New Orleans Saints training camp linebacker depth chart
By Kristen Wong
The New Orleans Saints linebacker unit may produce some fireworks during training camp as rookies and veterans battle it out for roster spots.
Along with cornerback and wide receiver, linebacker remains a shaky position group for the Saints. They made some smart moves during the 2021 NFL Draft by picking up Pete Werner in the second round, but he’s still young, and the Saints’ depth behind Demario Davis is…not so good.
Here are the Saints’ options for linebackers in 2021:
- Demario Davis
- Zack Baun
- Pete Werner
- Quentin Poling
- Sutton Smith
- Chase Hansen
- Kaden Elliss
- Andrew Dowell
- Wynton McManis
- Marcus Willoughby
- Shaq Smith
Fact: Demario Davis will be a starting linebacker. Coming off a 2019 All-Pro season, Davis continued to prove his irreplaceable value to the team last season with 119 combined tackles and four sacks. In his three years at New Orleans, he’s become one of the top ten linebackers in the league as well as a respected leader on the Saints.
But Saints fans won’t rest easy without knowing who will play alongside him. Davis knows this all too well and recently spoke out about the state of the Saints’ defense for the 2021 season:
"Who will line up beside me? It will be up to the coaches to figure that out. I know and I trust that [our organization] will put the best player in that position but overall, our defense is sound. Our linebacker position will be sound because Mike Hodges has been phenomenal since day one and our back end is locked up."
New Orleans Saints linebacker unit could be in for a rough ride
Currently, the two best options for the second linebacker spot are Zack Baun and Pete Werner. Both are greener than a leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day, but Baun may have a slightly more uphill battle ahead of him. Picked in the third round last year, Baun ended his rookie season with deflating numbers, starting just three games and recording 12 tackles.
The Saints taking Werner in the second round must have been a gut punch to Baun, who now has a legitimate and equally youthful competitor for the linebacker job. Both impressed in their collegiate careers, but the battle will likely hinge on who comes out on top in training camp.
The reserve options could also be thrown to the wolves this season. Most recent signing Quentin Poling entered the league as a seventh-round draft pick of the Dolphins in 2018 out of Ohio University. He’s one of the brighter talents with a sense of Twitter humor who could seriously wow coaches at camp.
Sutton Smith joined the Saints after idle playing time with the Steelers, but his dual-threat skills and versatility at both linebacker and fullback and could play a key depth role. For Hansen, Elliss, and Dowell, this isn’t their first Saints rodeo and they’ll be looking for final roster spots alongside the newer and unproven bunch of McManis, Willoughby, and Shaq Smith.
Anything could happen at training camp. Other than Davis wildly underperforming, be ready for any and all possibilities that will define the fate of this stringy Saints’ linebacker unit. It’ll be the ultimate battle of toughness.