Cover 32 New Orleans writer Brenden Ertle, and Managing Editor Nate Williamson combine to bring you a complete-roster breakdown of the New Orleans Saints team heading into training camp.
Welcome to our first edition of Saints Roster Breakdown! This will be a reccuring article series, and we hope you’ll enjoy it. Below, Brenden and I have both written our thoughts on the Saints depth, youth, versatility, and talent in the Linebacking core. Check back next week for another positional rundown.
One of the Saints biggest needs this offseason was linebackers. Last offseason the Saints signed James Laurinaitis hoping he would fill the MLB void, we all know how that worked out. Saints also signed Craig Robertson who was a good surprise, they signed him to be a back up and play special teams. Well Craig ended up being Saints best backer last year. Injuries haunted the Saints backers, at the end of the year the Saints had three special team players starting at linebacker, Craig Robertson, Nate Stupar, and Michael Mauti. The Saints don’t want a repeat of last season adding 3 new Linebackers to the mix, AJ Klein, Manti Te’o and rookie Alex Anzalone. Training camp will be key to see which linebackers start and at what spot.
Weak side linebacker is rookie Alex Anzalone’s, if he plays well and earns it. He played there at Florida and the only other Saint that is listed at WLB is Sae Tatutu. This is Anzalone’s spot all he has to do is ball out in training camp. Keep in mind the can move someone else over to WLB which they probably will have to do because of the lack of depth on the weak side.
Strong side linebacker looked to be Dannell Ellerbe’s till he was informed the Saints will waive him once he comes off IR. Sean Payton said “Ultimately, it came down to availability. There were far too many games he wasn’t available.” Stephone Anthony had a great rookie year at MLB, his second year he was moved to SLB and didn’t meet expectations. This year with the help of new linebackers coach Mike Nolan, Stephone will look to take on the Job of starting at the strong side position. Experience might play a big part for Steph, he plays fast, he’s good football player, he just has to translate that to another position and Mike Nolan will help him with that. Nate Stupar will also look to compete with Stephone for the strong side spot that Nate started at last season.
Middle Linebacker is a log jam.
This will be one of the best battles of Training camp. There are three main players that will battle it out for the signal calling duties. Those players are Manti Te’o, AJ Klein and Craig Robertson, also Canadian Football League standout Adam Bighill. There is no way for us to know who’s gonna start, the coaches don’t even know yet the job is up for grabs.
Manti has spent his whole career with the Chargers, he’s yet to live up to his college hype struggling through injuries with the Chargers. Manti looks to have a fresh start with the Saints. Manti spent all his college days at Notre Dame being the signal caller. His NFL career has been the same so far, but doesn’t mean he’s stuck at Middle Linebacker.
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AJ Klein spent his college years at Iowa and had played behind Luke Kuechly in Carolina. AJ was always a solid linebacker for the Panthers and could’ve started on many other teams.
Lastly Craig Robertson looks to pick up where he left off last season at Middle Linebacker. Who ever doesn’t get the starting roll may run the risk of being moved to a different position and they all have openly said they are okay with it. AJ expressed how much he loved New Orleans and came here because of the big hole at Middle Linebacker, he said he prefers Middle Linebacker but will do what’s best for the team.
Craig Robertson will also be a candidate to help add depth to other linebacking spots.
It’s so hard to tell who will start where before training camp but we will have a much better idea in a couple weeks. These are all my thoughts on who fits best where but obviously that’s the coaches jobs. Needless to say this will be a great battle that we all have been waiting for!
The Saints have been trying to fill a void at the linebacker position for a few years in a row now.