Can David Hawthorne fend off Stephone Anthony and start for the Saints?

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There’s a host of positional battles that are surely entertaining for the New Orleans Saints as the season draws closer. Perhaps there is no greater battle than that of the middle linebacker “Mike” position between veteran David Hawthorne and rookie Stephone Anthony.

Hawthorne, who just turned 30 in May, is entering his fourth season with the Saints. With Curtis Lofton’s departure, it opened the door for David Hawthorne to inherit the spot and see increased reps as a result. However, not many are on his bandwagon. Some might argue there wasn’t even one to begin with. His roster spot was clearly in jeopardy during the offseason, but he agreed to take a pay cut to remain with the team.

After a stellar stint with the Seattle Seahawks during his first four seasons in the league (2008-2011), which saw him produce triple digit tackle figures in three consecutive years, Hawthorne came to the Big Easy on a five-year, $19 million contract on April 3, 2012. Unfortunately, we wondered where this guy was more than a few times on defense. Here’s how his stats have looked with the Saints.

On a side note, Hawthorne has one interception to his name with one forced fumble in three seasons.

Hawthorne’s three years with the Saints can be basically summed up with one word: meh. That implies that a person is uninterested or indifferent to the subject at hand, occasionally meaning mediocrity or unremarkable. There’s two distinct moments that I remember from Hawthorne’s three years with the Saints: the hit on Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis, and the three sack performance against the Chicago Bears last year. On a player that you invest so heavily in and ask so much of, that’s really not encouraging.

Back in May, coach Sean Payton gave Hawthorne a nod, but it still doesn’t give us anything remotely definitive that makes us believe that ‘he’s the guy’ to turn around the league’s second to last Saints defense from a year ago.

"“I would say this: One of the strengths of Hawthorne is his ability to communicate. When you look at his time at TCU and even in Seattle as a Mike, he’s someone that was very good in that role,” Payton said of Hawthorne, who began his career with the Seattle Seahawks from 2008-2011."

On the other hand, enter the ‘young gun’, Stephone Anthony. He’s the shiny brand new Aston Martin you could have only hoped and dreamed to get. The Saints believed he was the top inside linebacker prospect in the draft, and drafted him accordingly with him sitting there available at pick No. 31.

Sean Payton and the rest of the coaching staff are high on Anthony, and Payton preached on his abilities in communication and leadership.

"“I think when you see this from Stephone, you see a No. 1 college defense at Clemson. Brent and his staff there did a great job, you can see it on film. So you get that confidence with a player,” Payton said. “As you guys will have a chance to see when you’re around him, he’s very mature, it’s very important to him, he’s a real good communicator. All those things were huge pluses. … And the other thing I would say that’s notable with him is his size, his stature. I mean, he’s big.”"

When it’s all said and done, it may very well be Stephone Anthony who takes the reins as the ‘quarterback’ of the New Orleans Saints defense. His predecessors like Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma made a tremendous impact at the position, but perhaps Anthony has the potential to make us all remember the late great Sam Mills, who was the anchor of the esteemed Dome Patrol. Yes, there’s been that much buzz about him from local media and players. Anthony may not be known for one particular area of strength, but he’s strong at everything, which makes him a great fit for Ryan’s defense.

Ultimately, David Hawthorne’s time with the Saints is running out. In case you were curious, the team would lose $2.82 million by cutting him, and forfeit $1.19 million in dead money.

Do you feel confident in a rookie taking over the “Mike” spot on Rob Ryan’s defense? Could this finally be Hawthorne’s year to shine?

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