Each offseason, every NFL team focuses on at least one area in need of an upgrade. So what aspect of the New Orleans Saints looking better these days?
Training camp begins later this month for all 32 NFL teams. So that means another preview series from End Zone Score. Dating back to early March, we have taken time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers and previewed an up-and-coming player for each franchise.
Contrary to popular opinions, no team in the league is perfect. That’s why there’s a constant search for talent when it comes to this game. Each club has done its best to bolster its roster. So in this instance, we are going to take a glance at each franchise and pinpoint the department in which it made the most strides this offseason. We have looked at the AFC East, NFC East, AFC North, NFC North and AFC South. We are previewing the NFC South and have already looked at the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now it’s time to preview the New Orleans Saints.
Not surprisingly, the New Orleans Saints’ brain trust was busy when it came to the defensive side of the football this offseason. Over the past five NFL campaigns, this franchise has found itself turning in a few record-breaking performance. And we don’t mean that in a positive way. In 2012, the franchise allowed the most total yards in one season in the 97-year history of the league. In ’15, the Saints allowed a dubious 45 touchdown passes – the most-ever in one season.
Unfortunately for Sean Payton’s team and Dennis Allen’s defensive unit, the club got some bad news this summer. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was ruled out for the season (heart condition). This was already a defense that finished 27th in the NFL in total yards allowed and was dead last in the league against the pass in 2016.
One of the areas general manager Mickey Loomis addressed over the last few months was the linebacker position. In 2015, the Saints used its first two picks in that draft on Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha. Via trades and free agency, they’ve added starters Dannell Ellerbe (2015) and Craig Robertson, the latter joining the team a year ago from the Cleveland Browns. While he led the club with 114 tackles, Pro Football Focus rates him near the bottom of the league in terms of coverage skills.
In free agency, the club added insider backers such as former division rival A.J. Klein (Carolina Panthers) and four-year pro Manti Te’o (Los Angeles Chargers). But the most valuable addition at the position could be rookie Alex Anzalone, a third-round selection from the University of Florida. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock (via NFL.com) stated that “he’s going to play on passing downs because he can rush the quarterback and cover.” The former Gators’ prospect’s versatility is a big key.
The New Orleans Saints suddenly have a nice mix of youth and experience at the linebacker spots. They need this entire group to come through in a big way if Payton’s club is to put its sustained defensive woes to a halt.