Roman Harper, Anthony Hargrove Quietly Having Big Seasons For The Saints
The Saints are rolling right along this season winning eight games in a row while successfully setting a new mark for the best start in franchise history, as anyone will tell you these are not the Saints of old.
In the hype of this perfect start it can be easy to overlook the play of certain individuals on the team, after all it can be hard to outshine the play of free safety Darren Sharper and his league leading seven interceptions or Drew Brees and his Pro Bowl caliber field generalship.
But essentially that’s what has happened in New Orleans as the phenomenal play of strong safety Roman Harper and defensive tackle Anthony Hargove have gone relatively un-noticed until now.
Roman Harper has blossomed inside his new defense, lead by coordinator Gregg Williams, totaling a team leading 57 tackles on the season.
Harper has quickly become Williams’ best blitzer out of the backfield drawing comparisons to Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson, who is widely considered the best blitzing safety in the game today.
Harper’s ability to blitz the quarterback has resulted in numerous hurries, one sack and two forced fumbles on the season.
Harper totaled 12 tackles in the Saints last game against the Panthers, a career high, and was integral in thwarting the rushing attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the second half shut out pitched by the defense.
If he continues on his current pace he will end up with well over 100 tackles en-route to what should be a Pro Bowl year for the fourth year pro, his first of what will certainly be many.
Anthony Hargrove had the potential to be the Saints feel good story of the year, and so far he is well on his way to becoming just that.
Hargove has had a tumultuous professional career after being released by the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills for character issues and of course a slew of positive drug tests.
In 2008 he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after two failed drug tests roughly six months apart and it appeared his life and career where quickly spiraling out of control.
Hargrove however took the high road by following the advice of friends and family and checked himself into treatment for drug addiction during his 2008 suspension.
The half-way house gave Hargrove the tools he needed to get back on track and in February of 2009 the NFL re-instated him making it possible for him to sign with a team.
A few months later the Saints took a chance and signed him strictly on a tryout basis, Hargrove made the most of his second chance wowing coaches with his athleticism and versatility which earned him a spot on the final 53 man roster.
Slated to be the top backup at both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions Hargrove has been thrust into a starting role afer the injury to starter Sedrick Ellis during the game against the Miami Dolphins, and that is just fine by him.
Since he has taken over the starting duties he has totaled 11 tackles (24 season), three sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in the 2.5 game span.
Against the Panthers Hargrove recovered two fumbles, one for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which extended the Saints lead to two possessions and haulted any comeback attempt Carolina may have had.
His performance netted him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award which is the first time a Saints defensive tackle has held the honor since La’Roi Glover in week 13 of the 2000 season.
Comeback Player of the Year anyone?
Harper and Hargrove both have become integral parts of the Saints defense and their play has helped propel the team to it’s first 8-0 undefeated start in franchise history.
It’s not everyday a defensive player from the Saints make the Pro Bowl, and it would be a travesty if Harper or Hargrove do not get voted in, but they definately have my vote.
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