Where does Anthony Spencer fit in on the Saints defense?


With the ongoing troubles of Junior Galette, it’s hard to ignore the fact that his pass rushing skills would be greatly missed in 2015 should the league hand down any form of discipline, lands on injured reserve, or if the team looks to release him. Luckily for the New Orleans Saints, there are options that exist if something eventually happens. Perhaps the most notable benefactor of a Galette-less Saints defense would be Anthony Spencer, an eight year veteran.

Spencer, who just turned 31 in January, is entering his ninth season in the NFL. It’s virtually unfamiliar territory for Spencer putting on someone else’s helmet and outfit, as he played all of his previous eight years with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s no secret to anyone these days, but Rob Ryan coached Spencer in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The familiarity is there.

When Anthony Spencer played under Ryan in Dallas’ 3-4 defense, he typically lined up on the left side, otherwise known as the “Jack” linebacker. Ultimately, that’s where Junior Galette has been for the past couple of seasons, serving as the team’s primary pass rushing linebacker. For perspective, DeMarcus Ware served as the team’s right side linebacker in Dallas, or the “Sam” position. That position is regarded somewhat as a more versatile player, who can not only pass rush, but also provide pass coverage, especially on a tight end.

If you believe in depth charts at this point in time, Spencer’s listed as the right side linebacker. However, in watching minicamp, he clearly took the role of Galette.

So, what are the Saints getting out of Anthony Spencer? That’s a big question mark. His production over the past two years has not been flashy, by any means. However, some might chalk that up to the change in defensive philosophy after Rob Ryan was fired. The Cowboys swapped to a base 4-3 defense, which forced Spencer to become a defensive end putting his hand in the ground. Injuries and a reduced role made it hard for Spencer to shine.

It’s hard to judge someone’s impact without seeing them in pads and ‘live action’, but Anthony Spencer proved in drills that he looked the part of someone determined to respond to the challenge ahead of him. Coach Sean Payton likes what he has seen out of Spencer, saying that he’s very good at fitting against the run, and thinks he can affect the passer. Spencer is still a player who can provide versatility on Ryan’s defense, and will be used accordingly.

Anthony Spencer has a tremendous opportunity to find himself a potential comeback player with the New Orleans Saints. Even if the Saints don’t use him in a full-time role this season, having too many options as a pass rusher isn’t a bad thing. If the team can continue to get some sure tackling and football smarts for the veteran, then call it a win. Spencer may ultimately find himself in a committee with rookies Hau’oli Kikaha and Davis Tull, but as of now, he remains a favorite to start if Galette is out.

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