Saints Roster Projection: Linebackers
The New Orleans Saints roster will suffer some scheduled paring-downs this year, but knowing they’re coming won’t make it any less painful. Little more than half of the players on the 90-man roster going into training camp will still be here come opening day against the Oakland Raiders in September.
The New Orleans Saints roster needed a facelift at linebacker after several years of mediocrity. The unit never really recovered from the losses of Jonathan Vilma to knee injury and Scott Fujita to the Cleveland Browns, and has been treading water with underwhelming guys late in their careers like Scott Shanle, David Hawthorne, and Curtis Lofton.
- James Laurinaitis #53
- Stephone Anthony #50
- Craig Robertson #52
- Nate Stupar #54
- Michael Mauti #56
Last year a major piece was added to solve the puzzle in Stephone Anthony, one of two first round picks added to this Saints roster. Anthony stepped into the middle linebacker “MIKE” position right away and had some good moments, but struggled often due to a heap of responsibilities on his plate as a rookie.
This spring the Saints decided to invest more at linebacker, adding three veterans: James Laurinaitis (St. Louis Rams), Craig Robertson (Cleveland Browns), and Nate Stupar (Atlanta Falcons). Robertson and Stupar can play every linebacker position and bring some much-needed consistency to special teams coverage.
Laurinaitis is one of the most-respected defensive leaders in the NFL and tied his contract earnings to the defensive unit’s performance rather than his personal level of play. He’s exactly the kind of veteran mentor needed to shape Stephone Anthony, who has moved to outside linebacker, into the future Pro Bowler he showed glimpses of in his rookie year.
It may be a surprise to see Dannell Ellerbe not on my projected Saints roster. Ellerbe has been a good player when healthy but he’s only appeared in seven games the last two years, and missed a lot of practice time this summer recovering from those injuries. I would love to see him return to form in a 100-percent healthy 2016 but I’m not betting on it.
Michael Mauti has been more available than Ellerbe and showed himself to be one of the better special teamers the Saints roster fielded last year. He knows how to play all three linebacker spots, giving the team more versatility whenever he has to be put into games. Don’t be shocked if Mauti (who happens to be a New Orleans native) is kept around after final roster cuts this September, but Ellerbe is left to leave.