The New Orleans Saints will return to action this week as rookie minicamp is set to kick off May 15. Featuring a handful of new faces, the opportunity for a run at the 53-man roster begins Friday. With a chance to prove themselves at the next level, this weekend will consist of 31 rookies, including Southern Methodist outside linebacker Stephon Sanders.
New Orleans did what was expected by potentially bolstering up the defense. Sanders will face some heavy competition at the linebacker position.
A three-star recruit out of the state of Texas, Stephon Sanders passed on schools like Arkansas, Duke, Virginia, Iowa State and more to play for the Mustangs of SMU.
As a freshman, he played in all 12 games, starting five and racking up 26 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. He would start in 12 of 13 games his sophomore season, totaling 48 tackles and an interception (pick-six) on a defense that ranked third nationally in takeaways.
In 2013, Stephon Sanders started the entire season and finished third on the team with 86 tackles, and first on the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss, including 3.5 sacks. He also finished with two forced fumbles, the first two of his career.
After finishing his senior campaign (initially on the Butkus Award watch list) with 70 tackles, a team-high eight tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and four pass breakups, Stephon Sanders was selected to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
"Positive: Underrated pursuit linebacker who also shows ability in coverage. Quick, covers a lot of ground and easily gets outside the numbers in pursuit. Makes plays in every direction. Effective in space and easily goes sideline-to-sideline in pursuit of the action. Breaks down well and effectively uses his hands to protect himself. Wraps up tackling and gives effort.Negative: Bites on ball fakes and gets confused at times. Struggles getting off blocks at the point of attack. Does not play like a 245-pound linebacker.Analysis: Possessing the measurables and skills to play at the next level, Sanders projects as a sixth linebacker/special teams player."
The 6-foot-3, 250 pound Sanders will certainly have his work cut out for him at camp. Junior Galette, Parys Haralson, Kasim Edebali and Ronald Powell are all stapled into the roster for now at the outside linebacker spot. 2015 draft picks Hau’oli Kikaha and Davis Tull have agreed to terms with the Saints as well, and are looking to make a big impact immediately.
Stephon Sanders’ biggest competition will likely come from fellow undrafted free agent Markus Pierce-Brewster out of West Texas A&M. However, some past experience at defensive end could give Sanders the upper hand.
With little proven depth in the pass-rushing game, an outstanding performance this summer could land Sanders on the final roster — the Saints without question could use an additional body in the mix getting after opposing quarterbacks.
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