Aug 9, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Rufus Johnson (59) and defensive end Tyrunn Walker (75) and defensive tackle John Jenkins (92) and defensive end Glenn Foster (74) against the Kansas City Chiefs during a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Chiefs 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Not so long ago, I brought you a segment on the youthful players on the New Orleans Saints roster. While the previous article highlighted 14 one-year and two-year offensive players on the roster, there aren’t as many on the other side of the ball. Today, we finish our mini-series on the New Orleans Saints ‘youth movement’ by previewing the defense and the lone special teamer.
#40 – Derrius Brooks, Cornerback (1st year, Western Kentucky)
Brooks is an interesting prospect for the New Orleans Saints. He’s another product of the CFL (Canadian Football League) that joined the team at the very end of last season. Brooks previously played with the Calgary Stampeders in 2013, where he had 35 tackles, six interceptions, and six pass breakups in his 11 games played. Brooks actually was converted from wide receiver to cornerback in his junior year with Western Kentucky, and has a strong background in track. Brooks is a bit undersized as a cornerback by today’s NFL standards at 5’10”, but the team had to have seen something appealing to lure Brooks away from Canada. Maybe it was the food?
#20 – A.J. Davis, Cornerback (1st year, Jacksonville State)
A.J. Davis has one game under his belt in the NFL,and that was the 2012 season finale with the Saints and Panthers, where Davis played on special teams. Davis has had a troubled past in terms of injuries, as he has landed on injured reserve multiple times. Davis’ injury history isn’t the most encouraging, but should he stay, he’s likely going to stick to the team with a special teams role.
#34 – Terrence Frederick, Cornerback (1st year, Texas A&M)
Terrence Frederick entered the Saints organization courtesy of Kenny Vaccaro’s season ending injury against Carolina. Originally, Frederick was a seventh-round draft choice by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012. Frederick joined the New York Giants later in the year after being signed off of the Steelers practice squad. Frederick would actually play in two games with the team. The Giants would eventually waive him on August 31, 2013. Frederick played in the season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and like Derrius Brooks, he’s a bit undersized at 5’10”. However, like Brooks, it appears his value is directly in special teams coverage, but could be used in slot corner coverage.
#59 – Rufus Johnson, Linebacker (1st year, Tarleton State)
If you haven’t been told before, I’ll tell you now to become familiar with Rufus Johnson, who plays outside linebacker for the Saints. Johnson was only the fourth player ever taken from Tarleton State, which is located in Stephenville, Texas. The team liked him so much that they drafted Johnson in the sixth round last year, which made him the highest drafted player out of Tarleton State. Johnson has appealing size at 6’5″, 272 pounds, and while he may not see immediate action playing behind Junior Galette, Victor Butler, and Parys Harlason, Johnson is one to keep an eye on.
#58 – Kyle Knox, Linebacker (1st year, Fresno State)
Like I previously stated with Johnson, Kyle Knox is another name to become familiar with. He’s another outside linebacker on the depth chart. After joining the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted rookie free agent, Knox would not survive final cuts, be brought back to the team’s practice squad, and then cut again on August 26, 2013. Knox would find a home with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the beginning of the 2013 season, and would see action in the first four regular season games for the Jags. However, Knox would be waived after that game. Fortunately, Knox would find a home in New Orleans on the practice squad. Knox would be promoted to the active roster towards the end of the season, and has since stayed on. There’s an extreme amount of opportunity for Knox, and you’re likely to hear his name a few times in the preseason at the very least.
#97 – Glenn Foster, Defensive End (2nd year, Illinois)
Glenn Foster was one of the many undrafted rookie free agents who were called upon to play for the New Orleans Saints in 2013. Foster entered primarily because of injury problems, but took advantage of the situation. Foster would tally three sacks on the season, and play in twelve games for the team. Although the primary focus on the defensive line tends to be Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan, Glenn Foster plays a crucial role in Rob Ryan’s defense. With the departure of Tom Johnson, Foster is likely to see a large increase from his 21% of defensive snaps a season ago.
#92 – John Jenkins, Nose Tackle (2nd year, Georgia)
Although veteran Brodrick Bunkley was pegged to be the nose tackle for the New Orleans Saints in 2013, rookie John Jenkins took the majority of the snaps (432-248). Jenkins was the result of the Chris Ivory trade to the New York Jets. It’s nice to see that the team finally has a dedicated nose tackle, and Jenkins ‘fits the bill’ at 6’3″, 359 pounds. Jenkins impressed early, and will take on an even larger role this season.
#52 – Kevin Reddick, Linebacker (2nd year, North Carolina)
You don’t ever hear much about the guys who play inside linebacker behind veterans Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. While I don’t believe that’s a bad thing, depth behind those two count for something. Kevin Reddick played in all sixteen regular season games for the black and gold, and perhaps best of all – is officially another undrafted rookie free agent find that answered the call to action for the 2013 Saints. Reddick should be back in full force next season, and should continue to make some strong noise for the team in 2014.
#38 – Rod Sweeting, Cornerback (2nd year, Georgia Tech)
In my opinion, Rod Sweeting was one of the Saints players that completely flew under everyone’s radar in 2013. Sweeting appeared in nine games for the team during the season, and as a backup cornerback, he would see the majority of action on special teams. Although he only played in just 15 defensive snaps last season, Sweeting has a chance to increase his role for 2014, but will have a lot of outside competition amongst the other younger corners like Brooks, Davis, and Frederick. However, Sweeting has an advantage with his appearances last year in the regular season.
#32 – Kenny Vaccaro, Safety (2nd year, Texas)
Kenny Vaccaro was a draft choice that I proudly defended last year. Vaccaro did not disappoint whatsoever, as he made his impact in his very first game of the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons. Vaccaro was best known for his tipping a potential game-winning touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez. Vaccaro’s tip would lead to a Roman Harper interception, and that was ‘All She Wrote‘. Although Vaccaro was lost for the season due to a fractured ankle against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16, we can safely say that the Saints got everything and more out of Kenny Vaccaro. He would end his successful rookie season playing in fourteen games, finishing with 62 tackles, an interception, sack, forced fumble, and seven pass defenses. Vaccaro should have a huge impact in 2014, and being paired with the newly acquired Jairus Byrd, will bring some terror to opposing offenses.
#2 – Derek Dimke, Kicker (1st year, Illinois)
You might recall that I talked about Dimke in January. While the Saints officially re-signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham, Dimke will have a legitimate shot at making the roster in some capacity. Dimke has had several shots in the past, and nearly beat out Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Rian Lindell in 2013. The Saints, along with every member of Who Dat Nation, will watch this position with great interest. The team has not had a solid solution for the kicker position in quite some time.
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