Nov 21, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Corey White (24) recovers a fumble by Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Darius Johnson (13) after a hit by New Orleans Saints linebacker Keyunta Dawson (55) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
As we go from season to season, faces change around the New Orleans Saints locker room. While many stay familiar to Who Dat Nation, there are always those players that exit the franchise for one reason or another. Some like Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Malcolm Jenkins and Will Smith may be forever remembered as Saints, while others like Darren Sproles, Will Herring, and Jed Collins served their respective roles with the team and moved on.
With the loss of many veterans during the offseason, it’s time for other players to step up. However, not all of the players are a ‘safe bet’ for success in 2014. We wonder, ‘Can we really expect the same production out of this player?’. Many Who Dats have their reservations about a particular player for one reason or another. Today, I’m giving you five players you should ‘bet on’ to have a strong 2014 season.
5. Victor Butler, linebacker
Before Butler went down with an injury last year, we were all high on his potential with the Saints. By now, you might have forgotten about Butler’s tenure with the Cowboys. As a refresher, from 2009-2012, Butler would see more snaps season over season, and ultimately his Pro Football Focus Grade would increase. It just so happens that Butler really thrived and was starting to get noticed more when Rob Ryan came into the picture in 2011.
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Butler is likely to battle veteran Parys Haralson as the outside linebacker opposite of Junior Galette this season, but could find himself inserted into more passing down coverage over those two. Butler has already been labeled as a ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ candidate, and should show everyone why he was brought in to the Saints organization in the first place.
4. Kenny Stills, wide receiver
The biggest question surrounding Kenny Stills is if he’s really a number two receiver. Stills led the league in yards per catch (20.0 yards/catch) last season with receivers that had at least 30 receptions. Stills has been pegged as a breakout candidate by many, but a few aren’t exactly buying the hype. Stills only had two dropped passes last season as per Sporting Charts, which was right in line with Pierre Thomas, Nick Toon, and Lance Moore. Some believe that rookie Brandin Cooks will hurt his production, and that Stills could only see upwards of 70 targets in the offense. However, there’s a lot to love about Kenny Stills this season, as Drew Brees calls him the ‘younger Lance Moore’.
In the Saints offense, it’s a ‘pick your poision’ type threat. If you key all of your efforts on one player, Drew Brees is sure to find the other receiver that you don’t account for. Brees can exploit the mismatches, and Stills will take advantage of this.
3. Junior Galette, linebacker
Junior Galette has increasingly performed year over year since 2011. Despite finishing sixth in the league in sacks last year (only a half sack behind teammate Cameron Jordan), Galette was missing from the Pro Bowl chatter. Galette has used things like a very low ranking from Bleacher Report to help motivate him for this season. He’s playing in a contract year, and should be playing sack for sack with Cam Jordan again. By contract year, what we mean is this:
"Galette can void the rest of his contract after 2014 if he tallies 12 or more sacks and plays more than 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season. Galette essentially gambled on himself in his current contract. The gamble could hit, and hit big."
Junior Galette will be playing like a man possessed in 2014, and opposing quarterbacks should account for him at all times.
2. Corey White, cornerback
The average fan is down on Corey White, and I can understand some of what you’re saying. White’s had trouble locating the ball, and gave up a few big plays. However, you’re missing the good that he brings: athleticism, tackling, and overall football sense. White stepped in for Jabari Greer last season, and actually performed better than Greer did with more targets against him.
White’s in an ideal situation. Champ Bailey and Jairus Byrd are the two best things to happen to White since the addition of secondary coach Wesley McGriff, who ‘oh by the way’ is also responsible for the Saints defensive turnaround, as the secondary went from 293 passing yards allowed per game in 2012 to 194.1 passing yards allowed per game in 2013. White should lock down a job as a solid nickel corner.
1. Terron Armstead, left tackle
Some fans were left wondering if it was just a late season fluke when Terron Armstead was able to put together a strong finish to the year after being ripped apart against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16. It was certainly one of the rougher outings for a rookie in recent memory, but Armstead battled back to put together a string of three straight games where he was nearly impenetrable. Armstead is certainly the ‘younger’ man of the New Orleans Saints offensive line, but that won’t stop him from replicating success in 2014. He’s better than Charles Brown by leaps and bounds.
Armstead enters the season with the starting gig, and I believe there’s no better person to protect Drew Brees’ blind side. As if there weren’t enough good things to say about Armstead, check out our Sophomore Spotlight article on him.
Aside the obvious, which other players do you feel are a ‘safe bet’ for 2014 and why? Do you agree or disagree with this list? Sound off below!