolo will put him in more situations to make big plays in 2012 than he has even been in before.
He’ll play in more defensive snaps than ever before too, and how he responds will be a major factor in the overall effectiveness of the Saints pass defense this upcoming season.