Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) runs for a touchdown as New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Parys Haralson (98) and outside linebacker David Hawthorne (57) and nose tackle John Jenkins (92) defend in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Needs: ILB, S, OLB
It’s pretty simple for the Saints on defense. They need to move on from David Hawthorne inside at linebacker, re-sign or replace Malcolm Jenkins at safety, and add another pass-rushing presence at outside linebacker in their 3-4. In addition, the usual depth adds for the defensive line and secondary are more than encouraged, but those three positions easily need to be their main focus on the defensive side of the football.
The success of the Saints on defense in 2014 is going to start and end with the production they get out of their inside ‘backers. Since they don’t have a shot at landing the top inside linebacker, C.J. Mosley, they’ll probably have to settle for a guy like Wisconsin’s Chris Borland in round two. He’s not the athlete Mosley is, but he has great instincts and is a reliable defender over the middle of the field. New Orleans could also look to free agency to cure their inside linebacker woes, where a guy like Jon Beason (who seemed to revive his career in New York) could be an interesting addition. Karlos Dansby and Brandon Spikes are two other interesting options, although both are likely to cost a lot more money.
New Orleans might think retaining Malcolm Jenkins is the right move, rather than look to the draft or free agency for a replacement. Unfortunately, he’s always been out of position at safety and makes too many mistakes. With Kenny Vaccaro nailing down the other safety spot, the Saints need to make sure their other safety can be counted on. Cleveland safety T.J. Ward would be the best guy to grab, but he won’t be cheap. Chris Clemons wouldn’t be a drastic downgrade and would probably come at a lower price at 30 years old. Of course, New Orleans could just do what they did last year with Vaccaro and improve safety again through the draft. Louisville safety Calvin Pryor is a big hitter with great instincts who could be a steal in the first round.
The last big area for the Saints is their pass rush. It was vastly improved in 2013, but they could still use some serious depth to rotate in and keep everyone fresh. They could over pay for someone in free agency, but no one jumps off the paper, so I like them to tackle this area in the draft. There are several very solid 3-4 OLB prospects in this year’s draft, with guys like Trent Murphy, Kyle Van Noy and Dee Ford being at the top of the list of outside rushers that should be readily available near the end of the first round or in the second.