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linchao Jun 17 '19
2018 New Orleans Saints Training Camp Preview: Linebacker The New Orleans Saints are just a week away from the official beginning of their 2018 training camp. The Saints defense Youth Marcus Williams Jersey , a major liability from 2012-16, has undergone major changes over the last few seasons. The unit as a whole had struggled, but the team's performance at linebacker was perhaps it's most glaring weakness. Often outmatched athletically, the linebacking unit as a whole was considered by many to be perhaps the worst in the NFL. Today's training camp preview has a look at some of the changes made at this position over the last couple of years, and how their performance might be a vital key to the 2018 season. LINEBACKER Key Losses: Michael Mauti (released), Adam Bighill (released, CFL)Key Additions: Demario Davis (free agent, Jets)Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesThe New Orleans defense finished last season ranked 17th in total yards and 10th in points surrendered. While a vastly improved secondary and better play up front were the primary reasons for the rise in rankings, the Saints linebacking play was still inconsistent at times. Still, improvement in this area was evident. Craig Robertson was the lone remaining starter from the 2016 defense, and he finished second in tackles after leading the team in the same category the year before. Robertson is an underrated and versatile defender capable of staying on the field in every situation. Although he does get caught out of position against the run at times Marcus Williams Jersey Stitched , he was the Saints best coverage linebacker over the last two seasons, and led the team's linebacking unit with 2 interceptions and career high 6 passes defensed. Robertson is always around the ball, evidenced by his 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. New Orleans added another defender always around the ball when they signed A.J. Klein away from division rival Carolina a year ago. The 26-yr. old Klein made the most of his first opportunity as a full time starter, and was among the team leaders in tackles before having his season cut short by injury after twelve games. A very good run defender and underrated blitzer, he tied Robertson with two sacks, tops among the team's linebackers. Klein is a capable man-to-man defender, and smart in his zone drops, although struggles at times with sideline to sideline reaction. Manti Te'o stepped up into a prominent role when injuries thinned out a linebacking corps that already had questionable depth. Although a liability in pass coverage, Te'o excelled against the run Youth Alvin Kamara Jersey , racking up a number of big stops during the course of the year. He played all 16 games for the first time in his five year career, and will bolster depth and stability as he enters the final year of his contract. Nate Stupar returns to the team after missing all but four contests last year with injury. A special teams standout, Stupar also adds versatile depth to the defense with starting experience and the ability to play either inside or outside. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsNew Orleans used the second of it's three 3rd round picks, 76th overall, last spring to draft Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone. After winning a starting job in training camp, Anzalone appeared lost at times in the first couple games before looking like he could round into a potential star. Unfortunately, his season was ended after just four games due to a shoulder injury that plagued his collegiate career. Anzalone's injury history is a big concern to Saints fans, but he has the athleticism and instincts to be an every down player and possible defensive cornerstone. New Orleans signed Jayrone Elliott to a futures contract away from the Dallas Cowboys early into the offseason. The 26-yr. old Elliott had 3 sacks and an interception in 2015 with Green Bay, and totaled 47 tackles in three seasons there, as he tries to make a mark as a situational pass rusher. Undrafted college free agents Colton Jumper and KeShun Freeman will compete for snaps as well, hoping a standout performance will earn them a roster spot. Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsOne of the Saints' biggest offseason moves was the free agent signing of linebacker Demario Davis from the New York Jets. The 29-yr old Davis is coming off a career high 5 sacks and over 130 tackles in 2017 Alvin Kamara Jersey Stitched , has 13.5 career sacks and has had over 100 tackles in four of the last five seasons. He is a fearsome tackler with tremendous speed and excellent play recognition, capable of playing the run or pass equally well. Linebacker coach Mike Nolan, whose hiring prior to 2017 made a major difference to the entire defense, has a versatile and athletic linebacking unit. Davis, Robertson, Anzalone, and Klein are all capable of playing any of the inside or outside positions, and have the ability to stay on the field in every game situation. The Saints linebackers are no longer overmatched physically, and were diagnosing opposing offenses well last season, even before the addition of Davis. The improvement of the New Orleans secondary and defensive line were primary reasons for the Saints defensive rise in 2017. Now a fast and physical linebacker group has the opportunity to make the 2018 New Orleans defense into an elite unit. I’m not sure the hearts around Who Dat Nation can take too many games like that.In what was another roller-coaster of a game with plenty of ups and downs along the way, here are a couple that stood out.Jason Getz-USA TODAY SportsUp: Drew BreesLet’s get this one out of the way.Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Brees now owns the all-time career completions record Youth Alex Anzalone Jersey , breaking Brett Favre’s record midway through the second quarter.All in all for the day, Brees finished the game 39 for 49 for 396 passing yards and 3 passing TDs. He also added two touchdowns on the ground, including the game-tying score and the game-winning score in overtime. Brees has a huge day.Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesUp: Michael ThomasAnother Saints player who had a big day was Michael Thomas.Thomas was on the receiving end of Drew’s record-breaking pass, but also made NFL history himself, logging more receptions through a season’s first three games than any other player in history.Thomas failed to find the end zone in Week 3, but crossed the century mark in yardage again, catching 10 balls for 129 yards. Thomas was able to rebound after back-to-back games to open the season with costly fumbles, and held on to the ball all game, showing his usual awareness of the sticks, fighting for key first downs.#CantGuardMikeChuck Cook-USA TODAY SportsUp: Taysom HillWhat can’t Taysom Hill do?After making an impact last week in the return game, Taysom made an even bigger impact this week on two different read options plays. On each play Alex Anzalone Jersey Stitched , Taysom converted key third downs to extend drivers, and but for an illegal horse-collar tackle, Taysom could have taken a run to the house.Sean Payton also went on the record in his post-game press conference saying he was impressed with Tayom’s ability as a blocker.At this rate, we’ll see Taysom as a tight end, cornerback, and ticket usher by midseason.Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesDown: CornerbacksEvery Saints cornerback not named Marshon Lattimore had issues in Week 3.Ken Crawley was benched to start the game in favor of PJ Williams. Williams was burnt so badly by Calvin Ridley, Williams is just a pile of ashes now. Crawley was injected back into the starting lineup for the second half, and it was just more of the same.Patrick Robinson left the game due to injury. Marshon Lattimore looked to take a step forward, but he was rarely targeted in the game.No matter what, the Saints will have to do something at cornerback before facing Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York football Giants in Week 4. What is Bashaud Breeland doing right now? How is Delvin Breaux doing in Canada? Keenan Lewis still playing on the playground?
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