The New Orleans Saints New-Look Linebackers of 2015
By Jake White
New Orleans Saints fans may want to start getting accustomed to the new additions to the team because they could have a huge role for the club especially on the defensive side of the ball. I’m not expecting Junior Galette to be on the Saints roster when the season starts because of everything that has gone down in the past month. Which means the Saints could be looking at all new faces at the starting linebacker positions with a mixture of rookies and free agent veterans. After the way the defense played last year a new starting linebacking core is probably a good thing. Here are my projected starters at the linebacker positions.
Anthony Spencer starting at the SAM position (Right Side). He can play on both sides of the ball, but I see him more on the right side. He has got to get better at covering tight ends if he is going to play the SAM, but I think he will. Spencer will be the old guy out of the starting linebackers at the age of 31. He was a pro bowler back in 2012 and then was injured in 2013. He came on slow last year for the Dallas Cowboys, but was pretty solid against the run when he played. Towards the end of the year Spencer was showing glimpses of the pro bowler he once was. He had seven quarterback pressures, a sack, and a forced fumble in the two-playoff games he played in last year. Let’s hope he is back to that form and can stay healthy.
Dannell Ellerbe starting at the WILL position (Inside). Ellerbe is another linebacker who was really good until he got injured. Ellerbe was at his best when he was with the Baltimore Ravens playing the WILL position, which seems to be his natural position. The Miami Dolphins signed Ellerbe in 2013 and tried to play him at the MIKE position, but it just didn’t seem to fit him. He wasn’t awful at it, he just was not himself. Expect Ellerbe to play with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is still that linebacker that many teams heavily coveted back in 2013.
Stephone Anthony at the MIKE position (Inside). The MIKE position is the play caller and leader of the defense. Having a rookie doing that would be a great deal of pressure, but I think he can do it. Anthony is a natural leader and is very athletic for his size. This guy is 6 foot 3 inches and can run a 4.56 forty yard dash. He can cover tight ends, stuff the run, and is a great when it comes to blitzing. You won’t see him miss too many tackles. With all that being said his number one trait that sticks out is his intelligence. Being able to diagnosis plays and read the quarterback’s eyes is exactly what you want at the MIKE position.
Hao’oli Kikaha at JACK position (Left Side). At the JACK position you’re wanting a pure pass rusher. That is exactly what the New Orleans Saints got with the 44th pick in the draft. Kikaha has multiple pass rush moves that he uses to get to the quarterback. His hands are what set him apart from most pass rushers; having been a judo champion he uses them better than most. He bends the edge well and plays with a high motor. Having not covered much in his college career, Kikaha has been working on his cover skills in the off-season trying to be more than just a pass rusher. Expect big things from the pass rushing specialist this year.
David Hawthorne and Parys Haralson won’t give up their spots without a fight. I would not be surprised if one or both of them do start. Both are veteran guys and know the system better than the four I projected to start. I think a complete overhaul at the linebacker position is exactly what the Saints need. Having Hawthorne and Haralson possibly backing players up this year just shows how much better the New Orleans Saints got through the draft and free agency at the linebacker position.
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