I'm just full of opinions this week, aren't I? Actually, I meant to bring this topic up for discussion the other day while everyone was crazy for Casillas and the team promoted him to starting WLB, moving Scott Shanle to Fujita's former position on the strong side, but for some reason it slipped my mind. I hope I'm not too late. Haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else yet.
It seems Saints fans keep forgetting to throw Clint Ingram's name into the mix when discussing the competition at linebacker. Ingram and Darren Sharper are the only two players remaining on the PUP list and haven't played a down during training camp yet so it's easy to understand why. But I'm still optimistic and excited about what Ingram can bring to the table and think we're all in for a pleasant surprise upon his return. The question, however, is: Where does he fit in when he gets back?
Remember that when the Saints signed Clint Ingram this past May, the expectation was that he was to replace Scott Fujita on the strong side. That's the side he's most comfortable playing and the one he's played most of his professional career. Only last year did he play the weak side and that only led to a disappointing season and the free agent market.
But with the recent linebacker switch-a-roo, Ingram is now competing against Shanle and Jo-Lonn Dunbar on that strong side when he returns. It means the Saints will have some good depth and competition there. It also means Dunbar might have a tougher road to make the final roster. However, it arguably leaves the Saints with less talent on the weak side. Who's left to battle with Casillas? Stanley Arnoux and Anthony Waters have been unimpressive thus far. Troy Evans might be the only real threat but he's just around for his special teams work.
Unlike some Saints fans, I'm still not sold on Casillas. Sure he looked great last week but I have serious doubts whether he can maintain that level. I hope to be proven wrong. But if I am correct, it would seem to make more sense to move Ingram over to the weak side as well (even though he struggled there last season) to compete with the unproven Casillas. Shanle has proven enough over the years and earning a starting spot over him seems highly unlikely for Ingram. Many men have tried over the years, none have succeeded. And with all the rhetoric from Gregg Williams about how underrated Shanle is, his position seems pretty solidified. If Casillas truly does have what it takes to be a starter in the NFL, he'll beat out Ingram. If he doesn't, that will leave the Saints with their best three starters on the field in Shanle/Vilma/Ingram. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Perhaps there is no move planned for Ingram and switching Shanle to the strong side means the Saints don't have as much confidence in Ingram and his recovery as they once had. He's already shown that he's got what it takes to be a starting linebacker in the NFL and we can only assume that having coached Ingram in the past, Gregg Williams saw something he really liked. Again, the initial intention was to have Ingram start in place of Fujita. But does this switch mean the Saints now only view him as a rotational role player? Or was that always plan from the beginning?
So how do you think the linebacker battle is going to shake out this training camp and where does Clint Ingram fit into all of it?