Nov 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) on the bench during the fourth quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Bengals defeated the Saints 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the New Year. We’ve been waiting for you. Seeing how it is the New Year and we all make resolutions, I have a resolution that the guys on 5800 Airline Drive may want to adopt.
This year, I want the New Orleans Saints scouts to focus on scouting better linebackers. I am not going to pretend that getting a great linebacker in the draft will magically fix team-wide issues.
I’m also not going to pretend that a position that has been woefully ignored for the past eight years didn’t have something to do with the pathetic performances from our defense this year.
In 2014, three of the top five tacklers on the New Orleans Saints team were from the secondary. If your secondary is making most of the tackles, then that those tackles are happening past the linebackers.
Veteran Curtis Lofton led the group with 145 combined tackles, followed by David Hawthorne (83), Kenny Vaccaro (74) , Corey White (53), and Rafael Bush (55). Linebackers not only need to stuff the run, but need to play a role in pass coverage.
I’m not sure if there is a stat specific to amount of yardage given up in the center of the field, but there were many games where opposing quarterbacks ate the Saints up in the middle of the field with the pass.
If there has ever been a time when a sagging defense was bolstered by improved linebacking play, look no further than the third-seed Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys by no means have an impressive defensive unit, but they were in the same boat last year as the New Orleans Saints are this year. Their defense was terrible. Their safety was actually the leading tackler on the team by a huge margin!
What changed was the improved play of linebackers Rolando McClain, Anthony Hitchens, and Bruce Carter. While the Cowboys secondary still made a majority of tackles, the numbers between players are much more balanced than last year.
Church led the team with 97 tackles, McClain had 81 tackles, Hitchens had 75 tackles, and Carter had 68 tackles. If the Saints could bring in better and younger linebackers in 2015, they might be able to get off the field on third down.
The Saints getting off the field on third and more is a resolution that I am certainly looking forward to seeing next season.